Thursday, June 30, 2005

Yes, Virginia, I'm Really Going Home

What do you have to lose, Megan? The planets are now shaking you like a fruit tree in the hopes of ridding you of your old objectives to make way for new growth. You feel doubt where once there was only certainty. When you consider the worst that can happen, it may help you realize that what you are clinging to so dearly really is not all that important to you. It's time to let go and begin anew.

Last night was year 7 Parent's Evening, and with the questions about next year, I felt I had to tell them, "I don't know...I won't be here." The official line is, "You know, homesickness..." with a big smile. They eat it up and the subject drops. Of course, the kids are hearing this, so news is out and will spread like a wildfire in a drought year.

This morning someone in a year 9 group asked me if I'm leaving. I nodded my head and he asked me why. "Well, I do miss my family, you know," I replied with a smile. They seem to accept that.

I haven't had any more year 9 classes since then, but I have one in 15 minutes, so we'll see if they've picked it up.

Meanwhile, my busy month of July starts today. I have to come in tomorrow to do some lesson planning (well, I don't have to, I want to). The school will be open because the inspectors are coming next week. Tomorrow evening I'll be out all night for my friend Donna's Fancy Dress Hen Night (bachelorette party with costumes, in America-speak). I'm going as Bridget Jones.

With that, I have things to do and kids to teach. It ain't over 'till the fat lady sings, and she'll be no doubt singing in the Disney Karaoke on the last day of school... : )




They interviewed a music teacher today.

After interviewing him (which required Alison frantically coming to me in the middle of a lesson to ask me, "What would you ask him??"), he taught one of my classes for an entire lesson. He did a pretty good job. The kids (year 7) tested him, of course, but he seemed to handle it well enough.

It's funny--I know I made the choice to leave, and I know that overall I haven't been happy working here. But I'm still sad in some ways to be leaving, and there's a teeny little part of me that hates the thought of leaving my classroom to someone else. They'll change it to suit themselves, and my mark at St. Peter's will be lessened. It's an odd feeling.

Meanwhile, this is still my domain for the next month. And those seven children who were naughty during the lesson he taught will NOT be doing the keyboard activity this afternoon. Oh no...they'll be writing letters of apology to the deputy head and assistant head who had to watch them misbehave, and to me, detailing how students should represent St. Peter's High School. They'll also be receiving detentions.

Teaching has its fun moments, to be sure. ; )



Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Advice From a Wise Man

Today I gave a little talk to the year 12s about travelling. Ruth agreed that it was a great idea to chat with them about their options in travelling, so I shared my own experiences with them.

I brought in a page from my infamous scrapbook that contains a few pictures of a 20-year-old Meg in England. They got a kick out of that. On the back side of that page is a print-out of an email I got from a very wise man when I was 21 or 22 and stressing out about college. I was reading it this morning and it made me smile. A lot of what he said then still applies. I'd like to quote it here, with thanks.

I know that you feel overwhelmed by what is ahead of you this semester. Try not to lose sight of the fact that this situation is temporary and that you will survive it. Meanwhile, a fwe things I have found useful over the years:

CHUNKS: Life comes in chunks. You know how I am fond of saying that flying was 99% boredom and 1% stark terror. That is how life is. You coast for what seems to be a rather short time and then you have to run like heck to keep the treadmill turning. If you look back at things, you will find that the slack times and the busy times really even out over the long haul. Remember that this chunk ends in early June.

PARTS: Nothing taken in the altogether ever looks doable. You need to divide tasks into parts which become simpler to do. Try to divide your efforts into doable parts.

SAMENESS: You will need to practice more than usual. However, all of your practice will go towards increasing your abilities. Try to get your teacher to let you practice your quartet materials for your private lesson. Combine tasks whenever possible.

SCHEDULE: Try to set a schedule where you know where you are and what you need to do. You should, for example, set aside an hour or so each day to practice. It doesn't have to be at the same time but you should do it every day. Make sure you log it when you do it. Try to work a little each day or each week on long term assignments even if your work only includes some preliminary research or outlining your thoughts. Set a goal of reading a fixed amount of material each day. As with practice, you can vary the time, in fact varying the time helps to keep the boredom at bay. Log the time you spend studying/reading.

LEISURE: Leisure is also very important. Schedule your Saturday afternoons or your Sundays to do those things you enjoy doing. Socializing, shopping, scrapbooking, stamping, etc. Don't schedule these things during your work schedule.

REVIEW: At the end of each day, look back at what you've accomplished and see how much closer to the goal (end of semester) you are. You will be surprised how quickly the fractions add up!

THIS TOO SHALL PASS - BUT: You will be finished with the semester before you know it, expecially if you refuse to get down on yourself. Remember, a semester is only about 80 days... As you go on with your adult life, there will be times when everything seems like it is happening at once. Sick kids, insane work schedule, car problems - all these things will happen at the most inopportune times. You have to remember and put them in perspective. Remember that the only true crises are those which impact your health or safety and those of your loved ones. Everything else is covered by insurance.

Have a good week.

Love ya,


Monday, June 27, 2005

Sorry, Closed on Tuesdays

I started this blog update yesterday, but never did finish it because it was one of those really busy, productive days. So I'm finishing this up this morning.

And now, without further ado, the news of the week so far...

Student wins battle to stay

I haven't said anything about this (though I remember telling Mom and Dad about it), but imagine my surprise when I found out that a year 11 student here at St. Peter's is actually a war orphan from Kosovo. I don't know Semirjan (pronounced Seh-meer-ee-an) personally, but I've seen him about the school and he seems a nice enough lad. Turns out when he was 12, he was brought to England after his family was murdered in war-torn Kosovo. A foster family took him in and he has become a son to them and a brother to their children. He has thrived at St. Peter's, learning English and doing quite well academically. According to one of the maths teachers, his first English word was "please."

He is a true success story--he is popular with his fellow students, well-liked by staff, and he has come through Hell itself to complete his GCSEs and not only survive, but thrive, in a foreign culture.

Imagine my dismay when I found out that this 15-year-old boy was going to be sent back to Kosovo because England rarely grants asylum to people from that country. I first heard of the story when I saw a headline on the Burnham Maldon Standard with his picture and the headline "Please Let Me Stay."

He's 15, for crying out loud!

His friends and foster family rallied around him, and last Monday, they all crammed into a courtroom in London to plea his case. According to the Maldon Burnham Standard:

The 15-year-old was told it would be his last chance to convince the Asylum Adjucator he should stay with his new family.

But he was warned that most Kosovans' applications are refused, and they are sent back to south Kosovo, which is now classified as safe.

The hearing was adjourned within minutes so the Home Office's barrister, David Harvey, could look through dozens of previously unseen letters from Semirjan's supporters and a petition signed by more than 200 people.

After a tense wait, it was revealed to the emotional group that, even without a hearing, the evidence was enough for the Home Office to give Semirjan leave to stay in England until he is 18 years old.

What a huge victory for this young man. He has been accepted to an electricians' course at nearby Chelmsford College.

What did Semirjan have to say about all of this?

"I feel excellent. Thank you to everyone who came, and everyone who could not make it, for their support."

Definitely a happy ending.

Sorry, Closed on Tuesdays

There's a farm shop between Kathy's house and the school. I walk by it each morning and love to watch them opening up. As they are open on the weekends, they close on Tuesdays.

Tuesdays are one of the days I have free periods, which is great. But I end my Tuesdays with one of my most difficult classes of the week, Tuesday Five. I never look forward to this class. So now, every time I see the hand-painted sign in front of the Limes that says, "Sorry, Closed on Tuesdays," my stomach sinks. I've started to associate it with this difficult class.

Wierd how we do that.

Four more!

I now have four more lessons with each year 8 and 9 teaching group. Last week I did Five Lessons, this week, I'll do Four New Adventures. These are the things I'm looking foward to.

1. Learning Seattle

I'm going to have a lovely city just a ferry away. From the very little of Seattle I've seen, it is lovely, so I'm looking forward to knowing it better.

2. Being near a naval base

This is not to say I want to catch myself a military man. I just love how they look in the view is going to be lovely.

3. New Job

Whether I keep teaching or have to go into something else for a bit, I am determined to enjoy what I do. Life is to short to spend 8 of your waking hours stressed out.

4. New Friends

Meeting people in England was always easy becauseI was fascinating to them: "Oh! You're the American!" In Washington, I'll be just another American, but I hope to form more relationships and meet more exciting people. Trust me, though, they will not replace any of you!

And that's pretty much it on this end of the Atlantic. More tomorrow!



Friday, June 24, 2005

Ice Cubes and BLTs

Another week finished, and Friday Five weren't quite so hellish. In fact, all of my classes today were much better than usual. Some of the key players were missing.

Now I'm going to do a bit of planning before heading off to the co-op to buy ice cubes (can't drink water without 'em) and the makings of BLTs (bacon, lettuce, tomato, bread...) for my weekend.

I think I need to go shopping tomorrow, for a dress. A fun day of flourescent lights and trick dressing-room mirrors to make my self-esteem soar! I'll probably see "The Pacifier" while I'm out, so it's all good.

Meanwhile, I've been busying myself with the Paint program on my computer. Here's one small chunk of St. Peter's High School, by me:

Of course, this is NOT drawn anywhere near to scale. The brown squares are my student's desks, the purple is my desk, the blue are keyboard tables. The green is my piano.

Sorry it's a bit sloppy. I'm not very good at spatial things. Guess I'll stick to the whole artistic/linguistic side of things!

Anyway...that's about it here. Busy week, but slow in terms of news to share in my blog. More next week!



Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Formerly known as 12ST, this group is now known as 12MEC. The 12 is for year 12, the MEC is, you guessed it, my initials.

They are a great bunch of kids--the best and brightest St. Peter's has to offer. Not all kids in England opt to do Sixth Form. A majority go to college, or into the work force. The top students often opt for Sixth Form to help prep for university.

The Sixth Form at St. Peter's is relatively small--about 130 kids, I think. We have two groups of year 13 (13MP and 13PL) and three groups of year 12 (12MEC, 12SJB, and 12LFK). Each group is approximately 20 kids--mine just dropped to 18 after exams, because three girls are not moving on to year 13.

I've been with this group since October or November. I was previously sharing 13MP with Marie, but 12ST needed a new tutor when Suzanne took the head of year 12 post. Ruth (Head of Sixth Form) asked me to take the year 12 group "until Christmas." I agreed.

At first I regarded it as sort of a babysitting job--I would look after this group until Suzanne returned to them and I could go back to my year 13s. I didn't really attempt to get to know them at first because of this. In fact, I almost resented their presence in my music room each morning. Before long, however, I realized that I would be a more permanent tutor to these year 12s I barely knew.

So I started really learning names, and trying harder to tell Richard from Matt (who look nothing alike to me now) and to differentiate Sophie from Zoe (who also, now, do not look a thing alike to me). I made an effort to find out things about them, and to chat with them in the mornings, when I wasn't shouting at them to turn in their General Studies, for heaven's sake!

And wouldn't you know it, pretty soon I came to the stunning realization that I was really starting to like these kids.

Every time something needed to be done, it seems that my kids were there, doing it. It seemed every committee I saw gathered in the Sixth Form study room had a large number of students from 12ST. I became more and more proud of these kids. They are hard-working, talented, and just plain nice 16-year-olds. They put up with my odd sense of humor and my cluelessness about how they are to go about applying for university. They get along well with each other, and if occasionally I have to tell them off for playing cards in morning registration (a big no-no) or for not doing their General Studies work, well, that's life when you're a teacher. And it happens only rarely with these kids.

Sometime in the spring term one of the computer guys at school got into the system and changed 12ST to 12MEC. I made a big deal about it one morning in registration, how proud I was to finally have my initials on the register sheet. I got a lot of raised eyebrows and amused smiles that morning. I couldn't really explain it to them, but I was so happy to finally have some proof that they were my group, not someone else's. That is how proud of these kids I am.

Recently we held a series of school-wide elections to whittle a group of 19 year 12s down to 6 (3 boys, 3 girls) to make up the Head Boy and Head Girl Team. Of the six who made the team, a Head Boy and Head Girl would be chosen. From the three year 12 groups came the final six--and I am always pleased to point out (even when not asked) that 50% of the final six on the team are from 12MEC. One, Tobias, even made Head Boy.

The Sixth Formers have been knee-deep in exams for the past few weeks. Today is the first day they've been back in my room for registration each morning. I had a 2-page list of things to go over with them, and one item of business that Ruth had not asked me to share--my leaving.

A few kids have already approached me to say they heard I'm leaving. I figured, even if I'm not telling the younger kids, the Sixth Form kids have the right to know. So I announced it this morning and told them, "If I had decided to stay, one of the biggest reasons would have been working with Sixth Form."

And my eyes teared up!

I heard a few kids say, "Oh, Miss..." It was pretty sweet. So I said, "Right...this is how the next five weeks are going to be! I'll stop talking about it!"

And I will, for now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Five Lessons

Only five lessons left with each of my teaching groups (except for year 10, they get three a week, and year 7, who get 2 a week).

In honour of this occasion, here's Five Lessons I've Learned This Year.

1. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

My parents' friend Bruce passed away on Friday morning. If you recall, I wrote about him a month ago (May 16, "A Shout-Out to Bruce").

It is thinking about Bruce that makes me remember that life is too precious to be concerned with the little stupid things. At the end of the day, my job is only one part of my life, and, frustrated as I get, it is not worth being freaked out over it too much.

So I do my job when I'm at school, and then I go to London on the weekends. Works for me.

2. Don't Be Afraid to Try New Experiences

In the space of one little year, I have learned to like the following: cabbage, cucumber, raw bell pepper (of any color), vinaigarette dressing, Tikka Masala (an Indian dish), and goat's milk (though I stopped drinking that because it spoils so quickly and I was wasting my money).

Despite getting a bit wobbly-kneed in high places, I have been on the London Eye (twice!) and gone to the tip-top of the Eiffel Tower (900 feet). The view from the top is worth ever moment of terror.

Knowing that I probably wouldn't like it--and I didn't--I tried pure Irish Guinness just to say I had.

I've spent time with people I wasn't sure I'd have things in common with, just to make sure I wasn't giving up on them because of some prejudice.

I have travelled all over England by myself so that I could see places like York, Bath and Windsor Castle--even though no one else was interested in going with me. I have never minded going alone, and I have learned to enjoy my own company.

I have even tried salmon pate. That wasn't such a good experience.

3. It's Not You, It's Them

Kids will be kids. And the kids here are horrid sometimes. I mean, Horrid with a capital H, which stands for Hell.

And the parents! Their child horrid? Oh no, little so-and-so is an angel! Sure, they drink on the weekends and have sex at 13, and don't like to work. But they're just like me!

It is not my fault that I have not completely turned things around in my classroom. I have fought a hell of a battle, and I still feel like I've come out on top. I may not teach much, but dammit, those kids know not to leave my classroom until I dismiss them!

They may not sing unless I hold a gun to their heads, but they (mostly) remember that Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge and the spaces spell FACE.

And as Dad once said, "They respect you." To which I replied with a snort. And Dad calmly replied, "I think they do. They may not like you, but they respect you."


4. Friendships Are Not Weakened by Distance

Email is a wonderful thing. I'm at a point where the person who interrupts me too much in the morning better beware. I get to school between 7:00 and 7:30 and spend the first hour I am here emailing.

It is my sanity.

I have a new cleaning lady in my room. The lady who used to clean in here got a new job, and I'm very happy for her. But this new one is extremely chatty and I have a feeling I'm going to hear her life story more than I will be emailing. She even came over and looked at the screen while I was emailing Melissa this morning!

Anyway, back to the point of this lesson. I've known for a while that the best friends in life are the ones that you can spend time apart from, and when you go back, you settle right back into the old comfort and familiarity.

I am blessed to have many of these friendships in my life.

And the most important lesson of all...

5. Life is Short--Live Your Dreams

I have figured out that I can do anything I set my mind to--after all, while I dreamed of working in England, I'm not really sure I ever believed, deep down inside, that it would really happen.

Still, I didn't let that stop me from applying to TeachLondon. And when I was offered this job, I knew it was a school that had its problems. Granted, I didn't know how bad the problems were. But I could not give up the chance to live in England again. So I took it.

Has it been a perfect experience? No. It was never supposed to be--it was supposed to be real. And all things considered, it has been pretty damned good. It was always entirely possible that I would not get along with the people I live with, or that Burnham-on-Crouch would be dead ugly and have no charms whatsoever. It was always entirely possible that the school would be disappointed in me. None of these things happened.

So, yes, things worked out very well. Well enough that I considered staying longer. I just couldn't get around the fact that I am very unhappy working at St. Peter's.

So I start a new adventure, and I'm building a new dream. It involves Robbie Williams suddenly deciding that Seattle is the only place he can all seriousness, though, I know that life is too short to not enjoy the ride, with all its twists and turns.

Now, does anyone have Rob's phone number?

Friday, June 17, 2005

West Side Whaaa?

Part of the GCSE Music Syllabus is "Songs from Musicals." It's not heavy in the music theory, so I've been wracking my brains to find ideas on how to teach it to my year 10s. On Wednesday, one of them asked if we could watch a video of a musical. Great idea!

I think they had in mind something along the lines of Grease or Beauty and the Beast. They got West Side Story.

I'm just doing my duty--exposing young, tender minds to the greatness of Bernstein.

I have a feeling my year 10s are left a bit high and dry.

Okay, okay, the movie is a bit dated, and kids these days are not used to gang members singing and dancing through the alleys of New York City. And most kids these days would probably say, "Puerto What-o?"

Fair enough. But still, I feel it is my duty as a music teacher to expose them to this fantastic story (and it can't hurt their English grades to see Romeo and Juliet in a new light).

Oh well. They may not like it, but they're still gonna watch the whole thing.

Speaking of musicals...

Oh, those summer nights (Grease)

It's "Summer in England." Which means, to a California Girl, it's not really that hot. But it is humid. Oy vey! Get a bunch of sweaty year 9s in here (and my Friday classes seem to have more boys than girls), and we're talking hot, sweaty, smelly and not easy to teach in. No wonder they're all off the wall today. I have the windows cracked. I dare not open them more--they may try to escape (apparently, it happened last year. I will take no chances).

I get to trek to the co-op after school. I figure my reward is that the rest of the weekend (it's supposed to be hot and muggy and gross) I will stay indoors with my nose in a book. Woohoo!!

Speaking of books...

You simply must read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It's set in the 30s, about a family who lives in a run-down old castle, in extreme poverty. It is funny, warm, sad at parts, and impossible to put down. I admit, I wasn't all that keen to read it but Kathy told me I had to try it. And I love it! I sat at Parents Evening last night longing to stick my nose back in this book. I'm almost finished, and I plan to start one by Bill Bryson (travel writer and absolutely hysterical and entertaining) when I do.

Right. Twenty minutes left of lunch and then adventures with Friday Five. They're not really my least favorite class anymore, but it's not as though I really look forward to them, either. I do have one good thing to say for them, though--they're a great workout.

: )

And I still have an aide in here with me, which is fantastic. Mandy is wonderful--so patient and supportive. Sometimes we just look at each other and laugh. That's all you can do.

So, my friends, have a lovely weekend. I hope it provides some lazy time for you (as mine will).



Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Hell of Unusually Rowdy, Smelly, Draining Adolescent Youngsters

Otherwise known as T.H.U.R.S.D.A.Y.

Thursday is year 7 day for me, you see. That's the equivelent of 6th grade, Stateside. I always found 6th grade to be one of the harder age groups to work with, as they are still babies, yet stuck in a new school with more mature kids all around.

Year 7 in England is no different. Quite trying sometimes.

Today wasn't so bad, though. Even 7PMu3, a class from hell, sat quietly through their music assessment. I was astonished.

Now, I have just discovered that I need to change my hallway display by July 5. The Inspectors are a'calling that day. It's the third time they've come this year and all senior staff are begging and pleading with the teaching staff to pretend that this is a fantastic school, which it is not. That is what disillusions me most about working here--this attitude of sweep-the-dust-under-the-rug and kiss up to the inspectors.

The senior staff will be out in full force, monitoring the corridors, helping with discipline, observing lessons, schmoozing with the inspectors.

The minute they see the tail lights as the inspectors leave the school, those "caring, interested, motivated" senior members of staff will crawl back into their offices to drink tea and look important while doing absolutely nothing to help the front-line soldiers (teaching staff and support staff) run this place.

I remember with longing the superintendent of Elverta, Dianna, standing on the playground hi-fiving a group of children as they walked by. She and Liz, my other supervisor, were so involved in the running of the school, and they not only cared about the children, they knew names, families, what the kids were about.

Granted, Elverta's whole district was a third of the size of St. Peter's enrollment. But there is no real effort on the part of senior staff to really know what makes these kids tick.


My rant of the day. I'm just killing time now that school is out. I have to stay until 5:30 for year 8 Parents Evening. I don't have very many appointments, thankfully. Then I can go home and stick my nose in the very good book I'm reading. : )

More tomorrow.



Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Positively Illuminating

Illuminated Letters. What are they? See the M above--basically a Celtic-style script. What is their significance?

They are significant because they put Meg in a very good mood.

We have an upcoming Flexible Learning Day. If you don't remember my rambling lunatic raving about the last one:

I had to make up songs about the Oompah Loompahs. It was hell. Hell! I tell you.

So when I found out last week that I have to be involved in "Chaucer Day" this next time, I nearly blew a gasket. The Expressive Arts department is teaming with English on this. And I told the head of English, a lovely woman named Pat, "I am NOT making up songs about the pilgrims. I won't do it. I WON'T!!!" I also let her know that I'm a bit crazy over the fact that it's on:

1. A Monday, meaning that I miss 4 out of my 6 free periods that week.

2. On the 4th of July, a national holiday for me and one on which I'll be a bit sad to be dealing with bratty year 8s instead of eating hot dogs and Dad's homemade vanilla ice cream (Cooper family recipe).

I think I scared her a little.

But I got my way--I'll be throwing paper and colored pencils in front of the kidlets and letting them make illuminated letters. No instruments. Just paper. And peace. Well, relative peace. At least they will not be tearing my poor little instruments to pieces.

Speaking of instruments...Two of my keyboards have mysteriously gone POOF! They are suddenly not working. Now I have 5 working keyboards and 374 impatient students wanting to bang on them. God help me.

By the way, the last day of school is six weeks from today...


Tuesday, June 14, 2005


I'm in a funky mood today. Why?

I woke up at 3:00 a.m.

I woke up after some unnerving, gross dream that I don't want to discuss. It was quite disturbing.

I lay there with a wierd feeling in my stomach...and then I realized that in part, that feeling was due to needing to pee. So I got up and did as nature intended.

I slept a very light sleep from them on. At 4:45 I had a massive coughing fit (I thought this was going away!) and slept fitfully again until the alarm went off at 5:15. And 5:19. And 5:23. And every four minutes until 6:00, basically.

My snooze button got quite a workout this morning.

Tuesday Five

They have taken over from Friday Five as that distinguished group of children that I hate dealing with the most.

Trouble is, they're all pretty bright. And I can't think of more than 4 likeable kids in there. They are the laziest, most whiney, snotty bunch of 13-year-olds I have to work with. "This is boring!" "This is hard!" "I want a bottle!" "My diaper is dirty!"

And so on.

Michael Jackson

According to

Jackson Won't Share Bed With Kids Again

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Basking in the jurors' decision to acquit his client of all counts, Michael Jackson's lawyer said Tuesday the singer will no longer share his bed with young boys.

"He's not going to do that anymore," attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. told NBC's "Today." "He's not going to make himself vulnerable to this anymore."

I'm so happy to hear it. Now, can we get rid of all the wierdos that ever let their children be alone with him in the first place?!?

"It's victory," said Tracee Raynaud, 39. "God is alive and well."

Uh. Yeah. Sure.

Is that a gray hair?

I've survived fifth period. But why, why, WHY, I wonder, is it so hard for them to follow a simple instruction? Actually, I hate that word...why.

"Sophie, sit in your assigned seat."


"James, do the assignment I've set."


I always feel like saying, "So I don't have to rearrange your face, you little snot." But that would be unprofessional.

So I use that time-honored response:

"Because I told you to, that's why."

Accompanied by a glare, it even sometimes works.

Right...I'm outta here

I'm taking this "Blah" mood home and watching something good on the telly, and having a lovely pasta and veg dinner. Then I'll bury my face in a book (Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent"--very good, by the way) and make myself go to bed early.

Sweet dreams!



Monday, June 13, 2005

The Joy of Cover

Each week I have to do one cover lesson in addition to the 19 lessons of music on my own timetable. This is because a) the school is too cheap to hire supply teachers and b) the limited few available tend to run screaming from this place.

Well, actually the school isn't that cheap. But it is hard to find cover staff to come in.

So it falls on the staff of St. Peter's to cover lessons for colleagues who are sick, injured, on courses, etc. This is why I often feel guilty taking a sick day--because I know my poor colleagues, all, as I am, over-worked, will have to shoulder my lessons.

Anyway, I can always count on having cover on a Monday, as it is the day I have 4 free periods.

Today I have drawn a cover for a PE teacher, year 7 class. I have the 9 "non-doers" behind me in my classroom. "Non-doers" are the kids who for whatever reason, cannot dress down and participate in the day's physical activity.

So they are "non-doing" in my classroom. They are supposed to be writing down all the rules of rounders, whatever those are. Mostly they're just being irritating.

But no worries, I at least have the comforts of my classroom (namely my computer, which I cannot live without).

The Royal Ballet


I opted to sleep in on Saturday and catch the later train to London, so no Meg's Tour. I arrived at the Royal Opera House a little over an hour before the performance was due to start, and had a steak lunch at a posh restaurant there.

The dancers were, of course, top-notch. The only disappointment is that Carlos Acosta was not dancing due to injury. I would have loved to see him live, but alas, it was not meant to be. Of course, I was still watching some of the best in the world, and the music was lovely.

The rest of my weekend was mostly lazy.

So, doing a tally, I realize that I've seen Christian Slater on stage, the Lion King, the Royal Ballet, and Kevin Spacey (four times!!)

Not bad, not bad...

Friday, June 10, 2005


Polly Lidbury

Last night, Kathy had to have her beloved little Polly put to sleep.

Polly had a rough start in life. Abandoned by her mother as a kitten, she was sickly and weak when Kathy and her daughter Helen came across her. They were at the farm to adopt a little black and white cat they christened Lucifer. Helen insisted on also taking Polly home.

Kathy never expected Polly to make it to 12 weeks, let alone the 12 years she reached. She had terrible diareah the first few weeks, and at first the family didn't realize that the tip of her tail was actually a yellow-white color.

But Polly got over her kittenhood ailments and became a lovely little pet. She terrified the dogs, got snippy with her sister Flissy, and was sweet and loving with her people.

She had a quack for a meow, liked hearing me sing "Polly Wolly Doodle," and enjoyed only the poshest food money could buy. She also loved naps in the garden and basking in the sunshine.

Polly was a sweet little dear, but she was never as healthy as most cats because of her rough start. From time to time she would go off her food, and Kathy would take her to the vet for antibiotics and a steroid shot. Usually the shot would give her a much-needed boost, and she'd be back to her normal self.

This time, however, it was not to be. Polly's embattled kidneys just couldn't fight anymore.

So Kathy made the most difficult decision those of us owned by a pet ever have to make: she chose mercy, and relief from the pain and slow poisoning that Polly was experiencing.

She brought Polly home and tearfully buried her in the garden, in a spot where Polly liked to bask in the sun. The whole of the Lidbury household, tenant included, felt immense sadness as Polly was laid to rest in her favorite spot.

It just goes to show, that having pets does not come without the heartache. But I doubt Kathy and Derek would trade one minute of the joy Polly gave them to get rid of the pain they feel right now.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Comin' Around Again... voice, that is.


I took yesterday off, slept in, watched DVDs and read all day. It was fantastic, and I feel a lot better for it today. Still a bit mucous-y but definitely in better form.

The biggest excitement in my life is that I'm going to London on Saturday. First I'm going to do a photo exhibition through Meg's London, followed by a 1:00 performance of the Royal Ballet with Carlos Acosta (Ooh la la!). The Meg's London Tour is as follows:

1. London Liverpool Street Rail Station This station is my gateway. When I leave it, I'm entering my beloved Essex, a county as dear to my heart as London itself is. When I pull into Liverpool Street, I enter the fabulous and enchanting London, where I am never bored.

2. Chancery Lane Tube Station From Liverpool Street I will catch the Central Line to Chancery Lane, which was my stop when I lived in London 6 years ago. From this small station I drift upstairs to...

3. Gray's Inn Road This was my street. I'll walk a few blocks to the building I lived in, taking pictures of familiar landmarks, like my flat windows, the market, etc.

4. Theobald's Road and Southhampton Row These two streets were along my walk to school each day. On Southhampton Row I'll pop into the little newsagent I always frequented. I would stop there on my way home from class to buy a sandwich or a Dr. Pepper, or the latest More! magazine.

5. Great Russell Street

School was along this street, a few blocks down from Southhampton Row. Along the way is a lovely little park square and the glorious British Museum. Also of interest is the Museum Surgery, where I first went when I broke my toe.

6. University of Florida Building University of Florida allowed Chico State to use a classroom for the semester abroad program, so we met there 4 days a week for classes. It was also where I checked email.

7. Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road

A teensy little walk from the school building is London's biggest shopping district, Oxford Street. I used to wander through the shops, but more often than not, I would walk the length of Charing Cross Road to one of my favorite tourist traps in London...

8. Leicester Square Pronounced "Lester" by the Brits, it is gaudy, crowded, and fun. Cinemas, casinos, street performers, you name it. I love Leicester Square, for its unapologetic tackiness and profusion of cheap, tacky gift shops (anyone want a cheap teapot? Badly sewn teddy bear?).

9. Trafalger Square Just around the corner from the blissful tackiness of Leicester Square lies the stately and grand Trafalger Square, home to the gorgeous old St. Martin's-in-the-Fields church (named when it was, literally, in the fields), the National Gallery, and Nelson's Column. From the steps in front of the National Gallery you can see Big Ben keeping time. It is another of my favorite spots in London, for its beauty, museums and proximty to other fabulous things.

10. Whitehall Street Leaving Trafalger Square, I love to meander down Whitehall, directly towards Big Ben. Along the way are the guards on horses and Downing Street. At the end are the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, two of London's most famous landmarks.

11. The Thames From here I will make a left and find myself at the River Thames. I'll wander along the river for a few minutes, taking in the many views of St. Stephen's Tower (home of Big Ben) and the London Eye on the South Bank. My wanderings will lead me away from the river and toward

12. Covent Garden Covent Garden is home of a famous market, some great little shops, and the Royal Opera House. It is at the Royal Opera House that I will see Carlos Acosta. I hope to reach Covent Garden in time in my walking, otherwise I'll have to Tube it.

Now, let's just hope that the weather is nice enough for all this walking. If not, I guess I'll just have to do Meg's Tour another day. But I will do it before I leave.

If it rains, perhaps I'll go to the Tower of London in the morning...

All for today!



Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Parisian Shoes

...still don't make a girl feel better. : (

Physically, anyway.

Finally got to the surgery this morning and turns out my throat, though filled with mucous, is not in flames. Lungs sound fine. No fever. No nasal congestion (well, minimal). It's not something they can give me antibiotics for, so the prescription is liquids and rest. Looks like tomorrow is going to find me sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea all day.

But I digress.

I am finally wearing my new, never-worn shoes that Mom bought me in Paris. Tres magnifique!

They're little ballet flats (in black leather) with dainty little bows above my toes.
And on top of that, I'm wearing the cutest bracelet that I bought in Ireland. It goes perfectly with my new summer-y top.
All this cuteness and Parisian shoes...what more could a girl want?

Well, to feel better, I suppose...which I hopefully will after tomorrow!



Monday, June 06, 2005

Another Monday, Blah, Blah, Blog

Cough, Cough

Got a cold. Yuck.

The good news is I seem to be feeling better today, so hopefully it's on its way out. Meanwhile, I'm popping decongestant pills like mad.

I am Bridget Jones

My friend Donna is getting married at the end of July. Her hen night (bachelorette bash) is July 2. The theme is to dress up as your favorite TV, movie or music idol and hit the town. I was having a hard time thinking who to dress up as when it suddenly hit me this weekend...Bridget Jones! So what if she's fictional?

I'm going to wear a cream-colored sweater, black bra and tiny black skirt. I'm also going to carry around a self-help book and maybe a picture of Colin Firth.

Sometimes I amaze even myself. *chuckle*

Two Months

I've set a date, so to speak.

August 5th, one week before my birthday. That is two months from yesterday. I think I'll cry now...

Actually, I'm okay. Sad, yes, but I'm handling it well enough. I have a lot of stuff to look forward to, like being Bridget, and going to the Royal Ballet this weekend. I plan to do and see as much as I possibly can this month.

Cute Shoes!

I love new shoes. I really do. I probably shouldn't have bought these, seeing as how I'll just have to lug them all home 2 months from yesterday. But I could not resist these shoes.

And they're perfect for work...

Productive is NOT My Middle Name...

I have done about 15 minutes worth of lesson planning today. I guess it's the cold, but I have not felt like doing anything...though during one of my frees and part of lunch I did manage to go to the post office, the chemist and the photo place (all in one building so that's not that hard, really) and the co-op.

I have a staff meeting to go to after school (ooh, goodie) and I didn't want to have to walk all the way to town after that. I want to go home and sit on my keister with some tea.

Speaking of Tea

Do yourself a favor. Learn from my mistakes.

Don't drink 6 cups of tea on a Sunday afternoon and expect to sleep well that night. If the caffiene doesn't keep you up, the constant trips to the toilet (including one really annoying and necessary trip at 4:30 this morning) will.

Harry Potter Withdrawl

Right, who else is ready for book number 6? I can hardly wait, except that I don't want the time to fly by too quickly. I just finished re-reading the first 5 books and I am in some serious withdrawl. I fill the time by having long, detailed discussions with Kathy, who is always happy to speculate and wonder and be impatient for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince right along with me.

And the next movie! I can't wait to see what they do for Goblet of Fire.

Speaking of, I found some photos:

These are better (and there's 2 pages):

Suppose That's All for Today

So I'll sign off...



Friday, June 03, 2005

The Emerald Isle

Well, for a quickie trip, I feel I got to see and do quite a bit. Guinness included.

A drink precedes a story. --Irish Proverb

We left on Tuesday afternoon, from Stanstead Airport. The flight was uneventful and blessedly short (one hour as opposed to my other most recent flight--10 hours). We were among the last to board, and Ryanair is self-seating, so we ended up scattered. There were three of us, Jo, the Irish gal, Sandra, the Essex Girl, and Meg, the American.

When we arrived at Kerry Airport, Sandra and I were amazed at how tiny it is. If you think Sacramento Airport is tiny, well, it dwarfs Kerry. One baggage carousel, tiny waiting room, one teensy little shop. In the arrivals area, Angela (Jo's mom) was waiting for us. Jo was so excited to see her, and as they hugged I had a little pang and thought, "I want to see my mum and daddy..."

I quickly perked up, though, on the ride back to their home.

Jo grew up near a tiny village called Glenbeigh. It is in County Kerry, along what is known as the Ring of Kerry, a road that circles the county and its gorgeous coastline.

It was a bit cloudy, but it doesn't diminish the beauty of the area.

View from Jo's house:

Angela cooked spaghetti for dinner and put a fire in the fireplace, as it was getting rather chilly. They use peat! Having never seen a peat fire, I took a picture:

We stayed in that evening so Jo and Angela could catch up. We drank tea and ate biscuits and it was lovely and relaxing.

He who gets a name for early rising can stay in bed until midday. --Irish Proverb

We had originally planned to bum around on the beach while in Kerry, but a) it was raining and b) Angela had an appointment on Wednesday in Cork, so she offred to drive us there so we could shop and look around.

Cork is Ireland's third-largest city, behind Dublin and who knows. We had to get up early to get there in time for Angela's appointment, so we had a nice full day to browse the shops and take a few pictures.

Funny T-shirt:

I had to get pictures of some of the signs, as they are in both Irish and English.

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
--Irish Blessing

We drove back to Glenbeigh, but before heading back to the house, Angela drove us to the beach nearby. Though it was raining, Sandra and I had to get some pictures.

There are mountains nearby and we drove up a large hill to see where Jo was born and lived as a baby. Driving back down, the views are astounding:

We decided to relax a bit and have some dinner before doing the very necessary Irish tradition: Hitting the pub for a drink.

When we drink, we get drunk.
When we get drunk, we fall asleep.
When we fall asleep, we commit no sin.
When we commit no sin, we go to heaven.
So, let's all get drunk, and go to heaven!
--Irish Drinking Toast

That evening we went to Ashe's in Glenbeigh, to meet a couple of old school friends of Jo's. While she caught up with them, Sandra and I played tourist. This is the church across the street:

...and the pub itself.

May you live to be a hundred years,
With one extra year to repent!

--Irish Blessing

Guinness sign:

We all know that Guinness is a huge Irish tradition. You might also be aware of the fact that I am not a beer-drinker.

Six years ago, in London, I had a taste of someone's Guinness, and when I later found the description "tar with foam on top" in a book, I was finally able to put words to my feelings on the taste.

But I have heard that Guinness tastes better in Ireland, so I determined to try it. So I bought a half pint of the stuff.

As you can see, I'm not really enjoying does taste better in Ireland, but it's still an ale, and therefore...not my thing.

But, I am all about acquiring life experiences, and I can now say, "I have drunk Guinness in an Irish pub."

Finally, a pic of Sandra, myself and Jo (from left to right):

May you live as long as you want,
And never want as long as you live.

--Irish Blessing

Thursday we had a bit of a lie-in before heading off to spend a few hours in Killarney. As we left, Sandra and I both expressed a wish to take a picture of Jo and Angela at their home:

It was all-out raining, but we got a bit of last-minute souvenir shopping done. I bought myself an inexpensive Belleek vase (famous Irish china) and loads of postcards and a few magnets. My favorite is the one that says, "Pog ma thon," Irish for "Kiss my ass." Very cute. Too bad I can't display it in my classroom.

Before long, it was time to head back to Kerry Airport. I took a few pictures there, as well.

Before I knew it, we were on the plane (window seat for me this time!) and on our way back to England. I got a couple of last-minute photos of the patchwork of green that is Ireland:

A hen is heavy when carried far. --Irish Proverb

And so is a backpack. I didn't overpack, and I didn't buy a lot of stuff in Ireland, but that backpack got heavy after 3 hours of train travel to get back to Burnham from Stanstead. I got home at 10:00 last night!

May the roof above us never fall in.
And may the friends gathered below it never fall out.

--Irish Blessing

So, yes, I had a lovely time in Ireland. Would love to go back someday and see Connemara and Limerick and Dublin and County Clare, but for now, I'll be content with my quick excursion to County Kerry. I had a lovely time with Jo and Sandra, and Angela was as welcoming and hospitable as the Irish are reputed to be. Perhaps one day I'll welcome them to Seattle.

And now I'll sign off, go to the co-op, and then go home to rest, as I am getting a cold. So, more updates on Monday, when I'm back to work. Until then...

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

--Irish Blessing