Monday, 30 July 2012

The Joys of the Job

Working with children is something I don't think I could ever live without. Don't get me wrong, they're irritating and overly energetic and they pick their noses all the time, but they are just too funny. And, as is the reason for this blog, they make me happy and help me to remember what's good in life.
Anyway, enough mush. A Polish boy in my class aged 8, is hyperactive and asks about a million questions a day. When everyone else is quietly working, he will have a monologue going on that can't be stopped, directed at no one in particular. He has an incredible memory, and when he wants to do something, there's no persuading him otherwise- a combination that can be a real pain in the butt. The other day we were drawing pictures of central London. I'd told the students a few days before that there was once a whale stuck in the River Thames. The Polish boy came over to me half way through drawing, showing me 'in secret' the tiny whale he'd drawn in his river. Then he said, "shh, or the others will want whale in river too."
The other kids in the class drew their London eye, Buckingham palace, telephone box and taxi the same size as each other on the page, but not him. When I suggested he draw the taxi big to fill up the space, he immediately pointed disapprovingly, "No, but London eye is this big, taxi is on the road."
My suggestion that perhaps it didn't matter, fell on deaf ears.
So here's the picture- can you spot the phone box, the taxi and the whale? I love it.

Today I was left in the office while the kids went to Cambridge. For the first two hours the tranquillity was pure heaven, but after a while I got a bit lonely. Finally I heard the sound of children in the distance, gradually getting louder until in they all burst down the corridor. As if to give me a big slap in the face reminder of why I do this job, a rather tubby Russian boy turned the corner wearing his newly purchased items- a union Jack t-shirt, with matching hat and bag. When I saw him and started laughing (I couldn't help it) he just beamed proudly from ear to ear.
Then last night we watched some of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It was past bed time and I went to turn the TV off, to be met with a chorus of pleas from 24 little faces, begging me to let them watch a bit longer. But it was when a nine year old Thai boy said (in his lispy voice and with perfect English), "Please Rachel, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," my heart just melted. Because he is so right; the ceremony was special and it made me proud. But more than that, I am so happy that I get to work with children. They are just great.

Friday, 27 July 2012

So sleepy...must write

I've been thinking recently about my writing ups and downs, the peaks and troughs of my production levels. It seems that it's true that when I am either too busy or too free, my writing is not at its best or most frequent. When I'm busy, I'm don't write and when I'm not, I find myself lacking in inspiration and drive. Somewhere in between is a good place for me as it creates a situation where I have lots of ideas from my work and life in general and also have the time to actually write them down. The job I'm doing right now has allowed me to do none of these things, and even now as I write I find myself itching to get off the computer. That's one of the problems with lesson planning and recording: I sometimes can't face going on the computer to write after I've done all my work. It may be a different forum and altogether a more interesting task, but it still unfortunately involves staring at the same damn screen.
What baffles me about working this hard is that some people just see it as normal, i.e their day jobs are as demanding as this throughout the year. How do they do it? I guess some people just love their job that much. My problem is that I'm trying to get my dream job underway on the side of my normal job. Sometimes I envy those people, I really do...
So far it's been a year of extremes- starting in Korea, where turning up and bouncing around the classroom was enough to get paid. Being on time and standing up for all seven 45 minute classes were the only things that really mattered. 
Then came the CELTA, during which I thought I was going to die. I remember saying 'nothing will seem hard after this' and I think it's weird how I genuinely believed it at the time, but now that the pain has subsided I've moved on to more current grievances. 
Then there was the dreaded Vaughan Systems in Spain which gave 'going to die' a whole new meaning. 9am- 3am flat out working day, with so little time to eat that I actually had to teach with my stomach growling like a monster, to the point where one of my students, unable to ignore it, offered me some food. 
And after that came nothing. The big void where days turned into weeks, a vast blur of menial tasks and general existence.
And now my current job with the Cambridge Academy of English. Fun but intense, non stop and exhausting.
On the plus side, the CELTA, Vaughan Systems and CAE have all contributed to this year feeling really long, as they all lasted (and are lasting) for a lifetime. So at least I'm getting my moneys worth!
In conclusion I will say this: Dear Saudi Arabia, please give me enough work to be challenged and to develop, but not so much that I get cross eyed and dizzy and don't have time to sleep. Thanks!

Friday, 20 July 2012

A pondering on money

Wealth and privilege are funny things, especially when it comes to children. Funny because no matter how rich a child is, they are still a child. An example that comes to mind is Ritchie Rich (which I watched recently- a classic never dies!) who has everything he ever wanted but isn't happy because he doesn't have friends. The children I have been working with in the last two weeks are from the wealthiest backgrounds. They wear designer clothes and have travelled around the world, each without really being aware of the difference between them and other children, I guess because they don't know anyone that is not like them.
But the designer jeans still get grass stains, the children still cry through homesickness, they complain about the vegetables at dinner, laugh at stupid things (mainly farts etc), and want desperately to dance with each other to the slow songs at the disco. But I also feel like I've slipped into a parallel universe when I see 8 year olds taking fifty pound notes out with them casually on day trips and buying designer watches as if they were penny sweets. Some are spoilt, but most are well mannered and strangely unaware of the lives they are lucky enough to lead.
In a similar way, I'm always struck when I go somewhere new that places can be more alike than I ever imagined. Invariably there is water, food, people, trees and sky. The world is a small place.
I guess the point of all this is that maybe it is only when children grow up that the gaps really start to show, turning gradually into voids that prevent people from understanding or empathising with each other. But for now, while only today is important, grass stains and paint smears and chocolate round mouths are universal and fun is all that matters.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Busy doing... A lot!

As you know, I've been busy doing not a whole lot of late. Until suddenly, whaddya know? I got a job. Employed on Wednesday, to arrive somewhere in the sticks outside of Cambridge on Thursday! After being unemployed and stretching tasks out to last over a number of days, it was a total shock to get everything ready and to get there in such a short space of time. But somehow, I did it. And am hence reminded of how much can be achieved in a mere 24 hours, as well as how nice it is not to have big gaps of nothingness in between all the bits of action in your day.
So here I am at my new job, where things are busy, there’s a lot to take in and a lot to do and things like showers, talking on the phone (there’s hardly any signal) and blogging have to be squeezed in to little pockets of the day.
What a yo-yo my life is turning out to be, from one extreme to another. 
A snapshot now into my first impressions- as written in a 'random diary entry'- on my first night here at Morton Hall:
Well I knew it might be a bit old school, but seriously? My room is a girls changing room, with a bed shoved in it. Creepy and a bit gross too! There are loads of cobwebs above my head. Not to be a total baby but I’m in the main building away from everyone else (except someone I haven’t met before), I’m in the basement so my signal cut out and has disappeared completely, and the toilets are upstairs in the darkness under the stairs! And to get to the bathroom to get ready in the morning I will pretty much have to go past everyone in the kitchen or bump into people coming into the offices. Oh dear god.
Best thing to do is to get to sleep—absolutely shattered. Things usually look better in the morning. And if not then I will be seeing if there’s anywhere ANYWHERE else they can put me. Arghhhhh.
Looking back I think I did quite well to put myself across quite so calmly. Thankfully I have now been moved from 'the dungeon' to a much more amiable room, be it sandwiched between the two girls dorms.
More grievances to follow I'm sure when the kids (affluent children aged 9-13 from around the world) arrive...