Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time is dragging

Four and a half hours of after school meetings in two days!

Even the thought that they would never be able to get away with this abomination in the UK is of little comfort when you are actually sitting in the middle of one of the interminable tortures as they (I say nothing unless directly asked a question) pick their way through the tortured lives of our poor little rich kids who are not making the grade.

It is living torture and the participants seem to relish the whole bloody experience, while I gnash my teeth in impotent fury and think of book that I haven’t read because I consider them hard going and think that even they would be preferable to listening to colleague as they vacillate between Spanish and Catalan.

I would rather be reading “The Fairy Queen” – surely I can say no more for the level of desperate boredom that I reach within five minutes of the start of the meeting.

I look back on so-called “Curriculum Meetings” in my last real school with something approaching fondness – and those were meetings where colleagues sometimes watched me rather than listened to what was going on as they hoped that this would be the occasion when I actually burst into tears of hopeless despair rather than merely looking as if I was on the point of so doing.

Never mind, I keep telling myself, there are now only six teaching days to the holidays; and these holidays seem (at this point in the long drawn out term) to be of almost heavenly length and stretch from the evening of the 22nd of December to the morning of the 10th of January! O bliss!

I am still firm in my resolve that this holiday will see some sort of real attempt to bring order to my library: I wonder if this resolution will survive to the 23rd of December!

Although the dining room in school has sprouted a stunted Christmas tree and a few hanging decorations which are at my head level there is almost no sense of it being near the (or in the) festive season.

A few houses in the vicinity have at last put up a few lights and one or two flats have a Christmas tree ostentatiously in the window but it doesn’t even come close to the over-kill on British television and in British shops. Visiting Britain in early December was something of a culture shock: not only the remnants of snow but also shop windows filled with Christmas trash and aisles in supermarkets groaning with Christmas food and gifts (at all prices!)

Catalonia is not like that. Admittedly I am in a small seaside town rather than wandering about in the wonderland that is the centre of Barcelona, but one would still expect shopkeepers to be doing their level best to get the euros out of pockets. Even the weather is unseasonably warm: it was cold coming home (after another bloody meeting, sorry, but they do rankle) but the temperature was 11ºC – which was a considerable number of degrees warmer than the day’s high temperature in my home city! I should count my blessings!

In school our groups have changed. In the first year the class changes at some point in the term so that at the end of the year each first year English teacher will have taught the entire first year intake.

This is so that at the end of the year we will know the names of the whole of the year and we will be able to refer to children for the rest of their time in school by their first names.

Yes. Right. Good idea. But for me. I freely acknowledge that I have a sort of psychological problem with learning names which I have no desire to deal with at this stage of my career. I always feel that as long as I can usually get the names of my immediate colleagues right more often than wrong then I am doing as much as I can reasonably be expected to do. Any greater expectations will I am afraid be not met. The name neutral greeting of “Hello there!” has stood me in good stead for umpteen years and will see out my time in this school. I think.

Only one class has demanded that I know their names and that effort last year is still clear in my memory as a time of almost impossible intellectual effort!

So today I had another tranche of kids for my Media Studies class (last two periods of the day) and some of them I have taught before and some of them I am actually teaching now in their English class. So, some kids I will actually see for three periods a day for one day a week. Which is something to think about!

What changing classes at this stage of the term with only a handful of days to go before a longish holiday is that you start the introduction to your course and then the kids forget everything by the time they come back and you have to start again.

I have designed the course this time to be intentionally fragmented so that each of the “bits” can be taught individually so that there will still be some sort of continuity as we make our way through what I want to teach when you look back at the bits.

The other course I co-teach with Suzanne has also started. This is an introduction to modern art. This course too has been modified as last term a small group of students was taken out of the whole group and given the task of translating a children’s book about the disaster in Haiti from Spanish into English. This is (hopefully) gong to be published and sold in aid of the people of Haiti. So a whole group of kids did not join the main group until well into the course.

We started the course this time will the whole group together and them completing an exercise where they were give small colour reproductions of a whole range of paintings from our period. They had to make a selection of from seven to nine of the paintings for an exhibition, choosing one as a “masterpiece”. They were also allowed to choose five of the paintings and put them in a Salon de refusés on the back wall of their cardboard gallery.

Ceri will be gratified to learn that most of the groups chose one of his paintings to adorn the walls of the galleries, while Warhol, Pollack, Rothko, Cezanne etc all featured in the rejects!

It is very difficult to work up any real enthusiasm at this stage of term where all my colleagues (and the kids) are all jaded and exhausted. God help us all when we start the long slog in January to the promised land of the Easter holidays! With no half term!

Still, this is no time to think about that: six more working days. Ah!
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