Monday, 28 September 2009

extended family

Here's a great picture of my grandparents with their five children. It's taken by Paul (my brother) and based on a much older photo of Grammie with her parents and siblings. I think this is my favourite recent picture of my paternal extended family, even more than this summer's photo.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

childhood revisited

I have only a very few of my childhood books with me here in the UK. One of them is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Jodi and Ron Barrett. My copy (which actually has Micah's name scrawled moving upwards on the title page) is published in 1978. It's a story about the tiny town of Chewandswallow. There are no food stores in the town since the weather comes at three times a day and feeds the citizens. There could be soup, burgers, pancakes, or any food at all. It's a beautifully illustrated story that captivated me as a child. I have it here in the UK because I used to take it with me when I would go primary supply teaching. It was a sure-fire hit with young kids, especially because there were never any who had seen the story before.

Earlier this week I saw this amazing poster. They have made the book into a movie! I will have to go see it at some point. Hopefully it will be just as whimsical and captivating as I remember.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

girls' night out

Apologies for the dark photograph. All the photos on my blogs are taken with my mobile phone camera--I always have it to hand and it's easy to get the pictures onto my computer (via Bluetooth). It was dark in the pub when we were out last night, but we had a super time. It was really nice to be relaxing on a Friday night (though I was very tired) and out with friends. Bree is taking the picture. Next to me (doh--with my eyes closed!) are Helen, Holly, and Sarah. Nice food, interesting conversation, and a great evening with the girls!

Friday, 18 September 2009

like a boy in a chocolate factory

Ant got a new phone this week and he is loving every minute of it. It's the HTC Hero (which runs Google's Android operating system) and he can't get enough of its big screen, web browsing, camera, music, games, etc, etc. He took this photo with his phone moments ago and emailed it to me from the phone! You can see me in the background, blogging, while he is grinning like a madman for the camera.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

school routine

It's amazing how little time it takes to get into the school routine again. Long days of teaching, lesson planning, marking, and cycling back and forth. I manage to make dinner, and usually do one household chore each evening (ironing, or doing a load of laundry, or tidying). Then Ant and I manage to watch one TV program or read one chapter/article or play online for a while. I do the dishes and then we are off to bed by 10 pm each evening, ready to wake up at 5:35 am the next day.

It's easy to think of the daily routine as boring or tedious. But it needn't be so, I am telling myself. At the Mennonite service a few months ago something struck me and I took notes from the printed prayer:
For the discipline of life,
for the tasks and trials which train us to know ourselves
and which bring us to accept one another,
we give you thanks, O God.

So I'm hoping to see my routine as useful discipline rather than drudgery. It's a chance to learn and develop my character. Thank you, Father, for all the ways you work in life, the quiet ones as well as the more obvious, loud circumstances.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

tutor group

I tutor a group of year nine students (fourteen year olds) and I've had them since year seven. They see me twice every day and I am meant to be their parents' first point of contact about all things school-related. I give advice and had out letters, keep communication between home and school open, and generally act as an advocate for my twenty-eight youngsters around the school. I try to solve their friendship and bullying issues and act as police for the school's policies and rules.

Do you think it would be crazy to read to them during tutor time? I thought of this last week when I was browsing on Green Metropolis, and I spontaneously bought a copy of the The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There are lots of things we are supposed to be doing during tutor time, like checking everyone has all their equipment, all the socks are black or grey or white, all the skirts are of an appropriate length, etc, etc. But really I am re-thinking my strategy with them. I have been very businesslike for the two years I have had them as a tutor group and now I want to forge a bit more of a relationship with them. Ideas certainly welcome! I started off last term with a summer pizza party, where we ordered pizza from down the road and I brought in drinks (Coke Zero, to minimise the damage to afternoon lessons!) and treats. They enjoyed it... I think. I don't actually know them very well and I think I would enjoy them more if I got to know them a bit.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

back to work

Well, one week done! It was quite a tiring endeavour this week, to motivate myself and 155 students to get back down to some quality work. I am teaching a few new-to-me classes this year, for example, a bottom set of year 9s (fourteen year olds) that I am finding quite a challenge. I didn't realise how much detail I would need to go into when explaining how to round a number to the nearest ten, hundred, or thousand. Actually, I decided after the first lesson, that I'd better teach about the place value positions first. Because if you can't identify the hundreds digit, then you can't round to the nearest hundred. This was a hurdle I wasn't expecting! But now I know not to assume any knowledge in the future. We will be doing lots of times table tests this year, because if these students leave school with any functional numeracy at all it will be a benefit.

Organising my classroom, resources, and mind is always a challenge as well. I have made a lot of hands-on items over the last few years, and it is a collection I want to continue building. So over the summer I reorganised them by moving them all into stackable containers on a high window sill (more than two metres off the floor). The containers are from our favourite oriental take-away food restaurant, and I have been collecting them all year--now I have about fifty, I think. All the boxes are labelled on the front with large stickers; "rounding card sort" is new this week, and a class set of "digits 0 - 9" for use with my new place value mats (laminated 50 cm long grids which hopefully will help students see how to compute 236 x 100 in their heads).

I love organising, but if only I had more time to do it! As the week went on, my desk became the resting place for piles of worksheets, incoming mail, items that my boss asked me to look at, slips of paper, and so on. This mess was compounded by the fact that I managed to run over the bell with almost every lesson this week (I must be out of practice!). So as students were leaving the room, the next set were streaming in, and I was still madly trying to find my next set of slides, worksheets, feedback slips, cards sorts, and mini whiteboards, while tidying away the ones I had finished with. Sigh.

The weekend is a welcome break. But in reality, I might be better served by going to work and trying to get back on top of things before the madness of another week begins.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


I recently rediscovered the joys of my local library. It is very close to me and there is really no excuse for not popping in there quite regularly. As well as loaning books, they also sell withdrawn books and I like to browse through the two trollies of odds and ends there. Every few visits, I pick something up for 40 pence. In the spring, I found a little city guide of Sydney, which came in handy when we were in Australia. I get Ant some of his spy thriller books there as well. I also love used book shops and charity shops where I browse for books. I have signed up to Green Metropolis, an excellent online UK-based book exchange website.

The photo shows my new-to-me books books over the last part of my holidays. The bottom two books are on loan from the library: The Kitchen Revolution and Julie & Julia (on which the current film is based). The top two books I bought from the library's withdrawn stock: Reading Lolita in Tehran (which Bree recommended) and Cryptic Crosswords and How to Solve Them. And the other three are from used book sales and shops: Homestead by Rosina Lippi, Cook's Book of Cheese, and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

So these are going to keep my busy for quite some time! What are you reading (or hoping to read) at the moment?

Oh, and I also recycle the books away again after I've read them. My charity shop takes them from me. (Sometimes I've wanted to buy them back months later when I find them on the shelves!)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Pari and I have just returned from a wonderful long weekend away in Munich. It's a very pretty, clean city. The people there were friendly and I got to practice my German quite a lot. I could have stayed in Munich.

One evening we happened upon this quartet busking along the side of the main square. Busking! With a baby grand piano!

One highlight for me was visiting the Residenz Museum, the palace where Bavarian kings lived. There are so many rooms to see that half are open in the morning and a different group are open in the afternoon. The audio guide was excellent and the historical rooms were fascinating.

Another highlight was all the interesting food I tried. Of course, there was some Bavarian food, for example on Monday when we went to the Englischer Garten and had lunch in the beer garden. I quite enjoyed my bratwurst and sauerkraut! I even managed to drink (and perhaps enjoy) a half litre of Hell Bier.

Pari enjoyed the pretzel that is bigger than your head.

But apart from the Bavarian food, we ate lots of other cuisines as well. I had a meal in a Japanese noodle bar with Sutapa (Pari's friend). Then we all went out for a tasty Tibetan meal. The next night Bipro (Sutapa's husband) cooked us a Bengali meal (which I ate with my hands, in the traditional style), and then we ate Ethiopian food another night (which I also managed to eat with my hands). Ethiopian honey wine was delicious (although very sweet, and I needed help finishing it).

Our visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein was excellent as well. It's a couple of hours outside Munich. First we travelled by coach to the base of the mountain and went for a cycle tour to Swan Lake (Schwan See).

Then we hiked up to the castle itself and took a tour inside.

Oh, how I enjoyed Munich! I feel newly inspired to continue working on my German. I brought home some children's books for language practice and Ant and I read a few pages last night--slow going but very rewarding! Our German lessons start up again in mid September.