Friday, May 25, 2007

I'm alright (you gotta go there to come back)


It's the last day of school today for quite a few of the boys I teach. They'll be moving on to bigger and better things (uni for quite a few).

I think - for all the machismo - they will actually miss school. I'm not sure how many would admit that (especially in front of a teacher) but there's no doubt that the familiarity and ease of staying at an institution makes it welcome.

And if any of them are reading this, then leave a comment on my blog please!

Also - they should know - I'm proud of them.

Controversial perhaps, but I'm proud to say I've been part of educating them. I may not have always 100% of the time:
got through to them, marked work on time, listened to them, given the best feedback, seen the best in them every day, been completely consistent, given them the benefit of the doubt, told them the truth, treated them with the respect they deserved, or been in a good mood.

But guess what - even I'm not perfect (although some teachers think they are).

As long as everyone I teach gives it 100% in their exams, I'm not asking for more - I don't think that would be fair. If every pupil I taught could come up to me after their exams and say "I've authentically done my best here." I'd be fulfilled as an educator. Some may achieve A grades; some may achieve C grades, but 100% is all I ask for.

A good grade in an exam isn't everything.

Having said that - I do know boys, who are capable of getting excellent marks, but don't bother even trying. Their arrogance means they expect the world on a stick.

There are no short-cuts to excellence. There are no guarantees in life.

It's action that produces the results. No reading through the year, means no good results. Simple.

But - like everything it needs balance. Too much work...and well...I'd burn out. We're not machines, we're human beings.

I've been going through a lot over the past month. But I'm becoming a bit more circumspect about the things I love. I think teaching forces me to confront myself and my issues in life directly; that makes me more effective.

I'm still angry and frustrated with other parts of my life, but that doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't teach, despite what people tell me, or what my opinion of myself happens to be on a particular day. I'm still struggling through it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Someone once told me: "there's nothing that can't be sorted out in communication".

Work Hard. Play Hard. I like to think that's something I embodied for the boys...

J.

This post was brought to you by the Stereophonics

Monday, May 21, 2007

The End

This post is about my wonderful group of Year 11s

I said goodbye to them on Wednesday last week.

As a teacher, however cynical people may get, I do harbour a soft spot for everyone I teach. I'm not sure if that's just me. I hope other teachers do. For all the difficult days, I spent a lot of time on those boys! And I like to think I provided them with everything they needed to at least do their best.

I will miss them and their: energy, silliness, swearing, youth, arrogance, enthusiasm, lack of control, constant conversation about sex, use of slang, chanting, singing inappropriately, silly noises, tiredness in the morning, challenges to authority, (misguided - well some of them) opinions, love of football, boyish-ness, hilarity, mania, and play-fighting...

...and occasionally, of course, the work they produced.

It's the sheer lack of abandon and disregard for anything other than their own feelings (that more often than not start in their penises) that is (almost) awe-inspiring.

Do exam results indicate if I did a good job? Or their memories of school? Or what? Just how is the effect of a teacher measured on a group of pupils?

I'm not sure I'll ever know; I just hope to hear from some as the years go by.

I'm feeling it will be the same every year. Don't you just love a challenge?

As one of them said "live on the edge".

J.

PS It is actually a shame I'll be on my honeymoon when their results come out. Someone had better email me...

This post was brought to you by The Doors

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Angry Chair


Sitting on an angry chair
Angry walls that steal the air
Stomach hurts and I don't care

What do I see across the way
See myself moulded in clay
Stares at me, yeah I'm afraid
Changing the shape of his face

Candles red I have a pair
Shadows dancing everywhere
Burning on the angry chair

Little boy made a mistake
Pink cloud has now turned to gray
All that I want is to play
Get on your knees, time to pray, boy

I dont mind, yeah
I dont mind, I-I-I
I dont mind, yeah,
I dont mind, I-I-I
Lost my mind, yeah
But I dont mind, i-i-i
Cant find it anywhere
I don't mind

Corporate prison, we stay
I'm a dull boy, work all day
So I'm strung out anyway

Loneliness is not a phase
Field of pain is where I graze
Serenity is far away

Saw my reflection and cried
So little hope that I died
Feed me your lies, open wide
Weight of my heart, not the size

Pink cloud has now turned to gray
All that I want is to play
Get on your knees time to pray

This post was brought to you by Alice in Chains but those of you in the know would have spotted that already.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eraser


Hate is a strong word.

There are some people I hate right now.

But they don't know who they are yet.

I was hoping it would pass. But I think I've got to go through it. Over the past couple of weeks I have been present to my 'dark side' if you will more than usual. In fact, I haven't lost my temper more, and been this quick to get angry since I that special weekend in June 1998.

But I tend to turn my hate inwards.

Interestingly, it's affecting my health. After the events of a couple of weekends ago, I got ill almost immediately. Cold, sneezing, blowing my nose all that. Since then, my asthma has been playing up. In fact over the weekend, it was the worst it's been since I was very young.

Now, I know how to control my asthma, and I've been taking my inhalers since I was young; renewing prescriptions, and getting a check-up is a habit for me. But none of those things seemed to work.

Which suggested to me what I knew all along. The link between my health and state of mind is incredibly strong. (No matter how many times I've told someone I know about this, they choose to rubbish what I say, and ignore their own experience...but that's nothing new). The ontological explanation for my asthma? Suffocation perhaps?

Self-improvement is masturbation, maybe self-destruction is the answer...It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
Tyler Durden
I have one thing on my side - a good friend is reminding me - distinctions.

More than most people, I have distinctions. And I can't deny that - no matter how much I might suppress the thought, I know there's a distinction between what happened, and what I make it mean.

And he's a pain for reminding me.

J.

Need you
Dream you
Find you
Taste you
Fuck you
Use you
Scar you
Break you
Lose me
Hate me
Smash me
Erase me
Kill me
Kill me
Kill me
Kill me
Kill me
Kill me
Kill me
Kill me


This post was brought to you by NIN

Friday, May 11, 2007

Down in a Hole

Being around younger people makes me more aware of how I change.

I feel that things don't really change much. The 'Rules of the Playground' pretty much provide the basis for the 'Rules of the University Campus', followed by the 'Rules of Working Life'. People are people I suppose.

I'm still struck by how insightful young people are, and how immature older (and supposedly wiser) people are.

Life keeps changing...

Chatting with a group of Year 11s at school (for those that don't know, that means they're about 15-16 years old) I asked them how many had been drunk. All of them, except one raised their hands (and even then, he'd drunk alcohol). I then asked how many of them had had sex before they were 16...two of them raised their hands. (I suspect it would have been more with another group of boys in the year group).

I'm not particularly making a judgement either way. But I can only compare it with my own experience. I was first drunk at the age of 21. That's probably quite late by most people's standards. And the idea of sex at the age of 15-16 was inconceivable for me! Mainly because of the interesting opinions I had about myself, and my own parents' attitudes to sex (which consist of i) leaving education about sex to school life, ii) never talking about any aspects of it, and iii) pretending it doesn't happen).

In another lesson covering a teacher, with the same age group, we were discussing attitudes to death, and attitudes to life. Some of the more difficult boys had very clear philosophies of life. One guy is a talented snowboarder (among the best in Europe for his age) and his idea is "live on the edge".

Another very precocious pupil says it's all about having fun, and enjoying life...but school gets in the way!

Being a teenager is easily forgotten by us 'adults'. It is a different world; inhabited a lot of the time by people who think they know best for them. And yet I always come back to the thought that they're people - like you, me, and everyone.

I suppose there's a teenager inside us all. I'm just surprised more teachers don't befriend their inner teenager as a way of understanding what could be happening with their pupils.

Jumping a couple of generations, it would seem that the people who have exerted the greatest influence on bringing me up aren't that great at communicating. All I want is for what I have to say to be understood. Not agreed with, not acted upon, just understood.

For some people, that's a lot to ask.

I don't think that wisdom comes with age.

I think wisdom comes from pushing the envelope; from going for it; from frequently messing up and clearing up stuff; from being at cause.

Said another way: using the Force.

To my mind, arguing with family is one of the most difficult things to resolve. I know that when I argue with my sister it's nasty, vicious and passionate. But we do sort it out. I can't imagine life not being in some kind of communication with her.

Having said that, my sister is one of the few people who can wind me up the wrong way, and upset me incredibly quickly.

I like to think it's because I care.

At the moment, being down in a hole feels like the most appropriate place. I want everyone to go jump. I feel like no-one listens/ understands/ takes the time/ cares or loves me.

Some might say I'm behaving like a sulky teenager.

Here are two quotes from George Bernard Shaw that give me hope:

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.


and

This is the true joy of life. The being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.The being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live,it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I've got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handling it on to future generations.


Keep on going I guess.

J.

This post was brought to you by Alice in Chains

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Surfacing


Here are a series of rants. They reflect what I'm thinking at the moment. It's pure opinion - as most blogs are - and opinions don't make that much difference to the planet.

Bear that in mind as you read.

1) People who cannot control their swearing. There is a time and place. At the front of a class, teaching students is not the place. On a blog we're free in cyberspace. I also will swear with impunity here. It's my blog so I can say what I want. If you're offended, then fuck off.

2) 'Friends' - what a fucking awful television show. It's boring, bland and uninteresting. It's the kind of thing that makes everyone older than 20 think that their life is inadequate. I mean who gets to deal with real life like that? Escapism? Yes! Chewing gum for the brain? Yes. Uninspiring? Totally.

3) People who say they listen to 'anything' when it comes to music. Oh really? I ask them if they like metal and they instantly say 'well apart from that'. Well you don't fucking like 'anything' then do you?

4) Assumptions about my ethnicity. Oh this one really gets me. Especially when the police make assumptions. But it's even more interesting when some idiotic fucker decides that I'm Muslim (note - there's nothing wrong with being Muslim, it's just not me!) on the basis of some point like, I don't drink alcohol, or I have a beard/ goatee or some combination. I understand that we all make assumptions to make the world around us easier to understand, but it costs nothing to ask and check.

5) People who say "I don't have time". What they really mean is "I don't want to" or "I can't be bothered" or even a simple "No I'm not doing that". It's not hard to say. But really - what do people really fill up their time with? A lot of pointless stuff? What it really comes down to is that people don't know what they really want. Choose what you want to do, then go and fucking get it. Simple.

6) 'There are always grey areas with issues.' No there fucking isn't. It's just more avoiding commitment or taking action. Life is simple, and we humans complicate it enough by creating 'grey areas'. Again if you don't know who you are, what you stand for or what you want in life, then guess what - they're lots of grey areas. Sitting on the fence only gives you splinters in your arse.

7) Not listening. Another one of my personal favourites. I've been told by a fair number of people that I'm one of the few people who actually listen to other people. (If you don't agree with that assessment of me - your entitled to your own opinion). Now if I listen, that doesn't mean I have to agree with what you say, or act on what you say. I think that's perfectly fair. I'm a grown man with my own opinions/ ideals/ principles etc. But when some stupid cunts don't listen to me, repeat themselves or tell me their point without giving me some opportunity to state my case - why the fuck should I listen to them? The 'Great Soul' Mahatma Gandhi said "Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress". I usually choose to listen, and say if I've followed what someone's said. Then it's my turn. If you don't want to give me a chance, then I'm fucking off. I'm not going to talk to you. I might as well talk to a brick wall.

8) "I'll try" actually there is no try (and I'm not just quoting Yoda) - you'll either do something, or you fucking won't. Simple.

9) Walking on public transport, and someone in front stops. London is a busy place - it's one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the world. I love it. But when I'm walking on a tube/ train platform/ along a busy street and some dopey idiotic prick decides to fucking stop walking in front of me. I'm tempted sometimes to just push through...and in fact I've done that a couple of times. Showing no awareness of one's surroundings is akin to showing no awareness of reality - some people get sanctioned for that.

10) Dying with potential fully intact/ Waiting for the right time/ some day, one day. I think there are lots of people like this, or who are well on the way to becoming this. I suppose in teaching I come across this fairly regularly, but I do seem to meet a few people who have a some idea/ dream/ thought they want to follow up on, but never do. Well, I think there is no right time, some day never comes, and then you're dead. Get up off your fucking arse and do it.

11) People who have never read a book. What the fuck is this about? I can understand and respect a choice to not read books for pleasure. That's not for everyone, but to have never read a book? That's fucking ridiculous. It reflects that bigger/ better/ faster/ more/ a.d.d./ a.d.h.d./ me-generation/ I want it now society we're living in. Not only do books stimulate our imagination and ideas, but they're also an excellent way of learning. Not to demean other media, but to not have read a book ever? Where the fuck have you been hiding?

12) Being late. I hate being late personally. And with the odd-slip up, if I'm late I'll let people know. But turning up late consistently is fucking rude. Generally speaking around me, people are not late - and if they are, they communicate. Some stupid fuckers don't even bother getting in touch to say they won't be coming. Why should I give them the fucking time of day? If they can't even meet me on time, or communicate if they're late or have an emergency, how can I call them a friend or even trust them? (Of course, I'm all in favour of forgiveness, but if some shit-head is consistently late, I'm going to tell them).

13)The hypocrites in organised religion. Now organised religion is not without its positives. The structure, the meeting of similar minds, and the creation of some kind of positive collective consciousness are all to be applauded. But when people go to church and hear about forgiveness, and yet, don't fucking practise it in their day to day lives. It means nothing. I know people who have been attending church regularly for over fifty years, but still can't let go of hate. They can go fuck themselves. (Interestingly, the people who are the most zealous tend to fall foul of number 7).

14) Fearing God. What is all this about? Why fear God? I don't understand that. God created us all, and is all-powerful, all-seeing and all-knowing. So why be scared? Surely we should embrace God...and embrace the sacred and the profound. God knows when I say shit/ fuck/ bollocks/ cunt/ arse/ twat/ prick etc. God created everything, ergo God created those words. God is intimately familiar with the contents of my mind/ body and soul. What the fuck do I have to fear? As far as I can see, fearing God absolves people of the responsibility for their relationship with God and actually trusting themselves. Suffering is a choice. Happiness is a choice. So choose for God's sake!

15) Blaming circumstance. Shit happens. Stop whining. Fucking deal with it.

If you've got down to here, well done. If you know me - you know I'm not perfect. Either way, leave a comment. I hope this has stirred up something inside you.

J.

This post was brought to you by the Slipknot song Surfacing. It also contains 23 uses of the word fuck.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Fragile

So things happen.

Things happen that make me think about everything. Things happen that cause me to question everything. People tell me stuff. People who care about me tell me what they think.

I listen. I choose. I act.

Listening is not something I always find easy. But then walking my own path is not something I always find easy. Someone said to me recently: "reaching and striving for the best. Can't ask for more than that."

Do some people ask for more than that?

Trusting my instincts is something that (usually) comes naturally to me. But when I'm in a position of questioning my instincts, it's something I find more than a little unsettling.

It puts one in a fragile place.

There's a general theme ... of systems failing and things sort of falling apart...like there was something inherently flawed in the situation, like someone struggling to put the pieces together. A Downward Spiral peels off layers and arrives at a naked, ugly end. This...starts at the end, then attempts to create order from chaos, but never reaches the goal. It's probably...bleaker...because it arrives back where it starts - the same emotion.
T. Reznor adapted by J.
J.

This is another post brought to you by NIN