I have been very short on creativity and post ideas of late. It isn't that there's nothing going on; Lord, I have been on the run from one end of the day to the other. Some of it is pretty mundane though and some of it is life changing and also difficult to write about. (The 'M' word...money)
School is consuming my thoughts at the moment, when the 'M' word isn't. Yet again there has been a big change in circumstances so I am once more doing completely new things and having to re-invent the wheel every day.
Home is a frustration, a challenge, a joy and a millstone all at the same time. No 2, and all his attendant issues, has been large in our sights; Small Boy continues to both frustrate and surprise me all at once; and of course the daily challenge of trying to mother a delightful kid who is usually so self sufficient that she can be easily neglected in the scheme of things, weighs heavily on me. Husband. Oh yes, he's in there too. Also easily neglected.
Recently he has said to me "Oh, you remind me of my wife."
So what's changed? This year despite a general trend towards independent schools the numbers at our place have dropped. This may be due in part to the Board's somewhat foolish (in my opinion) policy on 100% Christian enrollments. Conversely it may be due to our new (third year now) Principal who is not quite as hard line fundamental as his predecessor. For me, that is a good thing but I guess there are a whole raft of hard line fundamental families out there who are disappointed by the more mainstream flavour of the place nowadays. For example, there is more focus on correct uniform than on moshing to Christian rock music down at the front of the assembly on Monday mornings.; previously (I have been told) if 'The Spirit' moved in Assembly, the Head would allow the thing to go on until recess (apparently saving souls was more important than Chem tests). Finally, the new Head is much less warm, fuzzy and forgiving about anti-social behaviour than the last guy and as a result 11 people were 'asked to leave' last year (yaaaayyy)! It must be pointed out that these departures were mostly after a lengthy process of
consquences and working with parents to turn kids around. In a few cases expulsion came about 3 terms after it was due in the opinion of many staff!
Whatever the cause, we were faced with some serious financial decisions at the end of last year. Previously the school has offered 4 classes in English, Maths and Science across the Middle School (years 8,9,10). This has been used for streaming purposes and has kept class sizes down to a delightful 20 (or less in the case of my 'Applied' classes). Not so this year. As staff moved on or went on Maternity Leave, they have not been replaced and we have been reduced to three classes in these core subject areas. As a result I now teach classes of 26 rather than the 12 I had last year.
Now in some repects, this has been very positive. Last year I struggled with the negative perceptions of the class as they knew they were 'the dummies' and behaved accordingly. All my attempts to reengage them with maths and to address some of their more fundamental weaknesses were in vain in the face of the massive wall produced by poor self-esteem. This year, it's different! The classes are much more 'mixed ability' and I have made it clear that I will teach the curriculum and it is up to the kids as to how much they get out of it. If they are prepared to put in the work, do the homework and develop some study skills, they will improve and they can go on to do Maths Studies if they so desire. This has had a very positive effect on behaviour.
On the other hand, the range of ability in the classes means I am sometimes producing up to 3 different class worksheets and homework sheets per lesson. Tests are differentiated as well and as the top group forge ahead in the text book, we are running out of examples for them to practise upon while I teach the lower group! All this makes for a busy teacher. Especially as I am, to some degree, re-learning the curriculum myself as I go along! We didn't do too much algebra last year. :-)
Also new on the scene this year is the fact that I have a Care Group. This is the class you go to for roll call and notices first thing in the morning and where we monitor things like lateness, uniform and diary use. The care groups contain students from each year level, the unifying factor being our House. In my group we have an assortment of nice but apathetic kids and my old friends the African kids whom I love. They drive me insane but I do love them. Predictably, the dynamics of this group are tricky as the Africans sit over on one side and attempt to ignore the rest of the kids who obviously do not understand this alien culture at all.
With all this and Home on my plate too, I feel like one of those people balancing plates on sticks. At any moment the whole thing could come crashing down.
On that note, I'll be off to Church for some much needed perspective and Grace.
Apologies for typos...no time to proof read today.