Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Only In Israel

Random schoolbag in our hallway
All the schoolchildren in Jerusalem get a course of swimming lessons during the school year of 6th Grade. The schools don't have their own pools but the kids are bused to a local public pool or to the University which has a pool on each campus. My 6th Grade girls are currently missing every other lesson for this event.

Last week I asked one of them, "how was swimming today?" She replied. "I didn't go because the army blew up my swimming bag."

Bizarre? Not really. I immediately knew exactly what had happened. "Silly girl. Where did you leave it unattended?"
"Outside the Community Centre."
I rolled my eyes and she continued, "with my schoolbag."
"What?! All your books too?"
"Yes..... and teacher, also my book report."

No one questioned the excuse for not handing in her book report. It wasn't even a big story. We've all seen schoolbags left in public places by kids - usually outside the school gates. An obvious action would be to take the bag into the school where they could open it and identify the pupil. But we are taught not to approach unattended bags or packages. We call the police and they close the road for 200 metres or more each way. The police call the bomb squad and the bomb squad blow up the bag in a controlled explosion. Nothing unusual, it happens all the time.

P.S. I told her she still had to write me a book report but I gave her extra time to do it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I'm Free-ish!

We have entered a new era here at the Selby household. Whole new vistas have opened up for both me and DD. And we didn't plan any of it.

DD's school finishes at 2.20 on Sunday afternoons, after which she has an art class in school followed by the Learning Lab until 5pm. My school finishes at 2.55 and it takes me an hour to get home on the bus. (On the days when DD has no after school activities, she goes to an afternoon programme costing £100 per month.)

Today both art and the Learning Lab were cancelled. I was going to call the afternoon programme teacher and ask if DD could go today for a couple of hours. I've done it before, it's not a problem.

However, on Wednesday evening she is playing in a concert. She and a friend have a duet which they have to practice together and today after school was the only opportunity. The friend is not in any afternoon programmes and goes home by herself on the bus at 2.20. We live opposite the school.

The best solution was for me to give DD a front door key and let her and her friend come to our place after school. I wasn't a hundred percent comfortable with it but it was the only solution.

At 2.20 I was teaching a class of 4th Grade girls at my school. I asked them how many of them have a front door key and go home by themselves, letting themselves into an empty house. 25 hands went up. Right. Ok then.

I let them out early as I was anxious to get home. I left school at 2.50 and was about to call home when I met a parent I wanted to speak to. Then I stopped to chat to another parent. Well it was outside the school gates at home-time so obviously I'd meet the parents. Then my bus came pretty promptly so it wasn't until I was on the bus that I could make that phone call. But actually, I was confident by then that if I'd not heard from DD (via her friend's phone) that she can't open the door or she's lost the key, then all was probably ok.

I called and guess what, it was fine. They were at home eating crisps and playing, Not playing the clarinet and flute as they were supposed to, but you can't have everything. More importantly, they were safely inside the apartment.

I often leave DD at home alone if I pop out to the shops and she also walks home from school by herself as we live opposite the school. But this was the first instance of latchkey-kid life. And I like it.

I sat on the bus knowing that next year we will be saving £100 a month on the afternoon programme. This made me happy enough but then I realized that even from tomorrow, by putting a door key into the secret pocket of DD's schoolbag, I no longer have to worry if I'm delayed getting home, I can get off the bus and go shopping on my way home after school, I can go out for coffee on a Friday morning and be back around the same time as DD - give or take 10 minutes. The pressure to finish everything I'm doing by the clock according to DD's schedule has just vanished. I'M FREE-ish!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Minimalist Game: Days 12 - 16 (R2BC)

Day 12
It's been a busy week and I've not had time to blog so I'm making Days 12 - 16 of The Minimalist Game my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. What's not to be cheerful about getting rid of  70 items out of the spudy (spare room/study)? Epecially as it marks half way through the month. By the way, if you missed the previous days, just click on The Minimalist Game and all the posts will come up.

March 12th: I found the following things in one cupboard: a beach bag, a school bag, an IKEA stand (never used because the cupboard was mounted on the wall), 2 folding changing mats, the wires from the DVD player (because I used the wires from the old machine), a triple photo frame that DD brought home from nursery once, 3 wooden frames from IKEA that my nephews painted for me about 18 years ago (I took out the photos of them aged 4 and 2), a triple photo frame that someone gave me when DD was born, and the stabilizer wheels that came with her previous bicycle and we never used because she could already ride without them.

Day 13

March 13th I tackled all the filing and paperwork that should have been done in January as part of the January Project. This vastly reduced the shelf space taken up.

The photo shows 8 plastic folders. An enormous pile of bills and receipts from before 2011 (you're supposed to keep these things for seven years) together with guarantees and instructions for items I no longer own. 1 plastic receipt pouch, 1 old filofax, 1 wooden notebook holder, and a pile of old business cards.

March 14th: still in the spudy, I went through a three drawer storage unit that the printer sits on.

I got rid of 5 plastic envelopes that airline tickets used to come in, more cables for a DVD (not the same ones as on day 12, I promise), a banner saying "Happy Birthday" in Hebrew, a UK plug, an old address book, a postcard, an old computer connector, and a skull cap (yarmulke or kippa) with Spiderman on it.

I also found 2 cushions in the cupboard which I will never cover.

Day 14

Day 15
March 15th: Here are more than 20 plastic envelopes with copies of various lessons and tests that I need for school. Some of them are doubles and some have only one or two sheets of paper in them. I'm calling it 15 items and I already took them to school to be stored in the English cupboard.

Day 16
March 16th: Some small items from the drawers. 8 CDs of old Teletubbies and Sesame Street episodes that my neighbour copied for DD when she was little. 7 double connectors for the phone sockets. And an old pair of earphones that don't work.

So that makes 70 items. The running totals are 136 items for The Minimalist game and 521 items for the 500 Clutters Challenge. So I guess I've won that challenge.

I have cheerfully joined the Linky over at Michelle's place - Mummy from the Heart. Pop over for some other cheerful posts.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

In The Greenhouse

The greenhouse is enormous
 My school is run by a kibbutz. They are an urban kibbutz but the founding members came mostly from farming kibbutzim (pl) and they have continued with their values of being connected to the land. We have a large greenhouse, a large vegetable garden, and we recycle the grey water for cleaning the floors and watering the gardens. (We also have animals but I don't go there.) To be fair, many schools, including DD's, have animals, growing walls and vegetable plots, but ours is on a grand scale and we have projects running with many other schools and colleges all over the city.

Behind the wall in a workshop
They make everything themselves, including the furniture.

There are three fish tanks in the greenhouse.
Right at the back you can see auditorium seating for lectures.
It's also a big thing atm to take the children out into nature for all sorts of core lessons such as art, maths, language, science, etc... It's a nationwide initiative to move away from formal classroom and formal timetabling, to a more holistic learning environment. I don't understand exactly how it works but it involves a lot of beanbag seats on carpets in the classrooms. I watched a video about a maths lesson where they went out and counted the whorls on plants. I get that, and I remember the maths involved from own my biology lessons in school. After that though, I have no idea how you could teach the whole maths curriculum in the park.

A computer and screening room for classes.

Some of the children made this traditional mud and straw wall.
They put in a window, a seat, and a cubby or shelf.
Now they use the window to get into the workshop when it's locked.
We were also encouraged to have English lessons in the greenhouse. We did one lesson at the end of last year where the kids had to go round and find things in the greenhouse beginning with each letter of the alphabet. It was fun for one lesson but what about teaching the Present Progressive. I can't imagine doing that without a whiteboard.

There's also a lab/planting room for hands on projects.

All these plants are watered with drip irrigation
So last week my colleague asked me to join her with a class in the greenhouse. Each pupil made a booklet with different types of simple sentences in singular and plural, positive and negative forms. On each page they had to complete or write a number of sentences. E.g. There is..., There are..., There isn't..., There aren't... and: In the greenhouse I..., ....I don't...,  My friend..., She doesn't..., In the greenhouse I can see..., I can't see..., or In the greenhouse I like..., I don't like..., I want to..., I don't want to..., etc...

These plants are watered with a misting system overhead. 

This area is dedicated to hydroponics
(growing plants in water instead of soil).
It was a very successful lesson. The kids really enjoyed it and the value of practicing all those sentences in a more interesting environment was amazing. It got me thinking how I could perhaps teach the Present Progressive in the greenhouse.

And a wall garden of course.
Each graduating 6th grade class build a legacy for the school.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Minimalist Game - Days 8 - 11

Day 10 (one magazine already donated to school for an art project)
I went into my bedroom to find clutter for days 8 and 9. I thought it was going to be a struggle but I easily found enough stuff for four days! That's 38 things! The running totals are 66 for The Minimalist Game and 451 for the 500 Clutter Challenge.

Here are The Minimalist Game posts to date:
Days 1 - 4
Days 5 - 7

Day 8: I have two bedside tables, each with two deep drawers. On my side of the bed I had my Hebrew Language textbooks in the top drawer and my French Language textbooks in the lower drawer. I cleared out the top drawer. Here are three of the books I'm passing on. To make up the 8 items there are three belts (from the other bedside table), and a jar of face cream that expired in 2013. The other item is not pictured as it was a gift and I don't want to offend.

Day 8 (one item not photographed so as not to offend)
Day 9: Hahaha, so you thought I'd only collected three Hebrew textbooks over 30 years of trying to master the language. Here are another 9! These books are over 20 years old. I worked my way through some of them when I took various language classes and kept them to go over and review. I never did go over and review anything. I will never need Hebrew grammar as in-depth as these books teach. I will never read Hebrew novels in Hebrew - I no longer even want to. If I return to language studies it will be to French. (I did keep one book of comprehension texts to read, just to see if I can still understand them, and a couple of dictionaries.)

Day 10: Magazines from various years of The Economist's yearly round up of the state of the world. I bought this for the first time in 1992 and continued, not every year, until 2008. I especially liked seeing the population changes listed for each country. However, all this information is online so out they go. (Only 9 magazines are in the photo as one already went to school with DD for an art project.)

Day 9
Day 11: Old issues of Reader's Digest and 1 old mobile phone. The Reader's Digests went to my school where the team of English teachers happily took them.

This is going so easily that I may extend it till the end of the month and do all 31 days. If I have to start resorting to throwing out, for e.g., 25 paper clips, then I know it's time to stop. But so far so easy.

Day 11

Friday, March 9, 2018

Everything Is Happy In The Sunshine - R2BC

It seems that all the heaviness of the winter just evaporates with the return of the spring sunshine. And this past week has been particularly warm. People were even spotted out an about in sandals!

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. I'm a day late because I just had to write about Inspiring Women yesterday for International Women's Day. Go and read it if you haven't already - you are probably one of the women I wrote about. And don't forget the R2BC linky over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart. 

I started of my social March with going to the Purim party last Thursday evening and then hosting friends for the festive Purim meal on Friday. I put out games on the coffee table to amuse the kids and it gave them something to do when they finished eating and got bored of the table. There really were guests but these particular friends don't like their photos on the internet so I had to take special blog photos without the people.

Not hosting
For this week I invited friends from London over for a mid-week supper and another small family for Friday night dinner today. The London friends suddenly had to return to London for family reasons and the friends for today were already busy for Friday night. So week two wasn't so social.

A half-hearted 2
The Jerusalem Marathon
Today is the Jerusalem Marathon. We usually go and cheer on the runners and see loads of people we know both running and cheering. There is music and street entertainment at the end of our street. Today we didn't get our act together to go out this morning. And it's cold out which is great for the runners but not so inviting for us. We did catch the end of it when DD went to her youth club and I went shopping.

More Teaching
As soon as the sun comes out they start talking about teaching for next year. I have agreed to my one day in college and two online courses as usual. For school I promised myself that I'd go back to three days a week. This year I'm doing 3.5 days and I felt that it was too much. So obviously I heard myself agreeing to do four days next year. And my stupid brain was in collusion with my mouth, thinking all sorts of time-management thoughts and vowing to be more efficient. Yes you can do it all but it's more comfortable and enjoyable not to. Oh well, another year towards paying off the mortgage won't hurt.

DD has started practicing her clarinet at home if I nag her enough. She's in two orchestras and I got an invitation to the first concert later this month. This means, see how wonderful this is and if your child wishes to continue, from now on there will be a monthly fee. Of course we'll continue but there's no such thing as a free Legato.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Women Getting On With It - International Women's Day

Two of my favourite women in training.
R2BC will have to wait until tomorrow as today is International Women's Day. My cousin, Doreen Samuels, a women's activist, innovator, and initiator in Education and Interfaith work, issued the following challenge on facebook. That we should write about a woman who inspires us on International Women's Day. As the challenge didn't require any sports equipment, I readily accepted.

Since accepting the challenge I've been wracking my brain trying to think of someone to write about. It's not that I don't know any inspirational women, it's that I know so many. I have friends who are experts in their fields and friends who run charities and friends who work in government and friends who are doctors for the sick and lawyers for the poor. They are all inspirational women and we tell them so. They all chose their inspirational work and we are grateful that they did.

Then there are inspirational women who did not choose to be inspirational. I have a friend who is battling serious cancer whilst holding down a full-time job and holding it all together for her young children in between chemo treatments. Believe me, we would all rather she didn't have to be so inspirational even while we admire her courage, her strength and her determination.

I have a friend who is a single mother with a severely disabled daughter and another child with autism. I have more than one friend who adopted children with neurological and behavioral problems like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, attachment disorder, ADHD, autism, and any number of other challenges that they didn't know about before the adoption. And other friends with disabled children. All of them endlessly caring and advocating for their beloved children with little thanks and little help. One friend in particular started a major organisation to include disabled and abled children in joint social activities. It's called Shutaf, take a look. She is a true inspiration.

I have a friend who lost her husband when their children were young and she brought up five children on her own, through the traumas of a sick father, the death of their father, and continuing to live without him. And every one of those children is a wonderful young adult. She is an inspirational woman.

I have friends who escaped from abusive marriages and started over with very little. Their courage is inspirational.

All these women inspire me and others. People say to them all the time, "you are amazing." And they answer, "what choice did I/do I have?"

And it doesn't end there. What about all the women nursing all sorts of trials and traumas in private that we know nothing about? Nobody even tells them they are amazing and still they carry on, putting family, children and jobs first. They just get on with it because there are bills to pay, children to love, educate, feed and clothe, a household to run, and a community to contribute to.

Women on their own who tirelessly give to society and to other people's children. Women with disabilities themselves or chronic illnesses who put on a brave face and carry on. All inspirations.

I sometimes watch "inspirational" videos on You Tube where female life coaches, expensively groomed and clothed and with million dollar teeth, tell you how you can have it all. You just have to get up and go for it. Sorry Honey, but the women that inspire me can't just get up and go for it because they have cancer or children with special needs or not enough money to step off the treadmill even for the time it takes to watch your dazzling white teeth dancing in front of the camera.

Not everyone can work in a corner office overlooking a Los Angeles marina. We need teachers for special education, we need nurses, we need social workers in deprived areas. (I know that men also do these jobs but today it's about the women.)

So Doreen, I'm writing to honour the inspirational women who just get on with it. The  millions of women without fame or fortune who stand by their families and responsibilities, who put themselves last and who do whatever it takes to keep the system working and to survive. I see them all the time around Jerusalem. I work with some of them. They are the backbone and the heart of society and they inspire me.