Friday, November 17, 2017

Just Don't Sleep Through Christmas - R2BC

Almost the end of a long Friday and here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I'm joining the other cheerful bloggers on the linky over at Mummy from the Heart, as usual. 

DD in one of her art classes. Still in shorts and t-shirt you'll notice. 
We are constantly hearing about how most of us are sleep deprived. And most of us are feeling it too. 

I read an article about how not enough sleep 'turns off' certain cancer fighting hormones (or somethings) in the body. The researcher who wrote the paper said he gets panicky of he doesn't have his 8 hours a night sleep. He said that 8 hours a night is as essential for good health as a healthy diet and avoiding known toxins like asbestos. 

Well I'm easily persuaded and as it doesn't involve going to the gym or breaking a sweat, I tried it. For a month now I've been resisting the lure of the computer screen and making sure I'm in bed by 10 (10.30 at the latest) every night. I don't know if I'm fighting potential cancer cells successfully, but the knock-on effects are amazing. I'm not tired in the mornings. It's not a struggle to get out of bed. I'm happier to go to work, I function better at work, and I don't eat as much as I did in the longer evenings.

None of this is rocket science of course but it's a revelation to me. It took me a good few days to make myself go to bed so early (for me) when I wasn't even tired, but once it became a habit, I'm loving it. 

The Festive Season
It's begun. And I allow it to begin now. I watched a vlog recently where they were already decorating their Christmas tree in the first week of November. One of the comments said that their family had given many sons to the First and Second World Wars and they had suffered more than their share of losses. In respect for their family members who fell and for all the fallen soldiers, they do not start decorating for Christmas until after 11/11. I like this idea. I like it because it shows respect and because it stops Christmas blurring borders with the summer holidays. 

Personally I would like to ban Christmas until December 1st. Let's give full attention to Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes, and Thanksgiving without them being overshadowed by creeping Christmas. But on Sunday it's the 1st of Kislev, which is the Hebrew month in which Hanuka falls. So even by my own rules, the Festive Season must be allowed to begin. 

We have already been invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner next Thursday. I suggested that the traditional gift to bring would be some blankets infested with smallpox. This didn't go down well. So we shall arrive with wine and redeem ourselves by getting into the spirit of it all. (Although I've already been warned that there is a lot of dessert in the main course.)

The Weather
It's holding out. Middle of November and I'm still in sandals. It was 25 degrees C, today in Jerusalem. Warm and balmy. Just right. Of course, 10 years ago we would have been panicking that we've had hardly any rain this season, but now that we have desalination plants no one seems to worry about the water situation anymore. We should though because the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are in danger of drying up completely and where is beauty if not in natural bodies of water? But for now it's nice to be warm and not have to turn the heating on. I have a personal challenge to not use the heating until December 1st. (Not even on Kislev 1st!). 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

I See Music In Our Future - R2BC

It's that time of the week again and though I've been sick for some of it, there are still reasons 2B cheerful. However, because of the sicky, it's a bit of a recap and an update on things already reported. I've joined the linky over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart, where us cheerful bloggers share the cheer. 

DD had her third clarinet lesson, but the first lesson with the full instrument. Ronit had given her ligature (you see we learned the proper name for it) to her teacher and it worked. She came home all excited and exclaiming, "I can play my clarinet! I can play my clarinet!" What she meant was that she could get a sound out of it. Which is 100% improvement on last week when she couldn't get a sound out of it. So her homework is to practice. I've banished practice sessions to her bedroom with the door shut until she can play a tune. That sounds harsher than it is because I'm actually only thinking of the neighbours. DD's bedroom is the only room in the house that only shares a party wall (including ceilings and floors) with one other neighbour instead of three.

After her lesson, and while she was still excited about it, I put on my CD of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. The adagio (the middle bit) is possibly my favourite piece of music of all time. DD complained all the way through that it was boring and she wanted to watch Mama Mia.

A clarinet playing friend called after reading my blog post and offered to give DD help with her technique. He also mentioned that his son had taken clarinet to great levels, eventually necessitating them paying 13,000nis (almost 3,000GBP) for a good clarinet. Mama Mia suddenly sounded like a good idea.

Sick Days
I was sick on Sunday and Monday and didn't go to school. I went to college on Tuesday (which is entirely different from teaching in primary school - far less energy involved) so I thought I'd better go back to school on Wednesday. However, I had to leave before the last lesson. I came straight home and went to bed. DD had to fend for herself all evening. She foraged about in the fridge and in the larder for food. Evidence the next morning suggested that she ate crisps, biscuits, and ice-cream for supper. I vaguely remember her coming in to ask me a few times and I just said, "I don't mind, you can have what you like, just no cooking."

Good bye old friend. I'm eating the fibre from now on.
The cheerful connection here is that DD was so good and amused herself  until bedtime. She brought me glasses of cool water when I needed them and the phone when it rang. Eventually I saw all the lights going out and a little voice said, "I'm going to bed now. Shall I turn the light out right away or can I do some sudokus in bed?"

She took the magnets only. She didn't want the books. 
I put some items up for sale on our local facebook selling group. I sold the juicer. Research has convinced me that eating the whole fruit or vegetable is better. More fibre and less fructose. I loved the juices. My friend and I used to call them the nectar of the gods. But you have to follow your head in these things.

I also sold a big bag of magnetic letters, numbers and shapes. It all goes to keep some cash in my purse and will pay for my next bus ticket. Every little helps. And that's two fewer clutter items in our home.

DD and I both enjoyed playing the recorder last weekend. I'm looking forward to a future of recorder duets.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why I Need To Get Flu Shots

Seriously, you think I had the energy to find relevant photos? 
I took two sick days from school this week - Sunday and Monday. I had a cold and a cough, a sinus headache, a sore throat and no voice. The usual November and winter afflictions. I'm almost better today and came to college (on Tuesdays I teach in college).

It's a big hassle to take a sick day from school. Because I'm a subject teacher and not a class teacher, I had to notify (by text or whatsapp) every class teacher of groups I teach on that day (or on those days) that I wouldn't be there. Some of my groups are from 4 different classes!

I had to notify the break-duty co-ordinator and try to do a swap with someone. There were no swappers available so she did it for me and I owe her two breaks in the future.

I had to notify the substitute co-ordinator, even though I knew she'd just cancel classes where I take groups out of other lessons and tell my groups to stay in with the other English teachers if their class also had English. So then I had to try to think of what work they could do on their own without disturbing the rest of the class, and text that to the English staff. (The Head of English said she was teaching 'telling the time' so one of my groups could learn it with her group. This was gratefully accepted as all my textbooks are at school so I had no idea what to give them.)

I had to organize a sick-note from my doctor but felt too unwell to actually go in and get it. I will get it within the next two weeks but she won't see me sick so what's it worth really?

I sat with the staff contact list and my phone, and texted/whatsapped for a good half an hour to fulfill all my obligations. I was sick but not disfunctional. I wondered if I would have gone into work if I worked in a quiet office? Possibly. But I couldn't have controlled classes of lively children.

I once had real flu, about 20 years ago. The type where you basically die for a week and it takes about three months for the virus to totally leave your body. I remember that I (stupidly?) went back to school after only one week. Had I stayed at home another week to really recover I might have avoided the three months of semi-sickness. Seriously, for three months I went to work, came home and went back to bed.

Back then you just phoned the school office and your head of department and they dealt with everything. If I got real flu now there's no way I'd be able to do all that notifying and organising - I couldn't even stand up.

So I'll be going for my flu shots when I pick up my sick note. And for DD too. Because I can only deal with low grade sickness in my job.

Do other teachers have this, or is it just my school?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dusting Off The Descant

With all the shenanigans over DD's clarinet and me requesting a recorder group instead, I got all nostalgic about my recorder. A few years ago, before DD was born, I bought myself a new descant recorder and got out my old recorder books from school (circa 1973). I started to play again but, as with a lot of things, I didn't get very far. DD now has that recorder for school.

While I was trying to persuade DD that the recorder is just as good as the clarinet (and failed), we watched You Tube videos of recorder ensembles and they are beautiful. So when we went to buy the reeds for the clarinet, I bought myself a new recorder. It cost less than the reeds for the clarinet despite being a Yamaha.

At the weekend I got out my old books - the black one (book 1) and the blue one (book 2), and started to play. I began at the beginning, going over the notes - B, A, G, upper C, upper D, F#, E and lower D. It went surprisingly fast. My fingers seemed to remember of their own accord. I got to page 30 in less than an hour, and playing fluently, reading the music an' all.

Something was missing though. There were tunes I remembered that just weren't there. So went back to the box and found the recorder book from my primary school, the red one. And there it was, nestled somewhere between Go and Tell Aunt Nancy and London's Burning - Tallis. I loved playing that when I was 10. It felt like a proper piece of music rather than a folk song, which of course it is.

Then DD came in and said she wanted a go. So she took the black book and worked her way through the notes B, A and G. (Don't ask me what they have been doing in school for a year.) She got all excited about it. Later in the day she went back to practise it again.

I proclaimed Saturday morning to be music practice morning. I am determined to get to the end of the blue book this time. Did you notice what good condition it's in compared to the black book? There's a reason for that.

Minimalism shminimalism, there is also a reason why despite being an Olympic level declutterer, there are some things I've held on to for 45 years and not sorry.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I Went To Hell And Back (The Clarinet Saga) - R2BC

Can you spot the missing piece? It's the clip that holds the reed. Who knew? 
After paying not a small amount of money for DD's extra art lessons, which I didn't begrudge at all, we got a letter from the school saying that each child had to choose one of the following instruments: clarinet, saxophone, flute, trombone and trumpet. DD chose the trumpet. I vetoed that so she chose clarinet.

Then we got a letter that we had to go and rent the instrument from the Jerusalem Music Centre at a cost of 300nis, we had to leave a deposit of 1,000nis (a cheque that hopefully won't be cashed), and we had to buy the reeds for the clarinet.

I was annoyed. I wrote an email to the Headmistress and the class teacher in which I wrote:

Dear .........
I want to ask you about the musical instrument lessons and make a suggestion.

DD has been playing the recorder at school for a year now and though she enjoys playing she didn't get very far with it. Therefore, I'm not so happy about paying 300nis to hire a clarinet and leave a 1000nis cheque as deposit when music is obviously not her passion (unlike art, which she loves and has some talent for). 

However, I do think that music is important and that it's a wonderful opportunity to get lessons at school at this age. As they already have recorders, could the school offer the option of a recorder group as one of the groups for the musical instrument lessons? The recorder isn't just an instrument for kids. It's a proper instrument and recorder ensembles can be beautiful.

I would love for DD to be competent in playing a musical instrument and to be able to read music, but I don't see the point of starting a new one when the instrument we have is lovely and would fulfill all the music requirements without the added cost and pressure.

I know there is at least one other member of the class who would also be interested in this option.

The answer was no. They said very nicely that they'd discussed it with the music co-ordinator and it's too late to change things now. Perhaps for next year. (Hands up anyone who believes the clarinet teacher could also teach recorder.) I was so tempted to reply, "That's great thanks, so we'll wait for the recorder group next year." But DD is not quite 9 and she doesn't want to be different from everyone else so I agreed to get the clarinet.

I reminded myself that the music programme is one of the reasons I chose this school. I had to admit that 300nis (about 65 GBP) is a very good price for what will be about 30 lessons, hopefully. And DD was happy. My mother, via skype, also reminded me that when we were kids they bought recorders for each of us, two violins, a melodica, a guitar, and a flute, and none of us plays anything today. I admitted that I still had a keyboard that I bought 25 years ago in order to learn the piano, and I don't use it at all now. (DD chipped in here, "yes you do use it. You put all the clean laundry on it when you can't be bothered to fold it up and put it away." Thanks for that Darling.)

That night I couldn't fall asleep for worrying about the 1,000 shekels that they'd take if we lost or damaged the clarinet.

The JMC is in Hell's Valley. I'm not kidding. It's in the Valley of Gehenna (also called Hinnom), if you know your Bible:

"In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire. Thereafter it was deemed to be cursed (Jer. 7:3119:2-6).
In Rabbinic literature and Christian and Islamic scripture, Gehenna is a destination of the wicked..... the King James Version of the Bible usually translates with the Anglo-Saxon word Hell." Wikipedia
No buses go there. Of course not, it's cursed! So we took a taxi down, down, down towards the depths of the rocky cliff below the Old City of Jerusalem. We hired our clarinet and because God's mercy is not abandoned at the gates of Hell, we met the mother of one of DD's classmates there. She not only gave us a ride back unto the land of the living, but she also took us straight to the music shop where we shared a packet of reeds. (DD has only lost one of her reeds so far. :~) )

Lo and behold, the first clarinet lesson cameth! DD came home and told me there is a piece missing from her instrument and you can't play it without this piece. I closed my eyes and saw my 1,000nis being taken as we are accused of losing the missing piece. At the very least it would be two more taxi rides to sort it out.

I called the music teacher. He told me to call Ronit. I asked for her number. I got nothing. I sent a slightly hysterical text message to the class teacher saying I need to speak to Ronit. Who is she? Where is she? Can I please have something to go on here - a surname, a number, an email? Anything? I got a number.

Meanwhile another mother gave me the number of Yaffa who also goes to the JMC and might be able to get the missing part for me. I spoke to Ronit and she told me to speak to Chikol who is in charge of the instruments at the JMC, and she might be able to bring me the missing piece if he has one spare. I spoke to Chikol and he said he would give the missing piece to Yaffa. I texted Yaffa. She replied that she is the flute teacher not the clarinet teacher. By this time I wasn't sure who'd I'd spoken to. I contacted Ronit again and she said she would get the missing piece from Chikol today.

So hopefully that is the end of the clarinet saga. This is my Reasons 2B Cheerful post this week because we do not have to go back to Hell and sort it out. Otoh, we've not got it yet and we've not tried it to make sure it's the correct piece that was missing. Ho hum, for now I'm cheerful so I've joined the R2BC linky on Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Growing Up Reasons 2B Cheerful

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I'm joining the linky at Becky's Lakes Single Mum as usual.

The First day of 4th grade photo
taken from an awkward angle
by #rubbishphotographer
To School Alone
I had actually started letting DD go to school completely on her own at the beginning of this school year as we live opposite. It took me a long time to be ready to let her cross the road by herself. I'd stand watching her from the balcony so that she knew I was watching and she'd look carefully and cross sensibly. Then it got even better as they started crossing guards on the very zebra crossing she uses. The 6th Grade do it in many schools. It's an Israeli thing.

It's been a process. In 1st grade I had to take her into her classroom, put her bag under her desk and wait with her till the bell. In 2nd grade I left her at the school gates. In 3rd grade I crossed her over the road and she walked down the street herself. Now I don't even have to go downstairs.

During the week, that extra 10 minutes to get myself together before leaving for work makes an amazing difference to leaving the house calmly and not forgetting things that get forgotten when I'm trying to get two of us out at the same time. And on Friday mornings I don't even have to be dressed. I feel like I've got my full weekend back instead of just the one day that the kids, unfairly imo, get.

I usually collect DD from the afternoon programme on my way home from work between 4 and 4.30. However, two days a week she has the Learning Lab which finishes at 5. On those days she comes home on her own too. Such a small thing but to be able to do something without one eye on the clock and not having to pop out even for 15 minutes makes a difference. And I know I'm going to love it when the winter comes and hopefully the rains.

Life Lessons
DD came to me this evening with a letter about Girls' Football Club. She gave it to me tentatively and I noticed that in her other hand she was clutching a 100nis note.
Me: "Where is that money from? "
DD: "It's from my pocket money." (My mother had given it to her when she left last December.) "The football club costs money and I know you've spent a lot of money on my activities this year so I'll pay for it." My heart broke a little bit and I told her that I would pay for it if she really wanted to go. It was 300 shekels for the year so she didn't have enough anyway. Hey, it's sport so that's healthy.

In the end footy is twice a week on the exact days and times that she already has other activities that are already paid for. There were tears but we had a good discussion about how you can't do everything, everyone only has 7 days in a week, and life is full of choices and tradeoffs.

We've been watching episodes of the property renovation programme 'Love It or List It' and DD totally got it.
DD: "Like if you want to renovate the en suite and you want to knock down walls for an open concept living space but then they find that your foundations are cracked or your walls are full of asbestos, you have to let something go. You can't do everything so you have to choose."
Me: "Right. Only that's because of a limited budget. This is because of limited time."
DD: "Right, But you still have to decide what you want more."
Me: "Right."
DD: "Right."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

An Overabundance Of Art

During the summer DD was drawing and she told me, "I wish I could learn how to really draw with shading and perspective (yes she knows what perspective is) and things like that. Not just painting at school." I said that we'd look for a class. I don't do that every time she expresses an interest in something but she is genuinely passionate about art and she spends hours copying pictures and doing tutorials on You Tube for how to draw.

The school year started and I had asked about classes on fb but hadn't yet followed anything up. Apparently the classes at the Israel Museum are great but it's a whole performance to get there if you don't have a car. Not complicated, it's just one bus ride, but we'd have to allow for an hour each way and I'd have to wait for her for the duration of the class. (Although we'd probably have made an arrangement for one way with a friend and taken taxis.)

So I was delighted when we got a letter about the Enrichment Programme after school once a week for 1 1/2 hours. There are a number of subjects including maths, science, sport, music, and art. They take only 15 students from the whole school for each subject and they choose those with a passion or special talent for that subject. DD certainly has the passion and I think she does have some artistic talent. This was the only thing that she really wanted to do.

There was great emotion excitement in our house on the day of the auditions and interviews. DD nearly missed it because she'd been at her extra Hebrew lesson when they announced it. She didn't have any of her art supplies with her and had to borrow from a friend. She came home in tears because the teacher might think she wasn't serious about it if she couldn't even bother to bring her art things. I wrote a letter. #Pushymother? Maybe on this occasion but, as I said, this is the only thing she really really wanted to do. (And it is miles cheaper and great tundras more convenient than schlepping to the museum every week.)

She got in. I was very proud and DD was very proud of herself though she did say modestly, "the teacher said it's not just if you're good at art, it's more important that you have a spark." (Translating from Hebrew.)

Then a few weeks later we got a letter about Elective Subjects, once a week during the school day. There were some great choices - Photography; Virtual World Tour; Agriculture and Gardening; Animal Care; Kings, Rulers and Government; Drama; and History of Art. DD chose photography but she got her second choice, History of Art. We had to go out and buy more art supplies but I'm happy to encourage DD's art. (I'm thinking she can always sit in the park and draw cartoon portraits for a lot of money if she can't find a job.)

In the first History of art lesson the teacher arranged some still life under a lamp and they had to choose one item to draw. DD explained that you draw the outline and then you only draw the shade and you smudge the charcoal for how much you need. (They are exploring traditional drawing implements as well as shade.) I'm not saying that DD is a child prodigy or anything close but I was impressed with her outline shape of the bear even before you look at the shading.

The Learning lab after school twice a week to help weaker students with homework and to prepare for tests (we need it because of the Hebrew) also has art once a week (the other day they do cooking) and the afternoon programme on the other three days (because school finishes at 2.20 and I don't get home until 4.30) also has art once a week (and cooking and zumba). And of course the whole class gets art in school once a week too.

So after a casual request for some art lessons in August, DD has ended up with art five times a week. Two sessions are just arts and crafts, one is the school curriculum and two are serious lessons in theory, technique and style. And all in her school. I love our school anyway, but what an amazing outcome this is!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

You Gotta Have Friends - R2BC

Under the chupah (wedding canopy)
A Great Wedding
I went to a wedding on Wednesday night. It was out of town in a beautiful setting, high up in the Jerusalem hills and overlooking the lights of several towns and villages in the valley below. The friends making the wedding are old friends who also live in my neighbourhood. I've known the husband since I was 12 years old and we grew up in the same social circle. I've known the wife since she met the husband, and all the kids as and when they were born. So you can imagine that the wedding was full of people from my past and present. The food and drink was amazing and plentiful (not that you go for the food of course), the band were friendly and fun, the entertainment was delightful, and the atmosphere was excellent. All in all, one of the most lovely weddings I've ever been to. (Even the drive to and from the wedding was enjoyable as I got a ride with a neighbour and the company was engaging.) Thank you M and D for including me in your celebration.

Help From Friends
DD wasn't invited to the wedding so I had to make arrangements for her. She had a party to go to. One friend's mother offered to take her. She was taken home from the party with the classmate who lives in the building where DD was staying the night. About that - I have a wonderful arrangement with a good friend who has known DD since she was born, whereby her little boy can sleep over with us and DD can sleep over with them when either of us wants to go out. Cutting out babysitting costs sometimes makes the difference between going out at all or staying in and missing a social occasion. It's the sort of thing people who live near grandparents and other family take for granted. In our case, I already consider my friend to be family. The next morning DD was taken to school by the classmate in the building. Sometimes you can do it all yourself and sometimes you need help from friends. Thank you friends.

Short and sweet this week as I'm a bit late to the party. Btw, the Reasons 2B Cheerful party is at Becky's Lakes Single Mum again this week where I've joined the linky.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Was Caught In A Facebook Witch Hunt

To pass the time
(if you don't know your subject and can't teach it.)
It's no secret that I love facebook. For all the great reasons we know about. But sometimes there are the most enormous bust ups where someone picks on some ambiguous statement, takes it out of context, and blows it up into the most offensive thing they've ever heard. 

Before I explain in detail, I want to tell  you what I once learned in a linguistics class about interlocution. There are four basic factors that are needed to facilitate flowing and comprehendible conversation. Four factors which we all accept. They are: 

1. That the person you are talking to isn't lying or knowingly misleading you. 

2. That they understand your meaning even if you don't use the exact words. So if a child says, "I'm thirsty," we understand that he is asking for a drink and not just telling you for no reason. 

3. That the length of an answer will be appropriate. Not too long as to be irrelevant or too short as to miss out important information. If you ask what a word means you just want the meaning of the word and not its etymology from Indian Sanskrit through the Romance languages to English, with all the similar word families along the way. On the other hand, if you ask how and why WWII started, the answer needs more precise detail than, "Germany and Japan wanted to take over the world." 

4. Relevance and context. So if you say you don't want milk in your coffee, you don't expect a lecture about the rural economy and how you're undermining the dairy farmers and endangering the whole future of the countryside as we know it. And if you're arguing about right of way with another driver, it's not appropriate to say, "your car's rubbish anyway." 

If I were to be allowed a fifth factor I would add giving your interlocutor the benefit of the doubt. 

And yet on facebook sometimes all five of the above factors are thrown out the window and people will fight to the death over a misplaced word that becomes the difference between you being a decent person and a judgemental, arrogant bitch who insults and disrespects everyone. 

So here was the context. We were talking about EFL teachers and whether they had to be native English speakers or not. Someone said that it's impossible for native English speakers to know English grammar as well as non-native speakers who learned it in school. This was my reply: 

ME: Any Native English speaker who can't get her head around the finer points of English Grammar is just not intelligent enough to be a teacher. It's not hard, especially if you understand all the words. I learnt the tenses etc, at age 27. It took me one afternoon to know what they mean and what they are used for. It took a year of teaching experience to be able to explain it in Hebrew. People learn new things all the time - languages, computer coding, new professions, they take additional degrees..... It is insulting to English speakers to say we can't possibly know English Grammar as well as Hebrew speakers who learnt it in school. That's just ridiculous

BOOM! I'd ignited the flames of fury under Mr and Ms Angry from Israel. 

I got a load of abuse about how I was being judgemental by saying that if someone cannot learn something it does not make them unintelligent. And how I was insulting people with learning disabilities. 

Um yes I agree about not being unintelligent if you can't learn something specific. I find it extremely difficult to learn listening skills in another Language. Even in Hebrew I still need the speaker to speak slowly and clearly. But I was specifically talking about English Teachers learning English. Who in their right mind would want to teach a subject they couldn't learn themselves? That would seriously bring their intelligence into question. And I said as much. Of course I was being flippant but my entire point had been missed. 

I used the words 'not intellligent' to signify how easy it is for a native English speaker to understand the rules of English grammar that we need to teach foreign students. For example, we all use the present simple tense and the present continuous even if we don't know why because, as native speakers, we have never had to consider why. However, if I were to ask you to consider when you say, "I drink coffee," and when  you would say, "I am drinking coffee," it's not hard to see the difference. 

In my opinion, if you are a native English speaker and have all the other attributes necessary to be a teacher, it's not hard to understand what you are saying and how you use English (which are the rules of grammar) if you sat down to learn it. Even if you have dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADD, HFA, hypersensitivity, over anxiety, or any other condition that would make it harder for you to become a teacher if you really wanted to, you could still learn that in English we say the adjective before the noun.

Never mind what I had meant. The witch hunt was on. I was accused of being the most vile and judgemental person. I was asked who I think I am to decide who is intelligent and who isn't? (Oh perleeeaze, *eyeroll and *headpalm) Someone couldn't believe I was qualified to work with children (he explained to me that children are human beings - thanks for that) because I didn't know how to treat human beings with any respect. 

Someone told me that my students must love it when I explain to them how smart I am and how unintelligent they are. How we went from talking about what teachers need to know to how I treat my students I don't know. The funny thing is, this man has never been inside one of my classrooms. How does he know all this? Does he also know that I make my students clean the toilets with their toothbrushes if they can't say the difference between their and there? (Btw, my school has a policy of 'integration' throughout the school so I wouldn't last long if I wasn't sensitive to learning difficulties).

I wrote: "I did not mention learning disabilities at all because I thought it obvious that you cannot be a teacher if you cannot learn the material you have to teach."

That was the wrong thing to say because it apparently meant that anyone with a learning disability cannot be a teacher. Which is not what I meant at all but you need to be so precise in your wording on facebook sometimes because once enraged, people won't come an inch towards giving you the benefit of the doubt and try to understand what you really mean

Several people announced they were leaving the conversation because I am so evil. And they stormed off. But they came back later because facebook sort of draws you back. You can't help it.  

I asked, because this was really the only point I was trying to make, "is it really judgemental to say if you can't learn a subject to the level necessary to teach it you should either teach something else or not be a teacher?"

The reply was that, no that's just sensible. Followed by another lecture about all the things they thought I said but, despite me trying to explain that I didn't mean any of that, they would not budge from their initial reaction.

This went on for the best part of two hours. I didn't mind as I was stuck supervising an exam. In between each comment I got up and walked around the room to check all was ok. Apart from that I just had to be there and not disturb the students. If I'd had anything else to do I'd have let it go, but after a while it actually became an interesting study in human-rottweiler behaviour. (As in the rottweiler doesn't let go.)

I still say that for a native English speaker wanting to be an EFL teacher, learning the grammar is not hard. That's my opinion and no one has to agree but otoh, not one native English speaking teacher said they'd found it hard to learn once they knew what material was involved. I take that as a confirmation even though I was told I had insulted everyone on the thread who may not have found it easy to learn it. (That's no one by the way.)

But then I was going by the rules of interlocution above. They usually really do apply, except not on facebook apparently. Even when the conversation is between English teachers, the rules of interlocution seem to be trumped by facebook's own culture. 

N.B. This is an edited version of my original post as it was pointed out to me that the group is a closed group so I shouldn't paste quotes outside the group, even anonymously. I am grateful for the chance to edit because a night's sleep and answering some of the comments below, gave me more clarity about the issues mentioned. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The 500 Clutters Challenge

DD loves this authentic samovar from Bukhara, Uzbekistan
As you know if you were reading this blog over the summer, and if you have been following me for a couple of years, I am always decluttering. I declutter great mounds of stuff, I take photos of piles of books and filled bags ready to go, and I reorganise all the cupboards and drawers (so that I never know where anything lives anymore). 

I declutter and declutter and I still don't reach anywhere near that state of minimalism which is supposed to free up your life for wonderful things like free time, creativity, money, and travel. 

The last big declutter was in August during the summer holidays. I managed to get rid of a whole chest of drawers, an old armchair and an oversized footstool. (The footstool has mysteriously ended up in my daughter's bedroom but as far as I'm concerned, I no longer own it.)

I posted photos of all the books on my local To Sell group. About 30 academic books on language learning, bilingualism, and literacy. Only 20 years old but in perfect condition - I only needed to read them once after all. No one wanted them of course. If you are an academic you can't use them for up to date research, and if you're not an academic you don't need them. So they all got shifted around and though the bookcase is still emptier, they are in a drawer. Out of sight etc...

Soooooo. Over the Sukkot holiday, last week, DD and I set ourselves a task to get rid of 500 items (500 clutters). And I mean actually get rid of them - out of the house - not just away but "away away" as Meryl Streep famously said in Mama Mia.

My old holdall from 1981.
I don't pack into anything without wheels these days.
We managed 250. Well not actually out of the house for all of them but also not still in piles and bags around the house. Everything has a planned route out, even if some plans are necessarily delayed. For example, I have a cupboard over a wardrobe that is full of items for the Yedidya Bazaar next March. I have a few (realistic) items to list for sale and some books to take to the book swap in the Railway Track Park.

We counted the 60  children's books I donated to my school's English library and we counted the chest of drawers and armchair that has already gone. We didn't count real rubbish like broken bits of things, empty containers, or old papers. But we did count old things that were thrown out like a wooden mug tree with a warped base.

This time we really went to the back of the corner cupboards and the cupboards over the wardrobes. I found a holdall that I brought to Israel on my gap year 36 years ago. A suitcase that belonged to my parents when they got married in 1958. (I'm keeping that one even though it's useless to me.) An authentic samovar and teapot set given to me by a lady who went to Bukhara and brought it home unnecessarily. (DD thinks it's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen so we have to keep it for a while.) We found the fridge magnet words. DD agreed to swap them for the plastic ABCs. My fridge is now besentenced with inanities.

We found the fridge magnet words.
DD was great about keeping score. She kept all the numbers up to date in her notebook. She was less great about letting some things go. She 'rescued' a few items but some of them came back later when she realized that actually she doesn't need them. My compromise was to start my own tally in which I consider DD's bedroom to be another realm and whatever disappears into it is gone (until such time that I can make it really gone, in secret when she's not home).

So we're done except for the final frontier, my wardrobe. In fact I only wear about 10 items like the most minimal of minimalists. However, I can't get rid of clothes that I love but don't yet fit into. I just can't. Yet. But when I do, and free up whole shelves that will allow other stuff in other places to be moved in (not sure what from where yet), that'll be a whole other (I so wanted to write 'a whole nother') piece of furniture, somewhere, for moving out. It will easily be the missing 250 clutters.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I am minimalistic yet. Minimalistish maybe.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friends Trump Work

You can tune through the channels and pick up different programmes
Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem 
It is the end of the Jewish festivals. We go back to school on Sunday and surprisingly, because it was all supposed to have been done by now, I have loads of planning and test writing to do.

I was just about to post a very low key R2BC in which I was struggling to find something interesting to write. Sitting here lesson planning and exam writing does not make me cheerful. Added to that we were embarking on one of those days of, "what are we doing today Mummy? I'm bored."

The ancient  very old with the very modern

Then we got a phone call from a friend from England who's here for the holiday and because her daughter is going into the army. They are in town and would we like to go and meet them for lunch? We did. DD had to get dressed, I had to put myself together, but we were out, on the bus, and in town within 30 minutes.

We did the usual stroll down Ben Yehuda Street. Then we strolled back up again. Then we walked to the Machane Yehuda market. It was packed. We were going to stop for a falafel lunch in the market but the queue was too long. So we walked back to town and ate at a falafel place on King George Street.

Still a low key R2BC but it was lovely to catch up with old friends. It was good to go out and do some walking. I still have my work waiting for me to do, but friends trump work.

I'm linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful at Becky's Lakes Single Mum.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The First Rain

You can't see the rain but dig the wellies.
The big news this week is that it rained yesterday.

I was still in bed when DD came running in to tell me, "I just realized it's raining!" I jumped up and ran into the living room. And there it was. Real rain. DD said, "I can't believe it. I haven't seen rain for so long." (Think how you would react to waking up to the first magical snow - that's how we felt and reacted.)

DD put on her wellington boots and went out onto the balcony. She stood watching, transfixed, and smiling from ear to ear.

It wasn't only us. There were tens (or even hundreds) of comments on facebook just announcing the rain. We were collectively thrilled. We even have a name for the first rain after the long hot summer. It's called the Yoreh.

It was cold outside too. I wore my fleece and real shoes instead of sandals.

The best thing about the rain is the clear fresh air it leaves afterwards. Looking down, the street looks clean and the cars are all shiny again. A thick layer of dust and dried mud has been washed away. I feel like cleaning my house.

So forget September 1st as the real start to the new year. Or my birthday on September 4th. Or Rosh Hashana. Or Yom Kippur. Or, as usually happens, "after the all the festivals are over we'll get going with real life, goals, work, diet, etc..." (That would be next Sunday). We're up early, refreshed and raring to embrace the new year, today, after the Yoreh.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why I Hate The Derech Bet Lechem Street Fair

Last night we went to the annual street fair that happens two blocks from our house. They close the road and rent out tables to merchandisers - mostly food and cottage industry crafts. Then everyone comes because there's nothing else to do and it's "free". However the idea of it, from the organiser's point of view, is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The idea of it from my point of view is not to spend any money at all.

As we approached I could see that the road was packed. I told DD that we'd mosey all the way up to the end, then we'd mosey all the way back, and then we'd go home. "What's mosey?"
"It's walking very slowly and seeing everything along the way. Let's see if we can meet more than 10 people we know," I suggested to make it a bit more fun. We met about 20 people we knew before we even got to the entrance barrier.

Two seconds in I got a phone call from a friend from out of town. "I'm at the street fair. Are you here?"
"Yes we're here."
"I'm by the Waffle Bar."
"We'll be there in two secs."

I dragged DD along to the waffle bar. "Hey! This isn't moseying. I wanted to see something over there. Why are we running?"
"Were going to meet my friend."
"Oh no! And then you're probably going to want to stop for a conversation. Correct?"
"We'll talk and mosey at the same time."

It was lovely to see my friend and her husband. We moseyed a bit together and chatted. DD saw a 2 nis key chain with a tin koala and wanted to buy it for 15 nis. I told her we should see everything and if she still wants it we can get it on the way back. She was disappointed and there may have been some whining involved and the tiniest hint of an argument.

Suddenly we saw DD's best friend standing at the side of the road sobbing. We stopped to learn that they'd lost her three year old brother and her father was running around frantically trying to find him. I spotted him and he was indeed frantic. DD's friend was distraught. I apologised to my friends but we had to help look for the boy.

We were just before a dense crowd watching a band playing. It was almost impossible to get past but we pushed our way through and hurried right up to the end of the road and the exit barrier. The music stopped and they made an announcement about the missing child. I gave his photo to a policewoman who shared it on the police whatsapp (or whatever they use). Meanwhile the father had found him holding hands with another policewoman at another barrier.

DD wanted to go back and see that her friend was ok. So we ran back to the concert crowd and DD pushed through, dragging me behind her. A lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, "we're following in your footsteps."
"You'd better hold hands then." I gave her my free hand and we pushed on. I noticed that she had another four people behind her all holding hands. We were a train of seven with DD in the lead. Eventually we made it out the other end and were all able to uncouple.

DD's friend had gone home. I think her father probably needed a stiff drink. I offered DD something to eat. There were 9 mini doughnuts for 20 nis (4 pounds something) - we only wanted one. Or there were thin crepes with a shmeer of Nutella also for 20 nis. I said we'd eat at home. The koala key ring had been sold.

DD lost it and I don't blame her. We'd been out less than an hour. We'd run up and down the road hardly stopping to look at anything. She didn't get anything. Her legs hurt. She was fed up and so was I. I said we could stop at the 24/7 grocery on the way home and she could buy whatever she wanted. "Can I buy Fanta?" I bit my tongue and said, "just this once." And then obviously I had to buy some food for myself that I didn't need to eat.

We spent 60 nis at the 24/7. Grrrr. I should have just bought the doughnuts. Then we came home armed with a load of junk food and I had to spend the rest of the evening playing Rat-a-tat Cat to make up for everything.

(I just want to add that in previous years the fair has been much much better with loads more street entertainment, lots more participatory art, and many more stands with real artists selling real art.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Eating in the Tabernacle - R2BC

Once again there are Reasons 2B Cheerful. Becky at Lakes Single Mum has taken back the baton for October and I've joined the linky as usual.

I took up the challenge from Jax at Making It Up to blog for all 30 days of September. In the end I only managed 18/30 but that was good enough. My life just isn't that fast to have something of general interest to write every day. Still, the 18 posts were enough to boost my stats and increase my TOTS100 ranking for the second month running. I'm now only 39 tantalizing ranks away from being back in the top 500. So I'm going for another month of lots of blogging to see if I can break the 500 barrier for the first time in almost two years.

Another holiday
We went back to school on September 1st, we had a few days off for Rosh Hashana, nothing for Yom Kippur this year as it fell on a weekend, and now we have a whole 12 days for Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). Sukkot is only an eight day holiday but the day before and the weekend after made a great block of days off. Of course this is only for teachers. Everyone else with young children has to juggle childcare for a week while they are at work and the kids are off.

Lunch in the sukkah
We had a lovely day with friends today when we were invited to lunch in their sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling outside (a tabernacle) with a natural covering through which you can see the stars. It symbolizes the dwellings in the desert inhabited by the children of Israel as they journeyed from Egypt for 40 years after the exodus, until they reached the Land of Israel. (Funny how it didn't take Joseph and later Jacob and his other sons, nearly as long to make the original journey from Israel to Egypt.)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Arrogance Of Thanking God

I'm running out of relevant photos. Here is possibly where God lives. 
I have many friends who, whenever things work out for them whether it be a stroke of good luck or good timing, thank God for putting everything in place for a happy outcome. I started to do this myself recently. The older I get the more I'm convinced of a higher power. Whatever the nature of this higher power is up for debate. I do believe though, that if you work for the good and if you are in tune with the universe and humanity within it, then it will will work for you and you will get your reward.

We want to make two trips to London in the coming year to visit family and celebrate various events (the exodus from Egypt being one of them ;~p). My mother had been urging me to book the flights for the first visit at least so that she could plan around it. I was holding off until October when I get paid for my summer courses and get a full salary for being back at school in September.

Ten days ago I got an email from Easyjet saying that bookings were now open through to next summer. I decided to take a look. If I booked for our second trip as well I might get really low prices for being so early. 

Prices for next year were very reasonable. Prices for the end of this year, less than three months away, not so much. So I went to check out Monarch. I found something cheaper but not enormously cheaper. I found the Monarch website confusing as I'm familiar with Easyjet, and I couldn't work out how to change the quoted prices from dollars to pounds. 

I suddenly realized that my credit card only gets paid from my bank account on the 10th of the month (in full so it's actually more like a debit card paid once a month). So I went back to Easyjet, paid the extra, and was confident that I'd not sacrificed the known and trusted to save about $70. And while I was at it I also booked for our second trip next year. 

I was wrong about the credit card. Apparently when you pay for something in foreign currency it gets paid straight away directly from the bank account. I went into big overdraft but put the week's worth of interest on the overdraft down to experience. 

Ten days later Monarch went bust and Easyjet prices have almost doubled. I spent over 1000 pounds on eight flights and, had I booked with Monarch, would have had to spend another almost 2000 pounds had we decided to go anyway - which we might not have done due to the cost. 

My first thought was to thank God. Well something made me 1. book early and 2. decide not to book with Monarch even though they were cheaper. Thank you God. God loves me. I please God and he takes care of me. Trust in God and all will work out for the good. Etc... etc...

However. There's always a 'but' isn't there. A friend of mine, a widow who lives modestly in order to be able to visit her children and grandchildren living abroad, booked a trip with Monarch only a few days before the closure. Her credit card company say they have already paid Monarch so there is nothing they can do (different rules from the UK possibly) and she's lost her money. 

What does that mean in terms of God? He loves me but hates her? Believe me, she's a lot more particular about the religious laws than I am. 

Elliot Jager, in his book The Pater, My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness, writes that he started to turn away from God when they couldn't have children. How could he love a mean God who would not bless he and his wife with a child when so many others, even less worthy others, are having families of 6, 7, or more children. And I remember thinking the same thing when I was single, childless, and approaching 40.

Jager's friend pointed out to him that he must have known childless couples before he found himself to be in this situation. He must have known people in the past who desperately wanted children but were unable to have. Of course he had. So why was God only a mean God when he didn't deliver for the Jagers but not when he didn't deliver for all the other worthy but sadly childless people? 

So then it's ok to thank God when you accidently leave your purse or your phone in a shop but then remember and run back to find it still sitting there on the bench in the fitting room. And it's good to thank God when you narrowly miss being knocked down by a motorcycle overtaking the car that stopped for you on the zebra crossing. And when you slip over in the street but only bruise your knee and scrape your hand but don't break your leg, thank God. 

But this doesn't make sense if you can't also thank God when you miss being affected by a tragedy that has struck others. If I were in Vegas last week and survived, should I thank God for sparing me? If He's so powerful why didn't he spare everyone? If He spared me, is it arrogant of me to believe myself to be more worthy than any of the other people there?

Of course you don't have to evoke specific events for this line of thought. It could apply to our very lives. Thank God I was born into a middle class, loving family, in the UK, at a time of peace and not into a starving village in Africa. What do you say to God about those children who were born in poor villages in Africa? 

I wish I had an answer but I don't. Every time I want to say, "Thank God," now, I feel guilty. If anyone has any insight on this I'd be very interested to hear it. The nearest philosophy I can come up with for some sort of explanation is from my friend's mother, Mrs Slifkin, who used to tell her children, "different people have different things." You can't argue with that. 


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #48 - Writing The Great Novel

I am thrilled to announce that The Great Novel is being written in my house at long last.

But not by me.

DD decided that she can write just as well as E. Nesbit so why not do it. So far she's completed about 4 pages of handwritten A4 paper.

Last night she asked: "Have you got a typewriter?"
Me: What?
DD: A typewriter. I need one for writing my book.
Me: People don't use typewriters anymore. They write on the computer.
DD: Really?

Her story is a mystery. There's no plot yet as she's making it up as she goes along.
DD: I'm exploring this world myself even though I'm creating it.

It starts with a girl who wakes up one Sunday morning and her mother and father are gone. She has no idea where they are but she knows there's school that day.
Me: There is school or there isn't school?
DD: There IS! I told you it's a Sunday! (Silly me. People with Israeli children will appreciate this.)

She asked me to write down Elizabeth, Lizzy (I also wrote Lizzie because you can choose either), and Lizard.
DD: Lizzy is short for Elizabeth right? And a mean girl who doesn't like her calls her Lizard. Get it?

So she wrote: Hi, my name is Elizabeth but Lizzy for short. You can also spell it Lizzie you know but I spell it Lizzy.

Of course she has been published before
There's a great beginning in which Lizzy knows she has to go to school but she doesn't know which school she's going to or how to get there.
DD: I'm making her 12 because that's when you go to a new school and you're old enough to go by yourself. Shall I tell you how she finds out where her school is?
Me: Mmm yes please.
DD: She finds her school uniform and goes out. Then she sees two girls with the same uniform. The same uuuuniform, get it?
Me: I get it.
DD: Clever eh? So she follows them and gets on the right bus.
Me: Brilliant.
DD: I'm thinking of making it a boarding school. I think that's more fun. This is the first day back after the summer. And then she makes friends with other girls who help her solve the mystery of where her parents are.

DD: I changed it a bit. Before she went out she ate breakfast. I think that's a bit more realistic than just going straight out, don't you?

I find it interesting that the girl obviously has two parents when DD doesn't. And, btw, we don't do breakfast in our house - neither of us.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reinventing Yom Kippur Without The Middleman

Today was Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. I didn't go to shul (synagogue). For someone who comes from a very traditional (and sometimes orthodox) background, this is no small thing.

I felt guilty because I belong to a very small community that meets only for services on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and its continuity relies on people turning up. Otoh, the community has evolved over the years with people moving away and new people joining every year. And they don't do it for me, they do it because it's important for them and they love the intimacy of a small community in someone's home. But I rsvped that we would be there and so I felt bad and I was too much of a coward to tell them that in the end I just didn't want to. 

I love parts of the services that involve uplifting singing of tunes that I've known my whole life. And the feeling of that final 'kaddish' at the very end and the long blast of the shofar when everyone has been without food or drink for 25+ hours and it's all over, is an amazing feeling of togetherness and achievement. 

But actually what did we achieve? For me the answer was that I lasted a whole day without sustenance and I managed to attend all the services throughout the day in full. Surely that's not what it's all about?

This year, after resisting it and distancing myself for a few years, I decided to follow my heart. In previous years I've had the excuse that DD gets bored and a bored DD prevents me from having any sort of meaningful prayer experience. But I had a place to leave her this year and anyway there are other children at the shul for her to go off and play with. Otoh, at almost nine, it's not a matter of finding her somewhere to be with other children to play with. She doesn't want to be out all day playing. For some of the time, yes, but she has things to do at home and she also needs her personal time. 

I have a problem with orthodox prayer in that the women basically go to watch. I didn't always mind about this as it meant I had it easy. I never had to learn the prayers or worry about being called upon to do something I couldn't do or hadn't practised. In recent years, however, I have felt differently. Yes women are supposed to pray but as they are not counted in the minyan (the quorum) and they sit at the back or in a viewing gallery upstairs, they might as well stay at home. I have no problem with the men going to do their thing but I don't need to be there to watch them. In recent years many modern orthodox communities have made carefully considered gestures to give women more participation in the services. I appreciate that in Judaism it's extremely hard to make changes but. (Nothing else, just but.)

Of course there are gender-egalitarian services that I could go to. So let's examine the nature of the services. The prayers are all in a book and everyone has the same book. You start at the beginning and you read, chant, sing, follow silently, stand, sit, bow, face eastwards, and generally choreograph your way through to the end in unison with the whole congregation. It's all prescribed, there is a lot of repetition within each service, and you do the exact same thing every week or year depending on whether it's a weekly Shabbat or a yearly festival service.

At the end of each service I used to feel virtuous because I'd gone to shul and that was the 'good' thing to do. Nowadays I'm left with a feeling of, "I didn't get to say anything I wanted to say." You can try tuning out to do your own introspection but you sort of have to keep one ear tuned in so that you join in with choreography. If you just sit there it's considered rude. Or ignorant. Or, worse, blasphemous. In a large shul you can get away with sitting at the back in a corner and reading your own book. I know some people do this for parts of the service they consider less important. But guess what? I can read at home. 

There are alternative services near me where they allot times in the service for private meditation and thought. This is nice because you get the community togetherness and time for your personal prayers. However, I decided to ditch the prescribed prayers altogether this year and explore my own relationship with God and atonement. 

It's not about being less Jewish. It's about being more meaningfully Jewish. It's about having a direct relationship with God rather than going through the rabbis. I admire the rabbis for their learned knowledge of the Bible and the ancient laws, just as I admire doctors for their learned knowledge of medical science. Much as your doctor will advise you towards better health, the rabbis also teach us that we have freedom of choice. Ironically the orthodox rabbis then proclaim that if you choose to do it their way you will be rewarded for the good, but if you choose a different way, you are wrong. I'm just not on that page anymore. 

This Yom Kippur I cut out the middleman and I spoke to God myself. I repented and atoned and I prayed for Israel and Jews everywhere and humanity in general. I sat on my balcony and thought deeply about a better approach to the year ahead and asked that I may be written in the Book of Life in order to carry through my good intentions. It was good.