So the end of term is upon all my teacher friends. It's a bit weird to not be there for the end of term leavers' assembly and it's odd to think that now both girls have left school there really is very little reason to return to Patana. It has been a large part of all our lives. It sounds cliched but school becomes more than just a place of work. We've all made some lifelong friends through work and I guess school has been the centre of our social and work lives. Anyway, now there's only Saint Mick of Thana left at school. He's had a very busy week running around helping organise set ups for assemblies, (I actually just came across the clip of Betsy's leavers assembly on youtube, it shows Patana doesn't do things by halves!), wishing the leaving kids luck for their future and all the other unseen stuff that goes on behind the scenes. It really is the end of an era and a time of change for us all. I know next year he will miss seeing Betsy around the place a lot. Any expat teachers who have kids at the same school where they work will know what I mean .
I'm lucky as the advent of social media has meant that I am in touch with lots of alumni students, not only from Patana, but from the other schools I worked at. I feel privileged to have taught these young men and women. Only this week I received a lovely message from a girl, Victoria, (sorry woman) I taught in my very first teaching role at Fakenham High School, saying that I was that teacher in the quote below. I was hugely flattered and touched, but it was a long time ago and maybe her memory cells have gone a bit skewey! I must have done something right though, as Vic treated me to a lovely 'afternoon tea' in London last summer when I was back in the UK. My kind of ex-student friend!
It acutally makes me feel pretty humble to get nice notes and so on from ex-students and to think that I had played a tiny-teeny part in their road to success. It has also made me reflect on the responsibility associated with the role. (I bet it would have freaked me out if I'd reflected on that too much when I actually was a teacher!) Another student I taught, Hanoi Lamtharn once told me (though a long time ago now) how something relatively small that I had done made a huge difference to hismotivaton levels when he was feeling fed up of all the IGCSE English revision he had. All I had done was write him a little good luck card with a personal message and target, but it had clearly hit the spot. I think when students are appreciated as individuals, rather than just one more kid in the class it is is incredibly empowering for them.
Here are some other things that my teacher friends have done to make their students feel special:
I think it is testament to teachers' dedication and willingness to go over and above for their kids that they have found the energy to do this. I can see that they are a lovely way to start the summer and, I guess, a reminder for the teacher too of all the good bits of the year. Its hard work but I know that I have welcomed, very much, the friendly and positive correspondence in this vein, from Betsy's fabulous Head of Year. It has meant a lot to know that she has been genuinely cared for. Thanks Claire.
Anyway, I think that really is it for me in terms of teacher talk. The era is offically ended. From now on my blog posts will be strictly about Porsche, oh no, I mean Landrover driving. A little hint about what Saint Mick of Thana might be getting for his birthday. Happy holidays everyone.
It's the last week of term at my old school, Bangkok Patana. My teacher friends are frantically busy getting ready for the holidays; be it packing for school improvements, organising end of term assemblies or planning final lessons - it is full on. I remember that buzz only too well and just a teeny bit of me misses it, but, to be honest, not too much. It is hard to think that it is nearly a whole academic year since I left my role as Head of Libraries. Since then I've spent a good chunk of time back in Broughton, Lincolnshire hanging out with my oldies and living the life of a retired 50 something, let's pretend I'm cool, Porsche driver! What with blogging and reading and writing and swimming, I really don't have time to go to work any more!
Although it was only three weeks ago that we were all together for Betsy's school graduation, I, like my teacher friends, can't wait for the end of term as my Saint Mick of Thana and Betsy will be coming home to Broughton, soon to be joined by Annie. (A.K.A I'm a poor student but I've just been to Malta and I'm heading to Italy tomorrow - good on her I say!)
I woke up this morning thinking about which place I liked living in best - good old Blighty, specifically Broughton, or Bangkok?
Weather - let's start with the important stuff ...
Bangkok - it's more predictable in Thailand, if it gets under 30 degrees everyone gets out their winter coats (I'm not even joking) and when it pours it really pours. This also gives you a 'get-out free pass; for being late for absolutely any occasion, regardless of the gravitas of it. There's also the pull of sun, sea and sand almost all the year round.
Broughton - like the rest of the UK, Broughton's weather is a great talking point. A trip to the seaside is suddenly cancelled because of chance of light showers, the summer comes early in April and disappears in June. The heat wave (there's bound to be one), is inevitably going to be moaned about. All good fun!
I have loved watching the seasonal changes this year though - the first chance in over twenty plus years to see Autumn turn into winter and so on has been a highlight...
And the winner for me is ... Broughton. I know one Saint Mick though who will definitely disagree.
Broughton - Getting to hang out with my oldies is a real pull for Broughton. I am lucky as I enjoy my parents' company a lot. Me and dad are often out and about getting into all sorts of mischief! I really need 'L plates' when steering his wheelchair. I like to think that my mum and dad enjoy my company too (at least a little bit!) and I can help out. When I'm not here I ring a lot, but it is not the same as living across the road - obvs! You might think that when I'm in the UK I'd see Annie more, but weirdly this year I've spent far more time with Annie during her not infrequent visits to Thailand. A plus is I do get to see my brother and his wife and other family in the UK and form stronger bonds than just a quick trip in the summer enables. My brother also happens to be great at DIY - an added bonus! There are two gorgeous babies in our family now as well so the chance to see more of them is going to be great.
Bangkok - Well my lovely Saint Mick is in Bangkok so that's reason enough for me to choose it. There's nothing quite like having a cup of tea with the old fella as he sits in his Lazy Boy recliner tapping on his laptop, whilst I moan that he is always working! Betsy has been there too so it will be strange next year, when fingers crossed, she will be at York or Hull Uni.
And the winner on family is .. A draw. In my Embrace the Change blog post I explored the advantages and disadvantages of living betweeen two countries. I maintain that a 'time share' is possible. I just wish Bangkok and Broughton were a bit closer.
Broughton - Well, it's sad to say that my visits never coincide with school reunions and I've been away for such a long time that I don't have any. Oh my god, that really is sad! That's unless you count my parents' friends, and I have always liked 'more mature' people so I won't worry about my 'billy-no-mate status' too much! There's one other big attraction in Broughton and that's the great sense of community and lovely neighbours that I have. There is a real sense that if you need anything someone will help, and that is not there in a big city.
Bangkok - You can't live somewhere for 17 years and not make a good network of friends and there's nothing like a good natter to lift the spirits. I read this article about it just yesterday. I think when any expat relocates, especially after a long time, this loss of having friends close by shouldn't be underestimated. It's like being a third culture kid, but grown up - a 'third culture adult?'! So all I can say is thank goodness for text. I have really appreciated those friends who have taken the time and effort, even though busy themselves to keep in touch this year.
And the winner is ... Bangkok, no question.
Broughton - well I can't pretend it is the hub of restaurants, cinemas, cafes or anything like that. There is a good swimming pool close by though - Ancholme Leisure Centre and a good bookshop at Waterstones in Lincoln, so that will do me. Along with our adventures when the whole family is back - this year we're doing a tour of Scotland - I'm not complaining. I also know that for families and pensioners there are loads of things put on in the village, so if you are keen to join things and get inovolved there is plenty to enjoy.
Bangkok - There's tons to do, but I think it is linked to friends and the attractions for me, don't hold that much value without them. I like to go Mahidol University to listen to the Thai Philharmonic Orchestra, but I wouldn't do it without my fab music chum Rachel. (Check out her great blog here.) I also love to swim with my, ironically called, Athletes group. Thana City Country Club is ten minutes walk from home and does top the leisure centre here, but hey... too much sun is bad for you. The restaurants in Bangkok are magnificent in quantity and quality, but I'm a creature of habit, and I've yet to find a really good fish and chip shop there so the jury is out on that one.
Overall though the winner is Bangkok, but I'm not really bothered!
So, looking at the above, there's pros and cons to both. If it was on place only, then it would be Bangkok, but it is 'people not places' that matter. That means, with family and also friends soon heading back this way, right now Broughton is the hands down winner. BUT, ask me again in August when we head back to Bangkok and I suspect the answer might be different.
My dad's had a bit of time of it this last year with his health, so we've been vey grateful to have the NHS to draw upon. I'm a huge advocate for nursing staff particulary and feel they are incredibly underpaid and undervalued by our government. We have had some amazing care and attention given to us so because of this I've been loathe to criticize the NHS.. thus far.... We've also had some pretty rubbish experiences though and every now and then it is very hard not to have a sense of humour crisis about some of the things that have happened to us. However, rather than just write a long (and it would be long) list of 'issues', instead I'll sum up in a couple of paragraphs or what I'd do if I ran the NHS!
Actually that's probably not as insignficant and facetious as it sounds. I do feel that the NHS has reached such a crisis point of probable underfunding and definite understaffing in some areas, (along with very poor deployment of staff in others), that patients very often feel that they are a nuisance and that is at least in part created from the vibe they get from the people attending to them. Many staff members are legitimately at the end of their tether, so consequently when using the service the patient senses that the staff are 'hard done by'. There's no wonder many older people don't want to 'bother their doctors'. Obviously most staff are kind, caring, down to earth, we get it and of course you should fight your corner for your family type of people, but I've also lately encountered a few of the othes who unconsiciously emit the negative vibe! There's the:
But they're relatively few and far bewteen and are countered by the:
Anyway, I''ve wittered on enough. For anyone who knows me, I guess it makes a change from listening to me spout about what I'd do if I was in charge of education! (By the way, I know my comments are naive and it's not really that easy to fix the greatest free medical service in the world, but I'm trying to fulfil my June challenge of not overworrying and analysing!) But just to finish . did I mention that THERE IS A HUGE MAJORITY OF WONDERFUL HEALTH CARE WORKERS WHO DO WONDERFUL WORK in the NHS. (Bother, think I've just failed my June challenge!) I do like to be fair though. If I did rule the NHS I would definitely give 'those wonderfully caring and nurting vocational types' a 100% payrise. I'm sure the Bankers' bonsues would cover it! Is the NHS Nifty, Healing and Successful? Well I'd like to think it would be if I ruled the world!
I've just discovered Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfections, which I'm listening to as an audio book whilst I swim. It makes a very welcome change to Haruki Murakami's Killing Commandatore which I've recently finished. It wasn't that Killing Commandatore wasn't interesting to listen to, but at 700 plus pages, I think I could have swum to Thailand in the time it took to get through it!
Anyway, Brene Brown's text is a very different type of book. It's non-fiction self-help and explores the obstacles to happiness and how to be courageous in facing our imperfections and making connections (or something like that anyway!). I haven't listened to much yet, but so far there is lots to be interested in and to enjoy. It too might be better to read a print version of (a friend mentioned, quite often within it, you want to pause and reflect on how her observations resonate personally) as by the time I've finished my swim I can't always bring to mind what Brene Brown has said (perhaps my 50 year sieve for a brain), but one comment she made did get me thinking.
She commented on how in restaurants kids spend loads of time on their 'screens' when instead the family could be making connections. It was, I think a fairly insignifcant remark and I get the feeling that Brene Brown would be very open to discussing this, but I'm not sure if I agree or not.
I do get the whole thing about screen time and how it restricts conversation, but I can't help just being a little bit defensive about using screens too. I think any kind of 'babysitter' at meals can be a very good thing. When my own girls were young screens were still in their infancy - the most hi-tech phone was a brick like Nokia and a gameboy was a luxury item - so we took crayons and a colouring book everywhere we went. Rather than being criitcised for bringing something to occupy the kids with us, we used to get praised for the foresight in doing so. This is different to parents today who are criticised and berated for giving kids tablets or phones to occupy them.
I've been trying to figure out the difference between screens and colouring and why one is deemed ok and the other isn't.
The colouring argument:
The screen argument:
Therefore according to this it seems screens might come out on top. (I'm fairly sure I haven't created this bias simply because of my own ridiculously high daily screen time consumption, as reported to me by my trusty I-phone!)
Actually, if I had to comment on what I think the very best 'babysitter for kids' is I'd say engaging with books (even for pre-readers). Of course this does require some independence, but then so does colouring and using screens. I think it always makes sense to have a pile of books in the back of the car or in a bag at all times when out with kids. Anyone who knows me though will know that a book is my answer to pretty much everything! Stories can be accessed on screen of course, but there is nothing like the tactile feel of a printed book!
As we have been talking about crayons the following picture books spring to mind to include in that pile in the car: Drew Daywalt's and Oliver Jeffer's The Day the Crayons Quit and the Day the Crayons Came Home.They're both lovely stories with a strong moral, plenty to discuss and plenty of humour too. And, whilst I am definitely not putting myself up there with the likes of Jeffers I guess as we are talking about screens or otherwise then I'll give my own story 'The Day the Wi-Fi Broke' a mention. It is available on Kindle and hard copy too, not that I'm sitting on the fence! It really does work well for exploring balance in the use of computers and the kids I've read it with have loved it. I figure it's ok to give myelf a little pat on the back from time time. If I don't then who else will and I'm sure Brene Brown would approve :).