Here in England I think that there must be still quite a while until the kids go back to school. (It’s weird though as just being in and around the village you wouldn’t even know it is the school holidays. Where have the days gone where everyone congregated at the ‘Rec’ on their bikes?) Back in Bangkok things are in full swing for the new term. Expat teachers are in their classrooms getting their displays and schemes of learning ready, parents may be breathing a sigh of relief, (taking a whole family back home or on exciting adventures is expensive) and the kids will be buying out B2S, (other stationery suppliers are available) and admiring their new shoes and uniforms ready for the big day.
Although I quit work suddenly and unexpectedly last September this is the first official start to the new academic year that I haven’t been part of. As the clock ticked round to 8.00 am this morning and I was still lying in bed, (wishing Saint Mick was there to bring me my cup of tea, but not being sorry to not be up at 5.30 a.m.) I was anticipating all that would be occurring across the waves. I wonder how accurate I was:
The Whole School Meeting
I’m guessing that the rebels will be congregated on the back row, the Leadership Team will be at the front (and even if they are very well liked, looking like they have contagious diseases as no one else will go within a ten metre radius of them); the loud teacher (possibly from P.E) will shout out some semi-witty/facetious/jolly remark to get a laugh; the new teachers will be cringing as they are forced to stand up and wave; approximately forty percent of the staff body will sneak surreptitious glances at their phones or watches as the meeting inevitably runs over just a little bit; two teachers will be asleep, at least ten teachers will have throbbing headaches from welcoming the term in the night before a little too enthusiastically, and the Head will in turn be earnest, hilarious, passionate, engaged and frighten all, but the very established, with his excessive energy levels and enthusiasm. New Learning Support staff may be doing a quick evaluation of whether this is sustainable long term. (It is!)
New Teacher Types
The new teachers, affectionately known as ‘newbies’, or ‘newies’ will be looking a little worried, bewildered and overwhelmed. They will probably have a smile pinned to their face, but look in their eyes to see the fear! This is the first time they will have seen the aforementioned Head’s ferocious passion and they will be unsure they can match up. Having already been in school for a week or more for their induction, they will have their list of pros and cons regarding working in their new school and living in their new country. Their kids, accommodation and lack of surety about where to shop and pay the bills will be taking its toll and a few may be missing their portacabin classroom and single school caretaker to chat to. Some will be loving it but most, at this point, will be relieved to just get started! Amongst them will be the following types:
The Enthusiast: they love the facilities (and why wouldn’t they) and say so loudly and frequently; they love the kindness of the Thai team) and they tell anyone and everyone several times a day. They love the food, the climate, their classroom, the parks, the temples. They even love the traffic. They can make some ‘returners’ feel just a little tired, jaded but for others they are a breath of fresh air serving as a reminder of how amazing expat life can be.
The Complainer. There will probably be only one or two but they will be heard and moan about everything. The beds aren’t comfy in the school housing, the sun rises too late, the sun goes down too early, the 5 star breakfasts that are provided in the canteen should be 6 star; the school is too big, the Sports Hall is too much like an Olympic one; the classrooms are too perfect.; the new laptop too shiny. The irony is that this complainer will bore their family ad infinitum going on about the perfection of their new school and daily life. A particular type of Complainer is known as the Exploder. They often lose their cool and will isolate and alienate the Thai Business staff, completely lose face and respect and probably not stay long.
The Homesick Sad Eyes. They will admire the marvellous school facilities, but feel a little lost. They will be the ones to give established but nervous presenters an encouraging smile as they are likely to be lovely people. They will ‘line’ or ‘whatsapp’ their friends and parents every night and miss going on a regular friends’ night out. When they were in uni, it probably took them a term or more to settle in but no need to worry, with the support they will get from their team in their new year group or faculty, they will be fine. They will probably make lasting friendships.
The Party Goer. They will either be under thirty or born-again single oldie and spend several weeks in the delusional belief that Bangkok, city of sin, means that the candle can be burned at both ends. Although they knew at the rigorous interview that working in a top international school was not a return to Khao-San Road back-packing fun, they won’t completely get this either until they are called in for a gentle chat with a ‘boss’ figure person. In recent years these are fewer in number and get weeded out as too high risk!
The Prover. They will throw themselves into being brilliant. Their displays will be fabulous; their reading corner to die for, and their class blog so good that the rest of the team may seethe with resentment that they have to match up. They will be exhausted by half term and after that most will turn into all round superstar colleagues. A few of the provers will never come to terms that their unique status of ‘Excellent’ teacher is a fairly common phenomenon in their new school. They will probably become fluent in Thai in six months or less to maintain their ‘genius’ level status.
The Excellent. This will, of course, be the vast majority of the newbies. They will be quite quiet, biding their time before making suggestions for change, non-point scoring or sucking up, but respectful, appreciative of their environment and care afforded to them. In fact they are all round good eggs who will embrace their school, culture and new life. I happen to know they will also be the first to make book suggestions for the library and use its fabulous facilities. You might see them with the bit between their teeth as they will just want to get started and meet the kids. It’s why they are there after all.
And so on .. that’s the new teachers pigeon-holed. I think I maybe need to return to school to get a lesson on being a little more open-minded! I can think of a few returning teachers who will be appalled at me right now and wouldn’t be afraid to say so. A final thing about the new teachers though is that they will actually look similar to some who have left and within the first week several of them will have been called by an ex-teacher’s name. I bet right now there is someone in the staffroom saying something like “Don’t you think that ‘x’ is the double of ‘y’, they even sound like them.” Or something like that!
I’m guessing that the returning teachers will be feeling nervous and excited and not have a good night’s sleep the day before the kids get back. They will be wondering why this is still the case after several years teaching, but it just shows how much they care about what they do. They will be having a little chunter about the dust in their classrooms, but be in awe of the housekeeping staff’s ability to turn things around in hours so that everything is spic and span for the kids coming in. They will have had exciting adventurous holidays and genuinely be interested in each others’ trips. However, after asking a colleague about their holidays, before the have returned to their classroom, they will have already forgotten what they said as their minds will be on making sure things are in place for the new kids in the class to be settled and happy.
The returning teacher will probably be skimming through last year’s planner (which is dog eared and stopped being tidy and colour coded after the first week) and find at least one large task they said they’d do in the holidays but haven’t. They will put it on a list and ignore it for a week or two longer. The returner will have a lot of lists, they will also have a pile of professional reading, of which they’ll read one or two, and they might have a weakness for pinterest teacher ideas. The returners are happy, refreshed and keen to get on. Although they will have butterflies in their tummy they will take this week in their stride, enjoy the warmth and humour enervating in their teams and already be wondering if they might, at half term copy one of the adventures their colleague has had this summer.
Anyway, I am neither a newbie or a returner so as I say all I can do is speculate on what is happening. I could check up with Mick, but most of his words will be used up for one day, so instead I think I’ll put the kettle on and have a read of my book. It’s a good one David Mitchell’s Sweet Sorrow – a great title, perhaps fitting for my nostalgic state of mind!
This week I’ve been blogging a bit about working in the same school as my husband and kids. My dad has also just spent a week in respite care, so I think, with one thing and another, I’ve had institutions on my mind. This has got me thinking about the similarities between care homes and schools!
Similarities between care homes and school!
For us the idea of dad spending a week in respite care was in part to give mum a break from caring for my dad 24/7, (she wasn't at all keen.) We thought it might facilitate her getting some quality sleep; In addition we wanted to provide the opportunity for dad to build up his leg strength and improve his mobility. My mum and dad both saw the logic of the plan but were not completely confident it was a good one. As always my folks were probably right – the respite week wasn’t completely successful! My mum and dad both missed and worried about each other (despite mum visiting every day) so couldn't rest ther minds. To make matters worse dad has come home a bit below par having caught some kind of flu bug! That brings me to my final similarity between care homes and schools.
It’s good to have you home dad.
I’ve tried to be patient. I’ve tried to be fair. I’ve spoken positively of my local pool. I've tried not to make negative comparisons between it and Thana City’s multiple swimming areas - all bathed in a warm, balmy, sunny 35 degrees glow, edged in 5 star comfort sun loungers, with waiters and waitresses who know me by name serving me poolside delights.
Similarly, I’ve not commented on the inevitable foot-print clad dirty floors of the local leisure centre, or minded its limited (non-existent) showering facilities. Instead, I’ve focused on the friendly welcoming staff - they're brilliant - and the diverse populace who are able to access this facility at different times. I've not minded the 'hour only' slots where the final fifteen minutes is spent lapping the waves with 60 pairs of beady, six year olds' eyes willing me to leave the pool early so that their fun lesson can begin.
I've tried, I really have, but I'm not finding swimming in the UK too much fun. Who is to blame? Well, it’s hard to say, but check what kind of swimmer you are and decide if it could be you.
The Walking Catfish
The Walking Catfish tends to wiggle rather than swim. S/he can be found towards the steps side of the pool slowly moving the length of it whilst chatting to a fellow Walking Catfish. S/he is likely to leave the pool along with other Catfish and head for a cuppa and a slice of cake. The Walking Catfish is a friendly breed of swimmer, but can be problematic to other fish, when the social aspect of walking with friends means that several lanes of pool are taken up and unavailable for actual swimming. Walking Catfish often leave zero room for overtaking by other species, but because they are so nice tend to get away with this.
The Neon Tetra
The Neon Tetra is a friendly fish, always quick with a smile and willing to share its lane with you. It clings to the centre lane and takes its time to travel the length of the pool. It rarely submerses its whole self into the water, preferring to keep its head above the surface so that it can welcome new fish to the water. It likes to squish up against other fish it is familiar with, sometimes without their consent. Outside of the pool it can be found chatting to the reception staff and is always quick with a joke. The Neon Tetra's only fault is its tendency to hover on one spot, thus making it difficult for other species to touch the poolside edge.
The BristleNose Fish
The BristleNose Fish is the master of disguise and one of the most annoying fish in the pool. It is often quite ripped in appearance and approaches the water as if engaging in fast and furious activity is its sole purpose. Hogging the roped off lanes, whilst chatting to other Bristlenoses or poolside attendants, often of the opposite gender, is its actual purpose. One disdainful look from a BristleNose and other species, move out of the roped lane area pronto. Although the BristleNose may often feature on leisure centre promotional flyers and leaflets, looks can be deceiving and after claiming the prime swimming area, it tends to lounge at the peripheries of the lane, thus making it impossible for less high profile swimmers to use this space.
Southern Cave Fish
The Southern Cave Fish enters the pool with aplomb taking a headlong dive into the depths of the water, regardless of any activity occuring at surface level. With no sight, and minimum hearing the Southern Cave Fish is largely unaware of surrounding water users. It only senses their presence through the vibration of shoving up against them with wide flailing arm and legs. The Southern Cave Fish is often an older, very localised male fish who is unaware of any negative impact of claiming the majority of the pool as its own. In truth, the Southern Cave Fish is disliked by all. The BristleNose is disdainful of the Southern Cave's less than perfect exterior, the Neon Tetra dislikes being separated from its 'tribe' and The Walking Catfish is frequently irritated from having the ground taken from beneath its feet as the Southern Cave dives in.
Sea Urchins emit a predatory and spikey aura that makes other fish wary of engaging with them. They often swim alongside the roped area, in an attempt to avoid the Neon Tetra Tribe and as an act of passive aggression towards the Bristlenose, whom they resent for lounging in the prime swimming spots. Most Sea Urchins swim fairly slowly, alternating freestyle and breast stroke, without ever getting their hair wet. but regularly meeting their daily exercise target. Sea Urchins are known for their longevity and secretly aspire to show Bristlenoses how it's done.
I think I probably fit the Sea Urchin type, though I do get my hair wet when I swim. That's another thing, why do UK swimming pools dry out my hair so much? Actually, perhaps I'm a new breed of swimmer completely, deserving of the Grumpyoldfart tag!
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If you are a fish lover, (or concerned about copyright) I've linked the images used so please take a look at the original sites I have borrowed them from.
(Jump to the end to evaluate the type of child you are.)
I’m out with Saint Mick, not in Thana City in Bangkok or in Broughton, Lincolnshire. I’m actually heading off to ‘ The Little Red Gallery’ in a place called Stamford, in pursuit of a piece of art by an artist called Roz Bell. Her work is bold and colourful-you might even say brash; her pictures of elephants are a bright reminder of living both in Thailand and Tanzania and the colours she uses in her flower pictures are stunningly vibrant. Take a look. We’re in the Porsche as there are no kids in tow as Betsy has gone to London for a few days to stay with her sister, so we’re practising for retirement and enjoying the day!
I just texted both of the girls actually, (note the direction of the correspondence-me to them, not them to me), to see how they were getting on. They’re fine and after a lazy morning are heading for brunch before a trip to Oxford Street (courtesy of Grandma’s pocket money!) When they are away I’ve time to notice that I react quite differently emotionally to their absence. Betsy is the younger of the two, and she would readily admit a bit of a Miranda Hart type. Consequently I’m worrying that she has got to where she needs to be without incident or drama. Annie will be looking out for her, but I’m second-guessing how she will be feeling about being in loco-parentis role. I am never quite sure what is going on in that head of hers! I’m feeling protective and proud towards them both equally, but for different reasons – back to my same/same but different notion which I was wittering on about in my last post!
I wonder if the girls perceive my different parental concerns as favouritism. I’ll have to ask them when they get back. My hunch is that Bets will think I demonstrate favouritism towards Annie by trusting her more and praising her capability. Annie, on the other hand, would be forgiven for thinking that I worry about Betsy more than I ever have done about her, so in comparison may feel she is quite neglected!
There are probably lots of reasons why kids assume that their parents favour their siblings rather than themselves. For example, parents tend to have a bottomless pit of forgiveness, which can be annoying for the sibling who hasn’t done anything that needs forgiving! I’ve got to admit I’ve got a good lot of sympathy for Joseph’s brothers, why the heck should he get the techni-coloured dream-coat. Seriously, he swans back in and is immediately back in his dad’s good books.
Kids have a huge sense of what is just or unjust and I think it is this sense of not being treated fairly that is seen as central to questions of favoritism. I guess there’s a reason why the ‘it’s not fair’ phrase never goes out of fashion. Of course, being a favourite child applies to offspring of all ages and times. Think of poor old Cordelia in King Lear - her situation really isn’t fair. Just because she won’t suck up to Lear she gets exiled from the whole kingdom. Talk about losing ‘favourite child’ status in style!
I think that there is a bit of a chicken and egg concept at play when exploring whether and why favouritism exists in parental attitudes to siblings. Is it the offspring’s behaviour that determines whether they are the favourite or does the favouritism (be it real or perceived) stem from inconsistencies in parenting?
Kids (even grown up ones) can bicker and feel resentment about whether they are their parents’ favourite. Familial relationships can be so complex and messy that it isn’t easy to objectively analyse if you are indeed a ‘favourite child’ and I guess the really interesting question would be, why does it even matter? This Daily Mail article (so it must be true!) says it is the youngest child who is the favourite so I’m fine! Perhaps a more enlightening approach to exploring this is to think about what type of son or daughter you are and have been and whether you consequently deserve to be the favourite.
These are the types I can think of:
The Whirlwind - The status of the ‘whirlwind’ can only really be achieved in late middle age. The Whirlwind generally does not live close to home; their visits are sparse but enthusiastically executed. The whirlwind’s visit is a flurry of organising, tidying, cleaning, planning and treat giving. Much is achieved in a Whirlwind’s weekend visit and parents are left full of gratitude, but slightly shell-shocked. In all honesty, parents are not sorry to wave off the Whirlwind, though do enjoy sharing all that has been accomplished in a boastful manner with neighbours and friends.
The Plant Pot - The Plant pot is almost the polar opposite of the Whirlwind. When they visit they plonk down on the sofa, comment on dust on the TV stand or wherever it may be, and expect to be fed, watered, sheltered and spoken gently to for the duration of their stay. They thrive under these care conditions, but ironically the parents being visited don’t.
The Well-Meaning But Misguided - The Well-Meaning But Misguided’s intentions are sound, but they are unlikely to achieve favourite status. The Well-Meaning is full of positive and helpful suggestions for how to do things differently and better (i.e, their own way). This ranges from how to hang the washing out, to what to buy at the supermarket, to where to position the sofa. These suggestions are usually good ideas but not always well received. The Well-Meaning’s But Miguided’s nickname, used by the parent in their absence is the ‘Knobby-Know-All’.
The Egg Sucker - The Egg Sucker is likely to be in their early twenties and be entering a new phase of financial security and independence. Their skillset includes giving advice on everything from marital relationships, to how to cook dinner, to how they themselves could have been brought up better. The irony of this is usually lost on the Egg Sucker, but not the parent. The Egg Sucker can be extremely irritating
The Sponge – the Sponge, otherwise known as the Pacifier, knows more gossip about the parent’s friends and neighbours than they themselves do, due to endless hours of being talked to. If The Sponge has a qualification in Counselling and can appropriately add questions to the conversation, such as “How does that make you feel?” their title changes to The Listener. The Sponge’s visits provide a valuable outlet enabling parents to vent. The Sponge often feels saturated and needs to wring out after visiting their parents.
The Clown - The Clown sees their role in the family to entertain their parents. They are not above performing a bit of a show, song or dance even when in their late middle-age. This causes concern amongst parents who often question post-visit, if the changeling child really belongs to them.
The Helper - The Helper has very good intentions and hovers around as parents prepare drinks and meals and offers to help. The Helper’s weakness tends to be that they think parents are incapable of doing all the every day activities that they complete all the time the Helper isn’t there. The Helper can be known to overstep the mark causing both confusion and offence when stepping unintentionally into Critic or Whirlwind mode.
The I’m Gonna Soon - The I’m Gonna Soon has a deep need to impress their parents and isn’t above a bit of exaggeration when talking about their accomplishments or achievements. For example, the I’m Gonna Soon would equate modest sales to the likelihood of becoming the next J.K Rowling. The I’m Goona Soon has been known to present themselves as The Helper and frequently offers to do tasks around their parents’ house. Sadly though, this never gets beyond the discussion stage.
I’m obviously joking with the above stereotypes, but now I’ve created them I’m afeared I fit some of the more negative ones. Yikes! Thank goodness that sibling rivalry doesn’t really seem a thing with my own kids and that their ‘daughter’ behaviour is exemplary (most of the time!). I should finish by saying that I DEFINITELY DO NOT have a favourite – Same/Same but different is my motto. I will check this post with a fine toothcomb to make sure that praise and possible insults have been dished out exactly equally! However, girls, if you are reading and do fancy just getting ahead on the ‘favouritism’ stakes I’d be quite happy for the odd touch of The Whirlwind added to a glug of The Listener. I definitely don’t need any of The Critic though – stay well clear of that one!
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Today has been one of those days that I have felt really grateful for. The reason for this isn't becasue a new (well 23 year old) Landrover, purchased from the extremely efficient, helpful team at Landrover Centre Huddersfield - whose cars are extremely good value for money and are actually an investment - (or so Mick tells me anyway), arrived in our drive, thus putting a smile on Saint Mick of Thana's face.
Neither is it because we are now proud owners of a King of all Kings Scalextric Set - opened as an early birthday present for the self-same Saint Mick (honestly, talk about it being a day of 'toys' for boys' and yes, I know that is a sexist comment!)
No, it's actually because Betsy and I had a really enjoyable afternoon with my mum and dad at our local Village Hall, enjoying the music of a popular local singer.
This event was organised by long time Broughton resident Ann Smith, after she had enjoyed a similar event in neighbouring village Waddingham. The singer was a man called Terry Carey, who looked, I thought, somewhere between Jeremy Clarkson and Tom Jones. He had clearly enjoyed his own recent trip to Tenerife as he mentioned it more than once, (we weren't at all jealous!), but had a great voice and was quick with a joke. He sang lots of golden oldies and got everyone hand tapping, singing along, with even a bit of dancing thrown in.
I think if we're honest neither Betsy nor I were really sure if we'd enjoy the afternoon, but we really did. I was actually very proud of Bets. It's not every teenager who'd go along with their grandparents to an event, where almost everyone else in attendance was at least 50 years older than themself. She didn't just go, but she chatted, joined in and, would you believe it, even learned a bit of line-dancing. I just don't know where that 'changeling-child' of ours gets it from. I did text her sister Annie the video clip below and got the response "OMG, you'd never get me up there!" That's more how I'd respond too!
Corny but True Alert ...
The whole thing got me thinking about my question earlier in the week about which is preferable - a sleepy village or bustling city? Well the village certainly wasn't sleepy today and came out on top for several reasons:
Old friendships in a village are formed and literally last a life time. Many of the people in the centre today have known each other upwards of half a century.
Going Against the Grain
A last word, anyone who knows me well, and knows what an introvert I am, will think that they are in a parallell universe. I am not known for enjoying group events. and local community get-togethers are way out of my comfort zone. My blog post on How to be an Avoider, proves this point only too well. I was in people's bad books for weeks after I'd posted it! I guess it just goes to show what a yummy slice of cake, piece of fruit loaf, lemon tart and cup of coffee and some fun entertainment can do to a person!
Thank you Broughton!