Thursday, 31 May 2012

That'll teach me…

Well I was showing off, wasn't I. In the playground, swinging my Primark brolly by the handle so that it shot out of  'telescopic contraction mode' into 'full-handle' mode, and back again. I was really enjoying it too. And then the brolly bit shot out - and kept going, and plopped onto the tarmac, separate from its handle. A group of concerned Yr 7 boys gathered round, and a couple kindly tried to fix it back on. One was semi-successful (clever boy, must give him a house point). But hey, it was from Primarni, and cost a pound, so…

As I said, that'll teach me. (It won't). Better not rain tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I know a marvelous woman who once had a few cats. They were collected as strays. She cared for them and loved them all, but she couldn't bear to touch them, not even to stroke. The sensation disgusted her.

Eventually the numbers grew until she was looking after twenty two. 22.  Her mother said to her "enough's enough!' and she gave them away. Now she has none. But she feeds all the neighbourhood cats, including mine. Wonder what she feeds him. He's very picky.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Growl like a bear

It's the end of an era for me. M, my lovely year 11 student who is on the autistic spectrum, came in to finish his ICT course work. We have worked on it together since he was in year 9, and at times it has been a real struggle. Once he refused to talk to me for a whole week, because I had shown appreciation of another students music. Why were they playing music in an ICT class? Because sometimes it's the only way the teacher can get any work out of them. They put on their headphones and behave themselves! M has a hatred of all the other students in his year. He has thought for quite a while that they were out to get him. And perhaps they were, in a way. The noise level the created was certainly a big reason I found it hard to get work out of M. He himself, had to put on headphones very often, just to drown out the racket they made, and to find some peace, his ASD making him very sensitive to noise. Sometimes his own music was too loud. 'Turn it down,' I would mouth to him. His response was often to growl like a bear and turn it down…a bit.

So today we sat and finished off a little bit of writing. Three weeks ago the teacher told me that M was heading for a D, which is a fail. But today, although M growled at me (to show me that he didn't want to work), he completed the tasks and came with me downstairs to show the teacher, who on the spot told us M had achieved a C. Enough to pass.

At the end of the day I found him waiting for me to shake my hand - a line drawn under that particular episode of his life, and an acknowledgement that our mutual respect had allowed us to bob along together to get the work done.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Brixton Hillbillies

I've got those front-garden blues, sho'nuff. I chopped off a lot of wisteria, disturbing Mrs Blackbird by accident (her nest was well-hidden). Then I chopped up a hedge-type plant I once knew the name of. I now have a huge pile of choppings (and no-where to put them),  and a bald, sticky thing bereft of leaves, sticking up out of the ground, frowning at me for exposing its under-branches for all and sundry to see.

I have no transport except my bicycle, so I can't drive the choppings to the dump, and the compost bin is full-to-bursting, having consumed more than was good for it last weekend, greedy thing. The choppings will reside in black bags in the front, making our house ever-more Clampett-like, till I can conceive a plan. The wisteria looks better though.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Goodbye Donna Summer

Poor Donna Summer - she went too soon. Love to Love You Baby was the soundtrack to many nights out, even though it was a record for boys really - I have certainly never sounded like that when I *%^@ed. I don't think I was even *%^@ing when it was released in 1975. And by the time I did, I was disappointed in the sound which escaped my lips during said activity - more of a coital grunt than a seductive gasp. Donna, you misled me! Never mind, I loved that record anyway.

Meanwhile, the wonderful sun in shining down and I am going to fake being a good neighbour and attack the front garden with shears. Our house is like the Clampetts' and lets the rest of the street down in terms of upkeep. That's partly because I didn't plant roses, but instead some fast-growing and madly verdant plants which, like triffids, are a bit too enthusiastic in their habits.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Social isolation for the visually impaired

My VI student O has been very ill. She has missed five days of school, straddling a weekend, and so many important lessons have gone by that my colleague, who supports O in the hefty subjects of geography and maths is very concerned about helping her to catch up once she is back up to speed. O came back to work last Tuesday but as she was doing some catch-up work on maths, she fell asleep, so intoxicating are the drugs which keep her condition under control. O's mum came to pick her up and we didn't see her again till Friday.

Her lack of volume continues to be a major problem. Since O never speaks above a whisper it's difficult to try to converse with her. She doesn't often volunteer information, and in the time I have worked with her she has not once asked me anything about myself. O's peers, who began the year showing interest in her, have tailed off and she has become very isolated socially.

The support staff have talked over some interventions. The Senco asked whether, in fact, this school is the best place for O. Is there a specialist school which would cater better for the needs of a bright visually impaired student? Yes, replied the VI specialist teacher (who comes in three times a week), there is one such school. But it's in Warrington, a long way from here. Ah.

We have a number of interventions available to us, and we will work through these with O in the hopes of reaching some solution. It may be that one very simple action has results, but it's more likely to be a combination of various ideas, and may take some time. Ideas, anyone?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Treading where I trod before…

Yesterday I went to see my friend Kinny Gardner and watch his production of 'Pied Piper' at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. I should explain here that Krazy Kat Theatre Company are the only company in the UK to sign throughout using BSL to translate the dialogue for a young deaf audience. They are trained signers, and their terrific skill is to make the signing a part of the show, beautifully choreographed. The effect is to seamlessly reinforce the story. It must be seen to appreciate it, and if you ever get the chance, go see!

The Pied Piper was signed throughout, as ever, by the two actors as they skillfully manipulated the puppets and the set to created the story and make us all laugh, gasp, cheer and clap all the way through. Jim changed hats, and accents, to become the town baker, toy-shop owner, shoe-maker and milliner in turn. And the rats themselves were very rat-like, with thick black fur and rather horribly muscular tails. The Hamelin children became blue, ghost-like creatures as they were led away during the night by the piper, and Tinca's Mayoress was gracious in her apology for her bad behaviour in order to secure the safe return of the children, her deaf son being the only child who was not lured away by the piper's music. An autistic child in the audience got very upset and ran up and down the auditorium looking for his favourite seat, crying loudly, while his mum anxiously made sure he was safe (the seating is on three levels). But Jim and Tinca, the actors, kept it all flowing smoothly, outwardly relaxed, and sustained our interest despite the distraction. I loved it. I earnestly hope the current grant applications secure enough money for Krazy Kat to continue to wow us with their incredible, magical and inclusive theatrical experience, as what they offer their hearing and deaf audience is absolutely unique and therefore incredibly important to support.

I remember the Tricycle when it opened in the early eighties. I was living in a huge shared house in Kilburn, with two of the acting McGann brothers (Paul and Stephen), Helen McCookerybook, and my cat, Patta. The Tricycle was a friendly, innovative space, with a feel of the Traverse in Edinburgh, but small. The local cinema was a small ramshackle affair, which often showed cheap all-night horror films (the prices were cheap and the horror was 70s). The patrons thought (charmingly) that they were either in their own sitting-room or perhaps visiting a very relaxed friend, because they would talk loudly throughout the film, and if they identified a friend in another row, climb over in a very informal way to catch up on the latest goss. Nowadays I would find that annoying, but at the time I found it refreshing and nice that people thought connecting was more important than viewing. That cinema is long gone and perhaps the Tricycle has soaked up its custom, as it now has an inbuilt cinema (apparently, though I haven't seen it), a bar and a restaurant. The theatre itself books a lot of very interesting productions.

I retrod my old stomping ground and saw the big old house. It hasn't changed very much. Still divided, though the flats now are bigger. Still a bit ramshackle and tacky. Minus us, though, so front door firmly locked (it was always open when we lived there). Ah well.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Leaving home

I am getting a taster of what it'll be like when Number One Child goes off to Uni (or something else). Our house guest has gone home to New Zealand, and the house feels strangely empty. There are still three of us here, but all the same there is an empty space, and I feel proud and a little sad.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Using your hands to talk

I've mentioned how thin money is on the ground at school for things like training, especially for teaching assistants, who are so undervalued. There is currently a scholarship for teaching assistants at a certain grade. It allows them to claim half of any tuition fees, (up to £2000 towards the cost of a course) which will add to their CPD (Continued Professional Development). So even though I am now officially on my Grade 2 brailling course (it hasn't begun yet), I am going to apply, as one of my other interests is sign language. It is a beautiful language to watch. It can be as varied as the many accents one might hear in the course of a day spent in a big city. It can be done well or badly. And it can change lives and make the difference between isolation and inclusion. Getting the scholarship will be a matter of timing, skill, popularity and luck. It's going to be extremely competitive. One TA wanted me to keep my mouth shut about it to increase our chances. But I have experience of the kind of seething resentment that sort of secrecy can cause, and I'm spreading the word. We can all compete for it together. It's quite likely none of us will be chosen. But who knows, perhaps someone will be lucky!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Religious Instruction

One of the most fun classes I assist in is the Year 7 RE class. The teacher, Miss C, is one of three beautiful young Irish RE teachers. She has milky white skin, lovely black hair, and a wry wit. The naughty chatterboxes laugh, argue, and occasionally shout at each other, but boy, do they know their stuff. She is a very good teacher, and her students respect her. We are currently studying the sacrament of reconciliation. To illustrate this we have been watching selected parts of the film 'Bruce Almighty'. Unorthodox? Possibly, but the divine Miss C has a point…it holds their attention and sticks in their minds. RE can be a very difficult subject to teach, particularly just after break, when they have been running around in the playground, or last thing on a Friday afternoon, when they are straining at the leash to get out and run around. At these times quiet reflection seems a million miles away, and it takes a generous and skilled teacher to bring the students 'back into the room'. Hats off to Miss C.

All Quiet on the Rags Front

A friend from my younger days has died, in very sad circumstances. Another friend is returning from overseas for the funeral. It will be both happy and sad to see him. He is staying with us, so this room, where the computer is, will be difficult to access for a couple of weeks. So if there are no posts for a while, that's why.