Friday, June 23, 2017

Here Comes Summer - R2BC

Here are this week's Reasons to 2B Cheerful. I joined the R2BC linky at Becky's Lakes Single Mum

Shabbat On Kibbutz
Last weekend we went to one of my favourite places and spent Shabbat with my friends on their kibbutz.

Reports Finished
Yep. All done. And only one more week of school to go.

Water Slide Open
They opened the water slide at the pool. When we go for DD's weekly lesson we get there 20 minutes early so she has time to play in the pool before the lesson. This week we found that the water slide was open for the summer. DD rushed to go on it. As she crashed into the water at the bottom, she called out to me, "that's the best time I ever had in my life!"

This coming week I'm going to a wedding on a kibbutz in he north. My friends' son is getting married. These are friends from my teenage years and it's going to be a bit of a reunion of about seven of us from way back when we were all friends growing up in England.

DD will be sleeping over with a friend. Her first sleep away apart from when she stays with my sister and her cousins in London. I'm excited. She's not so sure but as I'll be out of town so she'll have to get on with it. Seriously though, she's eight and a half so she's old enough to know that one night comes to an end and I'll be back the next day. And she's staying with close friends who she's known all her life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DD Published In Kids Read

Warning: this is a completely 'proud mum' post. If you're not in the mood for my kvelling, go away and come back later.

There is an annual magazine published in Israel called Kids Read. It accepts English writing in response to books and poems that kids have read.

I am actually on the publishing committee but since I'm not available for evening meetings atm my role is restricted to proof reading. I am not on the selection committee. And all the entries are selected anonymously. This is significant to mention because DD has a piece in this year's Bar Mitzvah Edition (i.e. the 13th edition).

The pieces are sent in by teachers up and down the country and throughout the year and Kids Read comes out in June. I knew DD's piece about the book Stone Fox (she wrote a short epilogue to the story) had been chosen because I proof read the final copy before it went to print. However, it was lovely to receive an email from her teacher, Karen, telling us and inviting us to the launch party.

DD and Karen, her English teacher

Last week we went to the launch party. DD loved it. Some of the committee performed some funny poems about reading which DD thought was hilarious. There was a new prize presented in the name of one of the founding committee members, Lynda Waxman, who sadly passed away earlier this year. After that some of the children read out their entries and DD had an opinion about each one. She also said that she'd like to read next year if she's chosen again.

The highlight of the evening was when each child's name was read out and they went up to the stage to be presented with their own copy of Kids Read. It was like a degree graduation and I was about as proud as if DD had got a Ph.D.

When we got home DD took Kids Read to bed with her and read some of the entries. She particularly liked poring over the pictures of all the book covers from each book or poem that is written about. It has remained beside her bed for browsing and of course for reading her own piece again when she wants to relive her glorious moment. Which she does quite often, LOL.

Friday, June 16, 2017

On Being A Teacher - Reasons 2B Cheerful

I did a lot of learning about self-development this year. Remember the Breakthrough posts I wrote about the course with Devorah Sisso Stieglitz? I still owe you (me?) a post for Breakthrough #6. I got stuck on visualizing a fabulous future for myself - my goals seemed to stop at getting through the week, cleaning the bathroom, and paying the bills. I'm going to work on it again over the holidays. Watch this space.

Meantime, In the interests of gratitude and the laws of attraction - both essential to leading your best life possible, here are my reasons 2B cheerful for this week. The linky is back with Michelle on Mummy from the Heat where a group of us gather to be thankful. It sounds soppy but actually it's vitalizing.

It ends
I was having a moan to a friend last week about how much there is to do at the end of the school and college year. I was writing reports, setting exams, grading exams, end of year parties (mine and DD's), I was given the task of organizing part of the end of year family outing for my school, prepping the summer course, packing up the English room as they need it over the holidays for something else, etc, etc, etc....

My friend sat there patiently while I got it all off my chest and then replied, "yes but in three weeks time it all comes to an end and you have two months off." I got it. I shut up.

Poor but safe
The foundation that pays part of my salary for one of my jobs only pays for 8 out of the 10 months of the school year. So at the end I am paid by the organization that pays the other half of my salary at that particular job. It comes out as much less at the end of the month as they each have different ways of calculating the pay. And, for this particular job, I get almost nothing over the summer. It's annoying but, otoh, I don't work there over the summer. Otoh, teachers still have to live and pay bills for that two-month period.

Last week a friend who had a high-flying position in hi-tech suddenly lost her job when the company reorganized and scrapped her whole department. I went to work that day and thanked God for every irritating thing about my school and for every difficult pupil. I am so lucky to have a job that helps me almost get to the end of the month in the black.

Finishing early
For the final two weeks of the year, the 6th graders who are leaving this year and are busy with their leaving events, get let out of school at 1 pm. So that's a 1 pm finish for me two out of three of my days at school, for the duration.

Patient friend who is regularly in her office till after 6 pm: "What time do you usually finish then?"
Me: 3 pm.
Friend: Oh.
Me. Oh.

I do teach a summer course over the summer but it's mostly online so I can do it at home. Thus, unlike most other parents, I will not be paying a fortune for summer camps and juggling child care with work obligations. If I were to get my full salary over the summer in return for working, it would all go in paying for summer programmes for DD. So in fact, being a teacher is the best thing to be.

I actually enjoy teaching. I like being with my pupils and my students. Staff rooms are usually friendly and supportive places. I have fun. There I've said it.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Supper At School - R2BC

Another week and more reasons 2B cheerful. I'm not mentioning the elections as all we know for sure is that, at the moment, nothing is for sure. As usual I'm joining the R2BC linky which is over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum for the month of June.

Supper At School

They had a Supper at School Shuk at DD's school to raise money for the end of year events. DD's class made desserts in cups. I was a bit tardy in seeing the list for contributions - I only got there 20 minutes after it'd been sent. Thus I missed the disposable tablecloths and plastic spoons options. I was also too late for the easy jellies. I was drawn to the chocolate mousse but raw eggs in 30 degree heat, not to mention the expense and the time involved..... I reinterpreted it as instant pudding and we made 20 cups of chocolate, butterscotch, and vanilla puddings. We added sprinkles.

DD wanted to take a tray of desserts out into the field and try to get some passing trade. I could have told her that selling is a thankless task. I'm useless at it. After a long time and only two sales she handed the tray to her friend who promptly sold the lot in about three minutes. *sigh* We have other talents.

Blog Ranking

I've been placed 57 in the Top 100 Single Moms Blogs list. I don't remember submiting my blog but I'm chuffed it was picked up anyway and placed at number 57.

In the tots 100 I also went up last month although I'm still in the 1200 range. There'll be a party when I break the top 1000 barrier again.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Away For Shabbat And Other R2BC

We didn't do R2BC last week because of the terror in Manchester. Yesterday there was more terror in London. I love London and I am very very angry and very very sad. Here are a few Reasons 2B Cheerful even though there are those who are terrorizing the civilized world and the civilized world has not yet decided how they are going to deal with it. I hope they come up with a plan before there is more suffering and heartbreak.

Away for Shabbat
We went to the seaside in Netanya to stay with my cousins. Though they do live right on the front we are not beach people especially and preferred to watch the sea rather than be in it. You don't have to splash about in it to be hypnotized by the beauty of the sea. And every so often I find myself thinking in wonder, that's the Mediterranean and I live near it.

So we didn't descend to the beach but we did make full use of the pool. And we met, bumped into, and visited with all sorts of lovely people  - old friends and new.

Chronicles of Narnia
We finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and now we are nearing the end of The Magician's Nephew. I'd forgotten quite how much the birth of Narnia and Aslan echo themes in the Old and New Testament. I've never got further than the first couple of books before but now I hope DD wants to continue with the series. I am intrigued as to how far the religious allegory is taken.

Fidget Spinner
If there was one thing I knew about them, it was that I was never going to buy one for my daughter. Even though most of her friends have one (Why? They are not all ADD?). Firstly, I don't understand the attraction. You spin it. And then you spin it some more. Secondly, teachers hate them. Whilst the kid with real ADD problems might be helped to stay in his seat, he is not focusing on his work or the lesson but focusing on the spinner. And meanwhile all the kids around him are distracted by it. I tell my students - If I see it I take it until the end of the lesson.

So we get to Netanya and my cousin has very kindly bought DD a bunch of small gifts and games to amuse her during Shabbat. By far the most used was the spinner. I say used, but actually she just fidgeted with it. The other major thing you do with it is try to get it out from under the sofa when it spins off your fingers. All good fun I suppose when you're 8 1/2.

DD has taken the fidget spinner to school today. I'm opening a book. Even favourites on lost or confiscated.

That's all for the past week. I'm linking this post to reasons 2B Cheerful which is back with Becky on Lakes Single Mum for this week. The coming week is full of more report writing, and planning and organising the end of year lessons and events. See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Segula - A Journey Through History

A couple of weeks ago I bumped into my friend Sara Jo Ben Zvi walking down my street. In reply to my query about what she was doing in my neck of the woods, she replied that she's been working around the corner for the past three years. She then pulled out of her bag a glossy magazine which was presented to me as a gift. 

It's called Segula - A Jewish Journey Through History. (And I know the editor. :~p.) Segula means Treasure but it also has connotations of protective charms and miracles. I read it from cover to cover. Every article was a fountain of information that I didn't even know I was missing. 

The edition I was given had the theme of 'Jewish Women in the Arts.' Sure, I know about a handful of female Jewish poets and obviously some modern singers and actresses. However, I had no idea that in the last century one of Egypt's most famous actresses, Laila Mourad, was Jewish. I had no idea that the Jewish Enlightenment in Europe, 1770 - 1881, had many Hebrew speaking heroines. I had no idea that in the mid 1800s the first American Jewish novelist was called Cora Wilburn and that she traveled the world before settling in America. And there are about 10 more articles about Jewish women in history, each an informative gem.

The thing about Jewish history when you grew up in Britian, is that  unless you went out of your way to learn it, you don't necessarily know very much. Of course I know the main events - most of them. But the details, the life stories of the characters, the heroes and heroines, the legacies - not so much.  For example, I know that King Alfred was supposed to have burned the cakes, how each of King Henry Vlll's wives died (well not the last one but I assume it was old age), that Sir Frances Drake insisted on finishing his game of bowls before defeating the Spanish Armada, and I've been to Pudding Lane and know of its significance. But of Jewish history after the Bible, I know the labels on the timeline. one sentence of explanation, and that's about it. 

This is the blurb from the Segula Magazine website:
"Segula - The Jewish Journey Through History
Enter a world of fascinating articles, vibrant illustrations, timelines and maps to discover the heroes and villains who changed Jewish history. Stand at the crossroads of progress and meet the Jews who made a difference. Encounter colorful communities and learn how Judaism survives in exotic and far-flung locations. Read Segula - the bi-monthly magazine from Jerusalem that brings Jewish history to life!"

The Segula website has some featured full-length articles and also short pieces about all the people and events featured in the magazines. Each piece is positioned on a timeline so that you can read about events from a particular period or choose a topic. Reading on the website is free but you have to register. 

The magazine is printed in English and Hebrew. For an English subscription of six issues the cost is 265 shekels in Israel and $78 dollars to send abroad. it seems a bit pricey but you get 75 pages of articles written by history professors and experts in their fields. There are almost no advertisements for things you don't need or want. (The issue I read had one page about an Ecology Magazine and one about a charity to support soldiers without families.) 

Be warned Jewish friends who are approaching significant birthdays, I think I've found the perfect gift. 

Disclaimer: though I didn't pay for my copy, Sara Jo has no idea that I'm writing this review and recommending Segula. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Time Blocking

Setting the Scene and Defining the Problem
One of those days or weeks or months when there is too much 'stuff' thrown at you all at once? Teachers especially experience this as it comes to the end of the school year. And if you are a teacher and a mother of several children, it's hopeless.

Maybe in the UK you still have a few weeks to go before it hits you, if your school year only finishes three weeks into July? And if you are reading this in America, I know that some schools have already broken up for the summer (but they go back at the beginning of August). In Israel school finishes on June 20th (high schools) and June 30th (primary schools).

This is what the end of the year involves here: writing reports for each student, end of year tests to be given and graded, end of year parties for every class in every course, attending end of year parties for every activity each of your children attends, the start of swimming lessons, the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) which includes assemblies and ceremonies at each of your children's schools, unbearably hot weather, and battling a general feeling of, "we're done," from students and teachers and, in the case of getting homework done, parents as well.

I have some of the above but not all. I have only one child whereas some of my colleagues have 4+ children. On the other hand, as a single parent, all the end of year activities for DD are down to me. As a subject teacher rather than a class teacher, I have many more than the standard 30 pupils to write reports for. On the other hand, I only have to write about one subject (English) and not a whole load of subjects and behaviour comments. On the other hand I have to write my reports in Hebrew which is hard for me. I can compose what I want to say without problem and even write it down but typing it onto the computer is so frustrating when you don't know how to spell and you don't know where all the letters are. And I teach summer courses which have to be prepared. Long story short, it's swings and roundabouts and I'm drowning.

On top of all the end of year obligations, you have to keep up with the housework and household responsibilities. I would like to just forget about it all until July 1st but I can't. Firstly, we live in the desert and if you don't dust and mop the floors the desert starts to encroach on your living room. Secondly, if you don't keep paying those bills, answering those emails, filing your papers, and generally tidying up, things start to get lost. Important things like medical prescriptions, professional references that you need when applying for extra teaching hours for next year, bills that go unpaid until you start getting threatening letters and have to pay interest, those end of year tests that you are supposed to grade and return to the students, etc...

So, as you can't stop the world and retreat under the duvet, you need a way to get things done rather than just pushing everything aside. And you need a definite system because wading through, picking up bits and pieces of tasks as you fall over them, or as they become critically urgent, is the least efficient way to go about it and a sure way to lose your sanity. We're aiming to cross things off the To Do list, not chip away at 100 things at once and never finish any of it. No siree.

Time Blocking.
This is the art of dedicating chunks of time to a specific task whilst forgetting all about any other tasks. You need a calendar with the hours marked in. Then you just block off a specific amount of time for the job that is most urgent. But if you also need to do other urgent tasks (or urgent to you because e.g. you simply cannot live with that pile of junk on the dining-room table one more day as it's making you depressed) then give each of those a half hour or an hour. I'm telling you it works. The only rule is that you must absolutely not break into your blocked time to do another unscheduled job. Turn off your phone if you have to, whatever it takes. Here are two scenarios to illustrate the point:

1. No Blocking Time. 
It's 4.30 pm and you are faced with an overwhelming amount of things that need seeing to. You decide to start with grading but get distracted by emails asking you to return you report card comments by yesterday. Meanwhile your child is whining that she's hungry and supper needs cooking (because you are no longer buying processed food and because of this you've already ordered pizza twice this week). So you stop to cook supper and you first have to wash up a saucepan to cook it in. Then you have to clear the table a bit or she's got nowhere to eat. And as you're piling up the papers on the table because there's no time to deal with them or file them properly, you notice a utility bill that needs paying by NOW or you will get cut off. You also find some supermarket coupons that you meant to use and the final date on them is today. So you abandon supper and run out to the supermarket. By the time you get back you're too tired to do any more grading, or report card writing, or tidying the dining-room table. So you order burgers, for a change, waste a couple of hours on facebook and twitter, and get into your unmade bed after setting the alarm for 5 am with the promise of an early start tomorrow. Tomorrow does starts early but the first two hours of it consists of hitting the snooze button 12 times.

2. Blocking Time.
It's 4.30 pm and you are faced with a productive, well planned evening. First you have 4.30 - 5.30 blocked off for clearing the kitchen, cooking supper, clearing the clutter in the living-room (it's ok to plan just to  make relevant piles for filing later in order to uncover urgent papers), paying any outstanding bills by phone, and making a pile of papers that you will need over the next few days. There are philosophies that say you should only handle each piece of paper once but we're way beyond that - this is crisis control not Super Woman.

5.30 - 6.30 pm Feed your children, deal with anything they need you for and if they are old enough (we managed this at age five) tell them that you are busy for the rest of the evening and that they should clean their teeth, amuse themselves for a while and then put themselves to bed. Sorry, no story tonight. You clean up the kitchen.

6.30 - 8 pm. Do that grading (or any prep for your own particular job). Do not look at emails. Do not attend to children (there are apples in the fridge if you're hungry, yes you can go on the computer, whatever you want, just get on with it yourself).

8 - 8.30 pm. Make the children go to bed by shutting down all tech devices. Clean the bathroom and put on a load of laundry. Make yourself a cup of coffee or any beverage of your choice.

8.30 - 9 pm. Deal with emails and whatsapp whilst drinking your coffee. Do not be tempted to go into social media.

9 - 10.30 pm. Write reports (or a blog post, or do your household accounts - you choose). Do not be tempted to go back and do more grading. This is Report Card Time. Just do it.

10.30 pm. Hang out the laundry and go to bed - you may read in bed till 11 pm.

You have a clean kitchen and bathroom, you have done 1 1/2 hours of grading and 1 1/2 hours of reports (or blogging or whatever), you have paid outstanding bills and put aside important papers that were previously lost, the table is organised if not exactly cleared, and you have done a load of laundry. And you are asleep with a clear conscience before midnight. That is freaking amazing!