No good with animals

Nothing is guaranteed to make me feel a failure than trying to work with animals.  Cattle and sheep take one look at me and run the wrong way.   “Come and help move the heifers”; “Lets go and count the sheep”.  Who, me?  Whatever I do is wrong.  “Keep them in the corner”; “Guide them towards the gate”; “Send them down the hill”.  WHO, ME?  I don’t think so, they yaws have minds of their own.  What you need is a DOG.  Or someone who can RUN.

However, there is no point in complaining (though I do) because we don’t have very many animals now.  The sheep don’t belong to us but to someone who buys our grass for the winter (50p per ewe per week, that’s why we needed to count them…).  We don’t employ anybody to work on the farm besides the Farmer and me (the Farmer’s Wife), and both of us have other jobs too.  A farm dog would be seriously under-employed.

So anyway, after today’s fiasco I came home and did something that I’m good at.  I cleaned the car, cooked the dinner and wrote my blog.  Not Great Work, but useful all the same.

Equilibrium restored – till the next time… 


On the treadmill

So, Christmas… family, bedrooms, dinners, visitors, meals, gifts, breakfasts, weariness, more visitors, more dinners, lunches, more gifts, cough, cold, more dinners, total exhaustion…

Yes, I think that just about sums it up.

After Christmas… cough, cold; snow, ice, dangerous roads, school closed for nearly 2 weeks; stayed indoors for a fortnight straight before returning to work; tired, wishy washy, procrastinating obsessively…

Back to work/school… email, messages, filing; updates to website, VLE, digital display system (aka big tellies); more messages, more updates, and so it goes on…

Doing my best to step off the treadmill today… slow breakfast, listening to radio; food shopping (well we have to eat don’t we?); Waitrose wrap, fresh soup and posh crisps for lunch; catching up with The Happiness Project, Zen Habits, Box of Crayons, Bad Science etc; feeling sleepy in the afternoon; hoovered and put shopping away to wake up (it worked); blogging here…

So this blog post represents my success today in getting off the treadmill.  I have enjoyed slowing down, thinking my own thoughts without interruption.  I’ve come across a couple of interesting things to make me think.  And most important of all, I’ve taken action – I have lived to blog again!

Note: Interesting things mentioned above

The Reason you’re stuck – Seth Godin on ZenHabits 

Middlemarch, Improvisation, and a Little Bit Married – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

>School Board – back to the future?

>Is it a school, is it a College, is it a business? I’m beginning to wonder.

The place where I work (not as a teacher) went from being a comprehensive school, to a School and Community College, then the word School was dropped making it just a Community College. Those who attend are no longer called children or pupils, but Students, and although it is still a state comprehensive school, it has distanced itself from the County by becoming a Foundation School.

Complicated? Well…

Schools have teachers, right? Teachers are led by a Headteacher, assisted by one or more Deputy Headteachers. At our school, sorry College, we have in recent years had not only a Headteacher and a Deputy Headteacher, but several Assistant Headteachers with responsibilty for areas such as Curriculum, Standards and Student Support.

The Senior Management Team is made up of these PLUS various Directors – of Communications, of Post-16 Learning, of Finance, and of School Services. There are other Directors – of the Sports College and the Music College (our Specialisms).

For 2009-2010 the Senior Management Teamis rebranding itself; now it will be known as the Leadership Team. It will have more members, and apart from the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher, the rest will all be known as Directors of something or other. The titles I have heard suggested are so opaque I have failed to commit them to memory!

Moreover, all members of the Leadership Team will be Directors, but not all Directors will be members of the Leadership Team!

So, if the Leadership Team are all Directors, shouldn’t they be called the Board of Directors? Is this the start of a slippery slope on the way to schools becoming businesses?

Or maybe a way of pushing up the salaries of the members – is a Director a higher grade than an Assistant Headteacher?

Or is it harking back to the old days (1870 – 1902) when School Boards were set up in England and Wales under the Elementary Education Act of Parliament.

What is going on here? And if I put these staff on the school (sorry, College) website with their full titles, will we be a laughing stock? I wonder….

>Telephone numbers!

>We are all used to hearing these days about the “fat cats” and their inflated salaries and, worse still, their ridiculously huge bonus payments.

Still, this morning’s Today programme set me thinking afresh about this. The boss of Network Rail has announced that he won’t be taking a bonus this year (even though Network Rail is apparently doing well). Hurray, we say!

Last year his bonus was £300,000. Crumbs. But he will be taking another bonus which is based on long-term successes, which last year was £200,000. And his salary? A matter of public record, he says, at £600,000.

Now I know Network Rail is a very big concern, and therefore the responsibility shouldered by the Chief Executive is massive, and these figures are cast into the shade by some we have been hearing about recently. But I can’t shake off the feeling that no-one can possibly be worth that much. After all we are only human. We can only do a certain amount of work in a week. The farmer, 1kool, at his busiest, used to do 80-90 hours most weeks, but that got a bit much once he turned 45. He didn’t have responsibility for a large number of people, but animals are more dependent than people are, for their food, water and shelter. I work 3 days a week in a school, in a support role. I have little responsibility but I still feel compelled to be conscientious in my duties. I don’t take unnecessary sick leave or claim unnecessary expenses, or spend my working hours surfing the net. Even the teachers, who earn up to 3 times what I do, are only taking away less than 10% of the salary of the Network Rail man. And no bonus, unless you count the long holidays.

My point is that even the most conscientious and hard working members of society can only dream of earning a tenth of the figures I heard on the radio this morning. There is only so much any one person can do in a day’s work.


>Since starting to work part-time, I have been interested to note how it affects people’s attitude towards me at work. Many of my colleagues have asked me how I’m finding it, to which I reply that it’s great, I’m really catching up with my other responsibilities.

Teachers tend to nod vaguely at this – I have the impression that when they are not in work, they don’t spend their free time catching up with chores. (Do they all employ cleaners?) From my experience of retired teachers, it seems that once they are free of school, they concentrate on being irresponsible!

Support staff seem to be rather envious; some will comment that they can’t afford to work part time. Some obviously could afford it, but choose not to, but they are still envious of my “Free” time!

But lately I’ve wondered if some see it as a sign of ageing; of needing to slow down; of not being able to quite cope with a full time job. Or worse still, of not being able to keep up with the technology any more.

If I’m honest, there must be an element of all of the above in my motives, but I am after all only just past 50; I am just as busy as ever, only with other things; and I know technology better than most 30 year old teachers!

A younger person said the other day (to me, about someone else) that when people are too old for the job they should get out and make room for younger ones. I would have liked to pursue the subject: how old is too old? What should these people do (at the age of 55-60)? What a waste of all that experience and knowledge! And what about the young ones who can’t do the job? There are plenty of those too.

Prejudice is the word that springs to mind…

>Me-time or free time?

>This is something I remember from past times when my kids were young and I was at home most of the time: if one is at home, one is thought to be free all the time. When someone wanted an errand run, or company for an outing, I seemed to be the obvious choice. Almost everything around the house and garden automatically became my responsibility: a responsibility that I accepted because I “had the time”, even as I resented the assumption that I would.

To a large extent I continued to shoulder those responsibilities even when I returned to employment. This is part of the reason I felt that going part-time was important to me, as I was struggling to complete my domestic duties in my “free time”. But if I’m not careful the same thing could happen again, and my carefully carved-out “me-time” could be eaten up with window-cleaning, taxi-driving, little shopping trips and shepherding (yes, with real sheep).

My horoscope yesterday said I need to step into the shadows of my own mind in order to reinvent myself and make my work and relationships more relevant. How true!


>This work-life balance thing is harder than you might think. Almost every morning I have sat down at my computer to write my blog, but each time something has stopped me. Blogging is not work, it’s something I choose to do, but something is blocking me. I think it’s the “work ethic”…

There is always something one “ought to” be doing. One day it’s checking the bank accounts and paying the bills; today it was the housework; at the end of the month it was paying the bills and doing the VAT return. And if the phone rings, well it has to be answered, doesn’t it?

Today, though, I’m rewarding myself for hoovering and dusting, by sitting down for 30 minutes to write this. A strange thing, this belief in a “just world” of rewards (and punishments?).

Teachers are strange too. At our school an “early efficiency retirement opportunity” has been advertised. In order to help realign its staffing in line with the changing curriculum, teachers who are within a few years of retirement can volunteer to leave now. They are being offered a lump sum payment during 2008-2009 of 50% of their final salary.

Apparently teachers are queueing up to apply for this. In my experience teachers can’t wait to retire. They are full of plans and the things they want to do. Most intend to retire at 55 anyway, and of course they have a high enough salary to save for their retirement, and a good pension to look forward to. But they will not admit that they are the lucky ones, and show no appreciation of the fact that most of the population don’t have these options, and many will have to work till 65 or 70.

One teacher commented to me that if the 50% is not enough, she might take a “little admin job” to tide her over: “something mindless, that I don’t have to think about till 5 to 9 in the morning, and can forget about by 5 past 5 every day”. How patronising! I have first hand experience of this lady’s organisational and computer skills, and I would not give her a reference…