Also by me...


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cheap Thrills

During a session on Facebook, I was introduced to the definition of the term “Furbling”. Furbling is when you have to wander through a maze of ropes at an airport or bank even when you are the only person in line. I commented that I rather enjoyed a good furbling and that I have to incorporate a one legged twist every time I turn a corner. The friend admitted to furbling quite a few times and that she too had done the one legged twist. She continued to ask me what it is that makes all of us prone to bringing some craziness into our lives. I replied that it keeps us sane.
This got me thinking about all the other cheap thrills I get on a day to day basis. They might be odd, they might make you say, “I do that too”, either way, here are just a few other things that keep me sane.
The one that comes to mind immediately is cutting any kind of food into small cubes. Ham, cheese (especially haloumi cheese), cucumber, crumbed chicken, and potatoes. Those would be the favourites. I will continue with thrills that please my visual sense. Watching laminating come out the other end of the laminator is surprisingly satisfying. Wiping away the tiny bubbles that collect on the walls of the bath just after it has been run (as they reach the surface of the water, they almost shimmer like glitter, reflecting on whatever is beneath them). Watching my windscreen go from dirty to clean in a matter of seconds whenever I stop in at the garage. Every time this happens, I hear the song, “I can see clearly now…”  Getting rid of stains successfully, I must admit, leaves me feeling quite powerful. Make up; now there is something that I can’t get enough of. Watching my face transform in front of my eyes is a morning ritual that I really enjoy.
I will move right along now to thrills that please my auditory sense. The sound that any fizzy cool drink makes when you open the lid for the first time. Driving through a puddle. Putting a cigarette out in a bit of water. My ring tone (it symbolises me being needed by someone…what is more thrilling than that?). When my daughter laughs a real belly laugh…its makes me giggle just thinking about it. When my fiancé tells me that I’m beautiful. By the way, these are in no particular order; fizzy drink sound does not, by any means, top delightful child laughter.
Thrilling smells do not happen on a daily basis though. Of course there is the smell of good food or expensive perfume, but these, in my experience are not thrilling. A thrilling smell would be the smell of rain just before the clouds let go. Or the smell of strawberry lip gloss. The smell of my parents’ house is one of the most comforting smells I know. The smell of a new born baby (post diaper change) and, as a matter of fact, the smell of a puppy is rather amazing as well. 
Feeling. This category has two parts; ‘touch feeling’ and ‘emotion feeling’. Touch feeling thrills include; stroking velvet, pushing my feet deep into the sand at the beach until I can feel the cool sand beneath my feet, typing really fast, the vibration my phones’ touch screen makes when I select something and the feeling of driving a car with power steering. A feeling I enjoy most when driving is when I have had the air-conditioning on for a while and then I switch it off completely; the warm air slowly creeps up all around me; I thoroughly enjoy this sensation.
Emotion feeling is a wonderful thrill to experience (when it is positive). Cheap emotional thrills include, shopping, watching Oprah’s Favourite Things, and bumping into my high school nemesis, realising that they haven’t changed at all. The greater emotional thrills include, the feeling my daughter growing inside me when I was pregnant, the excitement and anxiousness that comes with falling (and being) in love; some might be lucky enough to experience this thrill on a daily basis. Being acknowledged for the person you are whether it is at work or at home is, sadly, a feeling very few people get to experience.
And then, last but definitely not least, there is sex. Sex is by no means a “cheap thrill” but it is a thrill none the less. The sound, the feeling, some of the taste, and the sights of sex all add to the enjoyment of this thrill but I must add that I could do without the smell of sex. I cherish all of these thrills. No matter how bad life gets I can always rely on my cheap thrills to lift me up and make me smile. If none of these resonated with you then maybe you should pay more attention to the times when you smile (for apparently no reason) and you’ll find that the cause is most definitely a cheap thrill.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A (former) teacher’s perspective
I was asked one day at a child’s birthday party how I managed to keep my sanity as a pre-school teacher. I smiled and informed him that I had just resigned. No, being a pre-school teacher didn’t make me crazy but I was close. I had been teaching for four years and I will look back with great fondness over those four years. If I was a teacher for five years, however, I would’ve looked back with much regret.
Teaching affected many areas of my life; it affected my physical, emotional, and financial state. Everyone knows that teachers are not paid well. It became clear to me, after working for two years, that it would take me about ten years to become financially independent from my parents.  Emotionally; teaching turned my emotions into a yo-yo. One minute I was being silly and fun and having a great time, and then next minute I was thinking about how to tackle the issue of a 4 year old swearing at me. As a teacher, I was someone who took problem solving very seriously; I needed to find a solution for everything (consequently I have let go of that obsession). I would lie in bed at night tossing and turning thinking about how to help this child or to stop that child from feeling a certain way about school. And then last but not least, my physical state. I can only but laugh when I think back to the number of times I got sick with flu or a tummy bug (including two very uncomfortable bacterial skin infections). Leaving you with that image, I will conclude this paragraph and simply say that teaching is not for sissies.
There is one memory that sticks in my head, and it symbolizes what teaching was like for me. It was a chilly winters morning, about sixty pre-school children ran around playfully. “I’m cold”, I thought to myself, “let me run around and they can chase me, it will be fun.” I ran and looked behind me. Here they come! Suddenly the ground was getting closer; my body was being pulled down. Children everywhere, pulling at me, falling on me, climbing on me...a three year old sat on my head. I heard a crack. “What was that?” “Was it my nose?” No, even worse, it was my new Woolies sunglasses.
The unpredictability of teaching is something I never expected. No predictions can be made. I can be prepared, I can pre-empt situations, I can have a wonderfully hopeful, fun and positive attitude, but ultimately, my fate lay in the hands of 25 three to six year olds. And just like that child had an effect on my sunglasses, during a moment of fun; each child had an effect on my personality, my spirit, in both negative and positive ways.
 I walked into my first day of teaching thinking that it would be easy, all I needed to do was put into practice what I had been taught, follow the rules, be patient, be kind and all will be fine. I have never been so wrong about anything in my life. From my first day I knew that kindness and patience were not the only traits I needed. A degree in chaos control, pre-school warfare and child psychology would’ve been very helpful too.
Before I started teaching, I thought that all children were more or less the same. They say cute things, do cute things, listen to their teachers (because surely that is what one does in a classroom) and every now and again there is a small dispute that requires your attention, but no, it is not like that at all. Each child is as unique as every adult in the world. Children, however, lack one important trait that adults (well some of them) have. Children lack the ability to accept differences of opinion. And because of this, coupled with a child’s innate need to always push the boundaries, conflicts arise all the time.
“Conflicts”; a report writing term which simply means “fights”. Conflicts arose daily, between children and between children and teachers. It seemed that in my last year of teaching I witnessed and experienced more conflicts, specifically amongst the boys in the class, than all the previous years put together. This is what forced me to rethink my career. The physical and verbal aggression expressed by the boys in the class shocked me. How could a four or five year old child have so little respect for others? I felt overwhelmed and helpless. I remember a day where I was bitten by a child and all I thought was, “how am I supposed to react? I am the adult, he’s only a child.” I later realised that I hadn’t put up effective personal boundaries and therefore couldn’t respond effectively. I obviously knew that biting was unacceptable but I hadn’t consciously set up that boundary yet.  A teacher’s personal boundaries can be very different to the boundaries set up by the school as a whole.
The school I worked at has many discipline techniques, both Montessori techniques and techniques developed by Synergy. They all follow a process whereby the child is given the opportunity to learn effective conflict resolution language and the children (both the victim and the “perpetrator”) are given the opportunity to feel heard. This process also ensures that the consequence (report terminology for “punishment”) is as natural as possible. For example, an unnatural consequence would be if a child drew on someone’s top they don’t get to have a cupcake; the two are not related. The natural consequence would be for the “perpetrator” to clean the top.
 I believe strongly in this form of discipline and can see how my daughter benefits from it, but when parents were not doing the same at home, it left me feeling hopeless and doubting whether I can make a difference in the lives of these children.
I could never really know what went on in the homes of these children. I could speculate because of what the child was talking about, the way I would hear their parents talking with them or the movies they reenacted or by their lack of respect for adults. But ultimately, theses were all assumptions. I often felt that I would take one step forward and then after a weekend or a holiday it would be two steps back again. Consistency is a very difficult thing to maintain if the classroom environment is different to the home environment. Consistency in discipline is one of the biggest obstacles for a teacher and a parent, and for the schools discipline technique to run parallel to the parents discipline technique is almost impossible.
Good, effective communication between teachers and parents is a continuous struggle. Educating parents on the educational method of Montessori teaching was a continuous struggle. I soon realised that I see things very much in black and white. “You either get the Montessori philosophy or you don’t”, this was my attitude. I got frustrated when parents would walk in during class time and want to have a discussion about something or simply get an activity out for their child (not asking if they are able to do that work). Moments like these brought out a side of me I hardly knew; the stubborn, impatient and unforgiving side. It was moments like these that made me question one thing; “Do I change myself in order to enjoy my job more or do I change my job in order to like myself more?” Clearly, as mentioned before, I chose the latter.
I leant early on that teaching is one career where you do not know from one day to the next what your day will be like. Did this scare me? After a while, yes, because I have learnt that I want to have more control in my life. Being a pre-school teacher forced me to get to know myself. A bond, a connection, with each one of those children (and the discovery of who I really am) made replacing my sunglasses every three months completely worth it. As I write this, sitting here, a former pre-school teacher, I am happy to say that only fond memories, and my sanity, remain. No regrets. Only lessons.
 "We do not need to know 'how' or 'where', but there is one question that we should all ask whenever we start something: What am I doing this for?'" Paulo Coelho, The Valkyries.