Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cheese before bedtime?

OK, so it's just before 3pm on a weekday - when I should be in school, of course - but I am actually in bed. Yes, I have finally succumbed to the many and various virii that have taken residence inside me, and I am (properly! not man-flu!) ill. I woke up this morning at the usual time, feebly threw an arm out to switch off the radio, rang school to say I was feeling horrid and passed out back into sleep again.

Last night I had some very weird dreams, in between all of the waking up / coughing and spluttering stuff. The most notable started with me just being out and bumping into Kate Moss, us becoming great mates, and her buying me a shiny new guitar. Then Heat magazine (a UK gossip mag, fact fans) printed a story about us getting married, which got us angry and led to both Kate Moss and I going to their offices to wreck the joint. Then I woke up. And if anyone can tell me where the hell that come from and what on earth it could mean, I would appreciate it greatly. I promise I didn't eat anything dodgy before bed last night at all, but that dream (and it's vividness) has completely thrown me for six. And Kate Moss isn't even that hawt.

Moving on, school is going well, even though I had a terrible day on Tuesday. One of those days when nothing seemed to be going right - my lessons I taught that day were alright (nothing special), my bike broke down AGAIN, I was feeling the start of this wave of illness... just lots of little things all building up that saw me just take to bed as soon as I got home. However, I have chosen to do this course, so I've got to take the good with the bad, and yesterday saw an improvement. I only did one lesson (Maths) but it was good, mainly down to me going mental with the Interactive Whiteboard, making all manner of screens with movable pizzas, chocolate bars and the like. Who'd have thought that fractions could actually be vaguely interesting? And more importantly, that I would be the person to do it?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The name is Fox... Mr Fox...

Ladies and Gentlemen - I am now *officially* a teacher. Well, not proper officially, but I did teach my first lesson today. Though it was very much an in-at-the-deep-end thing, I thought I shoudl do something I knew about, so first lesson this morning was The Beginning: ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Me and computers are an OK partnership, so off we trotted to the school's ICT Lab - 23 nine- and ten-year-olds and the man of the (amateur) hour!

A quick recap of last week's lesson went OK, and a quick Q&A session was pretty good too. Each member of the class was then despatched to their own PC, promptly logged in, and looked to me for the guidance and instruction that the teacher is meant to provide... and you know what? I think I did a pretty good job. We're doing "retrieving information from databases" at the minute, and I was charged with explaining a few of the more complex instructions the system uses. It took a fair bit of explaining (and showing examples on the classroom's projector screen, of course) but even the less adept members of the group got the hang of it after a while. They even worked their way through a sheet of questions I'd prepared, only pointing out two of the three spelling mistakes! I'm only human.

Anyway, the hour long lesson absolutely flew by. While the class were off in assembly, I discussed how I'd done with the proper class teacher. As usual, she was very positive, along with being happy she didn't have to do the lesson herself as she's quite the technophobe. She then asked if I'd be willing to do every ICT class through the year, to which I agreed - after all, I want as much experience as possible. We then planned a schedule of other lessons I can take a crack at... so tomorrow I'm trying Maths AND Science.

There's deep end and there's Atlantic Ocean levels. I don't think I'll be too bad, but there's always the thought that I've bitten off more than I can chew. Ah well - we shall see what happens.

Also - quick note - "World War Z" which I bought yesterday is amazing.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Brain static

No real structure to this update today. Merely random stuff spilling from my head. I apologise in advance for the deviation from the regular programming, but it seems I can't keep my mind on one subject for more that 2 minutes.

Icky news: I *still* feel like poo, though the weary bone phase seems to have passed. I'm now on what I pray is the final section of the virus, wherein I produce the equivalent of a small ocean of mucus on an hourly basis. To add more fuel to the bodyshock, I now firmly believe someone at school has fleas, as I now have - no exaggeration - 20 different insect bites; 18 on my legs, and 2 on my left wrist, which is bloody KILLING ME! The only solutions are to either fumigate the school or shave all the kids. I shall decide overnight on which option to select.

If you're a regular(ish) reader of my little corner of the interwebs, you'll know that when I feel crappy, only shopping for music or books will drag me out of my malaise. Today, in between all the sneezing, I hit the bookstore and picked up Max Brooks (son, I discovered today of Mel!) latest offering - "World War Z". Told completely straight, it chronicles a near-future war between humans and the undead, and so is perfect bedtime reading. I also picked up some (gasp!) manga for the first time since Akira first came out - probably - in the shape of the first volume of "Battle Royale". As I like the book and love the film(s), I'm pretty sure I'm on safe ground. Oh, and to add another one to the pile, when I got home from work, a copy of John Allison's latest Scary Go Round collection was sitting on the mat. It's called "The Retribution Index", and collates a good year's worth of adventures of Shelley, Amy and Co. Well worth getting, alongside pretty much everything else he's done.

That's about it, to be honest. I need a good night's sleep as I'm teaching my first 'proper' lesson to the class tomorrow, and I want to be on good form. News on that tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Wuuuuuurrrrrghhh. Five days in, and already the children of school have infected the adult population with their evil lurgey. Actually, scratch that - they've actually only infected the people who haven't been exposed to their bugs and germs before; namely me and my fellow trainee Kate. We're already wiped out and it's only Tuesday. I'm sure by the time the weekend rolls round we'll be like extras from any given Romero zombie flick. Until then, we fight on, pitchforks and flaming torches in hand.

School is still good. I'm still waking up in the morning with a smile. Even if you were to go into the place with a bad mood on, I'm quite sure that after ten minutes of the constant attention that you get on entering a classroom the mood would lift, simply because it has to. No bad thing, that. The teacher I work with is incredibly supportive, takes on my ideas and suggestions, and seems happy with what I do in class. I've even taken a few plenaries - summations to you and me - already, and will be doing my first whole lesson next week! Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end. And if you mess something up, as long as you're honest the children are fine. It's if you try and cover a mistake that they'll absolutely destroy you ;)

I think I'm doing alright on my paperwork and stuff so far too. I'm going to have a pile of folders reaching the ceiling by the end of the year, but at the moment all seems to be under control. I find coming home, getting a brew, then sitting in front of the computer and getting on with stuff for another hour or so is the best way of dealing with it - which for me is quite surprising. I've never really been motivated to do that 'continuing work when you get home' thing before... instead I've preferred the idea of 'forget about work as soon as you walk out the door'. Does this mean I may well actually be growing up? Has the lazy michael suddenly discovered (gasp!)... a work ethic?

Stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I know I'm in a happy mood and all that, but I've been meaning to post this for a while, and kept forgetting. Well, now I've remembered, and though this is officially a Sad Post, I hope you see the love that's in it too. About six months ago, a good friend of mine died. I shan't go into the specifics of what happened, but when I heard it knocked me sideways. Anyway, when the whole thing was done, I posted a thread on one of the forums I write on, just to collect my thoughts really and try and make sense of what had gone on. I constantly worry that it'll get deleted off the forum, so I just want to put it here for posterity, I suppose. It's one of the most honest things I've ever written.

"So I'm 30, and never had to go to a funeral until yesterday. A good friend of mine died on Saturday, though (thanks to not checking my emails) I didn't find out until Sunday night. Cue mayhem as I tried to organise time off from work, making sure my suit was clean, and getting everything generally sorted. Wasn't even sure I'd make the funeral as the police had to release the body as it was 'suspicious circumstances', so coming up to Manchester on Monday saw me fretting on the train as to whether I'd miss my chance to say goodbye.

Thankfully(!) it all took place on Tuesday. Plenty of time for people to drop everything and make their way back. As Monday afternoon turned to evening, friends I hadn't seen for ages all arrived in ones and twos at our meeting places (Night and Day and The Temple of Convenience). Drink flowed. Music played. Songs were sung. Stories told. Tears were cried. I've never been a witness to so much love - not just for our departed Brian, but for all the people left behind.

More people arrived - tour dates cancelled with hours notice (Brian was a musician, and a bloody good one at that) as they flew in from Europe, from the USA. More songs, more stories. Eventually bed beckoned, and I realised I had nowhere to stay - I'd forgotten to organise something in the mayhem. Sofas and spare beds were offered immediately as everyone just pulled together.

Tuesday morning, all back to Night and Day. People looking incredible, the girls beautiful, the boys smart - everyone smiling, telling more tales, but knowing that soon it would be the last chance to say goodbye. A fleet of cabs to the Jewish Cemetary in Failsworth, and seeing the hundreds of people gathered showed us all how much he was loved. The ceremony was moving (obviously), but still had an element of joy about it - even a few jokes. The sun shone on a cold January morning as we laid Brian to rest next to his dad. Not many tears, just a few shakes of the head and the odd "I can't believe it".

Back again to N&D for the wake, or The Aftershow as we referred to it. Speeches, champagne and salutes. The gathering of phone numbers, promises of seeing each other soon (and even better, the knowledge that these promises would ring true). A few goodbyes, kisses and hugs from friends, and a few private tears on the train home.

Not bad for a first funeral. Good luck Brian, you silly bastard. We'll miss you."

I still think of Brian, and all my friends I left in Manchester. And if anything good came from him leaving us, it was that the promises we made to see each other more did come true. We still miss him, and we still know he was a silly bastard, but cheers mate - wherever you are.

It begins.

Wednesday 6th September, 2006. The day I lose my first name, and am destined to be referred to by small people as "Mr Fox" for the rest of my life. Ladies and Gentlemen of the interwebs - today was my first proper day as a trainee teacher. And it was fun. You know that you're finally in a good place when you walk into assembly to be introduced to the entire school to the sound of The Flaming Lips - turns out the Headmistress (who is mid-50s, by the way) is a big fan of Wayne and co. Amazing scenes :)

I've actually spent the last few days in school, preparing everything for the arrival of the children today. Monday and Tuesday involved the final sorting of stuff; labelling drawers, putting names on exercise books, trying to remember the French for 'sit down'... the usual. But today was The Day, when I finally assumed the responsibilty for a class full of nine-year-olds. And you know what...? It didn't go too badly at all. While I am not exactly the most useful person to have about the class in a teaching capacity at the moment, the teacher I'm learning from/with has a bit of technofear, so loves the fact that I can actually work the Interactive Whiteboard or set up a projector. It's so nice being in a place of work that I'm wanted at, and that I want to be at. First time in a long time, I can tell you.

I have the usual suspects in my class. The boys who you know will be fighting off the girls in a few years, but will unfortunately still be as dumb as a bag of hammers (yet will get away with it his entire life!). The SEN (Special Educational Needs) kids who you can't help but root for because they try so damn hard. The class joker. The scarily hyper-intelligent girls (we have loads of them). I like just walking around the class, seeing who needs a hand with stuff, answering questions and such. I even did a bit of talking in front of the whole class today, presenting some stuff on Charles Dickens! Right in at the deep end. Brilliant. AND they gave me a laptop. DVDs and interwebs in bed! It's like heaven!

I feel, for once, like I'm in the right place. Here's hoping it'll continue.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Stan Chow is one of the greatest illustrators about at the moment - and after many years of bugging the hell out of him, he's finally come up trumps and given me one of his pieces. One of the perks of friendship! It's truly lovely, and will be gracing my living room wall as of tomorrow, when I can get to B&Q and learn how to put pictures up. It's huge too, about four feet tall and three feet across. Aaaaand... here it is!

Heeeee! I now officially own 'art'!