Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Who does that voice look like?

I started writing this three weeks ago, and ended up having to split it into three blog posts to have it make sense. I started on an evening when the Mists of Pandaria update prevented me from playing, but couldn’t find my voice, so ended up writing about Super! instead. I tried again this morning – a post about stereotypes and teachers, but again, it wasn’t coming out right. So I’m giving you the first part of that post – a comment on stereotypes in TV and movies. I’ll get into the rest as soon as possible. I know I’m a few weeks behind, but we just moved into our new house, and hopefully my busy days are done. Here goes:

A few weeks ago, I talked about the American school system and the extremist schools that are going to teach the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, proving the existence of God. At that time I went down the road of supernatural interest and ghost stories. I did, however, mention that in another reality, I might have talked a little about teachers and stereotypes and why the stereotypes exist.

So here we go, rolling the dice again and heading into another reality:

That one was all of the realities in one. Very amusing if you’ve seen the episode. If not, belated SPOILERS!

And the die lands, and Damian decides to talk about teachers. (edit:  But that was too much work, so he’s left it with stereotypes)

I was going to write about teachers last week, but then something happened that would have meant I spent most of the time bitching about one particular teacher instead of talking about teachers in general. I’m plenty mellow tonight, so here goes…

In case you care.

I was listening to the Friday Night comedy podcast from BBC Radio. Tim Minchin was interviewing Caitlin Moran, and she sounded very cluey and it was a very amusing interview. And I realised that I had no idea what she looked like. And then I realised that I couldn’t even guess with any real accuracy. My reasoning goes as follows: if you watch a lot of American TV and movies, you start to match voices to faces. Americans love typecasting people. And when you hear someone on the radio in America, there is a good chance that they look how they sound. I know that this is incredibly generalistic (if generalistic is a word) but try it some time.

When I listen to British people on the radio, there is no typecasting going on in my head. I can’t picture them. I had no idea what Caitlin Moran looked like.

OK, here’s my theory: in America, there are a vast number of people who audition for every acting/media part. Given that excess of talent, producers/casting agents choose people who NOT ONLY can act/sing/talk, but who ALSO fit the concept in their head. A concept that is a stereotype drawn from generations of other casting agents doing the same thing. Types change. New types are added, but in general, they’re a little bit predictable.

In the UK, with far less people to draw from, the really talented people don’t necessarily fit a mind model. And this is just me being slightly nice to the Americans. I’d prefer to say that the British are just less shallow and pick people for true talent rather than what they look like. But there’s a chance that the population excess could be true too.

Either way, although there are types in British tv, they aren’t as fixed in stone as in America. Who would have thought of Katherine Tate as a companion for the Doctor?

I’m currently watching Episodes, with Matt le Blanc (actually, I’m watching Episodes with my wife, but Matt le Blanc is on the show). A British writing team are conned into coming to America to write an American version of their hit British show, about a school headmaster. It’s very funny and pokes a lot of fun at shows like American Coupling, Red Dwarf or Men Behaving Badly. But that’s not my point. It’s funny because we all know that when an American production company gets hold of a British property, they change it so that it fits in with an American audience.

They don’t take into account the reason why so many Americans watch the show (making it viable for a remake) is the humour in the British way of thinking about life. And probably the fact that the Brits don’t just hire pretty people and stick glasses on them to make them ugly.

OK. Do my job for me. Episodes is about the creation of a sitcom at a high school. It will feature a number of different stereotypes, because we all think back to our school days and remember:

– the militant PE teacher.

– The Maths teacher in his sandals and socks.

– The IT teacher who wouldn’t come out into the light and

– The hippy English teacher who would quote poetry at you and be disappointed when you didn’t burst into tears at the very words entering your head.

Or maybe not. Which types of teachers did you encounter over and over? I’m halfway through my teacher blog. Back on track next Wednesday.

Oh, and no new Finding Damo – the Novel as yet. But the show was a ripping success.

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Teachers get paid too much!

“You teachers get paid too much already. Why are you striking for more?”

Someone actually said this. And this is probably the main reason why we go on strike. It happens every time we go into pay negotiations. The government go in with an offer at the bottom end. The unions ask for something completely over the top. Nobody budges. We go on strike. The general public tell us we’re already earning more than we should, as glorified babysitters, and the proverbial hits the fan.

Nobody likes being told that the career that they have decided to make their own is worthless. Everybody knows that the job that they do is vital to the running of the community. I imagine that I would be quite dismissive if the Paparazzi Union was calling for more money, but apart from that, most sectors of the workforce do a fantastic job for what is probably not enough money.

Apart from CEOs of massive corporations. And the politicians who are telling us we’re worthless.

But I’m a teacher. And so I’m going to focus on my problems and my gripes now. Listen if you will. Share this if you agree. Leave nasty comments if you don’t. I have some big burly year nine students I can send around to your house to argue the point.

“Teachers get into work at 9 and leave at 3.15!”

Uh huh. Ri-ight. I left home this morning before seven, as I always do (except for the mornings I do the student radio show and leave home at 5.45). In at work by 8. I plan on leaving at 5 tonight, and calling it an early one. I’ll be in on Saturday from 9am until after 5.

“Ah, but this is a special event – you’re doing a school production (Super! It’ll be great. Tell your friends)!”

Yes, but as a teacher, the special events keep coming. I’m involved in:

–           debating (at least 5 nights out over weeks, plus planning)

–          The Writing club

–          Public speaking

–          The production

–          Parent teacher evenings

–          Taking results for Sports meets at night

–          Information nights (many MANY information nights)

–          School camps

SCHOOL CAMPS!

Which other profession has you working 24 hours a day for a week in a supervisory role? At a co-ed school, we’d sleep in shifts, to make sure someone was up all night for checking rooms and the like!

“You get twelve weeks of school holidays!”

Who gets twelve weeks of holidays? I know I don’t! I get twelve non-teaching weeks, which is not the same thing. I spend at least one week of each holiday marking work and planning tasks for the next term, making sure that my students have the best education they can get. And then, when we do get to go on holidays, flights and accommodation cost double because – what do you know – it’s school holiday time!

But back to the original question:

“You teachers get paid too much already. Why are you striking for more?”

We’re not. At this point in time, we’re striking for some basic respect.

“The Premier’s promise could not have been clearer – he would make teachers “not the worst paid, the best paid”.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/today-our-teachers-deserve-our-support-20120905-25ddm.html#ixzz25YTdbatA

We are being offered a 2.5% increase in pay, if and only if, we also accept the following concessions:

  1. An extra hour a week teaching.
  2. All professional development to be undertaken during holidays.
  3. An extra week in school for school support officers.
  4. There is no longer an automatic increase in pay.
  5. Teachers will be paid bonuses instead of wage increases.

Now that last one sounds ok, if you’re a good teacher. You do a good job, you get a bonus. What could be simpler. However:

–          The principal has to pick the top ten per cent of teachers for a 10% bonus.

–          The next 40% get a 6% bonus

–          The bottom 20% don’t get a bonus.

–          At least 5% of teachers are not allowed to go up in pay each year at each school.

This is incredibly divisive. It is a hard choice for the principal, especially at a small school. And if every teacher at a school is doing a great job, what happens then?

I know I can live on what I earn now. It is the rare teacher who does the job for the money. But I hate the thought that we are dismissed simply because we are willing to do the job at a wage that proves to the general public that we are not professionals.

Finally, a couple of people who have said it better:

A petition to make Ted keep his promise to teachers

Teachers should be paid as babysitters

 

Super!

I had a phenomenally deep, completely insightful blog half-written on Wednesday, before my brain melted into a sludge and left me drooling on the keyboard. When I went back to it, there was nowhere to go and no end in sight. So I’ve shelved it.

Why? Why is our heroic blogger unable to blather on about nothing for pages this week? Surely he hasn’t “lost it”!

Gods. I hope not. No, today is eight days before the first audience for my production Super! and nine days before the official showing. That’s right. One night only! Don’t get me started. Well, don’t get me started yet.

So my focus is on the show, rather than Finding Damo. And yet, here I am, taking the time to keep you all informed. Do you feel privileged?

Right, so there are two brothers, Zack and Joss. They are dropped off for their first day of school and, after travelling through the secret tunnel and pulling the nose on the statue, arrive, ready to learn. And they’re met by Igor, who welcomes them to Super Hero High School.

That’s right. Their parents have sent them to a high school for super heroes.

Health and Safety is a MUST!

Students come to the school in the hopes that they can join the elite force of country-saving super heroes – the equivalent of a nuclear stockpile in global politics. Zapped with radiation within their first few days, they are tested for powers and then trained for the rest of their school life to be the most effective heroes they can be.

School being what it is, there are always cliques. In a Super powered school, the main factions are the Heroes – dedicated to law, order and mall appearances, and Villains – bent on world domination, but with the best intentions of course. The majority, however, aren’t super powered. They are the Norms: the downtrodden majority. The elite of these can be utilised as henchmen or sidekicks (or lackeys for Igor, who runs the Henchmen and Sidekicks Union). But mostly they clean the floors and are pushed around, running errands at the whim of the Supers.

When Zack and Joss both manifest and choose opposite factions, and the Norms Jeff and Ted are bullied one too many times, Super Powers High School becomes a much more interesting place to be.

I wrote the play while travelling around Europe. Long train journeys, an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard made for a fantastic writing environment. I wrote it with a certain cast in mind, and I even got a couple of them. It’s definitely written for a high school cast. It’s also written for Shereen, Pippa and Dave, who are almost my entire audience when I write stuff in my head. Lots of Whedon references – some subtle, some a complete rip off. They wouldn’t let me do Dr. Horrible, so I did it anyway, but with a bigger cast and less girl.

OK. Six minutes before I have to go and do some work. I would suggest, that if you live in Melbourne and have nothing better to do on the 12th September, come and see it! St James College, East Bentleigh. No bookings, $5 entry. Great music from Smashmouth, Voltaire, the Living End, Michael Buble, Oasis, the Dollyrots and Oingo Boingo.

And for those wondering if I’ve added to Finding Damo – the novel, remember: melted brain, screaming Year 7 students, grumpy teenagers and the need to create a Human Fly costume in the next couple of days.

That would be a no. I promise, after the 12th, I will write 2000 words before my birthday.

PS: My stories are still selling well on Alfie Dog. If you want one for whatever device on which you read eBooks, go to the website! I’d love it if you let me know what you thought, good or bad. And tell them you want more werewolf stories, because I really want to sell them Shoot for the Moon.

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