Finding Damo

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

Archive for the tag “teaching”

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

 

Instant offspring

From the last blog:

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldnt see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didnt like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. Im not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon Id be highly nervous following that dream.

And so the dice is thrown again, and another reality is realised in blog form. This is how the blog could have gone.

stork

I was sure that there was more to having a child than this…

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to tell you that Finding Damo is, in part, about my finding out that I have a son. It is the first chapter of the book. The mental challenge has been: how would I react to having a son? How would he react to me being his dad? And what are you meant to do with a teenager when one is dropped on your doorstep?

The dream made me think through this in a lot more detail. How much luckier am I, who has perfectly happy son, who is a stranger to me, than the woman with the autistic child, who is an alien to her? She loves her son with all of her heart, but can’t get inside his head or in many cases understand his motivation.

But how would Damo react to the first fight? What would the major power struggles be? How has he been disciplined by his mother before Damo was on the scene?

I have to believe that being a teacher would give me a bit of an advantage over someone who has never dealt with students before. The “dealing” with teenagers is what I get paid to do. But apparently there’s more to it than that. All of a sudden you are not just responsible for his grades and schoolyard behaviour, but you have to take responsibility for his every action. Some of it I could blame on his mother – her genes and her rearing. But for the most part, all of a sudden, when a teacher complains about his behaviour in class, it’s my fault, at least in part. And I’ve felt it – even with students in my homeroom. I know what they’re made up of. They are so much better than how people see them. And I want to protect them. God knows, if that’s how I respond to students who aren’t genetically related to me, it’s going to be worse for my own son.

On the bright side, now I’d have someone to join in on the destruction of the evil forces of the Horde. Someone to train in the ways of Red Dwarf fandom. I’d have him do drills of Coupling quotes… That brings up another issue.

A student comes up to me and said “hey. I finished GTA IV last night. That last scene was an absolute killer. Blood everywhere!” And I responded: “Are you kidding me? You’re in Year 7!” I’m incredibly strict with anyone I have responsibility for. And totally lax with anybody else. My aim as a child-rearer is to create someone as self-aware and together as I am. Hey, don’t laugh. I wasn’t allowed to watch M-rated movies until I was 15 and it didn’t hurt me. I did, of course, go to my friends’ places for access to anything more adult – Predator and The Toxic Avenger come to mind, not to mention the videos I won’t mention (incredibly educational). More on this in a sec.

Sidebar for teachers: have you ever (and you know you have, don’t deny it) sat in Parent-teacher interviews and seen an attractive parent and thought “hmmm”? And then seen whose parent it is and put all those thoughts out of your mind. Luckily, I found the mother with the most gorgeous child imaginable. And not during parent/teacher interviews…

I try not to talk about my current family too much on Finding Damo. This blog is about a man that I used to be, that never was, but could have been. The person I am now shouldn’t enter into it. That’s spoilers! But in this situation, my current family is relevant.

My two stipulations for dating, two-and-a-half years ago, were:

  1. Must love cats.
  2. No children.

Now, I am married to my lovely wife, who doesn’t like cats and has a seven-year-old daughter. Which means I now have a seven-year-old step-daughter. Voila! Instant parent. And it’s all been very easy. Too easy, he says, eyeing the forest uneasily. I love my wife. I love my step-daughter. They both love me. Shereen’s favourite story is of the time Young Miss O said to her “I love you so much! I love you as much as Damian!”

O’s other major comment on me is “He’s strict. He’s teaching me manners!”

I’m really not. I’m teaching her my manners. The rules of conduct that I was raised with, and that served me well in polite society. I will admit here (and try and dissuade Shereen from reading it) that it might not be the only way of interacting with society. But it worked for me and, like a basic knowledge of Christianity (and Buddhism, and Islam, and SCIENCE!), at least knowing the rules is an invaluable part of getting on with the people she’ll be dealing with. Most of them, anyway.

How is this relevant? Young Miss O has been like research. How would I respond to this situation? Well, that was enlightening? What would she do if I did this? Oh. Well, there you go! Scribble it all down in the little note book and get back to the book.

As for the book, I’m going to start posting a word count at the start of each blog, from next blog onwards. It’s time I start progressing again and get this one finished. I have a clear understanding of everything I want to happen, I have an incredibly detailed plan. I have a multitude of interesting characters, with most of the names changed to protect the guilty, and all I have to do is get it all down on paper. So here we go.

Blog. No, Frog. No, blog.

I got married on the weekend. I might even talk about it. But not yet. The reason I mention it is because I had the Monday off to celebrate and came back to work to Parent-Teacher interviews, which lasted until nine at night. Welcome back.

I mention THAT because while we were having dinner during the break, I was sitting with one of the teachers – a Master Storyteller.

‘So my dad was in Borneo and was responsible for getting the Japs out of the country, re-settlement and all that. And there was this one village where they’d killed all of the villagers except for this one guy. And he was a cannibal.
‘No, really.
‘So he was in charge of guiding the Japanese prisoners to their work detail. And every day he’d take out four of them and every day he’d only come back with three.
‘ “Run off in the bush,” he’d tell my father. And seriously, he was Changi thin to start off with, but by the end of the occupation he was quite fat! And Dad always said “We’d get in so much trouble – put up for war crimes – if we let on we knew, so I chose to believe that these guys were running off.’

It was absolutely hilarious. Not so much now that I’m writing it down for an audience who doesn’t know him, but at the time…

Anyway, I got married on the weekend. A gesture of extreme optimism. Because of course, the bees are disappearing and the frogs – well, don’t get me started on the frogs.

There is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that Einstein once said: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”

But that’s never stopped anyone. And we don’t care that Einstein wasn’t a botanist or a bee-keeper, because he had cool hair and was photographed with his tongue sticking out. But it makes sense. If the bees disappear, nothing pollinates the flowers. No pollination, no fruit or vegies. Animals die. We die. Cockroaches take over the world. And everyone’s happy.

20120505-132803.jpgEspecially the frogs. Cos right now, the frogs aren’t very happy at all! Frogs respirate through their skin. They lay their eggs unprotected in fresh water. They really suck at dealing with pollution. I was walking through a swamp the other day and this frog stuck his tongue out at me. It almost took my eye out. They’re not impressed with our management of the planet.

Conspiracy: the bees are disappearing because of mobile phones. Apparently, all of the signals flying through the air are disrupting their navigational signals. They get lost, like me when there’s no reception. Hence the problem: I can’t find my way around without a phone. They can’t find their way with one.

And yes, this is scattered. I’m not entirely sure I want to talk about my wedding. Finding Damo isn’t about a guy who’s married. It’s about a single guy looking for love. It would be like giving away the ending really, except that this Damo character is fictional.

I can tell you about our wedding night – No! don’t stop reading, I’m not telling you about THAT part of it! I’m just going to have a little conversation about expectation and reality. And before I do that, let me tell you: I love my wife. I loved my wedding weekend. It was pure bliss all the way through and nothing that happened was going to ruin my happiness.

Even so…

We stayed at Carrington House in Daylesford . We stayed there last Feb and had a wonderful time so we thought we’d give them some repeat business. After the wedding we drove up and wandered in, tired and happy and looking forward to our Steam Room.

“Steven?” they asked as we came in.
“Um, no.” we said. “It’s under Shereen. It’s our wedding night.”
You should have seen her face fall.

I know two Shereens. Only two. Ever. But apparently there’s a third one, and she’d turned up 20 minutes before us and the woman had given her our room.

So Carrington House gets the award for being the first hotel in history to DOWNGRADE a couple on their wedding night.

“Of course, we’ll refund you your room and swap you across in the morning.”
Nope. They went off to talk. The guy came back and gave us $50 “The difference in price in the rooms is $20” and he felt like he was being generous. So we stayed in our smaller, boring room, went to the hassle of moving again the next day and lived with it because on our wedding weekend the last thing we wanted was a hassle.

To top it off, they are no longer a bed and breakfast. They don’t do breakfast. The only reason we’d come back to this place. It’s absolutely not worth the money any more, but more importantly, they had the opportunity to do the right thing a number of times that weekend to the wedding couple they’d screwed over, and failed to do so.

So I bag them online. Whee!

20120505-133646.jpgSo we got married on the weekend. I have never felt happier in my life than at the moment that my bride to be came through the chapel doors towards me up the aisle. This is backed up by the photos of me grinning like an absolute idiot.

Hang on, I’ll find my vows:

Shereen, From this day on
I choose you to be my beloved soul mate and wife.

I vow:
to trust and value your opinions, and stand by your actions.
to work for a happy life for both of us;
to listen when you need to talk;
to cherish and encourage you;
to live with you and laugh with you;
to stand by your side and sleep in your arms;
to be joy to your heart and food to your soul;
to bring out the best in you always;
to be the best I can be, just for you;
to celebrate with you in the good times;
to struggle with you in the bad;
to take you in my arms when you need to be held;
to ask for help when I need it, and offer help when necessary;
to be true and faithful;
as we journey together through the rest of our lives.

Of course, I spent the entire time in my head going I’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarried “I do” I’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarried “I will!”
I’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarried– Oh it’s over!

But as I said, I don’t want to talk about the wedding for ages. I will, but it requires fixing my thoughts and trying to get it as perfect as the day itself was.

I will make the comment that it is imperative to prepare your thank you speech before the day. Here’s mine:
20120505-131819.jpg

Hate to love you and leave you, but there’s a bee at the front door asking for a Melway.

The gap in the picture

Before I start, I should warn you. This one’s heavy. Really heavy. If you’re looking for light-hearted comic relief, take a week off from Finding Damo and go and read Least I Could Do, which is a fantastic online comic strip. Next week will be lighter. I promise. I really want to start getting into the characters I deal with in Finding Damo. I want to look at their motivations and, as I mentioned in the first couple of posts, the meaning of success, which is an important theme in the novel.

But I keep getting sucked in by real life. In this case, I was thinking about my upcoming wedding. And my brother’s wedding. And my sister’s wedding. My graduating to become a teacher. The birth of my nieces and nephews. All wonderful, happy joyous times. All missing one vital participant.

My father.

Ian Perry was an incredible man and a wonderful father. He was as full of life as any man can be. He was involved in all aspects of the community and was surrounded by friends and colleagues who had nothing bad to say about him.

He died of cancer back in 2000. His funeral was inspiring in the number of people who came to pay their respects and the great things they told us about him. I looked around on that day and realised that if my funeral was anything like his, then I would have achieved as much as anyone could expect.

I look back at myself in my 20s and think “hmmm, mediocre.” Not bad, not a complete loser, but really, not having done anything particularly worthy either. My job was enjoyable but ultimately not going anywhere. My relationship at the time very similar. I was marking time.

Dad’s death pushed me to action. My first action was to run away. I ran to Japan – culturally and linguistically as different to Australia as possible – to teach English. Dad had always told me that if I was going to travel, that I should go to an Asian country. That had nothing to do with my decision to go to Japan – that decision was my partner’s – but it was utmost in my mind on a number of occasions while I lived there: “Dad should still be alive to see me living in Japan.

By the end of the year I knew that I loved teaching. I applied to Bendigo University to do my Graduate Diploma in Education. When I graduated, at the same time as my sister, I looked at my graduation photos and with one part of my mind I saw our triumph and success and with the rest I saw the gap in the picture where Dad would have slotted in.

I was ecstatic when my brother asked me to read something at his wedding, but teared up on the day as the first of us to get married did it, surrounded by friends and family, everyone we really loved, save one. Again, there is a gap in the wedding photo. My sister’s wedding, the birth of all four of his grandchildren. Gap gap gap gap gap.

And that gap isn’t a bad thing. I don’t always look at the gap and feel sad. The gap is my father, still there in his absence. I don’t want to get into the minefield of religion and the afterlife, but even on the most basic level, I look at those gaps on my good days and see that his non-presence in each of those photos, those life-events, is the reason why those events happened. Most certainly, the joy I hear in the voices of Dad’s ex-students as they reflect on his teaching was instrumental in my becoming a teacher myself, hoping that I could inspire a generation of students in the same way. I’m still working on that.

Spoiler alert for those who love How I Met Your Mother, but are a few seasons behind…

Everybody left with me is up to speed on HIMYM? Good.

When Marshall’s father died, my fiancé and I, who have both lost parents, were deeply affected. What was worst for me was Marshall railing against a world that would take his father from him before he could show him the man he had become, the man he would become. My own grief is expressed in the same way: why the hell should my father be taken from me before I could show him what I’ve become? I’ve been to Japan, I’ve become a teacher, I’ve finished my novel and now I’m getting married. And I did all of that after he died. I have no idea whether he’s up there watching over me. I might believe one way or the other, but I don’t know. So I really would have preferred that he was down here and I could see the pride in his eyes. I’ve accomplished so much in the time since he died.

Is melancholy the word I’m looking for here? A sweet sadness, looking back at the man he was and the gap in the picture that is. In my mind, in the man that I have become because of him, he will definitely be there at my wedding.

I just wish he could really be there as well…

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