crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Sunday, April 27, 2008

---Diamonds are a girl's best friend---

Well, maybe 10th-best.

This morning my mate, Kam, and I went shopping in Birmingham's historic Jewellry Quarter. The goal: wedding jewellry.

After the first hour, or so, I was feeling quite depressed because the jewellry on display was all, predictably, too expensive. Diamonds do not come cheap. Though I had my heart set on a set of earrings-and-necklace sparklers, I was quickly learning that this may not be possible. Some shops suggested I go with a real diamond pendant and cubic zirconia earrings, or visa versa. Not ideal.

But Riki and I had talked about a budget, and I was fairly determined not to blow it. At least not exorbitantly. So I held out, and despite liking many separates that were over-budget just in themselves, I did not commit. Then, in an admittedly less-classy shop, I saw a beautiful white gold and diamond pendant that I liked for well under budget; I thought to myself, 'if I get that, and then some fake earrings, Riki would be so proud of my money-consciousness!' The shop assistant, in her wily way, interupted my self-praising to inform, 'if you buy the earrings here too, I'll give you a deal...'

Done. Found some gorgeous diamond hoopy earrings to match the flame-like double-strand diamond pendant, got 35 pounds off the already reasonable price (admittedly, didn't ask questions about the quality of my numerous pinhead diamonds), and sailed out of the shop, happy as a clam.

Hooray for owning my first (okay, second, considering the little twinkly I have on my finger) diamonds!! Now I have to talk myself into giving them to Riki until the wedding. I think I'll sleep with the little jewellers' box under my pillow until he gets home from China.



Yesterday after school I wrote a big long email to update everyone on the recent 'progress' and then I accidentally erased it all and couldn't get it undo. So here I am, a glass (insert: bottle) of wine and 3 hours of karaoke-by-myself later, and I have decided to give it another shot.

A crisis toward the beginning of last week. Didn't enjoy the 'another life decision' that was coming on. Having realised that the university program I was so proud to have been accepted for, and worked so hard to get into is not, in fact, transferrable to BC, my thoughs were kind of dark. I was thinking, okay, now is a good time to get into a nice, easy secretarial position. Funny thing: work less hours, have less stress, bring home more money, bring home less marking. Check.

I also enquired into the university-based PGCE teaching cert. program, half-heartedly. After very little consideration, I decided against that option. I can't bring myself to take a $30,000 pay cut to do the same job for free for 10 months while being condescended to by various snooty host schools.

Then I finally got a-hold of someone of influence at a school in Solihull (the posh area of Birmingham - about 20 minutes from my house) and was invited to interview for a GTP placement there. This is scheduled for Monday. Did I mention that it's a Catholic school? - meh, whatever.

A little more research told me that I actually may have a chance, with this GTP qualification, to transfer my credentials to the BC Independent School Board, if not the BC College of Teachers (elitist bastards). So at least I would, perhaps, have some chance at work in my home province if and when we ever get back there. Not so depressing then.

Fingers double-crossed that things go well with finding an alternate sponsor school for the program to which I've already been accepted; even better if I can find said school within say, a week or less. Otherwise, I may have to commit myself to Whitley for a whole second year. Ugh.


Saturday, April 19, 2008


Months ago, I talked to someone at the BC College of Teachers who told me that a GTP (on-the-job teaching certification program) was most likely transferrable for teaching qualification in British Columbia. I would only have to get an outline of the program from the university to which I was applying and have the course pre-approved.

The happy news: I got accepted into my Number One choice of university!!! I'm scheduled to start the Graduate Teaching Program at the University of Warwick (one of the two top universities for education programs in the whole UK!!!) in September. YAY me!

No good thing, it seems, can exist without a nice dose of reality.

The crap news: I called the BC College of Teachers back to get information on where we should forward the abovementioned documentation for approval and was kindly informed that whomever I had previously spoken to was misinformed. In fact, the GTP is 100% non-transferrable to Canada. Nice.

What's more, even the PGCE (or university-based teaching certification program) is not transferrable. Granted, I wouldn't have to do a full re-do if I took this route, only several upgrading courses (superfun! supertime-consuming! superexpensive! superdegrating-for-someone-whose-been-teaching-for-years-already!), but things could never be as easy as simply transferring the documentation to Canada and taking a teaching position upon arrival.

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. All this F$%┬žing bureaucracy is driving me mental!!! Just get one thing sorted and then something else pops up.

So the thing that makes me the most angry: where the hell does Canada get off thinking that they have a right to be snobby bitches about accepting qualifications from the UK. The UK is our goddamn founding father! I mean, really! As far as I remember, the teachers in my highschools were nothing to write home about anyway. When I asked flat-out whether the board that decides whether or not a qualification is transferrable even glances at quality of teaching, I was promptly informed that that might be something I would take up with them if I am going through the process, but that no, they currently do not. Pretentious assholes.

Oh, and when I mentioned that yes, it was rather inconvenient for me to come back and take the program in Canada, especially considering that the program here is FREE, it was mentioned that that, in fact, is part of the reason they so strictly do NOT accept qualifications transferred from the UK. Apparently, Canada, and BC in particular, want to keep the monopoly they've got on university placements for Bachelor of Education students. Basically, it's not about people's lives at all, but rather about keeping money in the pockets of bigwigs. Same old song and dance.

So, what am I doing here?


On being 'good'

Last Friday everyone at work received the following email: 'urgent meeting in the staffroom at 3:30 today!' It was official, OFSTED were coming.

What is OFSTED? Here in the UK they seem to have an OF---- for everything. It's basically a government office responsible for overseeing the quality of government branches. For schools, it's called OFSTED. They regulate all aspects of the education system, from management to allowances for special needs children, from value for money to actual teaching and learning. I was concerned with the teaching and learning part.

What it meant for me was 5 days of chaos. As you may have noticed from my Facebook, I was off the radar; totally engrossed in work. I worked for at least 12 hours over the weekend (which was shitty, because it was Riccardo's and my last weekend together before his current 15-day stint in China), and topped that up with 11.75 hours at work on Monday, and another 12 hours on Tuesday. In addition to the two hours driving there and back each day, I spent the early part of this week living and breathing work.

I had to have the kids' workbooks marked in minute detail; all their essays, stories and other papers marked and recorded on the grids; filing up-to-date; classroom tidy and wall-displays perfect and colourful; imaginative and engaging lessons planned; resources collected; pupils warned and bribed to behave appropriately; not to mention several staff meetings thrown in the mix!

It wasn't that I was really behind. Ok, I was a little behind on marking and such, what with spending the Easter break in Canada and doing absolutely nothing work-related. But it was more because I didn't want to be the newish, unqualified teacher that let my school down. I wanted everything to be perfect.

It was pretty perfect. Wednesday and Thursday the OFSTED folks were at the school, monitoring and recording, observing and rating. They could pop into any lesson at any time, for any length of time without warning. Some people didn't get observed at all; kind of a waste, I would think, after all the preparations. I was observed, Thursday morning, during my rambunctuous year 8 lesson.

Thankfully, the kids always tone things down a little when there's someone else in the room; this was also enhanced by various members of upper-management poking their heads into the rooms and giving the 'evils' to certain usual culprits of atrocious behaviour. Plus, I had planned a lesson they could really get into: insults. Ok, for educational purposes, I had to narrow it down to Shakespearean insults. And I had to call it, 'investigating the language used by Shakespeare in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"', but it was insults all the same.

I started the lesson by enlisting my two most theatrical students to throw Shakespearean insults at each other in front of the class. I'm pretty sure everyone down the corridor was thinking we were mad. This was followed by a role play by 4 pupils, who read a part of the script; followed by a discussion of why Shakespeare would use such awful language; followed by a quick worksheet; followed by an opportunity for class-members to put together their own Shakespearean insults (using several vocab lists) and share them with the class. It was a hoot - so much so, that we had the OFSTED inspector chuckling!

Happily, as she slyly snuck out of the lesson just before the end, she whispered 'very good!' to me. When I sought her out for feedback later, she explained that she noticed my lesson was well planned and I was organised, that I had good control over the classroom, that the lesson involved a sufficient core of learning, and best of all, though often dry subject-matter, she could tell that my students actually enjoyed studying Shakespeare - a real feat, she assured me! When I asked her what I could do to improve, she simply told me to 'keep up the great work'.

Being a perfectionist, I admit that her feedback was somewhat disappointing. I mean, if nothing was lacking and I didn't do anything wrong, why didn't I get the covetted 'outstanding'? Why does a verbal comment of 'Very good' always seem to get downgraded to a mere 'good' on paper? I mean, ok, only one or two teachers in my school got 'outstanding', but what did I miss to get there? Was it the probable fact that my school had me rated only as a 'satisfactory' teacher, and that OFSTED wasn't comfortable with upping that rank by two whole points (on a four-point scale)? Though my school is extremely happy with my 'good' and I have received many congratulations, I am still somewhat irritated that it wasn't an 'outstanding'.

Better luck three years from now, I guess. In the meantime, OFSTED being the end-all, be-all of observations, I do have something fancy-pants to put on my CV from now on. Because a 'good' ain't all that bad.


    • At 8:58 PM, Anonymous McBeth said…

      Didst thou not learn to be modest?
      Didst thou not learn to be grateful?

      Thou art a real Panta-loon!
      (Greetings from Mr. Shake 's beer)

    • Post a Comment
Monday, April 07, 2008

Running around like a crazy person

I've been back in Canada these last weeks. Wedding planning.

I started off with a bang: wedding dress shopping. I tried on tons, and strangely, there wasn't one that was The One, really. I really liked about four. Of course the one I liked the most was way over budget. But I did not buy something else; I decided to think on it. Common sense told me that this dress was a good one anyway, because it is fairly light, and summery. Back at the hotel, I was lucky enough to find the exact same dress online for nearly half the price. Order it I did. Now I just have to worry about how long it will be stuck in US customs, and how much extra the UPS broker is going to charge me. Damn assholes.

Now that I think about it, that dress is almost exactly what I had envisioned myself in. I sketched nearly the same dress two years ago, when I just started thinking about marriage to my fabulous man. What a coincidence.

I also found the perfect bridesmaid's dresses. Expensive in store, cheaper online. So I ordered those, too. Fingers crossed.

My shopping weekend was hi-jacked by my lovely girlfriends, Kimberly and Ashley. Bachelorette mania ensued on Saturday night. I'm not going to post pictures because (a) I'm sure anyone who wanted to already saw them on Facebook; and (b) they are FAR too embarrassing. Yes, the girls' aimed to recreate the Delta Burke of old, complete with blue eyeshadow. Grrrr. Unfortunately, mixed in with the Rockstar-playing, was a little too much Fireball-drinking and I don't actually remember leaving Kim's house for the bar. Then, apparently, I was out cold during the car-ride into the city only to wake up and chuck my cookies all over a homeless man (well, almost). All this at about 8:30pm. Nice.

Well, HUGE thanks to the ladies for all the planning and effort, nonetheless. It was a great time... from what I can remember.

Back in The 'Loops, I was off-and-running. My To-Do List was a mile long, and I was determined to finish it. Thankfully I didn't allow myself to recover fully from jet-lag, so I was up before 8:00 almost every day. I met with the photographer, the DJ the florist and the baker, I shopped for decor, decor, decor, I priced out menus and re-arranged the budget. I order suits for the boys, and researched group-rates at hotels. I met with the neighbours about planning and organising (since the wedding is in the neighbour's yard). I attempted making shoji-lanterns with help from my mom's glue-gun; they turned out just a little lopsided. Somehow I found some time to get my hair done, and have a couple meals with family, but barely! In the end, I did manage to complete the WHOLE list. I think things will be a lot less busy this summer, now. Phew.

Another 18 hours of travel, and I'm back home. Boy, did I miss Riccardo. We spent the remainder of the weekend chilling; I spent much of it sleeping. Today I have my interview for University. It's not for 3 more hours, and I've already been up for 2, but I couldn't sleep at all last night, so I'm up. No rest for the weary.


    • At 9:42 PM, Blogger Danica said…

      Call me if you have time (yah right - it's okay if you don't, I know you must be crazy busy)
      We'll go drink something together.

    • Post a Comment

adopt your own virtual pet!