WEEK OF SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2013:
It has been a great week here.
|One carriage on the Northern Line between Lincoln-Sheffield.|
Monday evening I went to Lincoln to visit Eric and Wendy (Kevin in SGF's parents.) They fixed a great dinner of jackets (baked potato), cole slaw, deli ham and roast beef, green leaf salad, tomatoes, cheeses, and breads. For dessert, biscuits and red wine, which we had out by a bonfire that Eric made. We even roasted a couple of marshmallows. We talked and talked and talked, for nearly three hours under a starry sky and beside orange fla
|Eric and Wendy in the garden.|
Tuesday we drove to Skegness and I visited with and observed three teachers: a reading intervention teacher, (7th grade) a sixth form English teacher (jr/sr) and a sixth form early childhood teacher...meaning she teaches the course for students to get their early childhood certificate. She gave me a sample of her literacy lessons. The Head Teacher (male) is a former secondary English teacher, and although the national curriculum requires literacy in all content areas, he pushes it. Each
|Everyone teaches reading and writing.|
The afternoon was spent at the beach. Although it was chilly, it sure was a pretty, pretty day.
|That's right. Donkeys. North Sea in the background.|
Full sunshine. We had a "cuppa" tea on the pier. The water was muddy and cloudy. I took off my stockings and shoes and waded out...I felt like I was walking across a muddy creek bed. The sand was much finer on the beach. The tide was out. Waves were not even a foot high. The landscape to the south was the Suffolk Coast, and directly out in front (straight west from the shoreline) were hundreds of windmills. We walked through the streets of Skegness, and Eric took pictures for me.
|Having Sheffield on this list is equivalent to having SGF.|
|Oldest Thatched roof pub in Lincolnshire, 1367. The Kings Head.|
The next morning we got up for breakfast and Dennis came over, a neighbor and friend. He just knocked and walked on in, unexpectedly, and yet again, I miss my friends who drop by and come on in. "Do you have time for a sit?" was the first question Eric presented to him after initial greetings. "Just 10 minutes" so tea was made and served. I had already met Dennis and his wife, Marlene, on my first visit. We caught up and he wanted to know all of what I had been doing since our last meeting. I caught the train home at 11:25 a.m. Round trip costs me 18.50 gbp, and three hours.
Thursday....hmmmmm??????? worked out, did a little yoga, went to the library, coffee shop, and met Steve for dinner for Thai food. I cannot remember anything else. Oh...I remember now. Thursday I was very depressed, homesick for conversation and friends, and frustrated. I must have been at some new level of culture shock. The weight of worry for home was heavy on my heart. The government shut down, the people who have lost pay...I don't really care about the people (and yes I am including Veterans here) who cannot get into their memorials and national parks. Don't get me wrong, I think it's sad and ridiculous, but I also thinks it's sad and ridiculous that these are the types of headlines that show up. I started to feel extremely guilty for being in the middle of England funded by the federal government when many people who are paying college bills for the children, buying food for their tables...and not getting a paycheck. It really, really frustrates me, and I can feel, literally feel, the weight of hatefulness people are sharing for one anothers political views. Steve is a good sounding board for me, and by the end of our dinner my tears were abated, and believe me, it was a full day of crying.
Friday was my first day to meet with Teacher Trainee writing groups. I hadn't worked too much on a presentation, so I got up fairly early and headed to my office...was there by 11:00. Ha--early!! I got up, worked out at my gym (by work out I am running/walking on a treadmill and I try to 2-3 miles each time--30-45 minutes worth,) practiced yoga, and was out the door by 10. This is gooooood for me. I worked all day at the office on a mini-powerpoint and activities. We had a such a good session. I had 11 volunteers and I am over the moon about this. I was hoping 3-5 at least. Eleven just made my day. We will meet for the next three Fridays, break, and then one more before their paper is due. They are young, happy people ready to become teachers. I already adore them in the hour we spent together. I think it will be hard for them to trust the protocol. Trust that you will get some benefit...and it might not be immediate. Just like my students in the US, they also have never participated in getting feedback quite this dynamic. However, I feel this sense of trust toward me, and already looking at me as an expert. I have to remember these students are completely volunteers, so they want to be there. I was at work until 6:30, and then was home by 7:30 or so. I made chili. It was cold, rainy, and windy. I needed chili. I met Steve at The Nursery Tavern and we watched the second half of the England game, which they won 4-1. I was home by 11.
Saturday, up at 5:15 am. for a train at 6:25 to London. I buy my tickets in advance for a cheaper rate, but this means there are no refunds and I cannot get on any other train, so I cannot miss my trains. I made it to London at 8:35, tube to Russell Square, and then breakfast in the Russell Square park, where I cuddled with a puppy Labrador retriever. So sweet. Puppy breath and all.
Met with eight teachers on the steps of the Museum. I have been to the British Museum twice before, and I think of all the places in London to visit, it's my favorite. We wrote together in the cafe, and then separated to where ever for an hour, then came back to the cafe and shared. I sat and visited with Jeni, one of the WP directors, and then finally made it to the clock room and the North American room.
|Teachers, all secondary, listening to read alouds in the writing group.|
We finished about 12:30, but we sat around until 2:00 p.m. I raced to the Duke of York's Theater to watch Ibsen's A Doll's House, but I missed it. :( Next time. I then walked around the neighborhood, just losing myself on the streets of London. I went into clothing shop, shoe shops, astrology shops, health food shops, bookshops and such. Made my way to Covent Garden, and then found a Mexican restaurant. Bless my soul...I barely made it to my train home. Seven Dials was hosting cocktail week, and I made friends at the Mexican restaurant with a very handsome gay couple from Hungary who were participants in cocktail week. We compared travel stories in Budapest. It was a delight. I had purchased a first class ticket home (only 3 pounds more,) so
|Covent Garden, near Neal's Yard Remedies.|
I think first quarter at home is up, and grades are due. Ugh. Busy time that I do not envy. Nor do I miss it. I thought I would, but I do not. I enjoy being in the classroom here, and being with students, but I like having different responsibilities with them. I already do not know how I will assimilate back into the life of a teacher. I thought a 20-year pattern would be so hard to break. Turns out...nope.
Think about living your life where the only conversations you have are with people at the cash register. There are days when I literally do not talk to anyone because I do not have anyone to talk to. It's been a lonely experience. So when I am in places where people will engage in conversation with me, I find myself at home.
WEEK OF SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6:
Happy Sunday morning. I came down to Starbucks about 10:00. I drank my coffee in a comfy chair and never even got my computer out. Just sat there enjoying the Sunday morning sunshine from the window and the people filtering through to get their coffees before heading out for their day of adventure, fun, whatnot. Sundays seem to be a day for sports. I have noticed often children and teenagers in soccer uniforms and cheer/dance team uniforms on Sundays.
|The steam engine to Haworth.|
It's been a full and industrious week. Sunday I spent the day at the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth. I met Becca, Hank, and Anna there. We walked, shopped, ate, had afternoon tea and scones, and toured the Parsonage. I will go back. My ticket is good for the next year. Hope I haven't lost it. The countryside, the village, the tapestry of the green hills dotted with sheep and quilted together with rock walls...I cannot wait for my sister and dad to visit (hopefully!) I have decided that with them, we will journey north rather than south, but maybe going over to Wales, too. The people are just so nice in the north. So very nice. I
haven't run into mean people in London and south, but it's certainly a different culture.
|Me just after Yorkshire Tea in Haworth.|
|The Brontes Parsonage, Haworth.|
Tuesday...Teacher Strike. I blogged that.
Wednesday....rain and I spent the entire day at the office at Sheffield Hallam. I arrived about 10:00 a.m. and didn't leave until after 8:30 p.m. (Discovered I was locked in. Had to walk two floors down the back fire escape stairs to the 9th floor where night classes were still going on.) I think it's true what Walden wrote (I think it was Walden) that if we give ourselves space and time, that we will eventually get back to the intellect and produce something. And I sort of think that might be what Fulbright expects, or what happens with the Scholars. They so often encourage this idea of "do NOT overwork yourselves. Get out, meet people, take time, reflect, work. And guess what--that theory might actually work in producing. I have days where I literally do not get anything accomplished, and I feel bad about that. I have even told my colleague, Steve, that I fear this journey sometimes because left to my own devices, I can be very lazy. And I think it's because at home my work is so much work, all the time, going going going. Teachers reading this now know what I mean. Even on a day of respite from teaching, we are never encouraged to reflect and be still. Meeting here, meeting there, meeting over lunch. Sign in. Sign out. Go. Go. Go.
At the same time, there are days here that I get so into my work that I forget to eat, go to the bathroom, talk to people. I am absorbed with it, and absorbed differently than I am in the States.
|Inside Sheffield Wednesday Stadium.|
I also met with the Lecturer, Martin, for the PGCE Teacher Trainees. These are our student teachers. They all have bachelor degrees, and now it takes another year to get their teaching certificate...which they are student teaching during the entire time. On Fridays, they come to the university for a Seminar. Martin has agreed to help me organize a volunteer group of students who want to participate in small writing groups. The PGCE (post-graduate certificate in education) students who are taking the course for graduate credit are required to write two essays, and a draft is due on November 15. So, I'm running a trial writing group with them to see how the writing is influenced. It is also a way teachers can participate in alternative ways of teaching writing and offering feedback outside of the more prescriptive and formulaic approaches to teaching writing. I'm looking forward to it and their feedback.
Thursday...rain. I worked from the Learning Centre just across the street from my flat, which is the building next to my gym. If you search it (Tom F. will probably do this) it's the Sheffield Hallam Collegiate Crescent campus on Ecclesall Road. My gym is in the Pearson Building, and the Learning Centre is next door. I have found a nice path to cut through, an easy three-minute walk from my flat. Although I'm with the college students, I find I can still work there. I created a letter and invitation to the Teacher Trainees for Martin to hand out at the seminar. I also had some Fulbright surveys to complete, and I am taking a 4-week course on writing up research through the University of Maryland, so I posted to ELMS (blackboard) for some feedback. I love this course, and think I want to write a course like this for OWP teachers. In the past, I do not think we have been successful at getting products to come from teacher research courses--maybe it's just me who has been unsuccessful. I am getting a better grasp on what is valuable, and what is not necessary. And I am understanding time frames much better. This has been clear, distinct, and helpful in helping me focus on what needs to be accomplished and what needs to be discarded. We are reading short, practical articles on conducting research, and I think that has been super.
Friday...one of my best days yet.
|"Two paths"...go ahead and quote it in your heads Frost fans.|
|Angelsey Abbey, a National Trust Site in Lode.|
Saturday...I slept in, went for a walk in the Botanical Gardens (right behind my flat) and then spent the whole afternoon at Cafe Nero. I alternate coffee shops. :) I like Nero better than Starbucks. It's cleaner, the crowd is a little older, it seems a little more sophisticated I think, and the coffee is smooth. Steve's friend Jeanne is here to visit from London. We ate dinner about 9:00 p.m. at The Mogel (in my neighborhood) and then crossed the street to The Lescar. The Mogel is Indian food. Jeanne writes for the Wall Street Journal. I had dinner and great conversation with a writer for the Wall Street Journal and a Harvard graduate. Never suspected this for an Ozark County girl. She writes about healthcare, and was in a conference last week (in London) where the Director of the FDA was to appear. Then the US Government shut down. Everyone at the conference was totally bummed. Twice now I have been slightly embarrassed by America since I've been here...the Syria issue, and now the government issue. I had a gentleman ask me Friday on the train "Americans seem to be so proud to be Americans, but yet they do not want to take care of other Americas. Why is this?" He is coming from a culture of British pride, and a deeply-rooted sense of taking care of one's fellow countrymen. Many locals, not the media, see Americans as selfish when they say they do not want their tax dollars to pay for someone (more than likely a neighbor) to get healthcare, but they do want their tax dollars going to fight in a war. It's an odd sense of ethics for many.
Time is flying. Fall is here, and leaves are sprinkling the streets and gathering in gutters. I reread Keats' Ode to Autumn yesterday. Hedge-crickets sing; redbreast whistles; swallows twitter....
I miss watching the Cardinals and listening to the games on the radio in post-season play.
|England's smallest train station.|
|Anna, Hank, and Becca on our Harry Potter train from Haworth to Keighley.|
|Snapshot from train to Haworth.|