Friday, 23 November 2012

Oh, I am so unemployable.

I didn't want to have to work full-time, or even part-time until daughter and son were both safely past Year 1 and the phonics that lie therein. But the Cameron Led Armageddong that is the triple dip We Don't Care We're Alright has left me high and dry on the shores of the financially bleak. From being a comfortable family we have slumped to a not very comfy at all family. Husbands employers have cut his hours to 2 days a week. I need to work.

Now, let's see. Can I claim any benefits to help? Apparently not. Despite our annual income being 18K now, I am not entitled to contribution based Job Seekers Allowance because I haven't paid in to NI for the last two years. Apparently, my paying in aged 18 to 36 means nothing. I can't get a bean. No help with anything, in fact. We may, possibly get Tax credits, but probably not,as husband also has registered a self employed sole trader business that he was intending, over a period to build up. Well, he better chuffing do it, because being a sole trader for the Tax Credits demons sets their alarm bells ringing and we won't get a bean until they've investigated. Probably for years. Likewise, with no JSA or benefits, school meals and the like are unobtainable.

I am the squashed middle. Me.

I rang the employment agencies. I can do supply, I said. I was wrong. I can't do supply. Not only have I not taught for 6 years which makes me virtually sea slug on the intellect level, but I have no car, and neither does husband, as it was a company car, so I can't really do that "get called at 7am and be out of the house by 7.10 bunging the kids in handily prepared childcare and zipping off in my car to teach" thing. Neither can I do full-time. Partly this is a from a feeling that to do so would short change my kids, never have I seen such wind blown husks of children than at breakfast club and after-school club. But it's also monetary. If i'm working, and then paying for pre-and-after school care, i'm working for a pittance, and my children have less joy. If I can work part-time, my kids see me work, they do a bit of childcare, but they also get some genuine parent time. So I looked for part-time work that would fit round, maybe, me either doing school pick up OR drop off. I'd prefer pick up, as i know that the walk home is where it all comes out, who hit who, what they got the sticker for, what so-an-so did and why they love science, why pink should be called stink,  and so on. Plus I get to read with them, do two sets of spelling, two sets of homework, two teas. And two keeping on track. That time after school is vital: I can reach out to the teacher, they can grab me, we can connect, immediately, about any problem and nip it in the bud. I don't want to miss that. So I search. Nothing.

So I look for shift work. Maybe I can do that. There is some. I can work 6-12pm, or 12-6am. I could do that, if pushed, couldn't I? I could. Maybe cleaning work. Home care work.

Here I am. Overeducated and underemployed., and most definately underfinanced. I'm not precious. I'd gladly take grunt work in school hours and have time with my family over the long hours of teaching and missing my kids. I just need it to pay. I am now applying for home help work. If you know of an elderly lady or gent who might be in need of a good home help, and the odd bit of banter, point them my way.

Friday, 9 November 2012

All the naughty boys get stars, Mum.

Now I have two kids in school, it's been interesting for me to observe how differently their personalities have adapted to the factory like reward and progression of Reception and Year 1. Son is an open faced little chap, eager to please and do as he is told. He loves gettinga  house point, ignores the "naughty boys" and concentrates on getting thr work done so he can have his Lego "golden time" come Friday afternoon. Every parents evening is a joy: he tries hard, he does well, the teacher never has to tell him.

And this sets my alarm bells ringing.

Contrast to daughter. Daughter needs to be told EXACTLY what to do. Here is a command a teacher might issue to her, that she will ignore.
"Stella, can you put your things away and come to the mat?"
Stella hears: "Stella, can you pop over to the mat at some point, maybe, once you've put your stuff away?" and therefore does not put her stuff away, yet, nor traipse over to the mat. She does not like the mat, she sits next to a boy who shall be nameless, who has a constantly dribbling nose, which he licks. So she does not go to the mat. She has to be told again. And given the instruction she should have been given in the first place: "can you put your things away now and come to the mat instantly, with no dithering?" She then proceeds to pay no attention to phonics, because the songs are not the Jolly Phonics ones and she doesn't think they are very good, and instead concentrates on watching Nameless lick his snot, and pick at the baubles on her shoes. She knows all the phonemes anyway, but won't tell them to the teacher, because then she "would only get got more work", and actually reduced the poor teacher to spying on her to get enough info for parents evening. At which point Stella would move behind another child and sneak off.

And this sets my alarm bells ringing. Because who do you suppose has the heaviest, weightiest Housepoint card? Well behaved son, who has tried his guts out all term thus far? Or naughty Miss who couldn't give a toss about stickers and housepoints? Yes, you guessed it, Madam. Who had, by week 3 in Reception, informed me that all the naughty boys get stickers for just sitting down. This has not, needless to say, passed Miss Observant by. Poor son, who agreed with this, sits in the no-mans land of not being a genius but not being naughty. He gets the odd sticker when the teacher actually sees him and remembers who he is.

I know it's hard: i've been there as a teacher. But the reward system just doesn't work. I would inevitably be told by some hardlined little shit that "Miss so-and-so gives me stickers/housepoints" and  verily, their books would be aglow with shiny stickers. But no, I refised to give a bauble for doing WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING ANYWAY. I introduced s syatem whereby every forgotten pen/book/swearing episode resulted in a fine of 5p. I put all the money in a jar. I purchased a book of raffle tickets. Evey piece of good behaviour, or good work, got a ticket stuck into their book. At the end of the term, the child with the most tickets stood the best chancde of winning the fines jar. It worked like a dream: all kids, bad, middling, good, want hard cash. And all kids have  a sense of innate justice. It isn't fair if a naughty kids effectively gets rewarded for it. Kids demand punishment: if ever there were an age group behind capital punishment it would be the 4-11's. Make them miss playtimes. Make them stay in at lunch, and stand up to the parents who whine about it.

Of course, Reception might not respond to this (although Madam probably would, given how she scrabbles round pavements for dropped 2ps), but something needs to be done with the current rewards system in primary schools, because it plays into the hands of the devious, and the don't cares, and ignores the well behaved middlers. I have stopped asking son if he got a housepoint, and started looking at his work every day myself, and awarding my own. I did ask Madam if she would care to earn some stickers for her "at home" reward chart, but her reply was "I get enough at school, and anyway, i've got all of Hannah's housepoint stickers". I know I should have asked how, but I just didn't.