Saturday, November 24, 2012

Another week, another dollar

Another week, another five days of work, and this time around all five were at Wembley.

Monday and Tuesday, I was back in the second of last week's Year 3 classes. The class was so good Monday morning, I thought it likely the children had been replaced by alien replicas. The teacher's absence was sudden, so the lesson plans were provided by the teacher next door and I modified them as needed as I taught them. Literacy (in which they wrote their own stories based on a picture and then read the myth of Theseus) and Numeracy (which was more work on how to tell time) went very, very well. But the afternoon was a disaster - it was physical education and their former wildness returned with a vengeance.

Tuesday proved to be more of a balance, behaviour wise. Literacy went exceptionally well - the students were shown a short cartoon summarizing the myth of Perseus and Medusa and then were asked to recount the myth in writing in their notebooks. They did an amazing job! Numeracy was more work on telling time, which also went well, and the end of the day was History - they compared Athens to Sparta. I was a very happy teacher and was pleased with the students' work not only then but for the day as a whole.

Wednesday I was in Reception - in the fourth class, as a matter of fact. Consequently, I  have now completed my tour of the Reception classes; I have officially taught all four groups, have replaced all four teachers, at one time or another. The class was learning about the Three Little Pigs, focusing on speech bubbles, and about addition - how to do it, how to write it. After lunch, it was decided to bring the kids outside for a spell after they had an indoor recess. Downside here was that said indoor recess was on account of rain and, while it wasn't raining more than a drizzle at first, there was still mud all about and within fifteen minutes the rain was back to a regular pore and this led to a bunch of wet, muddy children. Who had had a lot of fun getting that way.

Thursday and Friday I was in a nursery. Nobody threw up this time and both days we watched YouTube videos about the 5 Speckled Frogs and prepositions (Thursday - Where's the Monkey?) and days of the week (Friday - set to Addams' Family theme). We also watched Dumbo - which I swear I remember as being longer. Each day had two classes - one in the morning, one in the afternoon - so it was a bit of wash/repeat going on but that wasn't such a bad thing. A teaching assistant and nurse were present in the classroom at all times, so there was a plethora of adults and help about, which is always nice.

On a completely different note, outside of the classroom I had another problem going on. When I got my payslip this week, I noticed the rent hadn't been included among the expenses, so I messaged JSA to let them know. The reply was swift and, hey, what do you know - while they were looking into it they realized they'd had me in the wrong tax bracket all this time. Apparently, they never corrected a mistake they had told me about - and supposedly fixed - back in September and were thus under the impression that I was working another job. They had to correct that as well and ended up owing me almost £300 from overtaxing. I was a very, very happy camper. ^^

No plans this weekend - taking it off to rest and relax - and so far no bookings for the week ahead. Hopefully, that will change soon. Until next time, my freaky darlings, adieu!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Five Days

Finally, FINALLY I managed to snag five days of teaching assignments. I was pre-booked Tuesday through Friday at Wembley; two Year 3 classes followed by two Reception classes - apparently my consultant's goal is to have me meet every student in that school by having me teach every class by Christmas. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, my week began with an unknown Monday. I went to the station, waited as per usual, and almost at the last minute got a call asking that I go to Minet. No big deal that; just had to go to Ealing Broadway, hop over to the First Great Western line  to get to Hayes and Harlington. Unlike with Slough, I did not need to buy an extra ticket for this - Oyster sufficed. Switched to a bus and took it to the stop I was told and that's where the directions the consultant had provided me with ended. I was left standing at a crossroads with only the school's postal code - not even it's name - so I couldn't ask anyone for directions. I called back the consultant responsible for dispatching me and got to listen to a whole bunch of "bloody hell" mutterings as the poor man tried to find a search engine that would help him find how to get me where he wanted me.

I got to the school and what followed was pretty straightforward. I was in a Year One class, the students were more-or-less well behaved, I had lesson plans left by the teacher, and there was a teaching assistant in the room with me; in the teaching sense, it was golden. There were, however, some friction with the other adults. In physical education, for instance, I had just gotten my students in position for their exercises when another teacher came in and told them to stand up and put their shoes in the corner - apparently they did gym in bare feet which, to me at least, seemed rather risky to me. By the time I got the students resettled and ready to begin, their half hour period was down to half that. Later, at the end of the day, a woman - I don't know if she was a teaching assistant or another teacher or what since she never introduced herself - admonished me for opening the door to parents a whole five minutes early. Apparently, it was on "the sheet" and I should have read "the sheet" and known better. Except I never received any such sheet, was never told any such thing, and, when I asked the deputy head teacher about it at the end of the day she had no idea what I was talking about. Figures.

The rest of the week at Wembley was good. I did two days in two different Year 3 classes. The first class was learning about ancient Greece - I was in my element and nearly jumped for joy. In the second class - who were a bit more on the monkey side of things - I made the mistake of in math of accidentally giving the high ability group the low-level work and the low ability group the high ability work...needless to say math class did not go well, although the rest of the day did. Thursday and Friday I was in two different Reception classes. I like Reception well enough but I'm not a fan of how it's set up at Wembley - it's one big room with four classes sharing it, each one being designated a corner for lesson times, the pairs at either end being separated on by a short line of bookcases. It can be a challenge, therefore, for student and teacher alike to stay focused and not be distracted by the class just on the other side of a partition.

It was a great week overall though - I got to work, got to do so at the same school for the most part and even had an adventure getting to the new school on Monday. It was a good week and, hopefully, the weeks to come will be just like it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This Weekend I Geeked-Out. A Lot.

Yesterday...yesterday was an awesome day. I met up with Christa and the two of us went to the Victoria and Albert museum. Besides checking out all of their free exhibits (basically comprised of sculptures and artifacts from all over the world and various periods of history), we also went to their Hollywood Costumes exhibit. Now, if you  know me, you know I love movies. And that's putting it mildly. Now imagine going to a place where they displayed some of the most recognizable costumes from some of the greatest movies from the past century of movie making. It was like dying and going to movie buff heaven! I originally wanted to go because I'd heard that two of Scarlet O'Hara's gown from Gone with the Wind had been restored - one being her curtain-dress - and I wanted to see them before they returned to the US home. Turns out, there was so, so much more to see than just Scarlet's restored gowns!

Now, since photography was not allowed within the exhibit, I had to rip these photos from the exhibit's web page but, still, you get the idea.

The costumes for the entire  Addams family (minus Fester and Ma) from the 90s movie - even baby Pubert despite his airtime totally about ten minutes in the second film. Morticia's dresses in particular were pretty great - there were two, one detailed with spiders, the other with bats. I especially love how the costume designer was quoted as saying she went about designing their costumes with the idea that they were the aristocratic rich; they wore expensive fabrics and exquisite cuts that came together in positively beautiful clothes. They set their own standards and did it in such a way that made it clear that they were normal and it was the rest of the world that was weird. 
The first rule of Fight Club? You do NOT talk about Fight Club! Unless it's the clothes you're interested in. Then you're free to go to town. Imagine having one person, character, being played by two different actors who each embody very, very different personalities. Ed Norton's costumes were kept in greys and whites, more often than not a suit or a demure ensemble of another sort, Brad Pitt's in bright, vivid colours and mismatched thrift store finds. Not easy wardrobes to put together, but clearly someone managed. (You can see Fight Club's costume on the far right of both above photographs).
Several period gowns were on display from various movies, several of them worn for portrayals of   Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette. I loved reading about how the designers were challenged to incorporate historical fact, including in some case replicating gowns seen worn in portraits and such, while give each unique portrayals its own fresh designs and wardrobes. In some instances, even the fabric itself was chosen for a particular purpose, such as effecting a certain type of fall in the skirt. When it comes to period costumes such as these I personally think it's one of the times when the clothes really do make the character - face it, Mary, Queen of Scots just wouldn't be the same in jeans and a t-shirt anymore than Trinity (The Matrix) would suit the ballgown scene.

 A mismatch of leading ladies including: Audrey Hepburn from both My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany's (that's right - I saw Holly Golightly's little black dress!), Nicole Kidman's stage outfit from Moulin Rouge, the clothes both Jack and young Rose wore when they first appeared in Titanic, one of Kiera Knightley's dressed from Atonement, Dorothy's gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz, Sharon Stone's Basic Instinct interrogation ensemble, and both Cruella De Vil's "good" suit and "bad" suit from 102 Dalmatians.
 There was one big platform divided in two - one half focused on various costumes donned by Robert De Nero in some of his more iconic roles (Casino, Frankenstein, Taxi Driver), the other half on costumes worn by Meryl Streep throughout her career (Momma Mia! A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Iron Lady). Great contrast!
 See, now this was basically the part where Heaven surpassed its own standards. Not only did I see the costumes worn by Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Mina (Winona Rider) in Bram Stoker's Dracula, the Bride's track suit from Kill Bill (they washed the blood out apparently), Neo's I'm-the-One ensemble that he wore while rescuing Morpheus in The Matrix, and Christopher's Reeves' Superman costume but I also saw Jack Sparrow's clothes from On Strange Tides - who is only one of my all time favourite movie characters of all time. I had more posters of Jack plastered across my bedroom walls than I'm willing to admit - and there were his clothes within touching distance. Only way that could've been better was if Johnny Depp had been in them! Incidentally, they had another of Johnny Depp's costumes - the suit he wore as Sweeney Todd in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street coupled with commentary from the designer and Tim Burton himself in another corner of the exhibit.

And FYI: directly across from Jack Sparrow, set up high on its own shelf, was the Batman suit from The Dark Knight Rises. I think my brain actually stalled for a moment in awe when I first caught sight of it.
You know what's fun about exhibits like this? Even with a crush of people standing between me and the information blurbs, I still recognized each piece. These pieces included: Maximus' armour from The Gladiator (with a blurb explaining the tribulations the designer went through trying to maintain some level of historical accuracy while dealing with the realities of putting Russel Crowe in a Roman tunic), Charlton Heston's robes from his turn in Ben-Hur as the titular character, one of John Wayne's cowboy getups (apparently, the key to a good cowboy outfit is having the right boots, hat and Levi's - the in-between is irrelevant - incidentally, the cowboy and rancher costumes worn by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal respectively in Brokeback Mountain were also on display), and Mattie Ross's outfit from True Grit (her character mixes a few of her own pieces with those of her deceased father to come up with something more appropriate for Old West law-man tag-along). Best of all? Darth Vader. His whole costume was leather save for his helmet and chest apparatus which the prop department put together. Both were made from plastic and the helmet is actually a series of pieces to allow the actor to remove specific section. SQUEE!
Hands down one of the most iconic characters of black and white - not to mention silent - films, Charlie Chaplin apparently put the costume of the Little Tramp together himself on the way to the audition - the mustache he wears was to make himself appear older.
 Han Solo (Harrison Ford - called the "passionate hero" - unlike Luke, he does what he does for selfish reasons and his own self-interests and his clothes reflect his lifestyle), James Bond (Daniel Craig, Casino Royale - there was a build-up in the movie to the point where Bond dons his signature tuxedo, his outfits prior to that moment seeing him in more casual and course ensembles), Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, T3: Rise of the Machines - I saw this and thought "My brother's going to flip" - he's a huge fan of the Terminator series and in each film, the Terminator's acquisition of his clothes is his first scene - these still had the bullet holes in them!) and Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty - apparently, in keeping in the tradition of the comics, which was drawn using only five colours, the 1990 movie only featured ten different colours - and each colour was only ever shown in one shade throughout - hence the yellow trench coat) - need I say more?

In the background, you can see Bruce Willis' blood stained clothes from the first Die Hard movie (one of my dad's favourite - probably second only to Die Hard with a Vengeance - I've only seen both so many times I've got them memorized start to finish), Will Smith's pilot jumper from Independence Day, and Tom Hanks' army fatigues from Saving Private Ryan.
This was the last splash of costumes with only one more costume out of frame. Austin Powers, The Blues Brothers, Borat Saturday Night Fever's Tony Manero, and Legally Blonde 2's ElleWoods were all represented and not only did they have the gown Kate Hudson's character, Andie, wears towards the end of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, they had her necklace - a diamond necklace with a yellow sapphire.
This was actually on the wall - it's the costume worn by Tobey McGuire in Spider-Man. According to the blurb, the designer wanted the costume to be at least somewhat believable as something a seventeen year old boy could patch together in his bedroom. On that point, I feel it was a total failure - nothing about this  costume seems remotely plausible as being created by a high school science nerd with an interest in photography - was that something he picked up from the spider bite along with the web-slinging and reflexes? That being said, it was still an awesome costume.
I love The Wizard of Oz. I love the Munchkins, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. I love Dorothy and Toto and the Wizard. I love Munchkinland, the Yellow Brick Road, and the Emerald City. I even love the Wicked Witch of the West, although I find Glenda a total manipulative bitch, and the sepia-toned beginning and end. The story is one I've always wished I could experience for myself - being carried off to a magical land, going on an adventure, meeting new friends, defeating evil witches - what's not to love about all that? And anyone who's even heard  about The Wizard of Oz, knows about the Ruby Slippers. Formerly belonging to the Wicked Witch of the East, the shoes transfer to Dorothy's feet after she drop a house on the witch and are ultimately responsible both for setting the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy and for getting her home again in the end. Their home for the last couple of decades has been the Smithsonian in Washington DC, so when I saw Dorothy's gingham dress with bright and shiny replica shoes, I thought that would be the end of it. But then I turned and saw these puppies - the original shoes worn by Judy Garland as she skipped down the yellow brick road, the same shoes she clicked together three times to bring her home again. I had no idea the ruby-like facets were achieved by dozens upon dozens of sequins. I may have teared up just a little. This was...this was even better than seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. Almost as good as walking the Coliseum in Rome. Made my day, my week, my month - possibly my 2012.

And on a shelf right above these shoes, worn by a mannequin laying on its stomach in her classic come hither pose, was Catwoman's costume from Tim Burton's Batman Returns, its seams ripped and torn as they had been at the film's end just after Penguin's failed murder attempt.

Like I said, Heaven.

You can read an article giving more depth on the exhibit here. I'll post another update soon about the work week. Until next time, my freaking darlings.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Return from the Break...*yawn*

I know, I know - it's been like forever since my last update but, to be fair, there's been nothing all that exciting going on to merit the sharing. My break was basically a bore - I spent the whole of it basically reading and writing with the exception of Friday when I ventured out to catch Skyfall. The cinema is surprisingly close by - just three stops away on the train - and the prices aren't too bad, at least provided I stick to matinee showings. Skyfall was definitely the best of the Daniel Craig Bond movies to date (although Live and Let Die is still my all time favourite) and I'm happy to say had a lot of the traditional Bond elements that have been missing from the last two movies, including Q. I'm still disappointed by Bond's apparent lack of humour - I miss the sarcastic wit he's possessed in the past, especially as Brosnan played him. Hopefully that will change with the coming installments - five more movies are set to feature Craig in the lead role.

To be fair, I had made other plans of the social variety - I had wanted to go to the Tower of London on Wednesday with some friends - but when my companions backed out for one reason or another I opted to postpone. Not one for the solo outings am I.

This week, as I've said, was another one where the GPS was void. Unfortunately, unlike the week preceding the break, this one didn't turn up as much work - I only worked three days (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday).

Monday was only a half day and a teaching assistant position to boot - I was back at the same school, St Marys, except with reception this time around rather than nursery.  I really like that school - the students are well behaved, the teachers are welcoming, and the school itself would be perfect if not for all the stairs. One little boy - an autistic student of the Year One class I'd done one-on-one reading with last time - came up to me on the playground during play time and asked if I could come back and read with him because he really liked that. I almost cried; it was so sweet!

On Wednesday and Thursday, I was back at Wembley - remember the school with the outdoor courtyard in the middle? - to do nursery and reception respectively. Nursery was actually two groups - one in the morning, one in the afternoon - and the kids were pretty adorable. One thing I don't like about the UK curriculum for the youngest grades is that there's no expectation of individual elaboration. What I mean by that is that the teacher gives small lessons - usually half an hour or less - about a particular topic (prepositions, for example, or subtraction) and then that's it; the kids just go off and play. During my practicum in a kindergarten room, there would almost always be some sort of one-on-one follow-up to the lessons, like the students writing in their journals or playing a math-based game with the teacher. It's odd not to have that follow-up happening and a little...underwhelming, I suppose, and disappointing too. Anyways, the morning went well, the afternoon less so; multiple students threw up in a domino-like sequence of events. Fortunately, someone else took responsibility for that little mishap and I was charged with occupying the remainder of the class. Thank all the gods.

That night I went straight from the school to meet up with Jeeves at Westminister station. This meant that I finally got my first look at Big Ben - it was literally right across the street from the station's entrance. Considering the hour, dark had already fallen, so you can just imagine how lovely it was to see Big Ben all lit up as it was against the backdrop of night sky. *sigh* Made me wish I'd had my camera but, since this was a last minute get-together, no such luck. I also saw the London Eye all lit up in blue lights and the Thames. We went to a cafe just around the corner from Waterloo station where Jeeves had a hot chocolate and I Coca-Cola (big shock). Conversation happened, but it was a short hang out - Jeeves had to leave all too soon afterward to catch a train to another meeting. I grabbed some McD's for supper and that was that. Came home to find the door's latch had been thrown, effectively locking me out despite my keys. Aggravating that, especially as it was only just after eight o'clock at night, but at least ringing the door bell proved effective.

Thursday was uneventful and Friday I didn't receive an assignment, so that pretty sums up my most recent going-ons. Like I said, not the most exciting of tales to relate. I've been reading a lot - and can I just say I positively despise cliffhanger endings - SO frustrating! - and writing even more. November is deemed National Novel Writing Month and there's a challenge - not for a prize or anything like that, just because, just to see if you can  - to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. In the past, homework has ultimately thwarted my efforts but this year I seem to have a surplus of free time and it's going pretty well; so far I have about 16,000 words written. Cue the HOORAH! here.

As far as next week goes, I already have work lined up (thanks to my awesome consultant) for Tuesday through Friday back at Wembley so it's only Monday that's a bit of a question mark. Hopefully something will turn up - fingers crossed!

Until next week, my freaky darlings!