Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My First Ever Painting!

I'm surrounded by talented artists at the moment. Mum and dad both paint and attend art classes; they are getting really good. My sister is picking up her brushes again; she did A Level art at school. She has a great eye and a natural flare. I've never painted (beyond dabbling with the poster paint you get in school). I can't draw either. My doodles tend to be either eyes or leaves all basic and from my head. So when they all sat down to paint and asked if I wanted to join them, my response was the usual "I can't paint, it would be a waste of canvas".

I can take photos though, and with a bit of persuasion I chose one of my photos and gave it a go. I needed a lot of guidance, I didn't really know where to start. But around 5 hours later I finished my first ever painting - acrylic on canvas. And I'm really rather proud of myself. I won't say I can't paint again, I'll now consider myself a beginner painter!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas in Cumbria

I love this time of year. Getting back to Cumbria truly signals a break from work and brings me right back to my childhood. The garden is alive with birds who squabble and shout over the fat balls and peanuts, but are bold enough to come very close if you have the patience to stand still a while.

This year there is snow. I'm missing Molly, this is the first time I've been back here without her. She'd be hating the snow though.

I love the smell as you walk through the front door of the house and the tick of the clock. The log fire is an added bonus. Happy Christmas to all.


Monday, 21 December 2009

My Little Wildlife Sanctuary

I recently had a visit from a council tree surgeon regarding the big Leylandii trees overhanging my garden. He concluded the trees were fine and healthy, so I'll have to live with them. However he was also quite taken with my garden. He liked the willows and commented the garden was 'lovely and a haven for wildlife'. A few days later he was proved right. This beautiful bird sat in my largest willow for long enough for us to see it, exclaim, run up the stairs for a camera, take a photo and watch it some more. I'm not yet convinced of the species of bird. We think it might be a sparrow hawk, but I welcome other suggestions!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Mum is Watching

Got to love this video (thanks Anthony Evans, for sharing). Yes, it's a bit of fun, but actually it is a very real warning about watching what you put online. Since I am teaching my kids e-safety at the moment (and the whole school is also learning about it) I thought this was rather timely. So, learn your SMART rules kids (and your way round Facebook privacy settings), you never know when mum is watching ;o)

Monday, 3 August 2009

Garden Restructuring

It is very useful having your own Ground Force team, and mine are the best going! Mum and dad came to visit for a special garden weeding and planting week. This ended up being, as always, a much bigger job. We ended up hacking back the honeysuckle (4 birds nests hidden inside and all saved for a display in my classroom), creating a completely new bed and turfing over an unsuccessful one.

I bought a lot of plants to give summer colour and mum and dad bought me a lot more for my birthday coming up. These have made a stunning difference and the garden is now full of colour - something it desperately needed.

It was a hard but very rewarding week and the garden looks fantastic. To top it all the weather was perfect, great all week and poured on Saturday, watering in the plants beautifully!

Missing Molly

It has been just under 2 months since Molly died. Although I can now talk about it I still have moments of utter sadness and anger for what happened. Worse, I still miss her terribly. I had no idea that she took up so much of my space and time in such a positive way.

On Sunday evening I let Molly out through the kitchen window. Less than half an hour later I heard her crying, not her usual mieow, but my first thought was that she had caught something and was announcing her arrival with gift. When she didn't jump through the window I knew something wasn't right and grabbed the step ladder. Molly was lying below the window with her bib and front legs covered with blood.

I couldn't reach her. She lay there mewing every time she heard me and I went into full blown panic. My amazing friends, Janine and Steve, dropped everything to come over and help get Molly off the roof but just before they arrived Molly somehow managed to jump up to the window ledge and I hauled her inside.

She was lame on one leg and bleeding but responsive. We rushed her to the vet who at that time thought she'd be ok, since her breathing and pulse were good. I left her there so they could x ray her and investigate the leg further.

On Monday the vet called to say that the x ray showed a pellet from some sort of air gun lodged against her spine. This was responsible for making her lame. It hadn't even occurred to me that she could have been shot. It takes some kind of low life to shoot a domestic pet. Worse still she was on the roof when she was shot meaning that the cretin that shot her was shooting in the direction of my windows.

She needed surgery to remove the pellet, but with my bill already at £600 and with no insurance, I couldn't afford the possible £2000 final bill from the surgery. The vet was brilliant and organised Molly's transfer to The Celia Hammond Animal Trust - a small but amazing charity which helps people who can't afford large vet bills but who fall outside of the help of people like the RSPCA or PDSA (who means test).

On Tuesday I picked Molly up and took her the Celia Hammond surgery. The vets there were fantastic and Molly was treated like a VIP, or should that be VIA? They scheduled surgery for Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday 10th June, following a successful sedation, the vets administered the anesthetic. Molly stopped breathing. Resuscitation didn't work. The vets tried to bring her back for over 10 minutes but the damage was, in the end, too severe.

And that was it. One minute she was perfect, and the next she was gone. I was shattered. I knew that writing this would be hard but I needed to tell it. I still miss her, and this is how I will always remember her.

If you would like to make a donation to The Celia Hammond Animal Trust you can do so via their website by clicking the link above.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Before and After - Theatrical Changing Rooms

It is the day before our first performance of The Odyssey. We arrived at Carlow Town Hall with a bus stuffed full of set and props. Our director was first to see the venue 'it is interesting. Let's just say it is a little unloved'. And it really was. A beautiful room with high ceilings and great acoustics - it even has blacked out windows. It amazes me how such a great room is left to house a few archive boxes of 'dead files'.

So we mopped and swept and hoovered and even cleaned toilets, and by the time the set was in and the lights were up, it was a different room.

Next job was to try and drum up an audience. As far as we know, there has been no publicity for the play at all. We each picked up a pile of leaflets and hit the streets. Most people we talked to seemed interested and a few said they'd come along, but how many of those were being polite... I guess we'll find out tomorrow night.

See below for before and after photos.



Saturday, 18 April 2009

Junk, Dust and Floppy Discs

I finally got round to clearing out the ICT cupboards in school. I say cupboards, but really I mean cupboards, filing cabinets, spaces under tables, offices and drawers. There was old ICT kit and software everywhere and I had no idea what we had.

It took a day. I went through everything and created a literal (well almost) mountain of junk for the bins. I found an old, but pristine Valiant Floor Turtle, complete with an old, huge floppy disc for BBC computer! The floppy went but I kept the turtle as an interesting antiquity!

In the process of the clear out, both ICT suites had a good spring clean, although I ended up grey with dust.

So now I know exactly what we have, and where it is, and the number of cupboards filled with kit has halved. It was incredibly cathartic and left me with a feeling of true contentment and the knowledge that I could build on what we had without duplicating resources. Brilliant. Now I need to get the server in.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

TeachMeet NEL09 Part 2

2DIY from 2Simple. Simple enough for year 1 to use. Children creating their own games and taking great pride in seeing them published on a school website. Great piece of software.

2Simple also looking at the potential of augmented reality. This really is cutting edge.

Now the raffle - I never win anything, but the cause is great. £550 raised for the Cuban school.

Tom Barrett: "Mr Barrett, I have got glue on my laptop"
Technology used right along with traditional classroom tools. "Giving children a permanent technology choice in the classroom makes a huge difference."
Using GoogleEarth - "...most engaging tool out there." Using Vocaroo with GoogleEarth to plan a journey in a story. Setting location marks and adding notes to tell a story in snippets.
Using IM applications in class. Most popular online tool with children.
Sharing bookmarks with kids using delicious.com. (Something Cleveland Junior and Becontree Primary are already doing).
Twitter used in class - only 95% thought he was bonkers. 5% less than last year.

Edith - Year 9 student. Does X=Y?
Talking about technology tribes and Digital Natives. Am I Native or a Bridge? Am I young enough to be Native? :o)
"Young people are helping their parents catch up (with technology)"
Are we challenging students (Natives) enough? Recent OFSTED report says no.

Ollie Bray (www.olliebray.com): Maps, Mashups and Milkfloats.
Games based learning and using Wordle.net
Using free online tools to engage children.
GoogleEarth - showing the world spinning. Children start to have geographical conversations.
Task in a bucket (location lotto!) - pull a location out of a bucket and fly there on GoogleEarth from your school location.
www.bighugelabs.com (be careful how you type that!)

Thanks to the organisers for a fantastic evening (Lords!), and thanks also to all the sponsors.

TeachMeet NEL09 Part 1

Oh dear, I’m at TeachMeet NEL 09 at CEME with my Mac and every intention to blog live. CEME obviously doesn’t like Macs. I can see the Network but I can’t connect no matter how hard I try. So I am reverting to Word and cut and paste!

Next problem: Which room do I choose? I want to see quite a lot of these speakers but they are all in different rooms!


Ok I’m in the main hall. Not sure if this is the right choice for me. Can I float?

Tom Whitehead: Fruit faces - use technology to be inclusive.

Oh, that's better! Finally connected to the Internet and breakout rooms moving into main hall.

Leon Cych: Speaking about BBC Learning Open Lab. He is developing a resource showing teachers using different web 2.0 resources.
Also interesting to know that Leon is passionate about Second Life as a learning environment.

Andrew Trimble: Using digital audio to enhance literacy. Pupils recording their play script dialogue. Demonstration of how to transfer their files on to computer ready for podcasting.

Jerome Monahan: Active approaches to everything.
Where hast thou been sister?
Killing swine.

Wonderful sight - a room full of teachers doing actions to text from Macbeth!
Aha! Leads to video conferencing - Global Leap.

Debbie Forster: Computer Clubs for Girls. www.cc4g.net Aimed at getting girls interested in IT. Starts from primary school. Now introducing boys! Pack going out to secondary schools www.bigambition.co.uk

Money raised by raffle goes towards rebuilding Celia Sanchez Manduley School in Cuba which was destroyed by hurricane Ike in 2008.

Break now. I need some food and a beer!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A New Lease of Life

I finally got round to buying my first ever scanner today. It is something that I've been thinking about for several years, but never quite got around to.

Since I started to edit the school website I have thought it would be good to be able to have the ability to scan documents like the school menu, so that I could add them to the website from home. Not to mention that it is handy to be able to scan books or pages of books for use in various lessons. Of course, that is all work related and I could use the scanner at school. However, I have a large stash of colour and black and white negatives and I have wanted to be able to convert the best of these into digital images for some time now. Obviously then, my scanner had to have film scanning capabilities.

I decided on a Canon CanoScan 5600F. I wasn't sure what to expect, quality wise, with the film scan. My test scan is below. It is scanned at 4800dpi. I was pleasantly surprised by the crispness and colour of the image.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

First Photos from the New Camera

I had the perfect chance to try out my new camera yesterday. It was a beautiful crisp day in London, and a walk along South Bank gave plenty of photo opportunities. I have uploaded a set to flickr.com but below is a preview. I'm very happy and I am convinced that I made the right choice of camera.

Monday, 2 February 2009

New Camera

Panasonic DMCTZ5 Digital Camera - Black (9.1MP, 10x Optical Zoom)

No mucking about. I can't cope without a camera, and since this one has been tried and tested in the family, with great feedback, I decided to go for it.

I have just bought 6 of these:

Panasonic DMCFS3 Digital Camera - Black (8.1MP, 3x Optical Zoom)

for school. I am hoping that they will be simple to use (reviews suggest they will) and produce a really good photo. I don't see why kids in school should settle for grainy, poorly focused photos. If you are going to do photo work - do it properly!

Molly Doesn't Like Snow

It's been snowing hard in London and I woke up to this magical sight this morning.

I was very excited when it started settling last night, but this morning was a real wonder - I haven't seen snow like this since Christmas in Vancouver! My spirits were lifted even further by the phone call to let me know that the school was closing for the day.

So I donned boots and coat and picked up my iPhone (now my only camera since my trusty Canon PowerShot A75 died last night), and trudged out into the virgin snow.

I was loving it. Molly, on the other hand, did not know what to make of it. It took several minutes of hard thought on the door step before she decided to venture out and then it was with carefully placed paws in my footsteps.

Eventually she found somewhere she felt comfortable.

I left her there for a while but when I went to let her in I found only deep paw prints in the snow leading in a little loop of the garden, and then they vanished. That was when I heard a pitiful mewing from the other side of the fence where I can only guess she fell off! Trauma over. She is back inside and now apparently happy to stay on the sofa all day. I wish I could wake up to such amusement every day!

Last night's snow fall

The snow wasn't so deep last night - but still a little daunting!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Busy Start

It has been the most interesting and busy of beginnings. Dropping into a year 6 class, the term before their SATs, was never going to be easy. But despite being 'tested', having 2-3 lots of marking every day and being in a new school, in a new borough and working with systems I'm not used to, I'm having a ball!

There is a lot to get my head around just teaching in year 6 for the first time, but there is also stacks to do with the ICT.

I arrived at the school with an ICT action plan in my hand, and just 4 weeks in I can start ticking things off. My first discovery was that the ICT policy is 9 years old - ancient for any school policy, never mind in a subject area in which your equipment is out of date in 18 months! So I am in the process of writing a new one (although it might have to wait until the half term).

So far I have:
  • written an action plan
  • begun developing a strong ICT team with Robert, our fabulous IT technician
  • bought photo editing software and 6 digital cameras for pupil use
  • invested in a data logger which is already being used by year 5
  • unearthed a 6 year subscription to EducationCity.com. 2 years gone and no one knew about it! It's being used now!
  • started blogging with year 6
  • introduced a cross curricular ICT and art topic for year 6
  • worked with Robert to research a server for the school - watch this space.
  • started to re-write the ICT policy
I feel quite proud of what we have achieved so far but there is still a lot to be done and it is going to need to be carefully prioritised. Next on the agenda is a big cupboard sort and resources purge. But that is for 2 days in the holiday. Will keep you posted!