Monday, December 6, 2010

This Christmas

Right, I'm slightly broke. The last two years, I gave out Christmas cards, and this year I don't think I can afford to actually buy enough cards for everyone. It may be that I only give cards to a small number of people, namely those I don't see very often and the person I have for my Chris Kindle in college, and that'd be it. This effectively means that I'm giving out *does quick math* seven cards. Seven.

I don't want to look cheap, but really - Paulie is broke. I still have to pay for all the family Christmas presents this year. And by that I mean I have to figure out what I'm getting people first. And yes, I know Christmas is only a few weeks away. This is why I am writing about it now. Now is the perfect time to panic.

See, I like to give people cards. I just can't. Not this year, anyway. I won't have enough money to buy cards for people until two days before Christmas, and sure I won't be able to write and post all those cards in everyone to get them before Christmas. If I had some other alternative, it'd be great... but it looks like only a small number of people will be getting cards this year. Bummer.

It's kind of my favourite part of Christmas - giving people cards and presents. So not having enough money to do it kind of makes Christmas less fun this year.


(That was a frustration "ah", not an I Have an Idea "ah". Okay, I might have an idea... but it is unrelated to the "ah" and I still need to figure out how to do it and whether it is worth it or not.)

Oh Christmas, why did you have to become so commercialised? Things would be so much easier if I just had to pray for everyone. Instead I've set myself a standard of sending them all a card. No! I can't do it this year. I have to get the family presents!

Sorry everyone who doesn't get a card from me... I have a very limited budget. (Painfully limited).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Reality - A Poem

He wondered in through the foggy falling mist
Wearing a silly grin and an attitude that couldn't be matched,
Taking control of the situation and the lives of those he touched,
Carefully becoming a part of their whole.
That isn't to say he was the same for everyone.
He has two faces I've grown familiar with:
The cheery, smiling person who everyone loves,
Always there, always helpful, full of chatter;
And the angry, violent deviant,
A haunting figure with an evil stare.
One is to be missed,
And fear comes from losing him;
The other is to be dreaded,
And there's only fear surrounding him.
They look the same,
And I swear in reality they are the same person.
But truly
How do we tell who he really is?

Is he the mask of sorrow or the one of joy?
In reality, I don't know.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Let me just start by saying - I know it's only December 4th. I know! It's a long way until the New Year still (okay, 4 weeks until New Year's Eve...) but that doesn't mean we don't have to think about the future. In case you haven't experienced this yet, the future has a way of sneaking up on us and becoming the present.

It's too easy to make up loads of stuff on New Year's Eve and think, "Yeah, I'll do that." But you know what..? It's not easy to go ahead with them. Want proof?

Below is my list from this year. I posted it 48 weeks ago. Did I do any of it..?
  • Spend at least five hours a week reading something that's not college related (unless the pressure of college mounts up and I have no choice) - Short answer, no. I get lazy. Reading takes time and I sometimes like to pretend I have none.
  • Spend at least five hours a week writing or editing my own work (unless college + pressure = no choice) - Eh... fail. I wrote a lot during the summer, but not five hours every week, and not during all the other months too.
  • Blog at least twice a week, because I've become very bad at that, and it really needs to change - Actually, yes! Aside from the points in year where I decided not to blog, I think I pulled this one off. Okay, not all the time, I'll admit. Probably not even twice a week. But I wrote quite a lot on the blog this year!
  • Review every book I read from now on, including some of the ones I've already read (this will work in conjunction with my YouTube channel, I think) - If memory serves me right, yes I did this one. I think... must have... maybe...
  • Start a bookclub on my YouTube channel - Uh huh! And it got people reading some books, too. So it was a success!
  • Start my autograph boook (or at least get more than one signature - thank you Jackie Kessler!) - Um... no. I didn't get another signature (yet). The problem, of course, is that the one time during the year that I met Darren Shan, I forgot the autograph book and my camera. And I didn't meet any other "famous" people other than that. Boo!
  • Finish Meet Sam - 2010 is my year, I know it. I can do this. I have to. Then I'll get my other work noticed, like The Jump and The Magical Emporium of Magical Things (I started that three days ago - nice title, eh? ^_^) - Would you believe, I actually did more work on Meet Sam, but it actually created more work as well. I got a lecturer (or two) to read it, and she suggested some things to improve on. So I found lots of areas that need more writing added to them... and that meant I was suddenly a bit overwhelmed by the book. I've added to it... just not enough. And then I need to edit it.
  • Complete NaNoWriMo for the third year running - I would say I tried... but to be honest I only really started. I gave up after 5000 words, but not because I didn't like the book. I just didn't have any time (too many assignments).
So there you have it - I failed at New Year. This year, I'm starting early. I want to do one thing and one thing only in 2011. I want to actually finish Meet Sam. When the Christmas break hits me (only one more week of college left!) I'm going to be dividing my time between Teaching Practice work, family & friends and Meet Sam. I hope to get it done by February and then submit it to a publisher. I already have one in mind, so that's a load off. I just need to master the art of writing a synopsis and a cover letter. (fun times...)

I'm saying this early on so I don't let myself get distracted in a week. This day next week I'm going to wake up (relatively) early, take out my Meet Sam files and get to work on the book. I have my work timetable already for the whole of December, so I can work all my other plans around that. I'll be working on that fairly soon, actually, getting a timetable together to plan everything perfectly. I have a couple of plans for during the Christmas break, but other than that I'm a free man.

So... New Year's Resolutions, anyone?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Full of the Right Ideas

"You can have a head full of the right ideas, but if you can't make the right moves in the world, they're worthless."

That line comes from The Education of Charlie Banks. This post isn't about it, but it's a great film. You should go watch it. I just thought: that's a really good mantra to live your life by. I know it certainly applies to a lot of the crap I managed to cause throughout my life. It's like, you think you know what's best, you think you have it all figured out, but really, really, when it comes down to acting on it you can't. You make the wrong decisions with all the right ideas.

It's too easy to ruin everything. It's far too easy to take your own life and the lives of others and set them alight like you're just living in some fictional world, like everything's a computer game, like the consequences don't matter and you don't have to believe what's happening, or you don't have to save so nothing you did matters. All the mistakes you make, you think you know what you're doing. I mean, most people my age have some experience with computer games, with getting something wrong in them and having the character die, but then coming back and thinking they know how to beat the Big Bad, only to die again. And in the games you can just retry it again and again and it doesn't matter. If you're like me, you figure out how to beat the Big Bad, but you don't know how you can do it. I was always better at telling That Guy I Am how to do it than do it myself.

So it's like the line - having the right ideas but not making the right moves. Except life isn't a game. We live in this messed up world where we can send a text or an email and a second later the person can have received it and then you deal with the consequences. You can bitch and you can moan and you can hit send and then it's too late, then you can't take it back. And I mean, it's easy to do something positive with texts and emails, but it's the wrong moves that come back and bite us in the ass.

I've made those mistakes too many times thinking I knew what was best. I made those mistakes because I didn't want to talk to somebody, I wanted to talk at somebody. You know those sort of relationships where one person does all the talking and it seems fine, except when the other person has something to say they can't because they don't know how that sort of thing works in the relationship? Like, you can't say something because it's not your job to say something when you're actually talking, and you can never find the right time to do it? And when you do say something, it's in an email or a text that's too long and convoluted to get the message across or it's too emotionally charged to make any constructive sense, and all it does is irritate?

Then the shorter messages come along and they can have the biggest impact because you didn't say something. You know you wanted to say something but you don't know how, so the person finally seeing those words instead of hearing them, instead of seeing you, gets the wrong impression.

And you say sorry, and it doesn't mean anything really, even if you mean it, because to the other person it's just one more apology and one more message - heard or seen - among the crap you created before. And there's this impression of you made - unforgivable, it seems - and no matter what you do you don't know how to fix it, because all your right ideas only led you to the point where your actions ruined everything until there are no more right ideas left, only the wrong ones, and you can't act anymore.

Relationships are very, very complicated and fragile things, sometimes. I want to convey that message in a way that will reach everyone, but I don't know how to do it except like this. I mean this in the most sincere way I can manage - don't mess up the relationships closest to you because you'll only hate yourself for it.

But - and I really have to say this - just because you think you've ruined something, don't assume it can't be put back together. You just have to find all the tie all the loose strings together again until you've got something that you looks remarkably similar to what you had before, even if you've had to replace some of the stuff you lost.

Best wishes,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Being a Teacher

People seem to underestimate the work involved in being a teacher. I can say this, without conviction, because I have been doing some of the work of a teacher. If you think it's just standing up in front of a class and talking for the day, you're wrong. At primary level, which I've been getting lessons together for, there's a lot of creative thought necessary.


Because children don't want to listen to someone drone on about everything day-in, day-out for eight years. They need activities, stimulation, colour, videos, music, and time away from being spoken at about all the subjects they don't care for.

So what does a teacher have to do?

Let's put this into context: I have three classes to teach in January - 2 Religion and 1 English, every day for two weeks. For each of these three classes and for each of the weeks, I need to prepare what's called a Scheme of Work. I normally like scheming. This involves so much more than just minute preparation and a lot of winging it, though. Each scheme needs to cover the AIMS of the week's lessons, CONCEPTS & DEFINITIONS involved in the lessons, RESOURCES that were used to prepare the lesson and a DESCRIPTION of each of the five lessons per class per week.

After that, there then has to be a Lesson Plan for each of the lessons in each of the classes for both weeks. For me, with only a fraction of the work of a fully-qualified primary school teacher, this is still a huge amount of work: 15 lesson plans per week! New teachers would use lesson plans for a while until they had everything more or less prepared for the duration of their time teaching a particular school year, only tweaking things when necessary. However, this means an estimated 8-9 lesson plans per day, which amounts to 40-45 per week, for 37 weeks of the year (I'm told). That's 1,480-1665 per year. Bare in mind that many teachers stay with the same class group for two years, so they don't repeat a year until after they've done the same workload again.

That's a LOT of preparation...

And it's only the beginning! Teachers still have to prepare worksheets and resources for all of these lessons, and... yes, you guessed it: they have to teach the lessons. But it's not over after that. There's also this thing children hate called HOMEWORK and it has to be collected. Fun times, yeah?

And this is what I've signed up for, only with secondary schools instead. This means less freedom for lessons, but less subjects to cover. That doesn't make it easier, it just means that I'd have to teach up to six years worth of material. Yeah, that's more lesson plans the first time around. And with the way the curriculum is in English, it'd mean having to change the plans every year for fifth and sixth class, based on what texts are on for their Leaving Cert exams.

That doesn't sound like fun... why are you doing this again?

I ask myself that every time I have to do the preparatory work. I guess I just want to teach. I want to pass on knowledge, maybe make a generation of people excited about books and reading and, if I'm lucky and good enough, half-way decent citizens. Religion teaching isn't just "Yay God and all that"; it's about encouraging pupils to make an educated choice about religion; it's about teaching morals and values that have real importance in the world; it's about promoting equality and understanding and removing all the presumptions about other religious faiths, which I find to be of high importance given South Park's attacks on Judaism and Islam, even they're meant to just be funny; and it's about helping pupils to progress in their faith development.


Faith development; it's part of Robert Fowler's study of what he calls the stages of faith. They're not specific to Christianity, though a lot of the work was done in a Christian context. The stages of faith present a stage of someone's life, allowing them to understand the world in different ways to others of different stages. It's generally accepted that there are very few stage six people who ever lived... one of them is Jesus, another is Mahatma Ghandi. See? Universal! And Religion in schools is about helping people with their faith development so that they can understand the world in new lights. It's all very fascinating, really.

And this is what being a teacher is about?

Well, this is an idea of what being a teacher is about. Contextually, this is really what being an English and Religion teacher is about. Maths and Science teachers wouldn't be as concerned with faith development, I wouldn't imagine! But the workload is the same. It's a lot to do and a lot to teach, and while it's not as easy as people think, so far it's been as fulfilling. And I haven't even taught my lessons, yet!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


You know, I seriously thought the postal service would be fecked because of the snow... but no. I posted something yesterday and received confirmation of its arrival earlier today. I didn't really that the Irish post was that good even with good weather! Next day delivery, like? Ha!

I received a German mail order catalogue, too... I don't know how to un-subscribe. All the instructions on how to do that are in German. (Note: I receive this because I bought a birthday present from them for my friend...) Thankfully it doesn't cost me anything to be subscribed. It's just a little annoying.

And why am I mentioning this?

Because my Robert Frost poetry book still hasn't arrived! Something came from GERMANY, and something was delivered in Ireland IN ONE DAY, but the book can't get here.

Efficient or what?

To make things more fun, the ironic weather is getting worse. God College was closed early today (I think people are forgetting to pray for the snow to go away). Among the shenanigans of the day are a giant snowball fight, a lecturer getting hit in the back of the head with snow and an hour and a half walk home in the snow. The buses were cancelled and it's a long enough journey as it is. To make things a little longer, one of the girls who shall remain nameless (for the benefit of people in college... she does music, she's short and she's always really cheery!) stopped to talk to a couple of friends of hers. It was all grand, though. We only got pelted with hail for a little while, and the snow had stopped long before we got home, so it's not like we were exposed to more than we ought to have been.

I think I actually became immune to the cold at some point. Curious...

Still... I want my Robert Frost poetry book!