Monday, October 24, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 24.10.16


Our Next Government: The national committee of the left-of-centre PSOE party yesterday decided, by a majority vote, to let the right-of-centre PP party form a minority government this week. So, no third general election in December. Quite what this portends for the PSOE is an interesting question, given that a significant percentage of its politicians voted against this and the majority of its members (militantes) take the same view. Schism anyone? A new party even? Or just a smouldering civil war, as with the Labour party in the UK?


Tourism: Thanks to terrorist activities elsewhere, this has been given a massive boost this year. To such an extent that there are now serious worries that saturation point has been reached and even passed in some parts of the country.


Trade Deals: The UK faces years of negotiating these, of course. Not just with the EU but with would-be partners all over the world. They can take time and even abort, as this article from Don Quijones stresses. Not that he's over-concerned with this (possible) blow to the designs and aspirations of what he terms the global corporatocracy.


Teaching: As the father of a daughter who went to this and who initially enjoyed it before being driven out after 8 years, I thought I knew all about how exhausting and frustrating this career has become because of government strictures. But the article at the end of this post was still a bit of a revelation. On Sky News this morning, they're reporting that a third of those who qualified 5 years ago have already quit. Is there really no one in the government aware of and concerned about this massive wastage? 


Russia: A worrying couple of paragraphs to follow up yesterday's comments on Moscow's disinformation strategy:
  • Russia’s goal, according to a number of military, diplomatic, and political sources in Moscow, is a grand bargain that would overturn what it sees as an unjust post-Cold War settlement
  • Russia and the West have entered a new Cold War that could lead to growing confrontations across the globe, as Vladimir Putin challenges American international hegemony. That is the consensus among military and foreign policy experts in Moscow, who have warned that Russia and the West are headed for a standoff as dangerous as the Cuban missile crisis.

Village Life: Reader Sierra, when advising that the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica provides census data in both Spanish and English going back to 1842, asks how his village of 2,764 souls can sustain 4 bank branches, 12 restaurant/bars, a 3-doctor medical centre, and a police station. I wish I had some idea of why.

Wines: I've been singing the praises of one of our 'other' white wines - Godello - for years now. So, I'm not surprised to read that the world is finally catching up. As per this US comment: Further in from the coast, the lesser known regions of Ribeiro, Monterrei and Valdeorras grow a range of other white grapes, including Godello, Treixadura, Loureira and Caiño. Godello has lived in the shadow of Albariño for many years, but is now proving itself to be every bit as good if not better – certainly at the moment it is producing the most exciting white wines in Spain. More here.


Followers on Google +: I don't really know how these arise but I'm pleased to report that the total of mine, after lingering for months on 59, yesterday finally moved to 60! A good excuse to try some more Galician white wine!


A few years ago the once-great Daily Telegraph sacked its sub-editors and contracted out the work to antipodean teenagers. The result is frequently in evidence, as in this last line in this morning's report of the cricket match between England and Bangladesh: There could be more twits and turns to come on this compelling tour.


In honour of Pontevedra's ever-increasing number of beggars . . . 

In truth, only one of our beggars stands in the same place all day. The rest are very itinerant, appearing at your table at least twice an hour.


No new cases today(!), Only this recent Spanish article on the prison sentences being sought for the Andalucian politicos involved in the deviation of massive EU subventions. Which is a national pasttime down there, of course.


The Secret Teacher: Teaching brought me and my partner together. Now it's tearing us apart

It was teaching, at the beginning, that brought us together. I was a young aspiring teacher, and I sent a Facebook message to an old acquaintance who happened to be in same profession. A flurry of messages followed, as we shared anecdotes about our classes, before I got down to the real reason I’d messaged her - a date.

As the weeks and months went by, we’d dash to each others’ houses after school, forgetting about marking, planning and laborious bureaucracy. Teaching played a secondary role in our lives at this point. I remember how, instead of spending our weekends hunched over laptops, we’d hop into the car together and drive through beautiful countryside. I remember drinking cocktails and going out with our friends. Every day we spent together was like one of those cliched movie scenes where the newlyweds drive off into the distance with tin cans rattling behind them.

Summative assessments, emails and performance management documents just didn’t matter to us. We found happiness in putting ourselves, and our relationship, first.

Skip forward two years and things are very different. We both hold positions of responsibility in our schools. We have a mortgage to pay. The two-hour round commute and pointless paper-pushing tasks are taking their toll. Nights out with friends are few and far between as we struggle with fatigue – we usually prefer an early night to a pina colada. Instead of tossing the paperwork aside, we’re drowning in it. And so is our relationship.

Right now, as I write this, we’ve spent about seven hours at opposite ends of the dining table, marking our students’ mid-term assessments. We’ve barely spoken to each other, save for the occasional grunt or “Cuppa?”. Spending our weekends this way is essential to keep on top of our workload and stop it taking over every evening for the next week.

Instead of tossing paperwork aside, we're drowning in it. And so is our relationship.

We try to find corners to cut and quick-win methods in our day-to-day tasks, to carve out some time together – cuddling on the settee or chatting for 20 minutes over dinner – but the shadow of our careers is never far away.

We were recently away for a weekend when my partner, a newly appointed curriculum lead, received an email with a deadline for the following Monday. Forget the break: calculate these residuals and Progress 8 scores instead, please. She said it would have to wait until we were back – and was subjected to a series of attacks on her professionalism as a result.

As a fellow teacher, I know that such behaviour is not rare. On the contrary, I have seen co-workers succumb to the same sort of pressure all too often. I also know how hard my partner has sweated to get to where she is now. She is far from negligent, as her line managers implied. She just cares more about her stress levels and her home life than she does about calculating spreadsheets at the drop of a hat. Times like these test the strength of your resolve as an individual, and as a couple.

Of course, teacher-teacher relationships are not all doom and gloom – there are lots of advantages. We have shared some brilliant examples of best practice, given each other advice and cried together. We both celebrated when a kid my partner had persevered with for six months finally had a long-awaited lightbulb moment. You become so invested in each others’ school lives that you begin to live them yourself, from the frustration to the elation.

But now, as a couple, we’re trying to push all this aside. We’ve decided to be the consummate professionals we have always been between 7.15am and 5.30pm, but as soon as we fire up the car engines to go home, we’ll switch off.

My partner is starting to look at roles outside of the profession – a huge loss to the teaching world, if you ask me. I’m still hanging on to the thread of affection I have left for the job.

I have no doubt that the selfless, hard-working and creative spark I love is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. But we’ve had to ask hard questions of ourselves recently – and we’ve realised that while we remain in this profession, our lives and relationship will always play second fiddle. We are not OK with that. After all, don’t we deserve the cliche of tin cans rattling as we drive off into the sunset? It’d be a lot easier without the weight of teaching in the back.


kraal said...

My daughter in law is a teacher at an infant school. She has had two late nights last week for parents evenings and this half term week she is going in for a couple of mornings for what she calls catch up. As she teaches 5/6 year olds I find it hard to believe she has to spend so much time on keeping records, reporting and lesson planning.

Anthea said...

I have a number of ex-students who are now teaching modern foreign languages in secondary school, so far very happily and enthusiastically. Of course, most of them have not yet reached the five-year-exhaustion point so I wait with interest to see what happens in the next couple of years.

And then there isnpur daughter, current.y on maternity leave from her primary school job. What will happen next June/July when she goes back to work?

Lenox said...

No beggars I can see in Almería... A few Romanians in the supermarket doorways in Mojacar...