Friday, 17 October 2014

What I inherited from Mum and Dad

My Mum and Dad were both Heads of Science (in different schools of course) and people that didn’t know them well might have thought that they were rather “nerdy”. The truth is that they were both frugal and organised and above all sensible. 

Like all normal people neither of them expected to die in an accident – certainly they never imagined dying together and leaving me on my own! But because they were sensible they arranged their financial affairs so that if the worst did happen I wouldn’t be left destitute. They both had life insurance and any spare money they had was put into tax-free investments (ISAs). When they died the mortgage on the house was automatically paid off which meant that it became mine without anybody else having a financial claim on it and when things all went wrong with Nan and Granddad the house was a bolt hole for me to escape to. A place of refuge, that nobody could make me leave once I was 18. 

Yes I did have some financial problems but as readers of my blog will remember they were mainly due to Nan and Granddad stealing from me or were due to my own financial inexperience. As an example I didn’t know I was allowed to sell the stocks and shares I had been left as an alternative to using them to generate income. Once somebody explained that to me it made a big difference: problems like 4 new tires for the car needed a lump sum of capital rather than a monthly cheque and selling a few company stocks and shares enabled me to cope better.  

But this month I found that I had also received a different kind of inheritance from them! 

I’ve been doing the first school block in my PGCE (teacher training) course. I have been allowed to teach small sections of lessons at the 3 different key stages – so the youngest group I taught was year 7 and the oldest was year 13. Most student teachers prefer to teach the younger pupils but I must take after my Mum and Dad because I found working with the older groups both easier and more fun. I think my biggest success was doing some physics calculations with a triple science group. The classroom teacher gave me a couple of worked examples to use with the group but once they had finished these I made up some examples of my own and demonstrated how to work out the answers on the white-board without using a calculator. Mum and Dad were always good at mental arithmetic and I seem to be as well. 

I didn’t have any problems with classroom control. I think being so tall and having quite a loud voice makes them feel that mucking the new teacher around might not be a good idea. Several times each day I found myself using behavioural techniques that I had heard Mum and Dad talking about at home. My mentor seemed impressed that I knew these and he guessed that I had come from a family of teachers. 

I seem to have a lot of “electronic paperwork” to look at and even some to create for myself. What with schemes of work, lesson plans, pupil worksheets and class registers there always seemed to be something that needed to be done. I have all Mum and Dad’s teaching resources in folders so I look through what they used when they were still alive and pinch the best bits. It is almost like a legacy from them to me isn’t it!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bereavement and friendship groups

When Mum and Dad were killed I was 17 and I was in year 12 at school. I was a fairly typical teenager in that I had four really close friends and a much larger number of casual friends. During term time the five of us would go out almost every Saturday evening and during the school holidays we would usually also meet up at least one time during the week.

After the accident all this changed and it is only now, nearly five years later, that I feel comfortable writing about what went wrong.  I'm not going to name names - it would be petty and hurtful and wouldn't change anything.

Person A - Five can be a rather awkward number in social situations - especially when the five is made up of two pairs and a singleton. Four of us were studying A Level science but "A" wasn't and this meant I saw less of her than the other members of what I saw as "my group". In the horrible first few weeks after the accident "A" totally blanked me at every opportunity and we never had a proper conversation again. Quite literally never. I found out somewhat later that she had been bad-mouthing me as an "attention seeking prima donna" from the day I returned to school and that she had been warned semi-officially about her behaviour by the Head of the Sixth Form. In fairness to my other friends they never joined in this nastiness and "A" soon stopped being part of their group.

"A" started a degree course at Warwick - dropped out in the first term and re-started on a different degree course at Coventry the following year. She is currently a third year - so one year behind me. We have a few friends in common but never communicate directly.

"B" and "C" had been friends since starting primary school. So by the time I got to know them they had been best friends for nearly ten years. They both helped me, as best they could, when my disaster struck but like most folk they were very uncomfortable dealing with death. I pretty much withdrew from social life for 8 or 9 months after the accident and it took a while to re-establish the really close friendship we had had previously. When I moved out of Granddad's house and back into the family home they - and their parents - were lovely and supported me in all sorts of ways.

They both graduated the same time as me, summer 2014, and both seem to have found jobs without too much trouble working in the manufacturing sector. We are still in regular contact.

"D" was probably my best friend in years 9, 10, 11 and 12. But we gradually drifted apart towards the end of our time at school. She discovered the wonderful world of boys and spent almost all her free time outside lessons draped around him. She then dropped out of the Saturday night trips with the girls, preferring his company, and so apart from sitting next to her in lessons we didn't have much of a friendship left. She isn't on any social media group that I use so I don't know much about what happened next. I have seen her in town twice in the last few months, just to say "Hi" to, so she is still around.

What I never managed to do after the accident was to make any new friends at school. I felt I was constantly battling just to carry on and so I didn't have much time or inclination to go looking for new friends. Others in my year group were rather wary of getting involved with my problems so none of them made the first move. This meant that I had a fairly lonely time until I went off to university.

Then of course things got much, much better! :)