Category Archives: Ranting

H20 uh oh

We are in a bit of a drought here. I’m not sure of the actual definition of a drought, but despite the fact that I live on the We(s)t Coast of Canada, there has been no appreciable rainfall since maybe April. So while we are currently enjoying a very long stretch of unusually dry and warm weather, the downside of that is our diminishing water supply – due to less precipitation than normal last winter, and more demand for water now.images-1

So water restrictions have been put into place. This is a reasonable thing to do, I think all would agree. Wouldn’t we rather have water available to fight forest fires (of which, thank goodness, there are less and less across the province now) than to power wash our driveways? According to these restrictions, because my address is an odd-numbered one, I can water my postage stamp of a back lawn once a week, on Thursdays, only between 4 am and 9 am. Those with even-numbered addresses can do the same only on Mondays. People are being encouraged to shower less and for shorter amounts of time, as well as to not flush the toilet every time. We are being reminded to turn off the tap while brushing teeth or washing dishes. Car washing is most definitely frowned upon, as is running the dishwasher or washing machine with less than a full load.

Also, it is being suggested that all Metro Vancouver residents keep their eyes open for violations of the water restrictions and report these to the engineering departments of their specific cities. Yeah, Big Brother is alive and well – or is that maybe the Nazis? (I’m a little unclear on the specifics, as I’m on summer vacation and I’ve turned off large parts of my brains for the duration.) And people are doing this quite a lot, it seems. Many, many warnings and tickets are being handed out to residents and businesses who are flouting the rules.

PG himself, having been woken up at 6 am by the automatic lawn sprinklers outside his apartment building, made a complaint when he realized that the sprinklers were running three times a week instead of the mandated once, as well as far longer than necessary to adequately water the lawn. He reported that, that very day, there was a warning notice from the city taped to the front door of the building, and the city contacted the company that manages the building, who then sent someone out to turn off said sprinkler system (the controls are located in the underground parking garage right near where he parks his car, so he said he was easily able to tell that this had been done). Of course, PG, being PG, was quite disgusted that it took a phone call from him to right this wrong: every other resident of the building had to have been aware of those sprinklers running so long and so often, so why was it up to him to make the call? And where was the manager of the building anyway? He doesn’t even live in the building, for one thing, and he is obviously completely incompetent at his job! (But that’s a story for a different day!)Screen-Shot-2015-07-16-at-11.59.03-AM

Okay. So the tattle-tale system works. But what should I do when I wake up one morning, look outside at the driveway that I share with the other two families of my building, and see that my next-door neighbour has washed his behemoth of an SUV earlier that day? There’s a huge wet puddle on the asphalt as evidence. It’s pretty obvious. But I also know that this clown generally washes his vehicle at 6 or so in the morning, before he goes to work. I’ve seen this with my very own eyes. I think it’s odd, but then, this is the same guy who clips his nails in the backyard with unnerving regularity, also very early in the mornings.

Well, I’m certainly not planning to talk to the guy, that’s for sure. He’s clearly too weird.

My tactic is so much more sensible: I’ll just blog about it.

Keeping your cool

imagesAs my unofficial big brother Ian has already noted, we are in the midst of a heat wave here on the Left Coast of Canada. And we are SO not used to this! We prefer complaining about the rain in winter, not the heat in summer. This is quite the shift for us poor Westerners.

My house isn’t too hot, despite the fact that many of my windows face south. I try to remember to keep those shutters and blinds closed during the day, and when evening rolls around, I can get a pretty good crossbreeze going upstairs because I also have windows that face north, so I can open everything up and let ‘er rip. I have a large and shady north-facing balcony on which to sit and sip a cool beverage in the heat of the afternoon, and a lovely cool basement in which to hang out and watch TV – or nap – if I’m so inclined. Speaking of napping, I have a ceiling fan in my south-facing bedroom, so I’m generally able to sleep okay (other than the usual wee-hours-of-the-morning pee breaks or three-a.m.-menopausal insomnia).

Now, PG lives on the third floor of an apartment building that was constructed in the seventies. His single-paned windows face west. His place is HOT AS HELL (or thereabouts. I can only guess, having never actually experienced the temperatures in Hell. But maybe Egypt in July would be close. THAT I have experienced.)

PG has a ceiling fan in his bedroom, as well as blackout curtains, but up on the third floor of an older, west-facing apartment, that’s not really enough. So he bought himself an air conditioning unit and installed it in his bedroom window on Saturday. fg1tuchHa5hkgv-95KaZmWZl-mtO3Q7P7oiQ18UxPg7a31cSRWl6FUqCPcf_B4hwkcuvKQ=s151

On Saturday night, we had a social function to attend (wow, that sounds like a snooty black-tie charity cocktail party or something! Actually, it was a birthday bbq in a friend’s backyard. Much more to my taste.). The friend lives not too far from PG’s, so it made more sense for me to spend the weekend at his place rather than him to come to my place (my laundry facilities notwithstanding). And I thought this would be wonderful, with his new air con!

And it truly was! His bedroom was wonderfully cool, and he had a floor fan set up to waft some of that coolth (as opposed to “warmth”, get it?) into the living room. It was actually nice in his apartment, considering that it was just over 30 degrees outside.

So we went to the bbq, and got back to PG’s apartment around midnight. It was amazing in there! What a difference 150$ for the air con plus four hours of sweat and labour for the installation makes! I just KNEW I’d sleep well!

PG said he felt quite comfortable, temperature-wise, so he turned off the air con. I was dubious, but since the room was already fairly cool, I figured I’d fall asleep easily and then I wouldn’t notice whether it was on or off.

And that’s exactly what happened. Till I woke up, drenched in a pool of my own sweat, at three a.m. (Yep, the menopausal insomnia, right on time.) I got up, went to the bathroom, then realized that I could just switch the ceiling fan on and all would be well.

And it was. I drifted back to sleep, the gentle breeze of the ceiling fan drying the perspiration off my body.

Till I woke up again, two hours later, drenched in sweat again. Again, I got up and went to the bathroom. When I got back to the bedroom, I realized that the ceiling fan was now off. WTF?!? I turned it back on, and fell back asleep for a couple more hours.

This time the ceiling fan was still on, but I still glared at PG. “Seems to me,” I said slowly, “that if you bought yourself an air conditioner, that you would at least use it.”

He smiled and said something about not using it ALL the time because it’s a “little noisy to sleep with”.

I sat up and looked down at him. “Then,” I hissed, “you should use your ceiling fan. It’s quieter. If you use nothing, it gets VERY EFFING HOT in here. Also, if someone else – LIKE ME! – turns on the ceiling fan in the middle of the night because it’s VERY EFFING HOT in here, you should NOT turn it off!”

He actually laughed. He did. He LAUGHED.

Then I remembered. This turning-off-of-the-air-con has happened before, when we were in Philadelphia three summers ago. This is a pattern with him. This is what he DOES!

I should have taken him out then. I really should have.

Marked as absent

I’ve been home with a nasty cold for two days now. It hit me on Saturday morning, then I rallied a bit for Sunday and Monday, then I succumbed to fits of coughing, wads of tissues, an inability to breath through my nose despite the constant blowing of said nose, a voice like Lauren Bacall’s, and various aches and pains.

So I’ve called in sick yesterday and today. Because I can. I am not provided with a substitute teacher in my particular job until I have been absent for three days, (something to do with teacher shortages and budget cuts, I believe), so I don’t have to plan for someone else to teach my classes. That, as any teacher out there will tell you, is sometimes worse than going in to work when you’re feeling like crap. Yes, it’s part of our jobs to always leave a plan and materials ready for the next day when we leave the school every night, but when you KNOW that someone else will be doing the job for you that day, you plan things differently.

For example, I teach French Immersion, so I do everything in French, including all my planning. There is ALWAYS a shortage of French Immersion substitute teachers in my district, so many times, even if we request someone who is French-speaking, the district sends someone who is not. So, most French Immersion teachers will try to write their dayplan in English if they know they will be absent the next day, because chances are very good that their replacement teacher will only speak English.

Also, you need to be more precise and detailed when writing a plan for someone else to follow. Normally, a teacher would write something like “1:30 – 2, buddy class, Karen has book”. Huh??? So, when planning for a substitute, you would change that to “1:30 – 2, buddy class – grade 1s from Karen Jones’ class come to our class. My students all have a Grade 1 partner (see attached list). The partners from Group A (see attached list) go back to Karen’s class, those in Group B (see attached list) stay with me. Read book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (Karen will bring it) to Group B. My students then help the Grade 1s to write a sentence and illustrate their favourite part of the story. If time, each partner can share their work with the whole group.”

See what I mean? And you have to do this for every single lesson that day – all while feeling lousy and just wanting to go home, take some aspirin, and sleep for a week.

Of course, there are certainly times where you cannot plan ahead like that, when illness strikes in the middle of the night with a rather abrupt trip to the toilet or perhaps the plaintive cry of a child at 3am: “Mommeeeeeee! I feel siiiiiiick!” swiftly followed by the hiccuping and crying that signal that the child has just vomited in their bed. In that case, as soon as you can, you book your absence on the school district website and hope for the best, because you are NOT going to work in the morning. Some very conscientious teachers will, at that point, create an entirely new plan for the day and email it to the school secretary who will then pass it on to the substitute teacher who arrives to teach the class in the morning. But if you’re writhing in pain from a migraine, you’re obviously not going to do that, so whoever teaches your class is just going to have to figure out your cryptic notes on their own.

And that’s if someone arrives at all! Because, again, due to budget cuts and lack of hiring, it’s not unheard of for there to be no one at all to teach your class, particularly if you book your absence later than, say, 10pm the night before. Substitute teachers browse the available absences in the evening and can choose which job they would like to do the next day. Few of them check the website at 5 or 6am in the morning, so those absences that are unfilled at that time, often stay unfilled. Oh, there are people in the district office who make a token phone call or two in the morning to a few substitute teachers who haven’t yet picked up a job for the day, but I don’t think they try too hard, quite honestly. This has been an issue in my school district for many years now, and the superintendents keep saying that it’s the teachers’ faults for taking so much time off, that the system can’t keep up with the demand. I say, if the demand is there, then hire more substitutes! It’s a growing school district, after all! But then there’s the chronic underfunding of our public school system, and I won’t go into my regular rant about THAT today.

So what happens when there’s no substitute to teach a class? Well, in an elementary school such as mine, non-enrolling teachers are put into those classrooms: learning support teachers (like me), music teachers, librarians, vice-principals, principals. Which means that we don’t get to do our own jobs that day, and the kids lose out. And since out of all those non-enrolling teachers at my school, I am the only one who speaks French, pretty much every single time that we are missing a substitute teacher in a French class, I am asked to cover the class. Fortunately, my principal and vice-principal are a couple of the “good” ones, so we usually work out a sharing arrangement: I teach till recess, for example, and we switch the plan around so that everything that absolutely must be in French (like reading or writing lessons), I will do during that time. Then my principal will teach between recess and lunch, and the VP will teach in the afternoon, both of them in English. It’s not perfect, but at least it’s not an entire day lost for any of us or for the kids.

Then, of course, regardless of how detailed your dayplan was or who actually taught your class that day, when you come back to work, there’s all that “catch-up” to do. The kids are usually all over you: “Where WERE you, Madame?” “We never got to go to the library yesterday, so can we go today?” “It was hot lunch and I didn’t get my doughnut!” You probably don’t have an actual dayplan for the day, because you were absent the day before (though you probably have a pretty good idea of where you were going next with each lesson), so you first have to determine what was actually completed from the day before. Then you have to very quickly decide what to do next – and get the materials organized even quicker, because your students are waiting. And hopefully, you didn’t come back to work too soon, while you’re still a bit ill and lacking energy – but hey, you’re a teacher and you probably did, because you know how things go when you’re absent.

So yeah, sometimes it really IS easier to go in to work and teach when you’re not feeling great.

Been there, done that. But not this time. I’m sick and I’m at home. eb3bef92bc4d187296ecc01369d06e0b