Teacher’s Corner: Fuck Childhood Poverty

Childhood poverty is something teachers get confronted with. Or some teachers get confronted with. The stratified German school system has long been linked to perpetuating social stratification. The high school I used to work at was a place that rather confronted you with childhood richness, despite being in one of the most downtrodden towns in Germany: Now at my comprehensive school the matter is a different issue. Many of the kids there are poor, and poverty has many aspects and layers. And some of the layers are more obvious than others. A lot of it is hidden. Nobody notices that a child never has any fruit because you don’t check all the food they’re eating. But you learn to notice the kids who either devour the free school fruit or look sceptically at pineapples because they have no clue what those are. And you learn to notice the kids whose clothing may be impeccably clean but is always the same. A kid tripped and tore her jacket. Now she has to tape it. The kids who will cry if some utensil breaks. Or those who are mysteriously ill just when there’s a class trip that is not free.

As a teacher you either get a heart of stone or you quitly spend a lot of money out of your own pocket. With a stash of stationery. With the winter coat that you kept for kid #2. With bake sales to raise funds for class trips.

For most kids*, childhood poverty in Germany may not be as bad as childhood poverty is in the US, at least they get more or less enough food, shelter and healthcare, but it’s devastating nonetheless. So if you want to support kids and do some good for the upcoming holidays: ask your local schools if they need anything. Here many schools have a “clothes shop” where kids can get stuff, ask if they need school supplies or maybe craft supplies from a hobby you no longer enjoy.

 

 

*A big exception here are EU migrants whose parents don’t have a job. I wrote about this before

I Watched Frozen 2 (and I liked it)

Yesterday we went to watch Frozen 2 in the cinema. My friends took their grandkid and we took ours and the little one’s BFF. They were chatting so much in the car, and our friends arrived a bit late and once we all had our popcorn I was already so confused that we first accidentally ended up in the wrong theatre (I noticed when I could see clearly despite not wearing my 3D classes). Sorry to the other folks.

Once we found space in the right theatre, the movie could start and it was great fun. First, there’s a lot of the silly fun that these movies are known for. Olaf is reliable as in the first one, but there’s also lots of situational humour that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Also, there’s new fun characters, with the spirit of fire probably being the cutest.

 

I’m definitely waiting for merchandise.

There’s also the usual adult joke or two thrown into that Disney is famous for. You know the ones that completely fly over the head of the kids and make the adults giggle and I also think that makes a great family movie. Things can be understood at different levels.

I absolutely liked how they handled the Anna – Kristof relationship. The two of them are lovers, but they are also friends. The whole gang meets up at night in the castle to play games and all the characters care for each other.

Another great part was the costuming. Now, I have no idea how they got spandex in Arendelle, but both Elsa’s and Anna’s travel gear looks like they can actually do the things they are doing in them. Still no pockets, but Anna gets a bag.

Now, for the great “Elsa is gay” controversy:

If that ain’t a “coming out” song I don’t know what it is. She’s always been torn, and different and now she’s singing a duet with a female voice who holds the answer and who is supposed to show herself. I am not quite sure what she’s coming out as, but I think that “queer” definitely counts.

Lastly, an unexpected aspect. While the trailer already hinted at Sami culture, I expected some nod at cultural diversity and you know what. I didn’t expect colonialism to be actually a topic and I didn’t expect the solution to “past wrongs” to be so radical. Without spoiling it: That’s what actual recompensation looks like.

In Need of Cute

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The bunnies, back in late summer. I think we can all do with some cute. You know your blogging team is all struggling with personal and health shit, so, sorry for neglecting you a tad. I had a busy week, because the world is a shitty place for kids and sometimes you can help, at other times you can’t and that’s the hardest part because all you can do then is keep your files up to date to prove you did everything you could. I’m taking that kind of shit hard. And because my mind is constantly working on 10 things at the same time while also forgetting some rather simple things I managed to damage both my front and my back bumper in two different but equally stupid events the same day after 20 years of driving without any accidents. Duh.

Happy Birthday, Caine

Robert, Desert Son OM kindly reminded us that today is Caine’s birthday. I am rubbish at dates, but I always prefer birthdays to death days, as they speak of life and quite often, of happy memories.

How to better celebrate Caine’s birthday than with a bird, so here’s a duck on a sea of gold. Happy Birthday, Caine!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

What do you mean “boundaries”???

These days a conversation blew up in my Twitter feed, started by what seemed to me a pretty thread about asking for help and emotional labour:

“I want to chat briefly about this text that I received from a friend last week:

“Do you have the emotional/mental capacity for me to vent about something medical/weight-related for a few minutes””

Sounds pretty harmless, right? She talks about friends respecting their friend’s capacity, how amazing she thought it was for her friend to check in with her whether she could handle such a conversation right now, and after being asked for one, she provided a template for declining:

“Hey! I’m so glad you reached out. I’m actually at capacity / helping someone else who’s in crisis / dealing with some personal stuff right now, and I don’t think I can hold appropriate space for you. Could we connect (later date or time) instead / Do you have someone else to reach out to?”

From some of the reactions on my carefully curated Twitter feed you’d think she’d proposed skinning live kittens. People accused her of being a shitty friend (because saying “that’s tough” is easy and all that is needed) to being so deep in capitalist thinking that she wants to make personal interactions transactional and I just thought “WTF”???

Because nowhere does she mention wanting something in return. Nowhere does she decline helping her friends in general. She’s probably a very good listener who is compassionate, providing her friends with emotional support, or otherwise that particular friend would probably not ask her for her time.

What struck me was how nasty the conversation turned and how entitled people felt to other’s emotional space. Because boy do I know what it means to be emotionally exhausted. I talk a lot about my job, and most of the time I take it with humour. I have good emotional hygiene, which is something that I had to build with time, and I have a loving family that can provide ME with emotional support. And still sometimes I’ll leave school feeling raw and overwhelmed. When you have to have long conversations about abuse. When you hear that a girl the same age as your daughter was raped. If you came to me to vent with something perfectly legitimate but less severe than that, I might blow and take it out on you. You don’t want me to call you a crybaby who needs to get a grip. Not because that’s what I think, but because it would be self -defense against you needing something I just cannot afford to spend. I would be a bad friend to you, but you’d also be a bad friend to me.

If you came with something equally serious, I might simply break down. Again, none of us would be helped by this. I have the suspicion that the people demanding 24/7 emotional availability from their friends don’t care about their side of the interaction. Maybe they have less stressful jobs. maybe they have a greater mental capacity. Or maybe they are usually the venting side, not the being vented at side. And maybe they just never thought about this. In that case: please do so now. Do reach out. You’re not a burden to your friends, but please don’t forget that right now, they may not be able to give you what you need.

Teacher’s Corner: How Bizarre

That’s like the only word I have for the last week.

By now you know my job is hard and stressful and you got to deal with lots of things that are often outside of everyday experience, but I think that last week took the cake.

I truly don’t remember much of Monday. Must have been a normal kind of day. I know I made it out while it was light and went for a walk. On Tuesday we had a “class day” and decided to talk about mobbing and violence with one of our classes. I think some important talks happened (one result being that when being aske4d anonymously, most kids wish for a quiet atmosphere and a good class community), but I didn’t stay till the end, because I had to ride the ambulance with one of the kids.

On Wednesday, one of my charges lost whatever self-control he has. Again. the kid is one of these cases where we’ll have to say that we cannot keep him. He’s deeply traumatised, lacks any kind of coping strategies and is always like a pressure pot ready to explode. He needs some good therapy and a different school setting with more resources than we have. The day before he had a fight with another kid and was ready to continue on Wednesday. After he attacked that kid twice within two minutes, I sent him home for the day. This was the “wrong” thing to do. he absolutely likes being in school with his friends, but we cannot spend the whole day stopping him from attacking other kids. As a result he started throwing chairs and books. I got to hear whatever slur there is and he smartly and shortly stopped himself from throwing his pencil case at me. Though that’s kind of a usual day.

We almost made it through Thursday but shortly towards the end, three girls (grade 6) told us that another girl (also grade 6) had told them that she was pregnant. It was too late in the day to talk to that girl, so me and the social worker decided to talk to her on Friday.

On Friday that girl told us she had only been playing “truth or consequences” at the youth club, and inspired by another girl (grade 7) who might actually be pregnant (stay tuned as we’ll find out this week). She kindly offered me to come to the bathroom to show me her period when she’s getting it at the end of the month. I might have slightly lost it internally at that point. Our social worker and I are still a bit puzzled. We think she might have enjoyed being the centre of the whole school’s attention, because she’s usually a girl who doesn’t get much of it.

So if anybody ever tells you that teachers just need to know their subject, kindly hit them over the head with information.

Anyway, here’s some music to match the post:

Swan Swam Back Again: An Autumn Walk II

Doubling as a rare “Friday Feathers”

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Some last glimpses of sunlight remained…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The mushrooms made a brave attempt.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Then the setting sun was reflected by clouds and the light became dramatic

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And the mist began to rise…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Say goodbye to the swan for now, I’m sure we’ll meet again.

Swan Swam over the Lake: An Autumn Walk

Then local pond had some pokestops added, making it a much more attractive destination for an afternoon  walk (don’t judge). the fact that the woods are currently 90% mud further increased the attractiveness of the pond and its plastered walks. And it was nice taking the camera to something “new”. Sadly most of the sun was already gone because even sunshine apparently discriminates against working women.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

That fountain goes off once an hour. occasionally it shoots a bird out of the sky (or at least thoroughly confuses it).

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

Swans are known to mate for life. Unfortunately, this swan’s partner didn’t know that and took off about three weeks ago.

Part two will follow tomorrow, when we find out if the swan swam over the lake (swim, swan, swim!).

The garden

I promised some pics of the “finished” garden, so here they are.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The stairs. You can see there’s still a lot of work ahead. We need to terrace the left side and refill part of the right side. The left side will be the veggie garden, the right side left again to wild flowers and insects. We also need to put some slates on top of the wall. The wall at the top is open. It will be filled with ground and planted with herbs and flowers.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Upper terrace. This is our place for spring and autumn. It gets sun all afternoon, the stones heat up and store the warmth, while it’s sheltered from the wind.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Lower terrace. The place for barbecues and garden parties. It’s always cooler down there than anywhere else (though there are also always more mosquitoes). We wanted to replace the fence in case 30-50 feral hogs coming into the garden (more like 3-5 wild boars, but they can do a lot of damage), but I was in hospital. The area behind the missing fence is “ours” rented from the city at a pittance), but we haven’t done there much yet. I want to build a greenhouse using the old windows you can see in the pic. One day…

Tummy Thursday: You gotta celebrate them all!

As promised: cake. Or at least pictures of cake. The kids get to ask for a special cake each year, a chimaera born of my love to bake and the working mun’s eternal bad conscience. As a result, my cakes are legendary, at least among people under 15.

This year the little one asked for a Pokemon party and so she go a Pokeball cake.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

It’s a tad egg shaped. I underestimated the volume of the metal bowls I used as baking tins and as a result I was short on cake and since I didn’t weigh the batter, one was bigger than the other. To fill in the middle I baked another cake and cut out circles. As things weren’t 100% even, the bottom is a bit larger than the top, though I must say that on the inside the two cakes together really worked out well:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Chocolate and vanilla cake with Italian meringue chocolate buttercream.

And, what’s inside a Pokeball?

Pokemon!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I had ordered small Pokemon toys and hid them inside the Pokeball to the surprise and amazement of the kids.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Some of the cut off cake tops were turned into Pokeball cake pops

And to have something a bit lighter:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Powder Puffs. With lemon curd buttercream. You may notice a few repeating themes: the leftover lemon curd got combined with some of the Italian meringue that I didn’t need for the cake.

I actually had to bake them twice because the first time i fucked up the sponge, which is why you should never laugh at people failing at baking shows.

Holidays: de fiesta 2

To us, the highlight of the festival was the “Dance of the Dragons”. Groups from the city itself and the surrounding communities would come with their dragon figures and “dance”. They put fireworks into the mouths and talons of the dragons and danced through the streets with everybody following them, with bands and music and everything.

It was an amazing experience. Only the pics are bad and in between my batteries gave out.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Whoever the person inside is, I hope they got a nice beer or beverage of their choice afterwards. Or a dozen. They deserve it.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Music band

©Giliell, all rights reserved Breathing fire

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Many kids were dressed up as devils and well protected with ear protection.

 

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And a gif. It was easiest to post it to Twitter

 

Tummy Thursday: Happy Halloween

It probably still is Thursday somewhere.

For the last few years we have been celebrating Halloween with our friends and yesterday we went to my BFFs city where the local shop owners and the city and the different clubs and associations organised a Halloween event where the shops would give out candy. The town centre was packed and it was a lovely evening, followed by lots of spooky food.

©Giliell, all rights reserved A haunted “Haus”. Probably to scare English teachers.

 

©Giliell, all rights reserved The little one, dressed up as Wonder Woman

©Giliell, all rights reserved #1, dressed up as Harley Quinn.

While I could simply buy a generic Wonder Woman costume for the Little One, #1’s was more complicated. She#s too tall for the kids versions and the adult versions rely more on the DC movies than the animated Super Hero Girls show she likes to watch. While we found a nice pair of red and blue leggings, we agreed that a jacket with “property of Joker” on the back was highly inappropriate. “I’m no fucking property of anyone!” Mum to the rescue, I ordered two hoodies with a ziper, cut them in half and sewed them together again. Well, I still have to do the second one…

Same money, 1 hour of time, two jackets she can actually wear outside of costume events as well. And I’m damn proud of her. You know she’s on the spectrum and one of her great difficulties is interacting with strangers. She often preferred no ice cream to telling a stranger what she wants, but yesterday she went around all evening and asked for candy. It’s those things that make you proud.

Now for the food:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

From left to right we have:

©Giliell, all rights reserved Pumpkin bread skulls

©Giliell, all rights reserved A cemetery: Pizza dip with bread tombstones

©Giliell, all rights reserved Mozzarella and olive eyes. Or as we say in German: Zahnstocher im Au’ brennt wie’n Sau (a toothpick in the eye hurts as fuck, just with a rhyme)

©Giliell, all rights reserved Bloody pumpkin and tomato soup

©Giliell, all rights reserved Spider meatballs

I made the dessert, because I’ve been baking non stop anyway…

©Giliell, all rights reserved Pumpkin almond cake with blood orange buttercream and dark chocolate ganache.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Halloween petit fours with strawberry jam and pumpkin spice lemon curd.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

So, I hope you all had a reasonably happy Halloween (thinking of you, voyager). Now I’m baking for the little one’s birthday party tomorrow.