All the chaos

This post talks about what happened with the move professionally and where I am now. It might come across as a rant and you might have guessed that things didn’t go as planned.

Accepting a job remotely just based on lots of interviews and solving question papers without having a first-hand experience of the place and the audience might have been a bad shout on my side. But hey, it takes two to tango. There was an element of trust that was involved. People who hired me as a teaching faculty for their school believed me to do my job and do it well and they did offer a very good package. And I trusted them to keep up to their word on what they said my roles and responsibilities were and how my growth would be. They needed a commitment of 2 years which I was willing to provide because this was part of a growing school (international syllabus) and I was happy to be part of that journey. This made us change our plans of relocating towards the end of 2022 and we made our move much ahead of our scheduled time.

In India, the school academic year starts in June. I got an email from the school that they had teacher inset days/training days planned in May so they were expecting me by the 2nd week of May if I was available by then. They also told me of their management decision to additional responsibilities to my role. I was to be a year 6 class teacher along with being an ICT faculty for GCSE and A levels and maybe do some maths. I have already done these combinations (apart from the class teacher) in my school in London and I know how to manage my work so I said yes to it. When I landed in India, there was a training schedule sent around which was for three-plus weeks, 6 days a week training for all teachers. WTH! Why would we need almost 22 days of training to start a year? and 6 days a week at that? Wouldn’t the teacher be exhausted even before they start the school year? For the first week, I went for half a day (as I still was setting up house and had so much other stuff to do having landed only 2 weeks by then). It definitely gave an insight into the school and their philosophy. They are huge into mindfulness and are very child-focused which is a good thing and which is what I expected. To be honest, all schools should have that as part of their day-to-day functioning and most actually do. They just do it in different ways and honestly, some schools just don’t bother with it. We as teachers did a lot of art, music, movements etc. etc. which was good for team bonding and may be getting some ideas for primary and kindergarten but I wasn’t very sure why I would do this instead of my planning for higher secondary and year 6.

Even on the first day, there was some confusion as to which part of the school I belonged to, middle school (because I am not a year 6 class teacher) or upper school (GCSE and A level teacher). I was classified as a middle school teacher by the coordinator. That was a warning bell for me. Because my primary role was for upper school and additional responsibilities were for middle school, here I am roped into learning activities for my year 6 students. And also as the training days went by and the roles and responsibilities were discussed I realised that the class teacher role goes above and beyond the school. I have to be with them *all* the time and do evening special sessions, night schools, trips, home visits (that was a strict no for me) etc. It involved a lot more than what is done within the framework of the school. I wasn’t comfortable with some of them because of the travel time. Ironically, when they told me that my travel and food will be recompensated, it wasn’t explained how. They provided food and snacks (which were great!) but the travel was a sticky point as there was no pick up from my place which was furthest (almost an hour from the school). In order to get to the school, I had to travel half an hour from my place, leave my vehicle with someone, then board the school bus and do the same in the evening. Except in the evening because of the traffic, by the time we reach the last bus stop it is already two hours into the journey. I felt that if I was given the money instead of just the bus available I could have got my own vehicle and done the hour-long travel myself. But that wasn’t an option.

Apart from all the responsibilities, they also added teaching science to my list which wasn’t discussed with me. I got to know when the timetable was published. Now my days were too full to have any time to think or take a breath. This didn’t sound very healthy both for my mental and physical sanity. When the second week of training rolled by, I decided to discuss this with the concerned folks (there was confusion about whom I should be talking to… middle school coordinator or upper school coordinator… ) but they kind of brushed me saying that between the move to India and setting up house and new job I am getting stressed out unnecessarily and once I am all sorted it would be a walk in the park and that I would have support from the management to help me out. It felt like they were making this my problem rather than a mistake in their management decision. No other middle school teacher was handling any other upper school subjects so there was a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities. I was the only one who got shunted between the two sections of the schools. When I went back to them after a few days of thinking about it, they were ready to take me off the GCSE ICT teaching responsibilities and get me to do that later in the term. I was shocked to hear that because that was why they hired me in the first place. But it looked like their priorities changed when they were doing their management planning in April. Now they wanted someone to be a year 6 class teacher and since I was already hired they decided that I would be able to do it and they decided that I would be ok with it.

To say I was livid is an understatement. I don’t like being taken for granted like this and in a way abusing my trust in them. The other issue that got on my nerves was that they did not have any IT lab at all and were in the process of setting it up. Two years of online teaching and teaching by part-time staff for ICT didn’t prepare them for in-person ICT teaching. That is bad management that is, given that they introduced ICT because of popular demand from students. As a school, their philosophy is to have as much less tech in school as possible which didn’t bode well for my subject now. They were also adding training sessions on an ad-hoc basis thereby wanting me to attend a training tailored to their philosophy for a whole week including the weekends after which we were supposed to attend a school retreat. There was literally a 1-day break between three weeks. I don’t know how the other teachers do it, but I was exhausted just after a week. All the training that they had could have been done in 1 week and let the teachers do their individual planning. But they spread the training for two hours per day over 6 days and the new teachers had to do more training over the weekends. This is totally uncalled for. It looked like they didn’t give any thought to the work-life balance of the teachers especially when the school hadn’t even started yet. I had a good long discussion with Mr M about how I felt and then Mr M suggested that I think twice before continuing because when the students come in then it would be very hard for me to leave the school. It would be unfair on the students especially year 6 ones as it might be difficult to hire a new teacher by then and I might be stuck in a very unhappy job.

When my concerns went to deaf ears again, I decided to ditch the week-long training and sent a very long email to the person who hired me and also the founder of the school highlighting my concerns and my decision to leave the school. I had refrained my signing the contract when it was given to me the first week. The package was very good, the school was in a very lovely place, and the physical environment was very good too, but there was an underlying current of slight dissatisfaction and when I spoke to the other teachers, not all were happy about what’s going on, but they were happy to continue. I wasn’t. The management accepted my resignation not because of any other concerns that I had put forward but because of my travel time. That was typical and made me laugh because that was the only thing on the list that wasn’t their problem. It was my personal decision to travel that far off even though it wasn’t sustainable in the long term and I was willing to do it if the school and my work were good.

So after three weeks of training and a week, before the students were about to start their academic year, I left the school and was back in the market looking for options. Given that most schools already had done their recruitment for the current academic year, I was left with no other option other than to take a break and try for alternatives. Finally, after a month of job-hunt, I have landed a part-time teaching job so I am set for this year at least, but this experience has taught me to be careful and not trust everyone at face value especially when it comes to career changes. I have never had a career break ever since I started working many moons ago but this one-month of break (forced) was a much-needed one especially, after the move and setting up the house. All this might have been a blessing in disguise but that one month of balancing everything else (getting the move sorted, house sorted) the chaos of the job was, in hindsight, something that could have been avoided. At least I have learned my lesson and made a few friends in the process.

The journey to a pause…

This might seem like something different to what I usually post, but on account of what I have gone/am going through, I thought it might help someone else too or at least join me in my rant.

Menopause (if you don’t want to read about it anymore, might stop right now and move on 😉 )… First and foremost…why a “pause”. I don’t get it. What do they mean by “pause”. It is not going to come back later in life, is it? It is supposed to be the end of the menstrual cycle and it is still called menopause? OK…as usual I digressed. Back to the topic now.

For the past year and a half, I have been having the symptoms that are listed on NHS’s website for menopause (not all, mind, but at least half of them). When I told Mr M he was like “you are too young for menopause”. I was like “no…not really”. This was also the time when I have been doing a lot of yoga for my yoga teacher training and that does have an impact on your body. I can feel some sort of change happening but these hot flushes and night sweats were there even before I started my training. I had my doubts, but you know how it is with anything menstrual…it is never clear because it varies from one body to the other. What with the lockdown and all, I couldn’t have done anything about it even if I wanted to (apart from using AskMyGP which wasn’t how I wanted to discuss this because I had a lot of questions) and then slowly my periods kind of became too irregular. I wouldn’t have them for 45 days to 75 days and then have them for a day or two and then zilch. The only major impact I had because of that is my lower back pain and being grumpy for a day or two and then whooosh…it’s gone.

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted and my long-awaited cervical cancer screening which was postponed for a year got resumed, I took the opportunity to talk to my GP and they confirmed that it “could” be menopause. Mr M was like “really? at your age?”. I was like “why not? my body is tired of producing eggs when it kind of knows that nothing is ever gonna happen anymore…why bother producing it and go through all the cycle. Might as well just shut down the system and be done with it”. It might sound very callous to my body but it is the truth. Now I know that the menstrual cycle plays a very important role in a woman’s body because of all the hormones that get generated and how it is a natural cleansing process and once it is done, your body undergoes a lot of changes which may or may not be healthier for me. But having said that, I will also be happy to just let it go. I am acutely aware of the changes that go through my body and I kind of keep track of it and at the least be aware of any major changes so that I know what to look for and be prepared if I can be.

The topic of the menstrual cycle also became a forefront now because funnily enough, my parents were talking about preparing my niece who might soon be attaining her puberty. I wish I was prepared for it. I never was. And I am glad that things have changed from my times and I am very comfortable talking to her about it and letting her know that it is nothing to be afraid of. But there is not much I know myself apart from my personal experience, which was full of pain (courtesy of my mom’s genes which I have inherited in abundance and my occasional fainting episodes due to the pain). My sister on the other hand kind of breezes through it (and it annoys me to no extent). Recently I came across this podcast called 28-ish days later by India Rakusen which I stumbled upon in BBC Sounds. I am still on the 12th day of the 28-ish days, but so far I have enjoyed it because they not only go through the ins and outs of the menstrual cycle but also discuss various experiences and talk about it. It is also not a very long episode. It is short and sweet and very informative. It also helps to hear people talk about their experiences which are so similar to your own (I hated the event that happens when you attain puberty too…the drama of it all…urgh…). I hope I can use the information that I have gathered from that to help my nieces and anyone else who might need it (given that I will be dealing with girls of similar age in the school when I start teaching). If you are interested in this topic, I would suggest having a listen to that podcast.

I still don’t know for sure if I am going through a peri-menopause or just a menopause phase but either way, I don’t care so much now. The not knowing kind of irks me a bit but I guess I have come to accept that some things happen in their own time and as long as I am aware of that and keep myself as healthier as possible, it should be alright. I also know what works to help me alleviate any pain or discomfort and what symptoms I should be looking for to be prepared. But there are things that still surprise me and I am trying to be OK with it, to some extent. If I am not, I just rant about it and get over it. But what this ongoing experience and the podcast have helped me realize is that a woman’s body is a universe of its own. It is so mysterious and yet so wonderful and I can’t wait for my menstrual cycle to finish what it started and enter the menses-less phase.

What will I miss?

I am relieved of my official duties, we have shipped our things, we made our one last final day trip within the UK to a place I wanted to always visit (more on that later in the day trip post on the other blog), we have given away all the things that might be of some use to others, found my plants a new home with my friends, etc. etc. There are a few last-minute bits and pieces left to do until the next weekend when we finally board the plane. But there is one question that a few asked me for which I am trying here to find an answer. What will you miss when you go back to India?

Honestly? I don’t know. Materially I don’t think I would miss anything. Life has taught me (without being too maudlin) that it is easy to replace the material things if you have some savings left with you and you might even come to know if you absolutely needed those things in your life or not. And with the globalisation of things, we can get a lot of stuff that we get here in the UK back in India too (although I should say I remember seeing more American stuff than British stuff… times might have changed…who knows…I will update you if I do see a change 🙂 ) Jokingly, I would say I would miss the concept of a bath. Just soaking in that hot water until I turn into a prune is just heavenly during the winter. I can never have that in my place. Half of the time we have water shortages, especially in the summer. What about English Breakfast? I might have to travel to Bangalore to get one but definitely not in Coimbatore 😀

What did I miss when I moved to the UK? I am sure some folks asked me the same question when I was about to leave India. After living here for 5 years, what did I miss? Did I miss the dosa and paratha or the temples or my travel fridge magnets (100’s of them) that I had collected over the years which are now stored in a locked room? Honestly? No. What then? People in my circle, my very small circle. This circle consists of my close friends and immediate family. Thanks to WhatsApp, Skype, GatherTown, Zoom etc., the distance between them and me seems to be that bit smaller.

Having been here in the UK only for 5 years, my circle is much smaller than the one in India 😀 and since the sudden change of work, place, country etc, is gonna hit me hard next month, I guess I will miss them sharply given the way we have been together. So here is a shout out to those few poor souls who happen to be in my circle and for whose presence I am forever grateful because they made my life a bit more colourful here. (Only pseudonyms in my blog sadly… but I hope you can spot yourself in this post 😀 )

When I moved from software engineering to teaching I didn’t have much help and was floundering to find a way (thanks to some online courses and books) but Mr Millwall came to my rescue with his 30+ years of teaching experience. He just took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of education and became my very close friend. He is also the first to call me if there is some interesting news in the cricket world 🙂 I am glad he is enjoying his retirement and is doing well. Hopefully, he will learn how to call via WhatsApp soon so that I can connect with him.

The tall Croatian teaching assistant has been there to give me an extra hand whenever I needed one and kept me sane. We didn’t have anything in common and in spite o that we bonded very well. Being much more experienced than me both at work and in life, she was a good sounding board and we started hanging out of work too, sharing bus rides and life stories and eventually became friends. I am glad that I could get her a churidar from India last time I was there and she looked absolutely gorgeous in it.

Ms Iskcon was Mr M’s friend but she is now a family friend, thanks to our heritage and shared native language. We used to spend our Christmas Eve at her place playing board games and puzzles with her family, which gave us the feeling of being a part of a big loud, amazing, and chaotic family from now and then. She used to come to our place for the Sunday lunch (she had a knack for calling us exactly at lunchtime and would be invited inevitably 😀 It helped that she lived only a floor below us.) Any time we talk, we end up discussing and debating everything under the sun. I will cherish her ability to discuss anything and everything (spiritual, political, socio-economic, you name it). I sincerely hope that she can visit us in India.

Now comes the group in Swansea 🙂 Who knew that a kick (literally) would start a friendship. I keep telling Mr Half-Trousers that in terms of his age he is closer to my nephew than to me but that has only made the friendship more fun. He has tried to teach me frisbee (emphasis on the word tried…). He has also fed me so much baked stuff it feels like he was fulfilling some debt he owed from his previous life 😀 His sticky toffee pudding is one thing I will never be able to replace. I wish he keeps up with his star baker abilities in spite of his busy software engineering lifestyle, which he has taken up now. He has also been my yoga student for the past 6 months helping me in my journey.

Mr Tall and Grumpy (I can say this and get away with it because he knows he is, lol) was that person whom I thought would the quiet and studious one but turned out that he is all that and also the naughtiest. Both him and Mr Half-Trousers have been the reason I am known in my team for throwing squishy toys at people. They drove me nuts with their antics 😀 but he was also my partner in crime at work. We taught together quite a lot and that gave us a lot to share in terms of knowledge and experience. I am very glad he is having a stint at the industry now and I will miss seeing his daughter grow (hopefully he will keep me posted on that and would take a trip to India and go on a good food tour).

Mr Badmintennis is one of a kind. An old soul trapped in a very young body. He amazes me with his knowledge of all things old and historic. I should call him Mr Minecraft or Mr Gamemaker because he is very well known for that but more than that he is/was my badminton/tennis partner. We have been playing the game for a while now and I hope he continues to play it with the rest of the group. I am sure I will engage his expertise in my new job when I have to do something in Minecraft or even take us on a virtual tour of computers.

Ms OrganizedArtist joined us during the first lockdown and so there has been a delay in getting to know her but my god, she is talented. I am always happy to be associated with very artistic friends like her and Anita. They bring a lot of colour in my life 🙂 She is the second person in my life (after my friend in Bangalore) with whom I haven’t felt any reservations whatsoever, while being before their camera and knowing that they are taking my photograph. She is yet to perfect her art of hitting Mr Badmintennis on his head during the tennis/badminton games but I am sure she will get there with a little bit more practice 😉 (make sure you let me know when that happens, girl!) She did a painting of my portrait which is available on my Instagram and I am very thankful for that. It is definitely getting framed. I am sure she will definitely make her way to South India and I will get to visit her home country (Ukraine) soon.

There are a couple more people I know and are part of that small circle but this is my group whom I would like to keep in touch with no matter where I go and what I do (assuming that they feel the same 😀 ) I am again hoping that the various communication channels that helped me keep in touch with my group in India while I was in the UK would help me do the same with this lot. This is also my way of conveying my thanks to them for being part of my journey and saying a proper goodbye I guess, even though we did say our goodbyes by doing a South Indian food tour and what a day it was 🙂 So much fun.

Diolch yn fawr for everything and hopefully we will get to meet again sooner rather than later.

Learning a few words via TV

I have started on Duolingo again more to encourage my nephew and challenge him too. We have agreed to do Spanish (which I learned a bit a good few years ago) and Japanese (because he is into his Anime and fancies learning the language). It is still early days for Japanese and I find that most of the words I had learned in Spanish are helping me ace it now 🙂 We have also been watched quite a few European TV series (with English subtitles of course) which is also helping me learn some more languages or at least a few words here and there. But it definitely is helping me get a hang of these European languages better.

You already know how I feel about Inspector Montalbano (if you haven’t watched it, you should) but we are also big fans of Channel 4’s list. We completed watching Inspector Borowski, which was our first entry into the German language and their humour (it takes some getting used to and then you find it endearing once you get the hang of it). We totally loved it and were quite surprised by the topics that they handle, even though Mr M finds psychological thrillers a bit tedious to sit through but I love them 🙂 Once we finished with Montalbano, we wanted to continue with Italian TV series, we kind of like the portrayal of characters which are refreshing in some ways, so we started watching Ice Cold Murders by Rocco Schiavone, which is based in a place near Turin (and a totally different landscape to Rome) and very different characteristics too. The main character is similar to Montalbano but rougher. We were sad when they had only series 1 up and running on Channel 4 and the story was kind of incomplete. But then we started watching Non-Uccidere (Thou Shall Not Kill), this time with a female lead and it is very good just like the others. We are on Series 2 of this one and hoping to finish watching all episodes before we move (not sure if we will be able to see them in India). Because we were watching more Italian, (I can spout a few Italian words, especially the curses 😀 ) we decided to select a German one to watch in parallel. We found Inspector Falke. Another brilliant series set in a different area of Germany. And I have definitely picked up a few curse words from this for sure!!! I only hope I don’t say them out loud because I find it easier to curse in a European language as people around me might not know it and I may get away with it 😀

Recently we watched Series 2 Episode 3 of Inspector Falke and that was one of the best episodes of a TV series we have watched in the detective genre in a long time. It was like a full-blown thriller movie. It was awesome. The screenplay, the writing, the execution was very good. There is this one thing though with the German series that we have seen so far. They have this serious storyline and dark and sombre execution and then the credits start rolling with disco-like music which totally ruins it. I can’t tell you how funny it is when the credits start to roll. This happened with the Series 2 of Borowski and we were surprised by it and now with Falke, it’s there from the start. Wonder what that is all about. Any ideas? Also with the Italian ones, I find their music amazing. Non-Uccidere’s title music is my favourite.

If I am not able to see Channel4 in India I might be a tad upset and disappointed. I hope there is some kind of subscription that allows me to keep watching these amazing TV box sets that they have in their collection.

If you fancy watching any European TV series, especially of the detective and crime-drama genre, the ones mentioned above from Channel4 are good.

And it starts….

Reading Challenge

According to goodreads , last year I managed to complete 100+ books and I was glad to get hold of the available Agatha Christie ones from Kindle Unlimited and complete them as and when they were available. This year I have set myself a modest challenge for just about a 100 books. Let’s see how it goes. I managed to start it off with my favourite author and currently reading Reginald Hill’s A Cure For All Diseases (A Dalziel and Pascoe Novel) which we got as a paperback way back in August.