Sometimes unexpected things happen throughout the day. Sometimes these things seem to happen around me more often than not. Today was a day were I became very familiar with a local roofing company in Dundee.

It started out as a fairly standard Wednesday morning, beginning with the sound of my bedside alarm, followed by a rushed morning routine and out the door and off to school to partake in another exciting day in the world of teaching. It was around this point that things started to take a turn for the worse. It had been raining heavily all night and the roads were very wet. This will become more relevant later.

We don't have a fulltime caretaker on site during the winter months that can open up the school grounds in the morning before everyone arrives, so we take it in turns being key holders, this week being my turn.

I got in my car to drive to school and noticed the paint on the roof was damaged, possibly by a stone, which I imagine was thrown by a careless child at some point recently, although as to when specifically, I couldn't say.

So that was event one. The car roof.

The calamity really started when I got the school. After opening up the gates, which are always a pain as they're stiff and require considerable effort to swing back, parking my car and proceeding inside, I discovered there was about an inch of water in the main reception area.

After turning up empty searching high and low for the source, assuming it was a tap that had been left on, I expanded my search further afield. I noticed there was a slight trickle of water running down one of the corridors and traced it back to a supply cupboard next to the art classes.

When looking inside the cupboard, I was greeted with a lovely view of the sky, which struck me as slightly odd as there was definitely a roof to this cupboard last time I was in here.

I had turned out the rained had gone all out last night and found a weakness in the schools roof that had gone unnoticed due to it's location. Later talking to a roofer, they said it's likely the roof had started to sag, allowing the water to pool over the weak spot until the weight of it caused the roof to give way and collapse.

I don't really know what I was thinking, but even though there was a gaping great big hole in the roof, I put down a bucket, as if that would be adequate and scurried off to try and phone a local roofing company to come help us.

I managed to get hold of a firm called Dundee Roofer who were able to come out that morning before the children arrived and sort us out with a temporary roof repair so if the rain kicked off again, we wouldn't find another swimming pool in the reception again.

So, that was event two. The school roof.

It was now lunchtime and the initial early morning excitement had since been forgotten. I had finished my cheese flat bread and was making my way to the gym to prepare for the next lesson after class. Hockey.

Due to limited space, we keep the goal supports and wooden hockey sticks in a storage unit out the back of the gym that is separate from the main building. I removed the padlock from the units door and proceeded inside. Once again greeted by several cms of water and a suspect hole in the roof. I couldn't actually believe my eyes when for the second time in one day, I was finding a hole in the roof.

Back onto the phone with the chaps at Dundee Roofer to explain that we needed their roofing services once again as a new hole had been discovered. They weren't long back from another roofing job they had just done 10 minutes away so were able to come along quickly.

For the second time that day the roofers patched the hole in the roof, advising that this one would need a roof replacement to sort and the repair was only a temporary measure. Fine, I said. I just hope people aren't going to think I'm the one going round poking all the holes in the roof!

Event number three. The unit roof!

So, aside from a few bumped shins and a hockey ball to the chest, gym class was relatively uneventful and the school day came to a close without much else drama, the roofing kind or otherwise.

I decided to stop in at Tesco on the way home to pick up some bits for tea as I had had a hankering for fajitas all day and the Old El Paso kit is one of my favourites. I noted the mark on my cars roof on the way back into the car thinking to myself, this has been an unfortunate day for roofs, hoping that was the last roofing problem I'd have to encounter for a while.

Turns out I was wrong. After I had been home for a while, I ventured into my space room to dig out a CD I had in the rack there and noticed an orangey mark on the ceiling which turned out to be a water stain. When I phoned the Dundee Roofer for the third time that day, this time explaining it was my home they were to come too, I don't think they quite believed me.

Event number four, my own bloody roof!

As it turns out, I had a few cracked roof tiles up there and they were able to sort it pretty quickly, so no new roof needed for me at least. It isn't that they're not a great guys and expert roofers, but I'll be glad not to have to see the fellas at Dundee Roofer for a while! At least a few days off any new roofing problems please.

So there we have it, in one day I had a dodgy car roof, a hole in the school roof, damage to the unit roof and finally some cracked tiles in my own roof. If it keeps going like this, I'm going to have to date a roofer so I can get cheaper rates.

As the school year comes to a close and the calamity of my roofing saga, it is difficult to say goodbye to another group of students. Knowing next fall that some of my students will move on to High School, while others will be returning next year. I can only imagine how much they will change over the summer... How much I will change.

All of the students are preparing for the end of year bash/field day party, and the halls are a buzz with the excitement that only comes with summer vacation. I hear students talking about trips they are planning on taking, others are planning sleep overs, joining teams, and still others are just looking forward to playing video games and sleeping in. While the video game thing was never a big thing when I was growing up I guess I can understand the allure of staying in the nice air conditioned house (especially as the temperature rises outside!)!

This summer I am looking forward to trying a new sport myself. Well, I guess I wouldn't call it new... but rather a past time that I now have the opportunity of playing again. The teachers association is having a fast pitch soft ball team this year! I have already talked with some of the other teachers and I am excited to see who comes to the first practice! I hope we have enough people to play (I have been told in previous years there wasn't enough to form a team). But this year there are a lot of people interested (I just hope they don't have to cut anyone!)!

I think the fast pitch idea will be a nice change for me, being inside this stuffy school all year, it will be nice to get out and enjoy the sun shine. It will also be a nice way to spend time with other teachers, and get to know them better. Even my boyfriend thinks it is a good idea! He knows that during the summer months it can be a little lonely with him at work all day.

In addition to the fast pitch softball team, I was also considering going to the gym and trying yoga. Everyone says that it is really relaxing. Granted I am not sure about becoming a human pretzel however, I am quickly learning not to judge a book by its cover. It could be a lot of fun... Then again it could also be a lot of pain. A few of the teachers were talking about their yoga class in the lounge the other day and they encouraged me to come. In many ways I felt like it would be rude not to accept their invitation, so alas I will be at least giving it a shot. Worse case I learn that it isn't something for me.

Maybe this summer I will also find a little time to go to the beach, maybe a nice picnic on the beach with Nick! He has always loved the water, and I love the free pedicure walking in the sand gives my feet!! I can only hope on our outing that we might find some shells that I can bring back to the house. My imagination is running wild with all of the things I would like to do this summer. But I have learned that summer passes quickly and I will have to make the most of it!

My mom is also considering coming down to visit. I always am excited and nervous to see her. That combination of knowing that she loves me and would love to take care of me. As well as feeling like she is checking into make sure I am alright. AKA that I can afford to eat and that I keep my house clean. Although she has never said anything in the past, it is always something I know she thinks about! At any rate just a few more school days, and then I too can let my hair down and enjoy he freedom that only comes with summer vacation!

I did not have the time to write an article yesterday so I'm doing an extra long and in-depth one today. As I shared with you in my first article I'm a teacher at an independent school in the lovely United Kingdom. Since there are a lot of people out there that have virtually no idea what an independent school really is and what it means to teach there, I will try to explain a little more about that here. I will also write a few paragraphs on what I consider to be an informational website, this is so that I can later on in the next few articles, review some websites that I used for different school projects and that really appeal to me and my students.

What is an independent school?

Basically in an independent school is a school that receives no finances or monetary advantages from the government. This means that it is totally independent and does not need money from the outside to continue its operations. The money that regular schools get to finance their curriculum usually comes from the government and is paid by taxpayer money. But now I hear you think, how does the independent school even come close to the level of education that the regular schools have? The independent schools are financed by tuitions, donations and other types of financial support from non-governmental institutions.
Currently there are about 2300 schools in the UK that we can see as independent, meaning independent from local or central government control (as in financial support). They are sometimes called fee-paying (or, more accurately, fee-charging) schools because they charge parents fees. This can be in the form of donations or in the form of tuition money. They are sometimes also referred to as private schools but this is, in my opinion, quite misleading since most schools within the ISC (the Independent School Council: the governing organ of all independent schools) are not privately owned. Most of the schools have their own governing boards of governors and a so-called bursar: the person who is mainly responsible for the financial management of the school. Any extra income is usually all used for the benefit of the school and its students. The head of the school has his or her responsibility towards the governors. Yet he or she has the freedom to appoint staff, admit pupils and take day-to-day decisions concerning school and financial management.

Advice on choosing a school

Now that you know what an independent school is and what it stands for, I will add some more information on how you can find the best school for your child. Beware that the information I provide should only be the start of your quest for the right school. After you selected a couple of schools I advise you inquire more information about it by e-mailing them. The best way to find out about a school is of course by visiting it in person. Most of the independent schools have open days for prospective students and their parents. You can also make an appointment on a normal working day to see how the day-to-day routine is on that particular school.

Underneath I will give some quick pointers that you should, in my opinion, definitely take into account when choosing a school for your child.

  • Students: How do they look and behave? Do you have a chance to speak to them yourself? If so, definitely do: inquire about their routine on school and whether they like or not.
  • The head of the school: How does the head deal with your questions? Does he or she show an interest in YOUR child?
  • The staff of the school: Look for the proper qualification.
  • Discipline: Look for a type of discipline that you teach your child at home as well. This way the child knows exactly what to expect: both at school and at home.
  • Curriculum: Try to find schools with a broad yet balanced curriculum.
  • Exam results? Do not only select schools that appear in the "league tables". A school's performance can not only be tested through examinations, it only reflects the schools’ academic intake. A school that scores really well in the “league tables” might not be in the best school for you child after all. Many independent schools admit pupils with a wide range of abilities. You should try to find the school that fits your child's needs, not your wish for him or her to go to the best university later on.
  • If you would like more individual attention for your child, you should try to find schools with appropriate class sizes. Many schools vary: in most prep schools, classes will be between 15-20 children while in some senior day schools classes might exceed 25 children.

Informational websites

Now at the beginning of this article I said that I would write a little bit about informational websites as well. Why do I do this? Because in the future I intend to write a couple of reviews of websites that I have used for a variety of different school projects. I know that many teachers have a hard time selecting websites that are credible, honest and child-friendly enough for their students to visit. Below I will present you with a little list that I created for myself, I try to check off every bullet on this list before even presenting the website to my students.

Content. One of the first things I think is really important in an informational website is content (of course). The content on the website must be sufficient and credible. I like to see websites that have at least 10 articles on them, going in to the subject matter as deep as possible. I don't necessarily need to know exactly who wrote the content and who contributed but a list of sources is always nice to see. By content I mean text but also pictures. Pictures are definitely a great way for children to learn, a website with only plain text is perceived as extremely boring. Adding a few pictures will encourage the child to read.

Advertisements. When I see advertisements I usually skip on through the next page. Although this does not completely apply to every website that I visit. A lot of website owners make websites for fun and not for money, I understand that. Hosting the website (to keep it viewable on the internet) and a domain name cost money so having a few advertisements doesn't really bother me. I usually tell my students not to click on advertisements unless they actually provide more information on the subject. But who am I to blame the independent kids when they click on an advertisement about a silly game?

Domain. This might not be a very obvious one but I still think it's really important. You can see the domain name of the website on the top of your screen. I usually check whether the domain name matches the content of the website: if this is the case I pass it, if it is not the case I usually skip through to another website. Why do I do this? It's really simple, I want websites that focus on one very specific subject, not a whole bunch of them. When an informational website focuses on one single subject I know that the creator of it spend some time researching the subject.

It was a short but good list, I hope. If you have any more questions feel free to contact me. Many schools within the Independent School Council have some more in-depth rules about which websites they deem to be appropriate for kids.

My moutainbike!

Hi, hello, wazzaap, gutentag… I’m still not really used to maintaining a blog and I’m not even sure how to start my new post for today. One of the things I do like though is that I am basically forced right now to take some time off and just WRITE, which in some weird way I actually find quite relaxing and perhaps even satisfying. Today I will be writing about well, my day. Not that it was super-exiting but I still think that I need to fill up this blog a little so I might as well share my day-to-day observations on here.

Flat tire on mountainbike
You know one of those where at the end of the day you can actually say to yourself: this was a good day, I actually DID something today. I think far too few people can actually tell that themselves. But, today I could! Woke up early in the morning to go mountain biking. Weather was awesome here so I got that going for me, which is nice. Got a flat tire on the way back which was not that awesome since I still had to walk for about 1,5 km (that’s actually pretty far!).

Bought tickets to flower show
After I came home from my mountain bike + walking adventure I decided to get myself a snack (one of those healthy ones) and got on the couch with my laptop. There I sat, thinking to myself, what am I actually going to do on the internet today. The internet still amazes me, so many people use it and –sometimes- for such non-meaningful things, it’s crazy! Anyway, I ended up looking at some websites about gardens. Not that I have my own garden (yet), still gotta satisfy myself with my small balcony but hey, it’s something. I got some nice plants on my balcony though, roses mainly. Anyway, I’m drifting off. I wanted to tell you guys that I bought some tickets to a flower expo here in London. Hopefully it’s going to be nice because those tickets weren’t cheap! I’ll probably be going there tomorrow (if the weather’s bad). Yeah you actually read that right: if the weather is BAD. For some reason they moved the entire flower show INSIDE. Which is pretty amazing to me. They actually took the effort to scoop all that sand inside a huge terminal and plant all the flowers there, pretty amazing huh? Again: I hope it’s going to be awesome.

Electricity cable broke
Yea you read that right, one of those weird high frequency cables in my neighborhood broke down today, but at least it wasn't the roof! It was pretty scary at first because no-one was really sure if there still was power on it, what if you touch it? Must be instant death. After a few calls the right governmental department arrived to make some more phone calls and finally after 3 hours of having a potentially dangerous cable lying around on the ground the repair-guys came and fixed it back up there. Might even be the highlight of my day. Get it, highlight? That was a bad joke.

Writing again
So there I am again, writing. Not sure how I did but for some reason I still managed to right down (to this point: 543 words), pretty amazing right? I mean, for someone who doesn’t write on a regular basis. Finding the inspiration to right is actually not that hard, I can basically type down everything I did today and will be doing tomorrow. Finding the time however to actually write it down is one of the more difficult jobs. For some reason I can’t put my mind to writing this stuff down and publishing it afterwards. Glad I did today though. Stay tuned for more tomorrow. Goodnight.

Hey and welcome to another fantastic article on my personal blog! As I told you guys in my Welcome to my new blog post I will be reviewing some websites on this blog that I have recently used or will use in the future for school projects that I undertake together with my students. In my previous article I have discussed on how you can find quality websites yourself that provide genuine information that will actually help your students to learn more about the subject matter. Today I will discuss such a website. First I will give a little introduction on the subject that I choose.

I have always wanted to teach my students more about biology and botany. I haven’t studied biology nor botany myself so I’m not entirely capable of teaching them every single thing but I am pretty sure that I have sufficient knowledge of the basics. However, you don’t want to present the human body to 10 year old kids because they will perceive that to be kind of boring, so I decided to go with another approach: something that they can actually do themselves, something they can actually touch and eventually even eat. I thought about growing strawberries or growing potatoes but that is pretty lame and has already been done at least a thousand times in classrooms nationwide. So I decided to come up with something entirely new: learning them to grow their own peanuts!

So I started searching the web for quality articles about peanuts, peanut growth and some other unanswered questions. I first came across this website, it’s the website from the University of Purdue and it has a pretty extensive article written on it about peanuts. However, the language is kind of complicated and not really understandable for neither me nor my students. Another interesting website that I found was a page on the Clemson University website. Again this website talks extensively about how peanuts grow, how you can grow your own peanuts and it also tells you more about its origin, the maintenance of the peanut plant and more general information. But again this article is written in a very academic style which is not that easy for my students to read. I needed to find something more accessible, more entertaining and more challenging for my students. I needed articles that actually describe the step by step process of growing your own peanuts, backed up with clear pictures and good informative texts.

I eventually found this website and I love it. It features very comprehensible and easy-to-read articles in general about peanuts, peanut growing, confectionary and even on other nuts such as almonds and pistachios: it’s great. I first read almost every single page, one of the most interesting pages for me is the one where they describe how peanuts grow. I actually learned a lot from this website. Also the page where it is described how you can grow your peanut plant is REALLY helpful, they have made eight easy to follow steps so that kids can easily do it their selves.

Let me just quickly list some facts that I didn’t even know of before. First off all, apparently peanuts don’t grow on trees but on some kind of root on the ground. On the bottom of that root a nice small plant grows that has beautiful yellow flowers. I also didn’t know that there are more than four different types of peanuts, I usually just buy roasted peanuts from the supermarket and I don’t really pay attention to which ones I buy: I just buy ‘em! Something else that surprised me was that almonds have a pretty long history and are not even American! That’s what I always thought, almonds must be a full American product, but they aren’t! They were imported from Spain centuries ago.

Well as you can see I’m pretty enthusiastic about this particular website. It has great images, great information and on the home page they have a really cute photo of a squirrel that has their website name spelled out using peanuts: the kids absolutely loved it. I eventually ended up learning my students on how peanuts grow and I used the step by step article to let them grow their own peanuts: it’s pretty simple actually. The class project was a great success, some of the kids actually got really nice peanuts from their plants: so the step by step tutorial definitely works like a charm. We ended up drying the nuts and roasting them in the oven: they tasted delicious.

Some kids didn’t want to participate in the peanut growing experiment so we also had some small projects going on where they could learn more about almonds. The website that I mentioned features some amazing information on this subject as well, again with clear images and the language used really appeals to the kids.

If I would have to rate this website, it definitely gets a 9. Now why not a 10? I still think the header (that’s the top image of the website) is kind of boring, they could definitely improve that a bit. Overall, the information is clear, the pictures are amazing and the kids loved their nutty results. I definitely recommend you visit this website if you want to get some nice ideas for future class projects.

Or, alternatively, you could stay on my site and read all about the independent schools website guide I wrote a while back.