Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seedy Kids

If you like the idea of gardening with your kids, but can't think of any ideas that don't risk you ending up with carrots sprouting all over your garden as your enthusiastic child hurls whole packets of seeds all over the lawn, try this site,

I am bookmarking posts all over the shop cos I'd like this to be a year round thing and many of the ideas are not "growing season" specific.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pilgrim Identification Process

Brief(ish) backstory - here

1. Do allow 17th, so far today, lurking person at the gate the chance to speak before you launch into anti-magic water diatribe.

2. Don't stomp forward with jutting chin, spade in hand looking menacing. It scares people into silence so they can't perform number 1.

3. Do listen to what they are saying rather than imagining that they are burbling "Magic holy healing water where is ? MARIA !!!!!! HALLI-flobbing-LUYAHH!"

4. Don't talk over them yelling that they are personally responsible for the prostitution of The Madonna, cos you won't hear them mention the desire to speak to the Sock Dropper about buying his car.

5. Do use spade clenched in hand to dig hole, climb in and refilled with self underneath mound of earth when non-pilgrim status is finally established, despite your best efforts to the contrary, as they flatten themselves against the fence to sidle past you to look over said car in cursory and nervous manner before shooting out at warp speed nine to "think about it".

6. Don't try and convince Sock Dropper it's not actually your fault that potential car buyers are fleeing the scene in way normally associated with Vesuvius puking wildly. It makes him even crosser.

Although I have to say I blame car buyers myself, for not coming down with a big "I want to buy your heap of an Opal Astra" sticker stuck on their bumper.

Perfectly reasonable expectation given that Spring has sprung, Easter is around the corner, kids are on hols and b....asketcase pilgrims have gone from a trickle to a constant stream in a single weekend, which has unleashed something along the lines of homicidal rage in my normally smiley self.

Oh yeah.


Shoot me now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eleventy !!

Son of Thor left school with an average of 6 for maths (but got a 7 on his report, which I find confusing). 6 is a scrape pass.

He regarded the subject as a Machiavellian form of boy torture and his maths confidence was on the same scale as a slug's salt confidence.

All change !!!!

His maths programme shows progress in terms of "age", and he just turned eleven ( :

He is only 9 and a half(ish) in RL.

To him that means he is now "big". And good at maths. Not stupid !!!! Quite clever actually.

To me it means the world to see him insist on maths as the first lesson of the day and see himself as a "can do" rather than a "can't do, so won't try, am stupid".

It's not the maths so much, although I do want him to do well in such an essential subject.

It's the sheer relief of getting my kid back, the self-confident one with a positive attitude towards new (and sometimes difficult to get the hang of) stuff and a healthy, realistic dose of self esteem.

I might be a particularly soppy form of mummyhood, but I'll admit the old days of him slapping himself on the forehead saying "stupid, Stupid, STUPID" gave me a few nights with covert tears, using the Sock Dropper's snoring to cover up the sound of my sniffles.

I'm a bit leaky now, but that's just maternal pleasure at seeing him celebrating his achievement .......... and a huge dose of sheer relief.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

1,300 Euros for a shower ?


Love a duck I nearly choked.

My one (and last) dip into the world of slightly posher than bog standard plumber supply shops, has left me gasping that there are so many people in the world that can redo a bathroom, including all new plumbing and still have enough left over for a "magazine style" shower.

It wasn't even a whizz bangy massage you with jets of water shower.

I played it cool till she wrote out my quote and then ran out of the shop before the Sock Dropper finished his fag, overheard the salesperson, had an instant heart attack and then moved the contents of our joint account to Brazil as a form of defensive finances.

I just managed to get to the normal plumber shop in time to pick up a ceramic shower base and a non-exciting tap before he shut, with the doors on order the whole thing will come to about 400 tops. By the time I pick up the loo, the bidet, the basin and all the taps (why are taps so expensive ?) we'll have done the whole caboodle for significantly less than the quote for just the spiffy shower.

Cancel my subscription to Brava Casa, I'm just not in that league. And now I know why they never print the prices on the stuff they feature.

Long live Brico and bog standard builder supply shops.

We the proletariat will be clean too !

Just not soaping up in the same kind of style.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Child stripped in class (again), and this time beaten too.

Ta to La scuola die genitori for giving me the heads up.

Teacher fired (forced to resign)?

Not shuffled ?


I've whacked it through an automatic translation, but in brief, a kid aged six threw a wobbly, the teacher decided the best punishment was to have him strip naked in the middle of the room and be beaten by his classmates.

What is it with this stripping off business ?

Good on the director for having a big pair of brass balls and not rolling over in the face of union pressure.

The link to the original is here, I've tried to tidy up the translation a bit but it is a mess, still you can get the gist.


to tell the story of the boy's friends were humiliated

"Stripped and beaten in class'

Investigated a teacher in Ferrara

It 'happened in a kindergarten school. The teacher resigned, the Prosecutor opened an investigation

to tell the story of the boy's friends were humiliated

"Stripped and beaten in class'

Investigated a teacher in Ferrara

It 'happened in an asylum(kindergarten). The teacher resigned, the Prosecutor opened an investigation

MILAN - Nude in the middle class, beaten by his companions. This was the punishment given out by the teacher to a child of six years in an asylum (well if he is six it is primary school not kindergarten) of Ferrara, when he was throwing a tantrum. To bring the story is the site, whereby the little victim was transferred to another preschool while the teacher accused resigned.

The story - "We are shocked," say the parents. "I could not believe - they explain - how this could have happened and now we want the truth." It 'was the manager of the club planning to tell their parents what had happened. "He apologized to us - explain - was mortified, said he had already spoken to that teacher, who had been discharged, and had already taken measures to initiate proceedings against him. To tell what was happening in the classroom for the first time would have been the best friend of the boy and his mother then, having confided to other parents and getting confirmation, would be submitted by the manager. "Now our son - take over their parents - will not even talk to that child because maybe he, too, was among those forced to hit him at the command of the teacher." The juvenile prosecutor opened an investigation, the teacher was suspected of abuse to children.

Siti of the useful kind

Subject - Italian
(devo tradurre, aiuto !!!!!)

Suposed to be middle school level, but there is stuff in there that Son of Thor will find useful.

Learning Italian with a farting frog. Yes, you did just read that right.

To help with the dreaded grammar analysis. (at the very least you should try so you can feel your child's pain, LOL)

More grammar analysis, but with butterflies and swans, which takes the edge of it ...a bit.

A grammar book, where the explanations are in cartoon form.

A grammar poster, what bedroom would be without one ? Actually it's not bad for homework help.

A zillion grammar worksheets at elementary level to torture help your children.

Worksheets, multimedia lessons. Not just grammar, this one offers reading comp too.

Aimed at media/high school kids, but the concept maps would be useful for little ones who are going cross eyed when their teacher bangs on about concrete v abstract nouns.

Introduces kids to the different kinds of texts they will be expected to recognise at ele/media.

Past, present or future, blowing up planets game. But it is HARD !! Well it was for me.

A bloodthirsty woodland habitat and food chain based grammar game. Does not distract you from how hard it is. Guessing this is for late media and upwards.

Verbs and tenses, simple interactive tests.

If you know the infinitive, but can't conjugate it there is a generator here that will do it for you. Great for when you are stuck with homework.

Excercises for 4th and 5th year elementary students. Boring, but useful.

Printable worksheets, good stuff for verbs.

Happy clicking.

Everything you never wanted to know

about me.

Yes I have discovered "pages", and I wrote one. But I am buggered if I am not going to get a post out of it as well cos it took ages to spell check.

So, behold. The Sarah. Warts...and more warts.


I'm British.

I'm 42.

Since I left the UK at 21 that means I have spent half my life and the bulk of my adult life outside of the UK.

I didn't do it on purpose. I have as much desire to see the world as a slug does. I just have a habit of marrying "forrin" men

My first marriage was to a member of the Thai royal family.

I do pick 'em.

I got a (lowly) title, a home in the grounds of a massive, falling down estate in the middle of Bangkok and a rampant case of clinical depression.

Not helped by Black May taking place right outside my gate.

I got shot at by my father in law.

He missed. He did go to prison at the weekends (royal remember) for a few months after the event, although not for the pot shots, the charge was for not having turned in a war weapon.

There was a spate of coup d'état, not fun when you are tank phobic.

And my husband didn't love me.

Well not in a way you would normally recognize as love anyway.

I don't remember when I left, I have huge gaps thanks to a combo of alcohol and unhappiness, but I did leave in the end. Just as well for both our sakes. I was a walking advert for why it might not be your best choice to move in with your first love at 16 and marry him at 18 when you are still reeling from your parents getting divorced.

Then I stuck a pin in a map and came to Italy. By bus. There was no Sleasyjet in those days.

Cleverly I decided to come to Milan to flash my super TEFL CV at schools....on the 3rd of August. Doing my homework and looking before I leap, not my greatest strength.

Shagged half of Milan in an effort to stop the pain.

Dragged the Sock Dropper home one evening in early December. Scared the crap out of him by being sexually aggressive. He wouldn't give up despite me pushing him away emotionally. He kept coming back and insisting we left the bedroom and go out and talk (well sign language and point at word in a dictionary)and stuff.

The git.

Have you any idea how much an Italian-English dictionary weighs ?

He forced me to come on his "entire sodding family"holiday at Easter and then again in the summer. During this prison sentence holiday I learned Italian by MIL waggling kitchen implements at me, yelling their name, shaking her head and sighing deeply. She told her son, "She has a nice bottom, but you don't marry for a nice bottom".

I think she got it wrong.
My legs are my best feature.

Three years later he moved in with me, his mother went mad(der) and ending up in a locked ward for six months.

I got drunk.

I got pregnant.

MIL went back to hospital.

Son of Thor was born.

MIL went back to hospital.

We survived early parenthood by the skin of our teeth because that child slept a whole ten seconds in the first four years. I didn't take up drinking again after the birth for fear of ending up with another insomniac baby.

I breastfed cos he wouldn't take a bottle.  He wouldn't take a dummy either, so I became a walking version of.

I went on to breastfeed for a year cos I couldn't crowbar him off my boob. He was like a fat, pink leech with a suck that gave a black hole a run for its money.
We got married.
MIL went back to hospital.

He went to school.

It all went bent.

We decided to home educate.

Some hysteria followed.

MIL went back to hospital.

Pilgrim invasion began.

I considered joining MIL.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Breaking the bilingual baby commandments

OK maybe they aren't commandments, but I haven't noticed a shortage of "you shouldn't correct your child for accuracy" statements travelling alongside "you shouldn't force the issue of production."

I came across it so often that I abided by it without question ........... and I really wish I hadn't.

By 7 ish Son of Thor had some seriously ingrained errors which hampered his ability to communicate effectively.

And that wasn't the worst of it

He lost a great deal of confidence in English, thanks to some comments from his British family members (kids in particular aren't known for their diplomacy) and the need some adults have to barge in with criticisms in order to show off their own language skills, or score points against "the other mummy".

Less sensitive people don't mince their words, which can really sting if you are more used to a loving adult who always holds their tongue. In addition his former school had done a wonderful job of cementing the idea that errors were evidence of laziness or stupidity, so the fall out of the occasional, external knock back became incredibly significant to him when it came to his vision of himself as an English speaker.

And not in a good way.

At this point I went heretic and decided that perhaps the reticence to correct for accuracy was more a result of how people perceive correction as automatically a negative thing, thanks to how they experienced it as a child themselves, rather than correction itself being a terrible "no-no" when it comes to producing a bilingual child.

The reality is that error correction doesn't have to be mean, nasty and negative. It can be fun, positive, empowering and provide a form of insulation against the uninvited, negative forms of correction proffered by outsiders.

I've been selective in terms of what we are looking to improve at any given time. Prepositions, past participles,irregular verbs/nouns and word order have all had their time in the sun. They took it in turns because I didn't want to set him up for the stuttering kind of self-correction you see in many L2 language learners, who have had accuracy, in all areas, all of the time, rammed down their throat to the point where it them takes an hour and a thousand tries before they commit to a single phrase.

I've spent a lot of time getting him to see how errors and mistakes are learning opportunities and evidence of a learner pushing the boundaries of their linguistic ability in order to grow. It was vital for him to let go of the idea that making a mistake was a statement about who he was a person (i.e. lazy/stupid/not really English). He had become so risk adverse that it was stunting his ability to take any steps forward.

As a first choice I give him plenty of covert and overt opportunities to take control of his own progress via self correction. How we do it ranges from me choosing my own structures carefully to elicit something specific back from him in a normal conversation, right through to our "secret code" where I make myself literally go cross eyed and he'll giggle and then think back to what he just said. Whatever approach is picked at the time usually results in him setting himself straight without any help from me.

I may or may not decide to ask him to try and correct himself immediately, it depends on the context, some things are better left till somebody has finished having their say and dealt with at another time, when you've had the space to think creatively about how you want to approach it. Plus who wants to interrupt and frustrate an excited smallie in the middle of am account he is just desperate to share with you ?

Where there is a knowledge gap I lean towards learning through discovery rather than spoon feeding, but there are times where for speed I'll stick to insta-provision or the house will never get clean(ish).

I've even been known to theatrically throw myself on the floor, flailing my limbs, crying

"rung!!! rUng!!!!!!! RUNG!!!!!!"

at the top of my voice, because it makes him laugh like a drain, is memorable and deals with any maternal frustrations at hearing

"The cooker has rang ! It's rang mummy, get off the computer, it's RANG !!!! My pizza !!! Don't burn my pizza again !!!!"

for the seven millionth time in a week.

As long as the mood of the activity isn't dismissive or diminishing, I'm not taking anything off the table.

All of the above has reduced the extent to which external opinions can impact his continued growth, his willingness to use the language and his belief in his abilities.

It has made him damn near immune to the kind of comments that previously cut him to the quick and brought him to the point of not wanting to talk to anybody in English except me. He is a polite kid, but these days he is not above whispering to me afterwards "Mummy, she's not very clever, she doesn't know that making mistakes is part of learning".

I can't force the rest of the world to shut up and let him learn in his own sweet time, not unless there is a change the law which allows me to start going around supergluing some people's big, fat gobs shut.

What I can do is get in there first, emphasizing a positive, child centered approach/attitude towards the correction of errors and in my experience it can be a very effective vaccination against a protracted confidence crash.

On top of that, with my child, I'm no longer convinced that enforcing an error correction free zone would have been an effective route to a near native level of accuracy in the long run, given quite how ingrained some of his mistakes had become.

So while I feel conventional wisdom has its place, we all have our highly individual children and circumstances to take into account and it is worth questioning it if you find it just isn't working for you in the way you thought it would.

You can always come and sit next to me on the naughty bench if you break a "commandment" or five ( ;

Check other experiences of bringing up bilingual chilren at the Bilingual for Fun's Blogging Carnival  at Multitoungue Kids blog (an Italian mummy doing what we do in reverse, the blog is in English) on April the second.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Do you own a teeny, tiny Italian ?

Then this one is for you.

Aimed mainly at the smaller mini Italian nationals, a heap of games aimed at giving them further practice in the murky world of Italian grammar and lexis.

Not bad for those of us among the parents who are rather eclectic in our use of accents and articles either.

The maths sections look useful for the slightly older kids too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Waiting time: 35 minutes
Duration 1.47 minutes

I handed over some work samples, she took them, I handed over reports, she took them, I handed over url, she took it, I asked question about INVALSI, she confirmed it was now obligatory for quinta (5th year elementary), she said goodbye and walked off, I chased after her for her email address, she rattled it off over her shoulder, I can't remember it.

If you ever see me get in a state about one of these meetings again please come and head butt some sense into me or something.

Next time I'll just deliver stuff to the door and leave it with a passing bidella, cos there is no point in hanging around to do it personally.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Knickers well and truly twisted

/he he he he heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee/

Just trying to keep my breathing steady.

Idiot Sock Dropper bumped into the maths teacher in the supermarket mid last week.

Unlike me with my superb trolley control and a desire for a quiet life, he did not pull a blithe 180 degree turn and pootle off before presence was noted.

Oh no, he pootled over for a chat.

And between them they decided I should pop in for a friendly meeting tomorrow.

Oh well thanking you both so much for that in the middle of rebuilding the house, a passport drama and a castration.

Upshot is I have spent most of this week not so much as dotting the i(s) and crossing the t(s) as trying to create a super display of such mammoth and astounding proportions that I have knackered myself.

The over achiever in me needs exorcising or I will drop dead of exhaustion.
I just have to purge the showcase of youtube videos some b..asket deleted and add the last few games I made while burning pizzas and that bit is done.

The Egyptian lap book has to be located and the Sumerian cuneiform repro in clay packed in unpopped bubble wrap so I don't break it by dropping in in a fit of nerves.

Then I have to dig out the INVALSI tests he did for the purpose of waggling them at people.

All this and keep Whiskers locked up cos he can't eat or drink till after his marbles get chopped of in the morning (unfortunately vet said no can do on the "two for the price of one" idea and sending the Sock Dropper in too, as punishment for setting up meetings for hard done by wife) as well as trying to work out how to put more water in the CH system, cos I bleed the new radiator in the new (FINISHED !!) bathroom and managed to put the water pressure in the sub zero area. Not to mention that I have to empty the other bathroom (bad news, the pipes in that one are too corroded to do just a cosmetic job so it is bang bang bang there for a month too) and move our bed into Son of Thor's room so they can throw rubble out of my bedroom window at an ungodly hour for a week. Whilst rewiring the sky box into soon to be ex bedroom so it can become living room whilst downstairs floor is being retiled. Whilst setting up kilometers of new fencing for new dog area. Whilst lugging tonnes of stray cement into a lorry to be disposed of. Whilst trying to work out how to fit pantry furniture into new pantry area. Whist working out how to set up the third "half bathroom" downstairs that I have to move (I do not wish to discuss this, it is have to if I say it is have to. It makes more sense and that is the end of it). Whilst berating errant husband for plonking more pressure on me when I need it the least.

If I am this kind of a state over an informal chat anybody want to take bets on the explosive force of nature I will become when it is time for the annual exam ?

On the plus forget how much you have done and how much has been achieved over the course of the academic year so far. It has been good to have an enforced review and being able to think that (despite the panic) to all intents and purposes..we have come a long way baby ( :

But still, thank you goddess of opiates of the masses for a double bill of Greys and Private Practice or I wouldn't be able to switch off at all.

rules for tomorrow

1) be nice

2) smile (not strange rictus version)

3) don't get snarly and defensive

4) don't drop the Sumerian clay cuneiform

5) don't try and show the poor woman everything on the showcase in the educational technology version of a high speed car chase.

6) don't waggle the INVALSI tests with what looks suspiciously like a "na na nah nah na" tone of waggle

7) don't waft the latest report from Whizz Maths with what sounds suspiciously like a big,fat, spluttery raspberry accompanying it.

8) speak Italian not Italish

9) breathebetween sentences

/he he he he heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee/
/he he he he heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

British Embassy <---CRAP !!!

Fer crying out loud. It just shouldn't be this hard. I want a lifetime passport, so I never have to do this again.
First they took the passport renewal thingamabob away from Milan and made us go via Rome.

Ten years later and we have to go via Paris.

What the hell is the point of that, make us go via London and have done with it, at least I could sneak in an extra trip home and tell The Sock Dropper that it has nothing to do with wanting to wallow in Tesco's this time.


So anyway, after ten rounds on the automatic message, stupid, rage creating telephone merry-go-round (if Dante were alive today being stuck on that would have its own special, named-and-shamed ring of hell) I finally give in and go back to the incomprehensible website.

Get sent packing from the Italy page to the France page.

Find something about passports and Italy and start trying to work out which form I need to download.

The only one that seems even remotely usable says this

"Form C1:  Please complete form C1 if you are applying overseas for your first UK passport and are over the age of 16. ""

It says first passport. Does that mean first as in primary, ie not your second one for visiting countries that other countries don't like, or does that mean the first one ever ? So is this the one for renewals or only for my first ever passport only ? Would it kill you to clearly state which form you use for renewal by using the sodding word RENEWAL !!!!

If I get it wrong the b...askets are going to keep my money and make me start again.

So I want to call and check.

But I don't want to be stuck in "Dante's post modern telephone ring of hell" AGAIN.

Try anyway.

Try very hard not to throw phone on floor. But fail.

Shout "my bloody country !!!".

Which from some people's perspective makes a nice change for a constant refrain of "Jerusalem".

Read form again. Read other forms. Get more confused.

Shout at the computer.

Computer remains impassive and does not leap into an explanation.

Is it too effing much to ask that the sods who create the website and design the application process think about the presentation from the end users perspective ?

Stick a link in for "renewing passport" and leave a clearly defined, step by step trail of links so a person is in no doubt as to which form they need, what they need to attach, where they are sending it, how much it costs IN TOTAL and how to pay.

I could redesign it in an afternoon. Yet with squillions of tax quids all they have managed to do is bugger it up completely and leave people near to passportless status and as infuriated as only PMT mets Maddening Beaurocracy can achieve.

Which is outrageous when same tormented person is facing the trauma of having to get new passport photos and being forced to recognize that birth, marriage, raising a child and ten years has taken its toll.


24 years ago I married a Thai and got caught in the immigration hell they call Luna House.

That was a walk in the park compared to this.

Because it was before the days of Dante's telephone merry-go-round hell.

(takes hammer to phone)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I have an itchy crotch.

Here is the ad, for the non Italian speakers.

Running late woman arrives, tells women waiting for her, I have an inflamed crotch, I had to go and buy this treatment, that's why I'm late.

Friends condone purchase of said treatment, offering confirmation that they too get intimate inflammation from time to time and that product is the biz.

One woman goes off to bathe crotch in said product, ladies meet up later to celebrate lack of itchy crotch and raise a toast to "kitty taming" powers of product. click to watch the ad

So taking a vote here, how often do you tell your friends you have sore fluffy bits as you explain away your late arrival to a get together ?

You are saying "not very often", aren't you ?

Please say yes.

Or you can forget me ever turning up for a mass expat/homeschooling/wimyn TEFLers get together.

I'm not having the state of another's crotch thrust upon me as they walk through the door.

Thing is, for all the strange things they have ever said to me, my Italian mates have never saluted me with the status of their irritated love zone, rather that say "Ciao, sorry I'm (2 flobbing hours) late".

So I was wondering if I was out of the loop. Were they deliberately leaving me out of the fiery vah-jay-jay conversation in a vaginic apartheid sort of way ?

Thankfully the Italian Mama blogger Equazioni has put me straight, as have the ladies who commented afterwards. They have gone as cross eyed over this ad as the expats.

So please be aware that in your attempt to be culturally sensitive to your Italian female friends, it is neither necessary nor appreciated to lament your labia as a conversation starter, nor will they appreciate you inquiring if theirs is all irritated as an ice breaker.

Oh well, at least this is one ad that doesn't have perky, nudie boobs in it, causing my soon-to-be-bruised husband to get that "rabbit caught in headlights" look on his face...again.

You have to read Litizzetto on the subject.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Slapheads 2 - Students

A small sample of the slapheads my colleagues and I have been forced to tolerate taken professional delight in teaching.

Silver Spoon Sureeporn

Child of excessively wealthy parents.

Was taught to slap the family's servants from toddlerhood.

Regards all service providers, including English teachers, as serfs and adjusts tone accordingly.

Breaks the laws of physics by looking down her nose at you from the height of four foot nothing.

Little snot typically costs teacher dearly (far more than they earned teaching her) at the dentist, thanks to the level of teeth gritting required to avoid hurling her out of the nearest window.

"I Paid" Pietro

Thinks it doesn't matter if he turns up and takes part in the lessons, or not

The act of buying the course is the path to proficiency in his mind.

When failing to progress or pass, places the blame squarely on "the crappy teacher who didn't teach me anything". Believes his 30% attendance record to be a straw that "crappy teacher" is clutching at.

Abundantly aided and abetted by genius school proprietors who make inspired "guaranteed learning" claims that imply the only effort a student has to make is a swift whipping out of a credit card.

Tightlipped Thongchai 

Books a nine hundred hour, one-on-one, conversation course.

Proceeds to respond to every single question or conversational overture with a grunt/nod/headshake at worst, or a mumbled "I not know" at best.

By the 500th silent hour, when an increasingly desperate teacher resorts to pronunciation drills (just to get some sort of sound out of him), marches to reception to complain that he isn't being given the opportunity to practice expressing himself freely.

In terms of conversation, is hampered less by his poor grasp of English than he is by being a personality free zone, who has no opinion on anything, with hobbies that consist of eating and sleeping.

Slimy Sandro

Ten to one specifically asked for a YFT (young, female teacher) and the school obliged with the alacrity of a pimp.

Spends the whole lesson just waiting to leap on any opportunity for a double entendre. Will force one in with a crowbar should opportunity not arise.

Cannot stay within the boundaries of acceptable physical contact. Kisses the hand YFT offers for purpose of handshake. Slobbers on YFT when taking advantage of the local cultural norm of greeting by kiss. Lives for the moment when space is tight so he can squeeze past YFT   ..v   e   r   y   ...  s    l   o    w   l   y.

If he changes the lesson location to his own premises, is likely to open the door to YFT dressed only in a short bathrobe, insisting that she comes in and waits while he (allegedly) gets dressed.

Relishes the power rush, confirmed by the YFT's evident distress as she find herself between a rock (putting her job at risk for refusing the lesson) and a hard place (worried sick about ending up in a bath filled with sand on a balcony).

Also in this series
TEFL Slapheads 1 - Teachers
If anybody else has a TEFL Slaphead outpouring, send me the url to your post and I'll link it here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear So and So.....redoing the house edition

come join in the "Dear So and So" meme, cheaper than therapy, twice as much fun than navel gazing.....

Dear Bob Claudio The Builder

Please stop going to my husband and giving him receipts after you pick stuff up from suppliers. Make a hole in the wall, stuff them in, cement over it and then cover with the guilty tiles. It's a cultural thing, the British always do that with their receipts and as one of the clients I insist my cultural sensibilities are pandered to.

Dear Tile Supplier

Thank you so much for sending the wrong tiles. That was really helpful, leaving me only one day to race around Lombardia to find something else that would work. A word to the wise, next time you discover you are out of stock, don't wait ten days and then let the warehouseman substitute the bulk of an order for what he thinks "is more or less the same". Cos he is colour and texture blind and anyway it just isn't on. I don't chose your tiles for your bathroom and you don't chose them for mine. You can forget the pre order for the rest of the house. I'm going elsewhere. Unfortunately elsewhere has turned out to carry the most irresistable tiles that cost a king's ransom...but still. I'm not coming back. I am dead to you. Or at  least I will be once the Sock Dropper adds up how much I have speant.

You b...askets.

Dear Italian Sock Dropper

Any minute now you are going to sit down and add up those receipts Bob Claudio the Builder gave you.

I just want you to know that:

I love you very much

You'd last ten minutes as a widower, single dad plus zoo.

I have a very good explanation for the 8 fold increase in the tile budget

It's not my fault (ish)

It will look amazing


I have found a floor tile for the other 180m2 of the house that is half the price of the one we originally chose, but ten times lovelier so I'll claw all the overspend back and then some, but I have actually decided to do the other two bathrooms in the same stuff as the guest bathroom so that claw back will sort of look like it is going "pouff", but you are actually saving money really, because I promise I wont knock anymore walls down and actually with these tiles the value of the house will go up at a projection the exceeds the original projection so really I am saving you money even if it looks like I am trying to bankrupt you. That is a bankrupted illusion. You know how you don't understand the washing machine ? Well this investment in house thing is a bit like a washing machine, to you it looks like just plain old outrageous spending, but in fact...I am making you money. Sort of like a bathroom tile version of an optical illusion. Just like the washing machine you should leave it all to me, trust your wife and everything will come out in the wash.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lend me your child please....

Not literally.

Just for a first foray into keypals

Looking for boy/girl, up to about 12ish, in Italian and/or in English, Home educated or at school, in Italy or in the UK/USA/NZ/Oz elsewhere who either likes the idea or can be bludgeoned into it by their mother.

No strings on my part, if it fizzles out I won't be performing Olympic standard histrionics, I just want to see if this could be a viable method of providing authentic written communication practice, as well as for its own sake.

Drop me a line if you fancy letting our kids have a go at writing to each other via their parent's email accounts.

sarahfonto AT alice DOT it

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Slapheads 1

Borrowing this series idea from Mental Nurse,

And turning the spotlight on my own industry,.........................

see also TEFL Slapheads - Students

TEFL Slapheads - Teachers

Just four characters who littered the first half of my life as a teacher, driving me nuts and making a quiet lunch in the staffroom an utter impossibility.

Green Gillian.

Will do four hour workshops for state school teachers without deigning to use white board markers (chemical fumes = air pollution issues), the over head projector (electricity = carbon footprint issues) or docs that can be downloaded by participants (computer screens = Multiple Environmental Sensitivity Syndrome).

When asked by the trainees for some handouts at least she pompously declines "because I like trees".

Has an eco argument that forbids any effort on her part to render her work accessable, memorable or even vaguely comprehensible.

Methodology Maggie

Fell head over heels in love with MLI/Dogme/NLP in ELT/etc./etc.  .....and at this point is so wedded to it that a divorce is out of the question.

A touch evangelical to say the least.

Most often spotted regurgitating jargon she doesn't really understand all over newly minted teachers because it props up her ego and most importantly might convert them to her quasi religion, thus promoting her to "guru" status.

Might throw board rubbers at you when you mention that there is no hard data to support her pet theories.

Believes anecdote is the plural of data.

DOS Davina

Became DOS as a result of the "warp speed nine" turnover of externally recruited senior teachers.

Proud holder of a certificate from an online, half-day course in "This TEFL Shite and How You Does It, Like" .

Channels Pol Pot and reduces most of the staff, handpicked to ensure a CELTA free zone, to gibbering wrecks.

Gone Native Nick

Peppers his staffroom discourse with words from the local language, particularly if very few of the other teachers speak it.

With much exaggerated rustling reads local newspapers during breaks, despite only being able to recognize three whole Sanskrit characters.

Lays into anybody who says anything remotely negative about the host country with a rant about xenophobia based on massive generalizations about his compatriots back home.

Has a succession of local girl/boyfriends. Would prefer it to just be one long term one (cos that could lead to the much desired badge of honor, dual nationality), but just as soon as his unfortunate love interest battles through the language barrier they work out what a pretentious git he is and run for the hills.

see also TEFL Slapheads - Students

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Steal that meme I will.....

Saw this one on a teacher's blog, I'm doing it first as an HEing parent and later on down the line I'll do it as a teacher too.

1. I am a good home educating parent because... I haven't swallowed it whole as a "one true way" philosophy. I don't do anything well when I slip blinkers on and get all evangelical.

2. If I weren’t a home educating parent, I would be...still be spending far too much time shouting at the director, arguing (via son's diary) with some of the teachers and yelling "...your bloody country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" at The Sock Dropper with alarming regularity.

3. My home educating style is..."Principled Eclectic", same as it in mainstream ed. I select, mix and apply methodologies based on specific learner's short term and long-term needs, motivations, abilities and personality. All of which is subject to change, so a regular reassessment of the approaches employed is needed. I fell head over heels for a single philosophy early on in my career and made it the overarching "King of the Heap", which by definition shoved my students into second place in terms of consideration. You only make that kind of mistake once.

4. Our home educating takes place...mainly in the living room. Yes we do go outside, but it is cold and outside I get harangued about why he isn't at school. I can live with that most days, but I don't want him to have to be exposed to it, he is only 9, there is time enough for him to have to walk into the wind when he is bigger. Plus I like sharing the same rhythm as the rest of the world. It gives Son of Thor more opportunities to meet other kids if we are at places when they are there too.

5. Our home educating learning plans are... prepared on a Sunday night, based on a pulling together of two curriculums, tweaked to his strengths and weaknesses, flexible in the sense that what takes more/less time than planned is given more/less time and constantly being reviewed as we go through the week if I have underestimated or overestimated the difficulty or volume. I don't write full lesson plans anymore, after 20 years I've been doing this long enough to be able to hold it in my head. I just have a folder for each subject and any notes, ideas or materials are put in there in advance to cut down on mad scrabbling in the morning.

6. One of my home educating goals is... to give him as many open doors as a young adult as possible via a quality bilingual education, without sacrificing his social development. That might be three, but they are all in the number one slot, so it doesn't matter.

7. The toughest part of home educating is... him not going to school. I am a terrible parent LOL. I liked having hours of peace to get my stuff done with nobody under my feet.

8. The thing I love most about home educating is... watching his confidence as a learner grow. Like any mother I am chuffed with the tangible improvements in his school work and skills sets, but that less academic arena is where my heart lies first and foremost. It was awful to watch him call himself stupid because of a couple of age appropriate errors in an otherwise well done piece of work. We have a complementary cycle where it used to be vicious, which makes me very happy indeed.

9. A common misconception about home educating is.. that we are automatically "alternative" in terms of world view. I am bog standard, boringly mainstream with no desire to stand out like a sore thumb. To be honest the result is some discomfort at being out of step with the norm (in both HE circles and non HE circles) when it comes to my son's education.

10. The most important thing I’ve learned since I started home educating is... that I would much rather be part of a wider "community" drawn together by mutual attraction, rather than one focused on a single commonality. Which is no big surprise in hindsight, since I came to the same conclusion about over-involvement in things like "expat" clubs and "mother and baby" groups too. I don't want to define big chunks of my time or my life by one single aspect. It makes me feel "ghettoized".

Friday, March 5, 2010

The blackmailing bidella

full story in Italian

Remember the bidella involved in stripping off the elementary school kids.

Not the first time she has been shuffled from one school to another.

March 2004 - Criminal case - she received a suspended sentence of 10 months and 20 days for trying to blackmail a member of her own family to the tune of ten thousand.

The blackmail appears to have been:

"unless you want something to happen to your children, give me ten grand"

The total consequence in terms of her work was that she got shuffled to another school ... the one where she decided to get kids to strip.

Unless I have misunderstood the article after she stripped the kids she got shuffled right back to the school from which she was shuffled last time.

I feel like I'm tripping reading this stuff.

It's can't be real. It is the cold and flu meds and all a figment of my medicated imagination.

No other rational explanation.

the "shocked and horrified this unexplainable thing has happened" school director from yesterdays school was.....also the director of the previous school where she worked when found guilty of extortion.

I'd have more respect for him if yesterday he hadn't declared himself shocked and instead had said "what did you expect when the level of management above me didn't see grounds for dismissal after her last debacle"

‘’Mi ero consultato con l’Ufficio scolastico regionale – spiega il dirigente scolastico Renato Schettini, che già allora era alla guida del distretto comprendente, appunto, Carpignano e Briona – E mi era stato detto che non si poteva prendere alcun provvedimento, visto che la bidella non aveva avuto alcun tipo di interdizione o sospensione dai pubblici uffici. Autonomamente avevo però deciso di spostarla di sede: l’avevo trasferita a Briona, dove è rimasta fino all’altro giorno’’

I actually feel sorry for the teachers she worked with, I still believe that they utterly failed to do their duty and that should be addressed, but I think it is entirely plausible that they were terrified of the bidella and well aware that the judicial system, in tandem with their own management, would not offer them any protection from the worst she could do to them or their families if they crossed her. They were placed in an unimaginable difficult position. Their priority should have been the children in their care, but in the circumstances there may well be room to believe that they were traumatized. Rather than an innate inability to understand their obligations and perform their role,  the cause of their failure to contain the bidella may well have been profound fear. It explains at least why yesterday the director was asking for the teachers to be assessed for trauma and metal incapacity to perform by psychologists. We'll have to see as this story gets fleshed out to what extent their actions were coloured by the situation they were placed in and what the best reponse is to their role in what happened.

We can't undo what has been done.

We can take a long hard look at this and learn once and for all that the constant shuffle as a response to "issues" is the worst kind of solution to rectify the problem of errant employees and demand that from now on a less insane direction is followed.

But don't hold your breath for that to happen at the level of government where it counts.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Evil bidellas

Another home educator in Italy  blogged this story which caught my eye, in the way a sharp stick being poked in it does.

(note the story got worse the next day - see here)

Here's a summary of the news story

original in Italian here

In Brione (NO) (about an hour's drive from where I live) a class of third years had a case of the runs running riot through the class.

Somebody had an accident in the boy's loo, so bidella and teachers sent the girls out of the classroom and made the boys remove their lower garment in front of them to discover the "culprit". Then they proceeded to humiliate him in front his classmates.

From what I can gather at this point there have been no suspensions and I have unhappy doubts, based on 15 years of reading and wittnessing (from the teacher side of the chalkboard) this kind of crap, that all, if any, of the adults involved will be considered unfit to continue in their role.

Sick to death of my profession being picked over an office job or a cashier position in a supermarket, because aside from the job security aspect (and other statale benefits), it offers a taste of power and a status that the former do not have as part of the package. The fact that the kind of power-grab selected is wielded over those least able to defend themselves renders it even more revolting.

Part of the responsibility that we carry as educators is to ensure that what power we have is used with a light hand and with more scruples than you can shake a stick at.

Too often I have worked in schools where over the years a taste for omnipotence has given people a swollen sense of importance and given rise to a warped and unpleasant modus operandi. They infect the newer arrivals who go on to continue the same cycle when they take the role of the experienced teacher/bidella.

Enough already.

A strong message needs to be sent out that no matter how powerful the unions, no matter how water tight your contract, there are lines in the sand and if you step over them you will be removed for the sake of the children that have to exist in the same space. Those lines in the sand need to be shunted to a place more recognisable as reasonable bearing in mind that the needs and rights of parents and students should count for something too, not just those of the employees.

The children deserve better PUNTO E BASTA.

My profession deserves better than to be associated with poor examples like these.

At what point will Italy demand that the rights of a statale/comunale employee end where their abject failure to undertake their responsibilities begin ?

I am not a "school hater" by default just because I am a Home Educator, since I've spent twenty years teaching in schools, it would be hypocritical to say the least. I do a good job and I can offer children an expertise that many parents cannot. The same can be said of a number of my colleagues in Italy. School versus HE is a question, not of "right and wrong choice", but rather a case of "given our current circumstances what offers the better senario for our family".

The parents of children at school, while understanding that nobody can guarantee that every employee, all of the time, will live up to expectations, deserve to know that those who overstep the mark will be dealt with as the situation, not the contract, demands and a cycle of rot will not be allowed to set in the mind set of a staffroom by turning blind eyes or sweeping things under the carpet with spin.

I'd have more respect for my profession as a whole if instead of pleading the case of the colleagues involved they used, at the very least, the internet to protest actions like these, rather than reserving their outraged voice when it comes to protecting their income and conditions of employment.

If you find any outpourings from teachers speaking out against the behavoir and mind set of the employees this national news story, please let me know.

I need my faith in humanity to get a little propping up right now.


Well there is a huge shock, sharing the same mode of operation of some churches, once again the solution of shuffling the problem else where has been employed.

The bidella has been transfered, cos that makes everything better.

This "transfer" the problem is so ingrained  that it accounts for the vast majority of "action taken" where there has been a flagrant breach of protocol and obligations.

I personally have had to perform beurocratic gymnastics to ensure my child was not in the class of a teacher I had previously shared a class with, who was forced out of the school by the parents for a level of verbal violence that damn near reduced ME to a nervous breakdown, let alone the kids,  and got sent instead to the school and class my son was due to join in the new academic year.

I have no doubt that the bidella was the instigator of this event, however I fail to see how the teachers involved (or aware of her actions, but failed to intervene right from the start) can be seen as "not compromised" just because the bidella was the "ringleader".


It appears the senior teacher (guessing this a village school where there is no full time presence of the director) has been suspended. Not sure if it is officially, or just that she has been told to stay home for a while until they can work out what to do next.

Carabinaire looking into the case to see if there are grounds for criminal charges.

This post has been edited because some horrible perverts are getting their rocks off searching for specific phrases, so I took them off and worded it differently. Don't want disgusting types on my blog. Am fussy like that.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sodding cherry

...just jumped on my hacking cake.

A cold.

A raging cold.

A cold so congesting I have claustraphobia from being in my own face.

I've still got the cough that started three weeks ago. That hasn't finished yet

So now I am off my head on vicks cold and flu meds, incommunicado with my husband who can't speak English and my Italian is of with the fairies and....I have completely forgotton what I was talking about.

Well anyway.

Bloody cold.

And cough.

And cistitus.

And it's the time of the month.

What's next, a broken leg ?

The plague ?

How about a nice dose of ebola ?

Yes, I know I have no sense of proportion, I'm sick and hormonal.  Tis allowed.

Anybody who starts wittering about "é la cambio di stagione.." will be shot.

With feeling.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

SATs in Italy for elementary and middle school ?

SATS are coming to Italy ?

Talk about being caught on the hop.

From this June (or May for the younger kids) all students in the following grades will take national test in maths and Italian

Seconda elementare
Quinta elementare

Prima media
Terza media

I have no idea if this is going to become an on-going thing, I don't know what percentages of the final grade the exam results will count for, I only have a suspicion that this is the fruit of the reforms that were put on the table much earlier in the decade.

I did read the blurb on the INVALSI site. I went cross eyed. I forced my Italian, university educated husband to read the blurb, he went cross eyed too. I'm leaving little messages on state school teachers blogs to see if anybody will fill in the gaps for me.

While I wouldn't want to see Italy go down the wholesale "teach the test" route we have seen (or heard about, in my case) in the UK, I can't exactly weep over the introduction of objective, standardized tests here.

One of my biggest beefs when Son of Thor was at school was the inability of anybody to actually give some idea of where the benchmarks were and to explain how the tests they were making up as they went along carefully constructing related to those benchmarks.

From the Home Educator's POV the INVALSI exams means that I have external, objective testing to rely on for three out of the next five years.

Well yipee, cos the subjectivity of internal testing does not make for sleep filled nights. Especially when you get left in the corridor and forgotten about after turning up for appointments and nobody calls you back when you leave phone messages.

I've downloaded some of the tests and feel utterly relieved. The required standard is far more resonable that I had been led to exect based on the level of testing taking place inside the classroom this year. Son of Thor can manage them now so by the end of quinta we should be home and dry. I'm using them as extension and revision aids, stopping to plug any gaps as we go along.

If anybody wants to try them out the ones for the quinta are here and the ones for media are here. (just found a maths one for seconda elementare...... and now I've found an Italiano one for 2onda)

The really adventurous of you can investigate the motives and means here, please let the rest of us know what you find out if you exit with your eyes uncrossed ( :

I still have a cough (now in third week), I'm starting a cold and to add insult to injury I think I have cystitis to add to my woes. Which should put quite some context into the equation of how happy I am am to have discovered these exams.

If I were well I think I might be tap dancing.

I am no longer a slave to how much a teacher or three likes me, thinks I'm mad what whith this homescholing nonsense, or remembers the really detailed letter of complaint I wrote lambasting their second cousin three years ago, which got sent not only to the director, but also to the regional powers that be.


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