Things that are different

Children and teenagers are the same whereever you go. They like to find out what the rules are, they like the rules to be fair, they like to learn new things that mean something to them.

Teenagers at my school are much better behaved than I could ever believe was possible. For instance, a bunch of them were talking over me during a science lesson on Friday. I stopped and explained why I did not like it and wanted them to stop. They looked sad and ashamed. They cut it out.

There is a lot of that. For instance, no child ever bursts into my room and tells another “your mum” and runs off. No one pretends they do not have a pen (in fact, they lend me equipment… who knew you had to bring your own chalk?). No one argues with me.

Children will suggest things like “next time could you bring the bigger exercise books?” “next time can you bring the Danish translation for the technical words?” “what is the homework tonight?” “what shall I do now I have finished?”

My planning is taking a lot longer. My Special Teaching Skill is breaking down hard topics so that special needs children can access them. My other Special Skill is being able to get children who were never loved or socialised for school to enjoy a lesson and stay in the room.
I am having to branch out now. I am having to plan to teach a LOT more and get through more information, practice more skills.
This is different from “top set” teaching… I always found those groups harder because they were bright enough to cause the maximum trouble… this is better. The groups are mixed in ability but they want to be there.

It makes all the difference.

I wish all children in Britain were raised by a loving family. I think (even in rich families, though I have less experience with that demographic) that families are often too busy for their children. Sometimes it is because of impossible odds… If one parent dies or walks out, it must be very difficult to spend enough time with your children.
But I get the impression that oftentimes it is a love of money which prevents children in Britain being raised. Families work far far too hard. It is not right that people work until 7pm or later.
Then the money is spent on things rather than experiences. Food becomes fuel and not part of the daily cementing of relationships. Social time is spent watching other people socialise on television.
In some families, children are ordered around and barked at. Sometimes worse.
Schools are difficult to teach in because children are not loved.

Love is more than a fuzzy feeling. It is words and actions too. Love is a doing word.

The Union has things all taped up. For instance, I have cover lessons. I have them scheduled for Tuesday morning. I am paid extra for them.
If the person I am covering for is sick, they are not expected to send in work. If it is a planned absence, they are.
I am recalling all the nights and mornings I have dragged myself from bed: pounding headache, vomiting, incredible pain, stomach flu and written out three or more lesson plans for the day.
I remember going in after a few days even when still unwell “because what would I set for cover?”

Not expected here.

I am slightly over time-tabled so that I can get paid in the summer (they only get paid usually for the months they are in school).
But then something amazing happens.

I am teaching 50 more hours than normal. I am paid for them. I am paid for the 50 hours I need to prepare for those lessons. I am paid 50% extra for *overtime*.
So I get paid for 150 hours.

Holy crap, that’s awesome.

We watched Denmark’s Got Talent. They had some truly awful performances. The most interesting was the man with cerebral palsy who did some break dancing.
The word they used to describe him was “spastik” and everyone was cool with that. His dancing was good (better than mine), but not as good as someone who did not have cerebral palsy.
They spoke to him like he was a retard though I do not think he had learning disabilities. They put him through to the next round out of pity.

On Friday night, there was a minor fire at the bakery (they left baking cases in an oven that was still on). The fire brigade turned up and everyone in the street came out to watch.

That is my kinda town.

Settling in

This will be quick because I am tired.

My job is so awesome and I love Denmark!

The “naughty” class I teach are a little bit cheeky, nothing I haven’t seen before… and the other classes are great. They love learning and they are able to learn.

The bureaucracy is amazing though… the head and I went to Middelfart (heh) to get a temporary National Insurance style number. When it comes on Saturday I can pay taxes, get a mobile phone, rent a flat, go to Danish lessons, open a bank account. Sweet.
We went to the next city, Odense, and by the time we got to the office to get a residence permit it had closed. At 4.30pm. Imagine that.
And Thursday is the civil service “longer hours” day.

Missing London is not such a visceral thing for me anymore either. I do miss London but I don’t feel awful like I did in Thailand.
I miss my friends a lot, so will work on getting them out here.

I will be looking at a flat soon. It is around the corner from
1) My friend who is putting me up in her house
2) The beach
3) The ramparts (a grassy hilly area)

and about 10 minutes from the centre which is where the shops and my school is.

It will cost £350 pcm (approx) which is very reasonable, apparently. The major snag is that Danish landlords ask for a deposit which is 3x the rent.
This is a major outlay as I am sure you can appreciate.

It should be okay because I am getting paid twice… though I bet the Danish bureaucratic wranglings I have been having mean I will be paid late.

Anyway, I am feeling positive and happy. It is a lot of fun here.

My New School

Monday, we had a training day. This was nothing like any INSET day I have ever been on. We were instructed to bring a change of clothes for a start (an instruction I did not follow, I took two rucksacks of stuff with me from London, clothes are not in plentiful supply)

The thing about Denmark is that the people here love coffee and handshakes. When Danes meet, even colleagues… even colleagues at an afterschool function, they like to shake hands.
This means when you have 40+ people, there are a LOT of handshakes. There’s a maths problem, I shall allow the interested student to work it out.

Then we had coffee and bread (not me though, I was too nervous), and then a man told us all about team work. This is probably an exaggeration:
He spoke for about half an hour about What should we do? What can we do? What will we do? What are we going to do?
This was before setting us any tasks.

The other English teacher stood next to me, translating. He would say one sentence every five or so minutes. Imagine the bit in Lost in Translation when Bill Murray is doing the commercial.

The tasks were a lot of fun. Compared to British training (one dark cold room. one powerpoint presentation. one boring bastard from the borough) it was really awesome.
We had to do things like build and ride rafts (though, I played more of a supporting-landbased role); build and operate A-frame walking machines, treasure hunts with walkie-talkies and trying to get some stupid balls from a stupid pipe with a bunch of weird shit from a box.

I got to meet my colleagues and get the measure of how they work. I think knowing Danish to a higher level than I do (fint, tak) would have been helpful though.

Then afterwards two awesome things happened. One colleague came over and invited me to running club (today) and another one invited me to look at a flat. Apparently it is the right size and a reasonable price. Yay!

The next day, I had unsettled dreams. Not nightmares exactly but very annoying situations in dreams.

I got up at about 8am and sidled over to school as I did not have any lessons.

Got my timetable, had it translated, worked out some lessons, had a meeting about one of the classes, found out that I could not have Danish lessons until I get a “person number” (think national insurance but for EVERYTHING), got a tax reclaim form from the other English teacher (hoping Inland Revenue owe me wonga), found out I have to go in person to the next town (Odense??) with a form, my passport and a photo to get a certificate, so that I can take the certificate to the town hall, so that I can get a tax card and person number.

Information overload was reached at about 1pm. Then I found out that a lesson I had “planned” is not going ahead because they are having a treasure hunt in the town.

All in all, exhausting but rewarding. Looking forward to running club. Apparently people have their paces on their vests and you run with them. How cool is that?


I hate Stansted. Have I mentioned that before?

They use the idea of Terror and Security to make you come ridiculously early and then you just have to sit in a nasty mall that does not have enough seats for two hours.

Then they make you go sit by the gate and if you are flying with a budget airline and do not have a seat number, you have to get into a nasty scrum with the other passengers. Parents and children get split up and it is just really really nasty.

The plane ride was uneventful, an hour or so in the sky asleep.

When I got to Billund, I realised that I did not know enough Danish to get a bus. My useless “Teach Yourself Danish” book has a chapter on transport but the author takes the opportunity to teach you phrases like
“I met Jette when we were at university”

The bus was exactly on time. We drove through lots of countryside and reached a reasonably sized town: Vejle.

Thank God Vejle was not designed by the same buffoon who designed Swansea, the train station and the bus station are the same place.

Getting a ticket was a bit more involved, had to use a machine that only addressed me in Danish. I either spent £450 on a ticket or £4.50. I assume the latter but you never can be sure!

Everything had been fine up until then, I had travelled from A to B with very little fuss.

Left the station, looked at my map, it was going to be easy… follow the road out, go forward 10 blocks, turn left… two and a half blocks to destination.

But it was pissing down. Water from the sky. Wet.

The day before, I had sat on the roof with my flatmate and we were admiring a thunderstorm. Blue lightning over Canary Wharf and no rain. Magical. We could not hear the thunder.

The lightning here was purple and the thunder was three seconds behind (1km away, you guys).
The rain was so heavy that I kept thinking that I could not get any wetter and then I would.

The rain was so heavy that I had to breathe exactly like I was swimming, tilting my head from the flow of water.

When I got to the house, I was so wet that I could wring out my clothes over the shower drain and get LOADS of water.

I had a wash, towelled myself off and went into my bag to find some dry clothes. Not so many. Most were wet. My books were wet.

In my dreams, I imagined watching films with mates and they would have Tower Bridge or something and I would say “Hey! I used to LIVE in London.” and the other person would just nod.

Today, I am just waiting for my clothes to dry off but it will take a while because they are all wet.

It might have been something I would have worked myself up into a state about the rain before. I heard some Chinese woman on the radio a few weeks ago. Her little shack in the slums was bakingly hot on sunny days and leaked on rainy days. The reporter (British) asked her how she coped… did it make her feel sad?
She said “It is not a good thing or a bad thing, it just is.”

I admired that stoicism.

What kept me going was the thought of Phillipe Petit, on his tightrope between the tallest buildings in the world.
He wanted to do something, he planned it, he did it. To get excited or worried would make him overbalance. He walked on a tightrope for 45 minutes without falling off, in pretty extreme conditions and his only concession to mortality was “Oh yes but WHAT a way to die”

I know moving to a small town in Denmark is small fry compared to that but it does feel similar to me. It is something that I might have discounted because I was afraid or thought I could do something safer.

I left my swimming costume behind though. I packed too fast.

Freaking out quietly

Mostly I feel okay about emigrating next week.

I finally bought my plane ticket. One way ticket to Billund. Awesome?

After finalising my arrangements, I downloaded a free Danish flashcard program. I have learnt colours, numbers, days and some greetings. If I keep going over it, having a vocabulary will be very very useful when I start classes.

I am really not sure how to move country. People do it all the time. A lot of my friends are immigrants. A lot of my students are. I know people who have gone in the other direction. My thinking is, it can’t be that hard.

The thing is that I have no idea what I am getting myself into. I have no idea how much things will cost and how much disposable income I will have. I don’t understand their bureaucracy. I don’t understand their services.
There are questions about my bank account. For instance, will they still keep lending me credit card money if I don’t live in the UK (I think the answer is VERY NO.) Maybe I have to close my account and open a Danish one?

I have no idea.

The idea of just muddling through is so appealing. So much of my life is spent trying to control the uncontrollable. It is very interesting, trying to let go and just letting things happen.

A serendipitous email came yesterday, someone late to the freecycle party wanted to know if there was camping gear left. And there so was because so many people flaked out.

My major headache is that I have piles and piles of STUFF and it needs to be donated to Oxfam. But Oxfam is faaaaar. My flatmate has offered to drive but it is soooo much, it is going to take a billion years to load the car.

I wonder how much stuff I can reasonably leave for my Mum to collect. The kitchen stuff, the towels, the bedding…. but what about the shelves and the bedside cabinet?

It is good that I am finally thinking about it in daylight hours. Previously I would only think about it as I was falling asleep.