Thursday, June 26, 2014

Discrimination, bullying, and other white people problems


At the elementary/primary school where I am volunteering, the teaching assistant and teaching assistant trainees (like me) have their own little lunch room to sit in.

I’ve been there for, oh, a couple of months now and never ever had anyone act as if they couldn’t understand my accent. Generally people are interested and ask me about American schools, sports, amusement parks, etc. (The kids always ask me about corn dogs – I don’t know what the fascination is, but I assured them that corn dogs are awesome.)

Anyway, so there are a lot of trainee teachers and teaching assistants who come and go at my school, so we can have anywhere from two to six or seven volunteers sitting in that little lunchroom at a time. Most of the girls are from a local college, some already have a degree and are getting work experience, and some are like me who are taking adult ed classes to get a certificate as a teaching assistant.

Well, last week there was a new, quiet girl sitting at our lunch table. Myself and another lady who volunteers there chatted with the girl and she told us she was a high/secondary school student who was just there for a few weeks to get job experience in the nursery before she graduated.

When I went into the lunch room on Tuesday, the regular group was there, plus another high school girl sitting with the one I’d met before. I sat down and started chatting to everyone as usual, when the new girl started laughing about something. The girl from the college, who I’d been talking to about her course, stopped and we sat there, awkwardly asking what we’d said that was funny.

One of the adults was giggling along too and said, “Oh no. You’re just funny.”

So, we continued to talk, still confused, but we dismissed it. Then every time I would speak, the high school girl would nudge her friend and they’d giggle, staring right at me. I quickly realized it was my accent – something I never think about. I mean, seriously, most people have seen a ton of American TV and movies to know how we sound. It isn’t some kind of new concept. In Florida we generally went, “Oh, wow, cool! An English accent!”

Now, in that situation I had no choice, really. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but when someone’s acting incredibly rude, I’d say something. If it had been at the mall, or on the street, I would have told her to blank off. But in that situation, I had to ignore her and let everyone at the table feel really uncomfortable until the new high school girl left the room. While I know I was acting like an adult, I felt incredibly sad, hurt, and embarrassed because I’ve never had anyone do anything like that to me before.

I have had high/secondary students mock my accent once and be done with it when I taught a class. When it happened during my first English teaching job here, the teachers were very supportive and said, “No, no, that’s really discriminatory and racist. We don’t tolerate that.”

Other teachers who had Scottish and other regional English accents assured me that kids did that and they brushed it off because they didn’t mean it to be hateful.

This situation, however, was hateful, not to mention, rude and childish.

I told Steve in text about what happened and he said for me to report it and not feel like I don’t have the right to do so. I waited until the end of the day (the kids were painting and trying to put sentences in past tense, so I was thankfully distracted for that afternoon) but I did mention this to my classroom teacher before I left. When I told her she said, “What? How rude!” and jumped up out of her chair saying, “Well, I’m going to find out who she is!”

The office told my teacher that the girl was only going to be there for the week, which was fine by my because I wouldn’t be there to deal with it. The teacher asked if I was sure the girl wasn’t just “being silly” and I said, “No, she was clearly laughing at me and trying to get her friend to join in the laughter ever time I spoke.” It never happened at any other time. They would even make me stop talking because their laughing would be so loud it distracted me.

Anyway, when I mentioned this to my family and friends on Facebook in Florida, most people were very blasé about the whole thing. “Oh, she’s just a teenager. Ignore her.” or “It’s not racist because you’re all white. It’s just a jerk thing to do.”

I quickly pointed out that I have to indicate that I am “White – Other” in this country – just like every Canadian, Australian, and European. My ethnicity is not British, Irish, Welsh, or Scottish.  I am “Other.” That means that if I had a Polish, Russian, or German accent and someone laughed at me in a work situation, it would be less of an issue because we’re all white? No, that’s not right at all.

I told my teacher that I mentioned this situation because, as a person working with children, there are many students and teachers who have various accents. My hope was that the office would report the girl to her and whoever had sent her to that school to work, but I seriously doubt anything like that was done.

Also, if they spoke to the girl, would she have come back to the lunch room and told all the other volunteers that I had reported her? Would I be ridiculed for that too?

It’s really a lonely and depressing situation to be in, to be made to feel like you’re different and being publically humiliated and harassed is okay in certain situations.

It bothered me a lot that day, but I just felt mad. I can’t shout at a teenager in a work-type situation (or can I) without someone getting on my case about it. I mean, if she had been a year older and in college, would that be more of a discrimination situation, or would people tell me to overlook it then as well?

Anyway, I just want to let people know that, no, white people, you are not exempt from someone being a jerk to you and treating you like you’re “other.” It’s totally not cool to do it to anyone and I don’t like that most people don’t immediately say, “No! It’s not right!”

I wanted to make sure that I wrote this out, not only to get the situation out of my head, but to let people know that this kind of stuff does happen and a lot of people think it’s not a big deal even if it makes the other person feel rotten and self-conscious. I can only imagine what happens in other companies where some idiot decides to make fun of the resident American.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How busy is too busy?

I want to be a ninja.

I kind of knew when I signed up to do this Teaching Assistant training jazz, that I’d have extra things to go during the week. That was fine because I just have to go to school two days a week, then my class for one morning. I would have Wednesdays and Thursdays to hole up in my computer room and get my writing and my editing done. Plus, getting out of the house and focusing on something in the real world is good for my brains (and my eyes – they love to get strained when I’m at the computer too long.)

But when I started with that stupid Maths and English malarkey on Wednesdays, that left me with just Thursdays free. When you’re trying to write books, edit your Critique Partner’s chapters, do homework, and read (just to name a few things on my daily To-Do List), one day a week just ain’t going to cut it.

So I quit the Maths and English tutor for now. Honestly, the whole thing was a bit of a waste of time. Granted, I needed practice with the metric system and the math, but the whole “you need to use more semi-colons in order for us to think you’re functional in English” just made me mad every week. English is not a weak point in my life, but they made it seem like it was.

The only reason I was doing it was because my TA instructor said I should have recent Level 2 qualifications to put on my application when I do apply for jobs. I understand the logic, but since there are no basic skills tests for a TA like their are for professional teachers (and I already did those tests in Florida, mind you), I just don’t see a pressing need. Granted, I’m not a British Headteacher and I don’t know if my not having these Maths and English tests done this year are a big deal or not. I can always go back and do them later, I guess.

But, with my mid-week free, I can now go back to locking myself in the house and getting stuff done. Hooray!

Today I have the day off due to a teacher in-service, so I’m working through my poor, neglected CP edits.

I’ve put a Joyce Meyer quote down here, about saying “no” because I’ve also put more on my plate than I can manage. Now that I’ve spoken to a couple of new CPs for my YA work, this means not only will I have to finish the NA book that my 1st CP is giving me suggestions on now, but I’ll also have to work on the YA fantasy series I was going to do.

Also, I have the old NA thriller that I have to go back and clean up for Draft 2 – there just isn’t enough time. I can only muster writing one book and editing another at a time.

So, yeah, think twice before added something else to your To-Do List. I’m perfectly fine with editing other’s chapters, but as far as my own work is concerned, I have to stick to writing one and editing another. I can’t sell half-manuscripts, I’ve learned that lesson, so I have to keep working until I get stuff done. The more I mess with that formula, the more apt I am to go out of my boundaries, then nothing will get done.

Plus, I like having time in the evening and on the weekends when Steve’s home to read and watch TV with him. Family is the #1 priority – the writing comes 2nd.

Don't Be Overcommitted 

Do you have too much to do? This seems to be the number one complaint I hear today. When I ask people how they are, about 50 percent respond, "I'm busy." Common sense tells us that God isn’t going to stress us out and lead us to do more than we can. Therefore, if we’re being led by God's Spirit, saying yes when He says yes and no when He says no, we should be able to accomplish what He gives us to do and walk in peace. Do you need to say no more often? We should be sure when our heart says no that our mouth isn’t saying yes. Sometimes trying to keep other people happy can make us very unhappy. A person must be really careful in this area, especially if he has a tendency toward being a people pleaser. 

Don’t be a people pleaser. You need to say no sometimes.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Parent Care in England–You’ve got to be kidding me


Recently, during a conversation for my husband’s birthday, my mother-in-law told us about when Steve was born.

She mentioned: “Then the midwife comes to your house, you know?”

Me: “To the house? You’re kidding me! Why?”

MIL: “Oh, to check up on the baby – make sure he’s fed, and taken care of. It’s a bloody nuisance. You have to get the house clean and she comes snooping around to see how you’re getting on.”

Me: “I’ll tell her to piss off. She shouldn’t be coming to your house.”

After that conversation, I got to wondering what the deal was. Was that just something they did in the 70s? Was it because their family needed to use the NHS and they assumed something was wrong? Was it because they had a big household?

So I investigated and found out that this is common practice for all woman. Shock. Horror.

From what I’ve read, the midwife comes to visit you 10 days after the baby is born. She may come every day. She does check ups and “reassures the new mother.” I call b.s.

First of all, if the midwife just wants to help you, why isn’t she coming to your house while you’re huffing and puffing, trying to get around with a big bowling ball in your tummy? You think that when you’re sleep deprived, have the baby and other kids, plus any family members who may be coming over to visit, that the midwife just “wants to check up on you.” No. I don’t think so.

From the NHS’s website the midwife may come to visit you at home before the birth, but from forums I’ve also seen that it’s rare and the midwife only comes to your home after the birth. Also, during these visits, the midwife does the regular check ups that she’d do in the office – that means drawing blood and pelvic exams. In the home. Hello, gross. Why wouldn’t you want to go to an appropriate sterile room that’s been scrubbed with disinfectant to have your child and yourself examined?

This is apparently an okay, “great” thing for British mothers, but I just can’t see anything more than shady dealings here. In the U.S. house calls by doctors are antiquated. I don’t know if they do them here because so many people rely on public transport, or because people live in such cramped conditions, but it’s still very strange to me. Twitter has said that it’s a relief to new mothers, but my MIL was on her fourth child. She certainly didn’t need someone showing her how to change the diaper at that point. In the U.S. the only reason a person of official capacity would come into your home would be to check on any child abuse or neglect. This is why I’m super suspicious of the idea that, “Oh, it’s just to help you out.”

My theory was confirmed when I read this article: Health visitor – help or hindrance?

What is a health visitor? It’s a midwife who comes to visit the mother at home after the baby is more than 10 days old. Now, this is horrifying. Basically, she’s a social service midwife who comes around to nose through your home, ask you patronising questions because, yes, they assume a mother is going to neglect her baby.

Health visiting is an oxymoronic dichotomy. That’s just my fancy way of saying that the values of health visiting are in conflict with each other. On one hand, health visitors are required to give support to new mothers. This is the common reputation enjoyed by health visitors. Yet on the other hand they are required to place the same mothers under automatic suspicion of child abuse, erring on the side of caution at all times. Yes – child abuse.

Women should be outraged, offended, and horrified that this is common practice. No one needs to come into your home without a legal warrant to search. This is intrusive and violates any rights to privacy.

“They usually work with mothers once post-partum care is handed over from the midwives, advise on feeding, care and support to both infants and parents, provide routine child development checks and have responsibility for child protection issues.”

So, yeah, they are the Health Police. I’m still not exactly sure what the legal aspects are of all this, but if it is common practice to have someone snooping around your private home just because you’ve had a child, I am beyond words. If mothers have the right to just see the midwife at the office and no fuss will be given to her if she simply doesn’t feel comfortable with someone intruding in her house for a routine check up, then fine. Some mothers may like it while others like me may get the willies just thinking about the idea.

"Although health visitors have no legal right of entry, they do not make a habit of pointing this out to clients"

If this is “just how we do things” and you pretty much have to go along with what the midwife wants to do, then that’s a whole other ballgame. As someone on Twitter put it, “Sound like a Health Intruder! What is this 1930s Berlin?”


“The paradox is that when a mother is threatened with Social Services for “refusing” help, they are then seen as a risk when they “accept” help.”

Dear Lord, what is going on there?! This is totally insane. If I refuse to have someone barge into my home, I’m flagged as an abuse mother?!

But some mothers just don’t see any problem with this. They have the attitude of, “Oh, just grin and bear it.” Are you kidding me? Have no control over your own family? Your own home? Your own personal space? No. No. NO!

Anyway, whether the Health Visitor or Midwife is there to help or not, I simply do not understand why they have to come to your home. I don’t understand why that’s a common thing. I’ve known plenty of new mothers who were out at the mall when their kids were new born. They can get to the doctor’s office just fine, thanks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What’s Happening this Wednesday


  • Teaching – The teaching assistant gig has been going fine. We’re in our last term of the year and the regular teacher has taken over the class again. We have two student teachers in the class too so there’s lots of support. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do classroom displays because middle/high school teachers don’t really need to do this that much (from my experience.) I was given advice to look to Pinterest (*groan*) for ideas, but I really just have trouble with making the paper frames for the mounted work all uniform and straight. We only have a small paper cutter that slides back and forth, making this loud squeaking sound, so my resources are a little limited. Oh well, the one I did this week looked a little better than the first (ridiculously janky) one I did my first week.
  • School – Aside from my TA course, I’ve been working on these silly Level 1 and 2 English and Maths assessments. I have to turn them in today and I’m praying they at least let me off the hook with the English because it seriously is wasting my time. I’ve taught this stuff myself. I don’t need someone telling me I’m a Level 1 because I don’t use semicolons. *another groan*
  • Travel – We took a trip down by Liverpool to visit Steve’s family over the bank holiday. We went to Chester Zoo while we were down there (as you can see from the Butterfly House photo above) and it was super fun. The trip was kind of long, but I was glad we went for a drive. I’d never gone on the motorways before like that, so it was definitely an experience.
  • Family – Steve’s birthday was last weekend, so we had a late night viewing of Godzilla along with an even later night of cake baking. While we waited on the movie we ate at Gourmet Burger Kitchen and hung out in the arcade. Don’t care how old we get, we still manage to stay young.
  • Reading – I’ve been trying to read more contemporary and sci-fi lately. I’ve updated my book blog on my lately reads.
  • Writing – The JuNoWriMo thing hasn’t been going well, as I feared. I did write 900+ words of my current project (the one I started for Camp NaNoWriMo), but that’s it. With this new English/Maths sessions, I’m limited to one day of absolute freedom to get things done. I have to help my CP out as well, but she’s also going to read some of the new project, so I’ll be forced to get the first draft done. Hooray!
  • Music – new album discovery is Kasabian’s 48:13 which features Eez-eh – a very Hot Chip-esque song. Saw them do this on TV during the Glasgow music fest. Great stuff.
  • Movies – recently saw: Godzilla and Ender’s Game (and Tinkerbell on Netflix, if I’m being completely honest.)
  • Television – On S2 of Breaking Bad, and we fell behind two episodes of Fargo.
  • Games – Watch_Dogs, of course. (Steve did some of the UI design.)
  • Me – I was absolutely exhausted yesterday after running around late Sunday, then running around at school for two days. I’ll be running around less today at least, but tomorrow I hope to relax, read, and get lots and lots of writing done.