Tag Archives: education

The Insomniac Diaries

The clocks went back at the weekend, I’ve been getting more sleep and at 5am this morning the inevitable happened – my sleep levels overflowed and found I didn’t need any more.

Nature abhors a vacuum, as Aristotle said, and the space once filled with sleep was soon filled with worries. (I always thought that quote came from someone like Pope until I looked it up just now, strange how ideas develop over a lifetime and then turn out to be wrong.

He did, however, give us a little learning is a dangerous thing, which would tend to suggest that this blog could be fatal in the wrong hands, as Wikipedia and my education are both examples of ” little learning”. You need to study something like Classics at Oxford to be fully educated. Then you can become Prime Minister, like Boris Johnson.

I’m off to work now, but will leave you with that thought.

More Serious Stuff – Deep Thought, Castration and the Importance of Parents

I started doing more thinking after writing yesterday’s post. There was a lot to think about, mostly about murdered teenagers. After bringing two kids up in a city that had a poor reputation at one time, you can get quite thoughtful.

Interestingly, the writers blame the Labour government for the various problems, where most of the people these days blame the Conservatives. That is probably a sign that we should leave politics out of the discussion.

Youth clubs, youth sports and such things are, at best, distractions rather than a cure. If you are keeping kids off the street they can’t get into trouble. When looking at funding possibilities I’ve often seen the terms “distraction” or “displacement activity”.

We had quite a few difficult kids at the various rugby clubs we attended. Some were the typical sort of inner city kid you’d expect to be in trouble (who we used to work with in Rugby League) and others, in Rugby Union, were much more affluent and better educated.

One of the things I noticed was that you could put a lot of effort in and make no discernible difference. I also noticed that if the parents weren’t engaged nothing seemed to work. That held good for all the kids – parents who were at work all the time were just as bad as parents who deserted their family.

So my solution to the problem is to put the family back at the centre of things. I’d also be prepared to think about castrating absent fathers who didn’t live up to their responsibilities, though it’s likely that this would be a last resort.

It’s about the basics – decent places to live, education, jobs, reducing teenage pregnancies…

I’m starting to sound like a beauty queen here, but I’ll stop short of advocating world peace and an end to famine. It is, however, a matter of some regret that I didn’t start thinking forty years ago – it might actually have made a difference at that point.

Does anyone have any good ideas?

 

Loose Ends and New Beginnings

I’m tying up a few loose ends today – you may have noticed a new, more accurate, subtitle (“Life after the Care Farm”) and I’ve added the latest news to the About Us page.

I’ve also added an update to the Ecocentre page.

They aren’t worth reading (being dry and, possibly, a little bitter) but if I add links it supposedly makes the blog more visible on the internet. It’s what they call Search Engine Optimisation. Like much of modern life I find it easy to ignore, but occasionally I like to give it a try.

It’s funny how the internet, whilst being ephemeral in nature, also preserves things.

Julia is taking the group from Mencap to see the Flintham Show. We’re just hoping the weather improves. It has generally been a good day out and the group is looking forward to it.  At least some good has come from our time at the farm.

They are advertising an education tent at the show – we have been replaced so easily. What hasn’t been replaced is the write-up that Julia prepared for the education tent several years ago. That is still up on the site, and is promising a number of things they won’t be able to deliver, including Connie the Cow, who is now living at a local school.

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Ploughing at Flintham Show  (2016)

Julia has just joined the Women’s Farm and Garden Association. It seems quite a go-ahead group of people, despite being formed in 1899, though the marketing could do with some work: we didn’t even know it existed until I saw one of its badges for sale on ebay.

Perhaps ebay is a force for good after all.

 

 

 

A Spider Crawled out of an Inkwell…

Yes, the subject for today is handwriting, particularly the poor quality of my handwriting. I suppose the title shows my age – these days nobody would refer to bad handwriting looking like a drunken spider had fallen into an inkwell and crawled across a sheet of paper.

How many people reading this post have ever used an inkwell? And even if you have used one, how much actual writing on paper do you do these days? I don’t even write cheques. All I do is shopping lists, and I do those in block capitals so I can read them. When I was gardening one of my customers complained that whenever I wrote her a message it always looked like a ransom note.

As you may have guessed, I’ve been having problems reading my own writing.

My first memory regarding criticism of my writing is of being told off because it was large and childishly formed. This was in the village school I attended in Lincolnshire. My memories of it are not positive. On one occassion I was shaken and thrown to the floor because I had failed to memorise my multiplication tables over the weekend. There was not a lot of modern educational theory in place, the system being as Victorian as the schoolroom.

I wasn’t physically punished for my writing, the teacher merely called the headmaster (her husband) through from the other classroom so that he could shout at me.

My writing was too big, even I could see that, but it was just how I’d been taught at my previous two schools. I expect it was also childish, though I can’t really remember, as I was only seven at the time.

From that day on, until I left school, the only major complaint I recall was that my writing was too small.

The headmaster, by the way, was given four years for indecently assaulting a couple of girl pupils shortly after we moved away. Standards in educational recruitment have, I suspect, been improved over the years.

Since leaving school, I have rarely needed to do much writing, most of my written work being based on tick sheets and simple arithmetic. I don’t use cheques and a computer does the rest of my writing.

The current situation is that the only writing I do is my “to do” list, which I write every Sunday. And forget every Monday.

I’ve just been looking at the one from last week.

Most of them are easy enough, and even the instruction to “bug now sosks” isn’t too challenging, but reviewing the “forgetting boof” might be a little more difficult. “Boof” is clearly something that needs reviewing, so it’s a book, but I haven’t a clue which one it is. It’s not about forgetting, as I don’t have a book on that subject. At least I don’t remember having one. I’m going to have to go through the book pile and work it out by a process of deduction.

 

Serious Thoughts

I hope you’ll forgive me a few minutes of serious reflection concerning the way we treat offenders in England. It’s a subject I have some firm views on, particularly after the attempted robbery.

We had some experience of this on the farm as we had both individuals and groups doing community service. I didn’t write about it at the time because there are questions of confidentiality to consider.

It was the normal farm mix-up. The farmer wanted to be seen doing good things, he wanted money and he wanted free labour. As usual, the government wanted something for nothing and so he had to do without the cash.

Lesson Number One is that if you want to provide a decent service you have to put money into it.

Lesson Number Two is that even if they had paid they would have been provided with the same second class service they got for free.

Quite clearly it’s not enough to throw money at the problem, as if that was ever going to happen…

The individuals who came often complained there was no meaningful work to do, which was true as no effort was actually put into providing anything. On the other hand, they weren’t meant to be there as a reward. Several of them were very bad at time-keeping and should by rights have been reported for it. They weren’t, because the member of staff keeping the time sheets couldn’t be bothered. He also allowed them to count the lunch hour towards their total. I think the word “shambles” fits the bill here. Eating lunch is not community service, though it could be cruel and unusual punishment, depending on who made it.

The groups were mixed, often depending on the quality of supervisor. One was great, and his people were lucky to have him (though they may not always have appreciated this). Others were not so good, just going through the motions and flouting the on-site smoking ban.

At one time they did a lot of work to hedges and woodland, but ended up doing paths around the centre and building a patio and barbecue. They also did some gardening but it was usually a case of trying to limit the damage they did rather than gaining any benefit.

The problem was that most of them just weren’t interested, and many of them refused to see that taking drugs, drink driving and hitting people were wrong. We tried to give them some useful skills, but it mostly didn’t happen. Several of them approached us on the side to ask about polytunnels and hydroponics. I will not speculate on the reasons for their curiosity.

One was less coy and asked one of our volunteers (we will call him “X”) if he would be interested in running a cannabis farm for him. “X” made his excuses and left.

On the other hand, several of them did use the experience to move on to better things. The “good” supervisor got several back into education and a couple got decent jobs – we were happy to help with advice and references and the farmer, to be fair to him, did find one of the jobs and take a couple on work experience.

Towards the end things took a turn for the worse when the service was put in the hands of a private business.

I’m not sure how many lessons there are in all that, and am now regretting starting to number them.

One is that you can’t help unless you have funding and a group of workers who are interested in doing a good job.

Another is that you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped.

I suppose it’s also true to say that we need to do some creative thinking to engage more of the offenders in their rehabilitation.

And if they still don’t take advantage of the opportunities they are offered maybe we could examine the concept of the chain gang.

I’ll leave it here. I’m not really political by nature, and this could develop into a rant.

 

 

The New Cafe

In the last few years of our time on the farm there was a certain amount of conflict, which I hope I managed to conceal in the blog.

There were two schools of thought – one being that the kitchen had been built to deliver educational sessions and promote healthy eating. This was a view shared by me, Julia, the funders and several other people.

Then there was the view that it existed as a plaything for the farmer and his sister to hold family parties and loss-making social activities.

I think we know who won.

Looking at it now, it seems our (short-lived) replacements did a lot of work and appear to have transformed it into a replica of a South American shanty, including corrugated iron, re-used wood and coffee sacks. You half expect Indiana Jones to stroll in.

Unfortunately, the kitchen, despite the extension,The End is not now a practical venue for teaching. It will, once they have staff again, be an interesting place to eat, but we will no longer be teaching a thousand kids a year to make pizza or scones.

Nor, I feel, will it host the bread group again.

The final photograph is a young Wren. There were five of them but this was the best I could do. They are so quick! It’s a cheerful way to end the post, and a reminder of all the broods the Wrens have reared round the centre in the last five years.

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Wren at Screveton

 

 

The Year Ahead

I had my annual check-up today, but that couldn’t dampen my good mood at missing the forecast “arctic blast” and driving to the appointment in lovely sunshine. It’s a  once a year thing, the GP practice seems to like doing it, and it amuses me to see them try so hard to avoid using the word “fat”. For despite modern words and modern concepts of patient dignity the truthful, accurate and short description of me is “fat”.

I have turned down the offer of swimming as therapy because I’ve seen what happens when people like me go swimming.

I have however, accepted the offer of being weighed regularly and being given vouchers to join a slimmers’ organisation – I forget which one but can feel my body bunching up ready for flight at the mere mention of the idea. Sometimes you just have to recognise the inevitable. If I wish to live and irritate my wife until I am in my eighties I am going to have to change my ways.

In many ways this belongs on the other blog (www.sherwooddays.com) but I’m telling you here because it leads on to other things.

Due to the unexpected excellence of the weather, and the desire for a nice cooked breakfast after a discussion of my weight, we went out for brunch. I think using a two meal strategy and eating beans, tomatoes and mushrooms is a sufficiently healthy start to my new weight-loss programme.

The best bit was the planning session. We have a number of half-formed plans but nothing definite on paper yet. Released from the tyranny of meetings and the need to involve idiots we now have several pages of notes relating to schools, education, the Open Farm Sunday school days, a poetry competition, salt dough work, a grant application, getting men in sheds to build us a display, Flintham Ploughing Match education tent and (as they say) much, much more.

The advantage of our system (Julia talks, I write) is that it cuts down on discussion and saves time. If anything goes wrong it also means the blame sessions are simpler as it’s all her fault.

The disadvantage, of course, is that she’s now given me a list of jobs to do. A long list.