Thank you…but not goodbye

Today is officially R day. My P45 was waiting for me when I got home for work yesterday. I have less than three hours left at work and I really shouldn’t be writing a blog post but I have things to say.

 Back in September I was considering writing a blog to help me manage my feelings about the whole public sector debacle and my own small part in it. I didn’t know any bloggers except my two lovely sisters-in-law, Miss Melancholy and Stray. When they visited us to help cerebrate Mr R’s birthday, I talked to them about starting a blog and they persuaded me that this was a Good Idea. ‘You’ll make friends!’ they said. I scoured the Internet for similar bloggers and tentatively made some cyber friends.

 I wasn’t convinced that anyone would read my ramblings but I set them down anyway and discovered that people did read and respond. Even The Guardian, the paper I’ve been reading since I was teenager, read and enjoyed. I was even an ‘expert’ on the Guardian redundancy Q&A. Memorable for not only being an honour, but also for being in the middle of a bout of Norovirus. I wrote my responses, threw up and lay down for a few minutes in a repeating cycle for the three hours of the live chat.

 I’m convinced that if I hadn’t written the blog I’d be sitting in a corner rocking by now. So a big shout out and a huge thank you to the blog massive especially, Ellen, Guerrilla Mum, fighting for the rights of children with special needs; Tim the Armchair Sports fan who is forever Slouching Towards Thatcham; Citizen CW, my cyber mentor and friend; Andrew Brown, Someday I Will Treat You Good, who I actually met in real life although we didn’t realise it at the time and the Redundant Public Servant who has retired temporarily from the blogosphere but who wrote a blog far more dignified and less indignant than mine. And of course Miss Melancholy and Stray who set me on the blog path and my friends, family, colleagues and tweeps who have been there. Also a huge thank you the brilliant Patrick Butler and very funny Judy Friedberg from The Guardian. Thank you for seeking out the truth.

 I felt like a I wanted to protect my employers so I’ve been anonymous until recently but sod it, I’m on my own now so I’m out of the closet. If you didn’t already know, I manage the Healthy Schools programme across three SW London local authorities and I support schools with all aspects of health and wellbeing (teenage pregnancy, healthy eating, gang crime, mental health etc). My friends call me the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll guru.

 But it’s not over!

 I will be blogging some more here. I’m still a victim of government cuts, I still have friends and family in the public sector and the story is not over. After all the title of this blog is- in homage to bad B movies- I was a public sector worker and a bit like being an president of the United States or an alcoholic, I will always have been a public sector worker.

 Thank you, TTFN and as an actor with biceps the size of small children once said, ‘I’ll be back.’

R-day minus one

It’s been a difficult day. I’ve finsihed clearing out my stuff, sent off a marketing e mail to schools and deleted files with gay abandon. A senior oleague thought it would be a good idea to spend the afternoon in our office doing nothing but bellowing across the room. Even very loud dubstep in my headphones didn’t make a difference.

You’re probably thinking, ‘why didn’t you just tell her to shut up?’ Trouble is, she’s senior and I need to keep on her good side. So instead I went and stood in the kitchen for a while, felt sorry for myself, had a little boo and went back and tried to turn up the volume even louder.

I’d like to keep blogging after tomorrow so please don’t unsubscribe yet! I’ll be back with more cheerful news soon.

Meanwhile, it’s one more day to go, wish me luck.

Loose ends

It’s been a week of tying up loose ends. Like most big events, I thought I had loads of time and starting tidying out a filing cabinet drawer here or a computer folder there but the deadline is upon me and there is a lot to do. Those of us who are leaving have been ruthlessly going through our stuff and holding a sort of yard sale in once of the offices. Teachers can come in and rummage around for goodies to take back to school. Some got a little over enthusiastic the other day and starting rummaging around in cupboards and shelves all over the centre. We only discovered things were missing after the bun fight.

Today it’s not even time for elevenses and I’ve already finally cleared the shelves behind my desk and addressed all my e-mails. I’ve found pieces of work and study portfolios that I can happily return to their owners at school. I found old conference notes filed under ‘might one day be useful’ but of course have never seen the light of day again and I’ve had panicked messages from teachers asking for help.

I also discovered that behind a tightly crammed shelf was tightly crammed stuff that had fallen off the shelf once upon a time. There were also other reminders of my time here:

· Some recycling bags from the time I started a campaign about recycling kitchen waste (all those plastic milk cartons!). The centre manager gave in eventually and bought us proper recycling boxes and everyone now uses these, hurrah!

 · One Pot Pledge posters from Garden Organic from the time when I started a campaign to get everyone growing food at work. I was the only one with a tub of lettuce on my windowsill receiving pitying looks from everyone.

· A pair of trainers. I like to wear a nice high heel at work so the trainers are there for when I want to walk down to the shops (which are a fair old way away) or go for a nice healthy turn about the park. Oh well, it was a nice idea at the time.

· Large box of pencils. When I started here I inherited lots of large boxes of pencils branded with a logo that went out of date at about the same time as the dinosaurs. I’ve given them to colleagues, teachers, pupils, friends and strangers and still one box remains. I swear they reproduce at night.

· An envelope of goodies from a promo company trying to persuade me to spend non-existent money on goodies with them. They included promotional phone charms. Remember them?

I also found the box and instructions fro my mobile phone that I will have to hand in on Thursday along with my laptop. On a positive note that means I can go and buy myself a nice shiny new laptop and offset it against tax in the new financial year.

See, I’m learning.

Now it really is almost elevenses. Wonder what’s in the biccy tin?

The story of my 26th March march

Thousands of peaceful protesters marched on Saturday and I was one of them. I heard the day described as a protest of two halves: one half peaceful and friendly and the other half violent and aggressive. Guess which half got reported in the media?

 This is the story of my march.

 My day began at the local tube where I met with friends and members of Unison. Some group members donned their Unison tabards, channelling dinner lady chic, and the giant old school trade union banner was hoisted aloft. After gathering at the London Eye (much to the astonishment of the early bird tourists) we moved off to join the main march. It was just after ten am and there were thousands already waiting. We were kept in the road for ages but there was plenty of time to enjoy the carnival atmosphere complete with samba bands and vuvuzelas. The noise was incredible!

 I wouldn’t say we marched: perhaps a gentle stroll is more appropriate with small children toddling along with parents and older children with hand-made signs. Our banner attracted a lot of attention from the press and we joked that we’d be on the front of every newspaper on Sunday. As we passed Downing Street we all booed cheerfully. By this point the police just looked a bit bored and were happy to chat with passing marchers.

 Strangely, there was a huge police presence outside the National Gallery and we joked that perhaps they were worried that we might all rush in, gaze appreciatively at the paintings, make a donation and rush out again. Pouring down Piccadilly, we swapped stories about drinking tea in Fortnum and Mason, not dreaming for a second that it would be occupied and vandalized later that day. What did a nice cup of Orange Pekoe or tin of biccies ever do to anyone?

  A few of us peeled off the main group and nipped into the pub for a swift half and comfort break and, thanks to the knowledge of some local Geography, caught up with the group at Hyde Park. We shared a packet of biscuits and listened as Ed Miliband described us as the big society and cheered as Dave Prentice from Unison thanked us for our support.

 I was home before I knew of any trouble but I’m frustrated that a bunch of dickheads with scarves over their faces spoilt the good feeling of the day. The Observer was the only national newspaper to use a photograph of the march on the front page yesterday. All the other chose to go with pictures of police officers covered in paint or masked protesters attacking Topshop (are you telling me that not a single one of those protesters doesn’t have an item of Topshop clothing in their wardrobes?) Except of course for the News of the World who ran with an earth-shattering headline about Jordan. Cuts? Libya? Japan? Nope, Jordan. And not the country either.

 I marched because I see frontline staff going while middle managers hold onto their good salaries and keep their heads down.

 I marched because I see children, disabled and the elderly suffering because of the cuts.

 I marched because I’ve been made redundant from a job I love.

 I marched because I want to have a voice.

The final days and my certificate of long service

Time is ticking on and I have lots to do. Far from slowing down, I’ve been busier than ever. I’ve also been trying to meet key players to explain that I will still be around after April so gissa job!

Yesterday I met with the director and she promised to support my new venture and spread the word to the head teachers. I also received- much to my surprise and amusement- a certificate for long service. Which means I must be really old.

There was no carriage clock or watch and chain but an envelope full of Marks and Spencer’s vouchers whic I will be spending on raunchy (well as raunchy as M&S gets) underwear so I’ll be able to think of them every time I…on second thoughts I might by some thermals. T

The actual wording of the certificate is:

The council of the London Borough of XX desires (desires!) to place on record its sincere appreciation of the valuable services rendered by you to the Local Government Service all (all capitals their own) over a period of x years (I’m not telling you how many).

It then goes on to say:

The Common Seal of the Mayor and the Burgess (who?) of the London Borough of XX was hereunto affixed this 31st day of March 2011.

While I was at the civic centre I also received a card signed by some of the education team who work up there and a lovely gift from my line manager. It didn’t occur to me that there would be certificates and gifts. I thought- perhaps unfairly- that having made the decision such a long time ago (last July) that they’d be quite keen to see the back of me by now. I was touched.

The grindstone doesn’t keep turning just because it’s the last few days with my nose to it. Must dash and give of my ‘valuable services’ while I still can.

Jamie’s dream school again

Dream School is turning into a bit of a nightmare for St Jamie of Twizzler as his ‘teachers’ and students clash and even the head loses his cool.

In last week’s post I pummelled David Starkey for his snobby attitude to the students and his lack of teaching ability and it seems that not much has changed. Following the slanging match between the head and a student in assembly, Starkey thought it would be amusing to take the mick out of the student in front of everyone. Nice. Even the head looked like he wanted to throttle the historian.

But more about that assembly showdown: I’d like to say I was shocked and horrified by the behaviour of the student but I can’t because I’ve seen it all before. I’ve also seen how a simple misunderstanding can escalate into the sort of stand off that would have Gaddafi backing down. I was surprised at how the head managed- or rather didn’t manage- the situation.

The great behaviour guru Bill Rogers teaches about primary and secondary behaviours (which incidentally have nothing to do with the schooling system but are descriptors in their original sense.) It’s very easy to get carried away with the secondary behaviour but you need to focus on the primary.

Here’s an example:

Teacher: I’m going to ask questions and I’d like you to…
Student (Interrupting): Sir, I want to say something.
Teacher: Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking.
Student: You don’t need to snap, sir, I was only asking.
Teacher: I didn’t snap, you’re being rude.
Student: Oh my days! I don’t know why I even bother coming to school, you’re an idiot, sir.

And so it escalates. The interrupting was the primary behaviour and the teacher should deal with that. The answering back was the secondary behaviour and the teacher engaged with that secondary behaviour thereby ignoring the original problem and escalating the situation. Make sense?

The teenaged Vesuvius went off with a mighty bang and a crisis that took time, effort and emotional struggle to sort out was caused. And Lord Jamie of Burger was very sensible and managed to be all things to all people. Although I wish he would stop calling everyone ‘mate.’

Elsewhere in this episode, students stayed in a Biodome but only one managed to fend off her nicotine cravings and remain inside for two days. Her reward was a trip to Arizona to work with some top Scientists. Hell, I’d leave Mr. R and move into a Biodome if those prizes were on offer!

Money guru Alvin Hall, who is all sorts of bow-tied camp deliciousness wrapped around a steely core, had a tricky start when two students decided to try and throttle each other.

Soon, however, the entire class was bent over calculators doing real Maths and there wasn’t a peep. One student even stayed on after class to talk about how many ‘woman’ goats he would have to buy to become a squillionaire. Top tip: If you’re going to be a goat farmer you may wish to know that ‘woman’ goats are usually called ‘nanny’ goats. Just saying.

I can’t wait for next week’s episode when Alastair Campbell makes his return after instigating a fight in his politics lesson, the students are introduced to the joys of Latin and its routing of Carthaginians and poetry and the ‘teachers’ hoist Sir Jamie of Chip’s under-crackers up the flagpole.

Probably.

The final payslip…

I got back to the office yesterday after a meeting to find a familiar blue envelope on my desk. It was the Final Payslip (da da da-daa! da da da da daaa! da da da-daa! da da da-da-da-da!) Every month when the blue envelope arrives I tear off its perforated strips eagerly and peer inside just in case my employers thought I had done such a good job that month that they had slipped in a little banker bonus. Yeah right. The most exciting thing to happen on a payslip is a typed message saying ‘Payroll data may be given to bodies responsible for auditing public funds for the prevention and detection of fraud.’

But not this month.

Inside this Final Payslip (da da da-daaa! etc) was my redundancy pay. All of it. Now the temptation is to either a) pop into a car showroom, buy something fancy and then drive it up to Harvey Nicks via the shop that sells nice holidays. (In reality the money would run out at the fancy car showroom and I’d end up getting the bus to Primark) or b) take off all my clothes and stand outside the civic centre shaking my fist and shouting, ‘you bastards took my job from me and now I can’t even afford to clothe myself!’ I like the idea of the second but the satisfaction might wear off quickly in my police cell.

Instead I’ve asked for a meeting with the director before I leave so I can pitch my services in case there is more work in the future. I’d also like to tell the director how disappointed I am that we’ve not had any communication from senior staff saying sorry/ poor you/ thank God you’re going;  and we’ve certainly not seen any of them in our office/ team meetings/ lurking around by the flower beds.

I pitched this thought unsuccessfully to Mr. R who advised that this is not a Good Idea and I should bite my lip. ‘After all, he said sagely, ‘would you book work from someone who had pretty much just called you a selfish twonk?’

He may be right.

PS you’ve worked out what the da-da-da-s are, right?

Jamie’s Dream School

You have to hand it to old Jamie Oliver: he’s not shy about a challenge. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the first episode of Dream School but gave in and tuned in for the second helping. So what does Saint Jamie of School Dinner know about running a school? Well, nothing but he’s well known for having an incredibly successful career following an incredibly unsuccessful school career so he can empathise with the students who have also failed at, or been failed by, school. When it came to his cooking lesson he made a good fist of it (B+). Others were not so lucky.

 David Starkey, privileged, highly intelligent and passionate about his topic wasn’t a huge success. In fact his behaviour was such that, were he a newly qualified teacher in an ordinary school, he’s have been in serious trouble. Calling a kid ‘fat’ and then whining that he didn’t start it is not very professional or indeed mature. Jamie, bless his little turkey twizzlers, handled Starkey incredibly well and although the historian insisted that the students were ‘feral’, Oliver didn’t give up and got him back in the classroom. Mark: F. See me.

 Alastair Campbell equally came a cropper. After humbly showing the class a TV clip of himself in pitbull mode and talking about how fabulous and brilliant he was, he got the students debating. Except it wasn’t proper debating with the proper debating rules that most schools use. The rules are there for a reason: they stop the discussion from becoming a bun fight where anyone can join in. More importantlly, it also stops the debate becoming personal. Campbell’s debate ended up being very personal and a student walked out in tears. Mark: D- (at least he didn’t call any of them fat.)

 Jazzie B of Soul ll Soul fame ran a brilliant music class. He didn’t assume that the students would love him because he was famous. He didn’t assume that his topic would be inalienably interesting to all of them. He praised their efforts and challenged them to do more. He established good behaviour and maintained it consistently. This is a man who obviously knows teens and knows how to capture their interest. Mark: A+

 Photographer Rankin also had a good connection with the students and drew the best out of them and, as with Jazzie B, he didn’t assume that he was the star of the show. Mark: A

 Teaching isn’t as easy as it might seem.

 A lot of comment on the programme has focussed on the poor behaviour and attitudes of the students so I’d like to say a word in their defence. The voiceover told us that several of these kids had been rejected by their chaotic families and were living in council flats alone. Now imagine being rejected by those you love, being alone and vulnerable and not seeing much of a future for yourself beyond alcohol, drugs and the job centre. There’s no one in the world who will stand up for you or to be on your side.

 Now, are you ready to get yourself up in the morning, go to class, sit still, listen and learn?

 And what happens to thes youngsters once the programme finishes and all the fuss has died down? I can only hope that the producers will continue to support the students and that the celebrities might find it in their hearts and busy schedules to be there for them.

A little inspiration

At the end of this month my job finishes and it’s been a long hard slog in redundancy limbo for the last few months so a little inspiration at this point goes a long way.  I haven’t posted as often as I should but that’s mainly because –and how’s this for irony- I’ve been exceptionally busy at work. It may be because people have suddenly woken up to the fact that the free support and advice they’ve enjoyed for years is finally going but I’d also like to think it’s because they need and want my services too.

CV: It’s hard to get excited about writing a CV but I’ve been inspired by the support I had at a one to one CV writing session. One of the perks of redundancy is being able to access loads of training and support. This session was funded by the Department of Work and Pensions and I came away with lots of ideas.

Photos: Another colleague whose job is going has turned his hand to portrait photography and offered me a free session. I now have some swanky photos to go on my new marketing materials and website. And facebook. It took about twenty frames for me to stop looking like a startled meerkat but he got some great pictures in the end. In some he even managed to make me look attractive. Hoorah!

My new business partner: I’m going into business with my colleague. It’s part of that big fat portfolio career I promised myself a while back. We’ve sorted out our logo, planned our business cards and opened a business bank account. NB: we were messed around by banks offering deals on business accounts so we went to the nearest bank, walked in and asked to see the small business manager. We had to wait for a while and passed the time discussing whether the title ‘small business adviser’ was misleading and whether it should really be ‘adviser for small businesses’ but as it turned out, the small business adviser was actually quite small so we let them off.

World Book night : My business partner was one of the lucky few chosen to give out books on World Book Night on Friday so we picked those up on the way to the bank. After our appointment we rushed up to Trafalgar Square to take part in the launch. It was like a music gig but with books. When Philip Pullman came on stage people actually screamed and jumped up and down. It’s inspirational that people can still get that excited about books. I came away with Nigel Slater’s Toast.

Work: I’ve also run some new training and meetings. I can now add these activities to my list of things I can offer in my new life and I still get inspired and excited by my line of work. I promised myself at the beginning of the year that it was time to stop being miserable and look to the positive in 2011. It’s March, I’m days away from redundancy and I’m still here and still smiling.

Bring it on!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers

%d bloggers like this: