Class unconscious

I’ve been reading a neat little book called Watching the English, by British anthropologist Kate Fox, whose mission is to describe and analyze English behaviour. The book was a gift from a good friend who gave it all up (“it” being life in Pierrefonds, working for Ikea) to move to the UK (albeit still working for Ikea).
Now, I don’t think this book is for everyone, least of all for people who for some reason don’t find it fascinating to discuss ad nauseam the British tendency to remember last week’s rain fondly. It is an interesting read in that it offers insight not only into the British codes of behaviour, but also the research methods of one team of anthropologists.
I personally am enjoying the book not least because there’s an entire section on class, which my English brother-outlaw insists is a non-issue in 21st century Britain.
Furthermore, according to this book, the fact that my house is messy and none of my furniture matches is, in fact, an indication that I am upper class, and has nothing to do with being disorganized, frantically busy, or hopeless.
I gleefully relayed this information to my mother – we’re upper class! We never have to apologize for the mess again.
“Ah well,” she said, “every once in a while you still have to wipe the shit off the side of the toilet bowl.”
Yes, we’re just oozing class.

Pardon me, you’re standing on my cape

I have come to the conclusion that I make a lousy supermom.
I’m in the midst of a full-on panic right now. I have a full-time teaching load, which means teaching three courses, with just over 100 students, 75 of whom handed in essays this week, which I have promised to return next week.
I am also working on accumulating sources for my next literature review, which in turn sets me up for the first couple of chapters of my research paper for my M.Ed.
And then there’s the distance learning course I’m developing.
Oh, and I seem to have accidentally been targeted as the next chairperson for the Governing Board of the boys’ school.
The distance learning course is the one that is really freaking me out at the moment. I signed on for this course almost a year ago – after a few months of cajoling from the project manager – and at the time it seemed like a perfect opportunity. The proposed schedule looked like it dovetailed nicely with my teaching at Vanier, particularly since, at the time, I wasn’t sure what my workload would be for the winter semester. As it turned out, I had a full-time load last winter, albeit at the last minute, but it didn’t matter since the distance learning people met delay after delay, and I didn’t have much work to do. I did a little (really little) bit over the summer, but there was not much demand at all for my time.
At my first meeting with them after the summer, I was introduced to my new project manager. It seems that one person had left the company, so everyone was shifting around, and my new PM was completely new, to the company as well as the project. This meant more delays, which means that now – just as I’m getting into week six of my semester at my actual job – this PM is expecting me to spend, in her words, “two full days, on average,” every week, on the distance learning course.
I sent her a letter today, with a copy for my former PM, who is now her supervisor, explaining that I was more than a little concerned with the new schedule (and the pressure from the new PM), given that the delays were not mine, and that the revised schedule still expected delivery before next summer, which means no more dovetailing with my full-time teaching schedule.
I’m not sure what to expect from this – my guess is that there will be some attempt to negotiate a mutually agreeable timetable. I’m a little worried that I’ll cave – I really do want to do this course, and I have already invested a lot of time and thought – but I have no time left. There’s also the issue of the money. This is a nice contract, which essentially pays for the upstairs bathroom renovation. But, as I said to a friend yesterday, having a beautiful new bathroom is pointless if I’ve worked myself to death before it’s finished.
OK, back to the essays.


Way back in June we made the momentous decision to have our basement finished. A few years ago, the world’s greatest mother-in-law helped me turn the basement from this:
before before
to this:
after before
…which was fine, for a while. But Robert has asthma, so a dusty, damp basement is not ideal. Also, we are four in the house, with one bathroom, so a second bathroom is a nice addition – not to mention that the first bathroom desperately needs work, but with four of us in the house, having no bathroom is a truly bad idea.
So we sat down with our contractor, who has already done our kitchen and backyard projects, and came up with a new basement: second bathroom, including a fancy shower; a bright, clean laundry room; lots of storage space, built around the furnace and water heater, thus hiding those industrial thingies aways; a new front door, with a closet; heating and lighting; and loads of other little luxurious details.
after after
Check out the end result on my flickr page.

On ‘Teacher expectations for the disadvantaged’

Yes, it’s that time again – I am now into the research cycle of the M.Ed., which includes the course I’m taking this semester. Our first assignment was to reflect on the ethics of a case study conducted in the USA in the 1960s.
Robert Rosenthal and Lenore F. Jacobson’s experiment on self-fulfilling prophesies, in the late 1960s, led educators to reflect on their “attitudes and behaviour towards students,” and inspired further research into the impact of teacher attitude and the concept of the self-fulfilling prophesy. Four decades later, however, such an experiment might not get past an academic ethics committee, despite what appear to be significant and desirable effects in the field.

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