Monday, September 21, 2009

How time flies!

Wow, I hadn't realised just how long it's been since I last posted! I think I'll be realistic and stop trying to catch up with myself in chronicling the history of the Cheder - if you want to know, ask me!

Life has certainly changed a bit since June 2008. I've finally finished full-time education (after deciding that my Research Masters was really not for me), and I've been working for just over a year at the local School for the Deaf. First I was a TA in the high-functioning autistic class, then in February this year I was promoted to HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant) in the primary class to temporarily solve the problem of a class with children ranging from age 5 to 9. From this term, I'm back to a TA (albeit a TA3), working in the mornings as signing support for a Deaf child in the new preschool (hearing preschool on the Deaf School site so we can offer preschool provision to local Deaf children), and then in the afternoons with the youngest primary class. In the evenings I teach violin, German, and sometimes GCSE Music and Hebrew; the Cheder is about to start its 3rd year, I'm having weekly cello lessons, and somewhere in all of that we're also organising our wedding, which has been postponed to next April but is still rapidly approaching. I'm exhausted, but very happy with life in general.

The last year has been a rapid learning curve. I've learned about autism and other issues, and about how to work with children who have those difficulties. I have also discovered that my favourite age group to work with is up to around 6 or 7 years, which makes my current situation a dream for me! I love working with the children when they're still acquiring language naturally, and just soak up everything you throw at them.

My signing has improved immensely, and I will be taking my BSL Level 3 just before Easter. I took Levels 1 and 2 before I went to university, so although I was a bit rusty when I started, it didn’t take me too long to get back up to scratch. In addition, my school are starting to use more Cued Speech to help the children learn English, and I’ve become a fan – I got my Level 1 Cueing at Easter, and my Level 2 in the summer. I used it a lot during my Maths teaching time last term, and there will shortly be a video of me talking about that going up on the Cued Speech Association website! Fame at last….

I’m hoping that at some point in the future I might be able to move into working with the families of young Deaf children, giving them the communication skills they need – anything from survival sign to more advanced BSL, Cued Speech if they want it, and so on. I’m not quite sure how to go about that, but I’m trusting that if I gather as many of the skills as possible and network a lot, something will turn up!

Cheder is still going strong, and we’re about to start our 3rd year. Over the last year we became much more structured (led by the children), and we now use a textbook for Hebrew, Z’man Likro, which helps each of the children to go at their own pace. After months of to-ing and fro-ing, I have finally taken the plunge and made membership of the shul obligatory for all Cheder families. The email went out last Thursday, and I have yet to receive a response from anyone, so we shall see how that goes!

As I’m doing so much else these days, I’m going to try to farm out far more of the Cheder teaching to
the parents. I’ve tried it before without much success, but that’s probably as much to do with me not wanting to let go. Now I’d really like to have a bit more time to myself, since planning all of the Cheder sessions takes up the best part of every Saturday, plus Sunday morning actually running it. I’ll have to have a think about how to go about it, but I think if I make sure I’m really structured about each session, with some Hebrew and then a discussion and activity for the topic of the day, I should be able to get parents to sign up to take on certain sections. Once they’ve signed up for something, they’ve committed, and if they then can’t do it, it’s their responsibility to find someone else (not me!) I’ll plan it out thoroughly before I throw it at the parents, and then hopefully the system will be established by the end of term. That’s the plan, anyway!

The wedding preparations are suddenly speeding up. I finally finished my conversion in March, and my sponsoring rabbi came to
Exeter in June for my admission ceremony. A week after that, I had a bat mitzvah. The rabbi who originally got me started on the journey towards formally converting was, it turned out, on my Beth Din (3-person Rabbinical Board who examined my suitability for conversion), and he’s also agreed to do our wedding – yay!!! So he’s booked, and the venue is booked, and we’re just in the middle of sorting out who is staying over at the hotel. It’s a tiny place with only 17 sets of rooms (45 people max), which covers the absolute bare minimum of our immediate families. There’s some juggling and diplomacy to be done, but we should be sorted soon. I’ve also booked our BSL interpreter, which is one of the bits I’m most excited about! We’ve designed and printed our own invitations, and we’re really pleased with the result. We have started with the family invitations first, and soon we’ll start doing the non-family ones. My mum and I will start dress shopping once she, my dad and my brother have got their house-move over and done with (they move next week).

So life in my world is extremely busy, very varied, and highly enjoyable! It’s also knackering, of course, but I’m getting quite good at going to bed at a reasonable time, so I’m keeping up at the moment. I’m thinking very hard about how much I take on, and with a Cueing opportunity peeking over the horizon, there may be another re-juggle coming up soon. It’s all part of the fun!

One of the most recent exciting thing we’ve done as a couple is to join Education Otherwise. For those of you not in the know, EO are the national Home Education umbrella organisation. I’ve known for several years that, if it were up to me, HE would be my first choice for educating my children. Once So found out a bit about it, he’s been all for it too. With 7 months to go before the wedding (after which we plan to try for a family as soon as possible), we decided it was time to take our first really practical step towards make HE a real possibility for us when we have children. That’s not to say we’re committing 100% now, since we don’t know what each of our children will be like, or how we’ll feel when we come to it, but at the moment, HE is the top of our list. And, of course, I get a nice new bumper sticker to go on my recently-purchased purple (yes, purple!) Micra, which I love dearly and which has transformed my life!

That’s life at the moment. Right now it’s time I went and chilled out for a bit until bed time, since tomorrow is a particularly long day. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with this blog a bit better now that I don’t have a huge backlog of Cheder stuff weighing me down!