Stan the super student!

Stan realised that humans think far too much about things!
Stan realised that humans think far too much about things!

In addition to being a teaching assistant, I’ve started some tutoring on the side. Today, Stan the dog joined my boyfriend’s brother Steven and I for a bit of ‘Verb, Noun and Adjective bingo’. He sat at the table and looked at the cards I held up. He even licked the one that said ‘lick’ for the verb example and jumped away when I held up a ‘fish tank’ example! So I think, he knew exactly what we were on about 😉 But he probably also thought;

‘Why do these humans make everything so complicated? Walks, games and treats… are all anyone needs.’ 😉

But if you have any dogs that need tutoring in the language of human, then let me know 😉

And take a look at what else Stan has been up to on his own blog (he really is an intelligent creature 😉 )


In a Class of our own….

Gone are the days of referring to people in terms of ‘Lower/Working Class,’ ‘Middle Class,’ ‘Upper Middle Class,’ and ‘Upper Class.’ Well almost. We revisit  these days when we watch Downtown Abbey 😉 Was it just a way to  segregate people? It certainly clearly highlighted who had money (and along with it, importance and respect and reputation a lot of the time). I’m not a sociologist and I’m not going to look into this deeply but for me it just divided the country into rich and poor – with some people working hard to get rich and some falling into the upper sections by a decent inheritance.  Yet, it also meant that people had to behave in certain ways i.e. not marrying out of their class. Surely in this way, the classes are stupid.

Which is why it makes sense to have it all shaken up for our modern society. You must have heard that there are now 7  social classes in Britain into which we all fit (with ‘working’ and ‘middle’ classes still mentioned). The BBC, with the help of sociologists, have analysed our society and come up with these 7 new classes:

  • Precariat (Precarious Proletariat)  – I find it amusing that the lowest class have the fanciest name and people with little education won’t understand what it means 😉
  • Emergent Service Workers
  • Traditional Working Class
  • New Affluent Workers
  • Technical Middle Class
  • Established Middle Class
  • Elite

Or to put into pictures with a little more info………

Hope you can just about read that……… do you think this represents our society?!

I’m not sure it is accurate. Apparently, they used 161,000 to do the research on but who were these people that they asked the questions to? I have to laugh because using their social class calculator (I’ll add a link to it at the bottom) I am Established Middle Class! I am a teaching assistant living in a dodgy part of my small, not particularly affluent, town. Yet, the calculator doesn’t ask this. Yes, I am University educated (which the calculator also doesn’t ask)and own a house. The test seems to mainly focus on your interests (so really a personality quiz – because can you not be poor in terms of money but still listen to Classical FM?)  and your associations. So yes, I may be a prostitute but because my friends are lawyers, accountants and teachers then I am Middle Class. Erm…..

We had a laugh today actually at a family dinner (no it wasn’t a banquet with candlesticks, I’m not quite Elite 😉 ). My boyfriend, sister, her boyfriend and my uncle all came out as Established Middle Class also. My Mum and Gran came out as Traditional Working Class ( my  Gran doesn’t have much of an income because she is retired – another thing the calculator doesn’t take into consideration!) My Mum works part-time (by choice) but has some savings, yet doesn’t like the theatre or social networking, which is why she wasn’t any higher. My Dad, hilariously, came out as New Affluent Worker, yet he has the same joint income as my Mum, has the same savings and knows the same people. But because he likes the theatre and watches sport, then he is a class above. Crazy?! Just a tad…. but it did entertain us today; joking that the working class members of the family should wash up etc 😉

So yep, 7 classes, I think it sums up one thing… that we are a more complicated society than decades ago and I think people mix more.So what good does it do to have these classes? Gives us a laugh and gives sociologists and the BBC something to do I guess…. 😉

I am now off  to listen to Classical FM and watch the ballet 😉

So…….Which class do you belong to? Let me know, I’d love to know how other people do!


We all Need a Sign.

I am lucky enough to be able to hear. I am also blessed to be able to talk (although, I’m not sure my boyfriend would agree!) Because, I have learnt these skills, I have also been able to read and write this today. All forms of communication, that a lot of us take for granted.

I recently started a sign language course, you see. I have always been fascinated by it and have wanted to learn it properly. In my previous job, I knew a little of Makaton sign langauge. This is a simplified version and often used with younger children. The course I am doing now is British Sign Language (BSL). Some bits are the same as what I have learnt in Makaton – some aren’t. The alphabet is the same, though. I had previously learnt this but the course has helped me to ensure that I hold my hands correctly and make sure the other person can see the signed letter easily. I am a firm believer that we should all learn the alphabet, because then anyone could communicate with deaf and hearing impaired individuals a little i.e. by spelling out key words.  Here take a look at it:

The fingers on your left hand make up the vowels. The thumb being ‘A’ and your little finger being ‘U’. The other letters tend to make the shape of the letter, making it quite a sensical system really.

We are taught by a tutor who can’t hear or speak. (Deaf and Dumb – but I am pretty sure that isn’t accepted terminology anymore with the negative connotations!). This makes us learn more quickly really because he has to sign to us mainly so we pick up more signs along the way. Naturally, he will write on the white board too to explain certain things. It was funny on our first session, as we had to all write our names on the board – as it was obviously the only way we could tell him to start with. He quickly picked up on the fact that my sister and I (who is doing the course with me) had the same surname. He pointed at us in turn with questioning facial expressions. I knew the sign for sister in Makaton and was pretty sure it was the same. But you know when you just start a group and you don’t want to be the nerdy geek?! Ha! Well, I was more worried of him thinking I was my sister’s Mum instead and realised that I could live with being the class geek and had to clear it up, so I signed sister and he nodded in understanding! 😀

We’ve had four weeks of sessions now. The part I am finding the most difficult is the numbers. It isn’t just a case of counting on your fingers as I had hoped. It changes at 6, ten and for the teens – because it is done with one hand you see:

This is the only similar one that I could find. We’ve learnt 10 slightly differently. But, yes you do a fist action for ‘6’ and then add on to make ‘7-9’. We were also taught to turn ‘2’ the other way to avoid swearing 😉

Funny story one week. We had to all have a conversation with the tutor in front of everyone else. He asked me if I had a car, what colour it was etc. I signed in reply. I then thought he asked how long I had been driving so I signed  ‘4 years’. Everyone started to laugh and the tutor looked shocked! Turns out, he had asked how long had it taken me to drive to the session that night! Ha! So even in sign language, things can get lost in translation 😉

So yes, it’s all very interesting. We are doing just the beginner’s course and then there is a Level 1 – 6. It is a whole new langauge and it will take years to perfect the grammar (different from the written word as words like ‘are’ don’t exist – generally explaining why deaf people can’t always write in the same way), facial expressions and then the slang and informal talk. I’d like to go all the way with it but we will see how obstacles like time and money get in the way!

But as I say, if people just took a little time to learn the alphabet then it would bridge that gap of communication. I also fully recommend the Beginner’s course. You learn, in addition to the alphabet and numbers, family signs, question signs, colours and the other bits (which we haven’t done yet!). The course is 11 weeks long and only cost £68 and that is including £15 for the exam at the end. Obviously, it will vary depending where you live or where you study at. But it’s worth the money for such a valuable life skill.


Graduating through life

On Thursday, I attended my sister’s graduation ceremony. It was a lovely day and a proud time for my sister,  her boyfriend and our family to see her efforts being paid off. It also brought back some wonderful memories of my graduation – which I depressingly realised is nearly 5 and a half years ago!

My sister did a social work degree and is lucky to have a job already within the field that she wants to progress in. But what happens to a lot of graduates? They end up working in a supermarket or have a degree that is then irrelevant to what they want to do. This is by no means a cristicism because I worked in numorous factories and shops before I realised which field I wanted to work in. But is there a pressure on young people to go and get a degree? It isn’t for everyone and there are many examples out there of huge success without the padding of a university background – and of course without the twenty odd grand debt! Young people need to take the route best for them at the time.

I am a person who likes to study. As you know, I like writing and reading. But I also like to reserach and learn new things. I couldn’t have not done a degree, I don’t think. I loved the subject of English too much  and I knew I wanted a degree in it. Some may think this is wrong because I had no idea what career or job I wanted – I just knew I wanted to study for a few years longer and hoped the rest would work itself out. Luckily it did. I don’t think I would take the risk now, though, with student fees going up so much! It is a bit of an expensive gamble to do a degree that you aren’t sure you need. Saying that though, the graduation ceremony the other day also made me feel inspired and excited by further education again. I would love to do my Masters. I always did. But that was a step too far. A step to even more expensive studying that I wasn’t sure I needed in order to get a job. Sad really, when the need for money to survive has to take over our love of studying and bettering ourselves – which is something post school kids have to contemplate. But what I also want to say is, that if people don’t particularly like studying then they shouldn’t do a degree – unless they really need that particular qualification to do a dream career. There are so many other ways into jobs.

Some people choose the ‘universiy of life’ over academic studying. I think there is a lot to be said for that too. Meeting people, travelling, doing various jobs all help to make you the person you are – along with any pieces of paper boasting your various qualifications. Again, like anything, it is down to the individual and what makes them happy and how they choose to learn and gain a happy and successful life by their terms. As you may guess, I am very proud of my degree, as I am my A levels and GCSEs and other courses I have done. But, working in shops and factories has given me as much, if not more, life experience. Uni life was great yeh and I had to learn to stand on my own two, dancing all night, tipsy feet 😉 I had to cook, sort bills out along with cementing new friendships and oh yes doing the work for my degree. But it was a nice and easy life for 3 years really – 5 and a half years into the world of work I can say that 😉 Yes, I met lots of different people from all over the country (and other countries). People from different backgrounds and who had different interests – but we all had similar goals, i.e. to finish our essay before going out to get drunk 😉

Working in shops and factories has given me a different kind of life experience though. I had to work with people of different ages, cultures and personalities. No, smoothing things over with a shot or two. Or burying myself in my room with my essays when someone annoyed me. No. I had to learn to work under and with people I didn’t like. Be a boss to people I found intimidating. Be polite and friendly to customers who were rude. Choose to join in or not with bitchy comments in the factory environment, in fear of being a ‘bitch’ myself or being a ‘goody goody’ if I didn’t. I had to stand up to bosses when they took advantage.Altogether, learning that an degree in English would not make me a better shelf stacker/worker/person than anyone else. These are all the things that truly helped me to become who I am. And I am glad I experienced it all.

Back to the graduation ceremony – it does make me laugh, that whilst it is an amazing time to celebrate your academic goals being completed, your individuality, your class of degree, your subject – you still have to wear exactly the same outfit as everyone else in the room! Me and my parents had quite a laugh looking at the sea of red and light blue cape wearers in the search for my sister:

A bit of a 'Where's Wally' situation!
A bit of a ‘Where’s Wally?’ situation!

The lecturers wore individual outfits though. They normally wear their own colours from when they graduated, which I think is always a nice touch. The immature side of me resurfaced again, though, when they entered as it just made me think of Harry Potter and the witches and wizards in their colourful outfits! But I believe humour can be brought into most situations 😉

So, congratulations to my sister and all those who have graduated recently. But we need to remember, that we are all graduating through life all the time. Going to the next stage, the next phase, gradually improving ourselves or in some cases redeeming ourselves 😉 Graduating from university is highly important and something that you will remember forever but what comes next is just as important………. 😉