Tuesday, 25 February 2014

What a week!

To anybody who has asked - and happily for me several people did - I described the last week - Friday 14th February to Friday 21st February - as intense, crazy, mental and quite possibly the busiest week of my life. & I don't think I was exaggerating.

Last Friday when smug couples around the globe were swapping valentines day cards and enjoying a nice - extremely over priced - meal out or a cosy little night in. When the more cynical of us singletons - did I just write singletons? *hangs head in shame* - were ranting about commercialism - quite possibly on stage at an anti-valentines day poetry event if you're of a poetry inclined nature - and the more desperate of us were on dates with people we're not that keen on but didn't want to spend the night alone or were feeling the pressure to find someone so heavily on the "day of love" that they were at a speed dating or equality try hard event. I was at home poring over my swimming teacher level 1 manual before my course started on the upcoming Monday morning. Actually in truth I was mostly watching episodes of Family Guy and American Dad - a show I wasn't too fussed about until recently - on BBC3 while eating my - as well as my non-existant dates - body weight in chocolate. That said, I did also flick through a few pages in preparation though.

The rest of the weekend was a mixture of studying, completing my homework, sending emails, sending emails, writing and slobbing about watching tv and generally avoiding doing the many, many things I needed to by any means possible. I even did the washing up at some point. When we have a perfectly good dishwasher! That's how much I didn't want to do the things I needed to. So just the average weekend then really haha.

It was on Monday that the week really started to hot up. I haven't been doing early mornings at work recently - not since I told my boss that expecting me to get up 5am was inhumane - and so it was a bit of a shock when the alarm went off at 6.50am - and then again at 6.55am and at 5 minute intervals for around the next 30mins - for me to get up for the course. Luckily I know what I'm like when it comes to getting up early and so my bag was fully packed, my sandwiches were waiting - to be forgotten - in the fridge and my clothes were laid out ready on a chair. So all I needed to do was roll out of bed, throw on my clothes, throw my butty box - which I managed to remember because I wrote 'sandwiches' on the back of my hand the night before. It's all about the preparation - in my bag, splash some water on my face, eat some toothpaste - as there isn't enough time for actual brushing - and bowl out the door still putting my coat on as I power walk down the hill towards the station. And from then on it was pretty much non-stop!

The course was certainly full on. 9 to 5 for five days. So much information to cram in that it didn't seem possible and on the first day we were literally thrown to the lions. Ok not lions exactly but with very limited preparation we were let loose on actual, real life children. So there I was with very little idea of what I was doing - just a couple of hours into the course - working with two little boys that could have been no more than 4 and 6 years of age. Luckily I have been working with children in one capacity or another for around 7 years and it's something I'm pretty good. I mean as well as the experience I've gained we tend to be on the same level. But it was still pretty amazing that when on my first day - after my second ever "lesson" - the mum of the two boys asked about my availability to teach them as I was very good with them. Unfortunately I had to tell her that I wasn't qualified yet but so far so good. I'd been thrown in at the deep end and I wasn't drowning. At least not fast enough that it was obvious.

The next day I missed the whole morning session for an interview. This is where the words crazy and insane come in. The week was already going to be full on without having important job interviews - this was to be the first of two interviews. Obviously it wasn't ideal having them this week but I simply couldn't say no as they were both such excellent opportunities - and so things were about to get very busy indeed! On the Monday night we had more homework because there wasn't enough time during the normal 9-5 day to fit everything in. Which was bad enough but obviously I also had to prepare for the big interview. A process which would include a written test and a presentation as well as the interview itself.

Unfortunately I didn't get the job. Which was slightly upsetting at the time but ultimately the job wasn't exactly what I had thought it was and so it wasn't really the job for me and I wasn't the right person for it. So no harm done. Except of course that I now had to find the time to catch up on what I had missed. But in one sense missing the Tuesday morning was something of a blessing because although I had to do a little extra work in the evening - which wasn't made easy by the fact that each day tired me out so much I just wanted to sleep by the time I got in each day - I missed all the dry classroom based learning and arrived in time for the fun swimming pool based activities.

The rest of the week continued to be pretty full on. Early mornings, long tiring days in the "classroom" and at least a couple - if not more - energy zapping hours in the pool with young children. All followed by studying in the evening. It was certainly proving to be hard going but it was only for a week and it was a very positive week. At some point a child accidentally elbowed me in the nose, the course was a little unorganised - I'm being kind it was shambolic - and I felt completely underprepared for whatever I was doing the whole week long but otherwise it was a lot of fun. It was a good group of people, everyone was very friendly and helpful which really helped. I got to work with a very pretty young girl for most of the week, who unfortunately for me if not for her was very nearly young enough to be my daughter - can't believe I'm saying this but 'if I was ten years younger...' haha - and I met a guy who knew a lot about nutrition (I'm looking forward to tapping into his knowledge in an attempt to sort out my eating habits). And of course we got spend time working with young children which for me is what it's all about.

Thursday morning arrived (very quickly) and we had our theory test. The assessment was in two parts. The theory element was a multiply choice question paper and for the physical test we were assessed while teaching both a group of beginners and a group of improvers. Now to say the theory test was easy would be a huge understatement. I did have a little panic during the test where I thought that I was going to fail the second section - the test had three sections of ten questions and to pass you had to get seven correct in each section - as there were some questions I really wasn't sure of. However, it was all common sense. If you didn't know the answers you could work out 90% of them through a process of likeliness and elimination. If you read the manual you really shouldn't have any problems passing the test! Unfortunately it appeared as though I might have skipped a couple of sections but ultimately it didn't matter. In the end - panic out of the way - I got 28 out of 30. Which was ok although I was actually a little annoyed that I didn't get 30 out of 30 which I think several other people in the group did.

The practical was the following morning. I didn't feel at all prepared and the course leaders messed up a little - they really didn't seem to know what they were doing at times and people were suggesting that it was their first time running the course which would make complete sense - so a little panicked and underprepared I headed poolside with the rest of the group. I really wasn't felling ready for the assessment and it certainly could have been easier. In my first group - the beginners - I had a little boy who wouldn't put his face in the water* which made it very difficult do to anything I had planned. It was time to think on my feet (something I had struggled to do all week). How do I try to get this boy to conquer his fear of putting his face in the water while still engaging the other three children in the group? It was a serious challenge but I think I just about got there? A similar thing happened in the next lesson. I had a boy who was much younger and less advanced than the other three and so while I was giving him a little extra attention, one of the girls in my group started doing handstands haha. Not what I needed! But I think I dealt with it ok (telling her off with a smile haha).

But it all seemed to go quite well - even if I didn't really think it at the time - and I passed! :) with some very positive feedback from the sour-faced assessor (who was much nicer away from poolside). She told me that I had dealt very well with the difficulties I was faced with during my lessons and although I can't remember her feedback word for word, she described my lessons as great fun and at some point definitely used the word superb! She then finished by saying that I will make an excellent swimming teacher. Which is obviously exactly what I was hoping to hear, if not necessarily exactly what I was expecting to hear. & YES I know I'm showing off a bit but why not? Plus if you read my blog regularly, you'll know I'm also pretty happy putting myself down on occasion too, so it more than evens itself out (over the season).

So as you can imagine, I was really quite happy about passing, although at the same time I left assuming that everyone passed. Unfortunately I had to shoot off before I could find out for sure as I was going to be late for super important interview of the week number two. But I'm pretty sure everyone passed. An assumption based on the fact that a couple of hours earlier I watched a pretty horrendous lesson with awful demonstrations, confusing instructions and dangerous practices, who somehow managed to pass (hopefully with some serious constructive feedback at the very least). It really would have been hard to have done any worse, so surely everyone passed?

From the course I dashed from one side of London to another - not very quickly as it proved - and because I left the course a lot later than expected, I arrived in Deptford for possibly the most important interview of my life so far a full 30 minutes late! Excellent! Just the image I wanted to present. Made worse by the fact that obviously my phone lost battery and so I couldn't even ring ahead to let them know. When I finally arrived they were literally ready to give up on me and leave but luckily I got there just in time.

Obviously being so late for an interview never looks great but I think that understood the situation and the interview seemed to go quite well. I have a tendency - not only in interviews but in real life and blogs! - to ramble and go off on tangents. I try to rain myself in when it comes to interviews but at the same time, I do tend to try and say everything. Like I don't want to miss anything out so I just say everything remotely connected to the question asked in the vain hope I manage to tick all the appropriate boxes - so to speak. In future interviews I need to remember this and try to combat it by being as concise as possible while remembering to talk about all the crucial elements within my normally quite vast answer. Not necessarily an easy ask but something I need to try and all in all I think the interview went quite well.

I finally got back home at around 7.30pm, feeling like I just returning for the first time since Monday morning. I was shattered, completely drained. So I just fell down onto the bed and watched a bit of telly, ate the sandwiches that should have been for my dinner but I had left in the fridge - as I had forgotten to re-write sandwiches onto the back of my hand the night before - and was asleep by 10pm (it is normally physically impossible for me to sleep before midnight).

And there we are. One of the busiest weeks of my life which ended by spending the whole of Saturday in bed watching football and eating things I probably shouldn't. But that's ok because the way I see it... I've earned it!

Oh and if it wasn't obvious enough already, I had zero time - or energy for that matter - to go swimming :( a whole week missed but for a good cause I think? Time to get back onto it though!

Ps I didn't get the second job either (attempts to hold back the tears) #SadTimes

*during the lesson with the little boy who wouldn't put his face into the water I felt like a bit of failure. Even when he did finally put his face in for 0.5 seconds, it didn't feel like much of an achievement. That was until his step-mum came over to me at the end of the lesson and told me how amazing it was that I had been able to get him to do it! Apparently she had been bringing him to the swimming pool a couple of times a week over a prolonged period of time and had never been able to do so. So YAY me :)

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