Thank you, Beast from the East

As a teacher in the UK, I often feel as if I am on a treadmill where the setting is slightly too high and I just keep going and going, a seemingly never-ending cycle of planning-teaching-marking, of getting up early, working a full day where an uninterrupted break time is a luxury, coming home and doing more work, and repeating the cycle the next day. On top of this, I don’t make it easy for myself when it comes to my home life. I put far too much pressure on myself to keep up with cleaning, tidying, washing, and find that I feel stressed when my home environment is chaotic. I also care a lot about my family and friendships, prioritising them too, but if I’m honest, do I prioritise them above my work? I really try to, but striking a balance is hard. I consciously make an effort to set myself boundaries of when I’ll work and when I’ll see friends and family, but I also find that I need time for just me to be on my own, and that is very difficult to fit into my busy schedule.

Considering all this, I very often feel myself wishing and hoping that if I could just have one day off, if I could only stop for a moment, that I would get some much-needed breathing space, that I could get off the treadmill. I often get up in the morning, longing for more sleep and wishing I could stay in bed. On my days off at the weekend, I have often packed so many plans in, almost trying to make up for the all the work I do, that it isn’t really a rest. Work hard, Play hard.

So you would think that this morning, when I got a message through from the Assistant Head that our school was closed due to the snow, that I would have been rejoicing. A day off? My prayers had been answered!

Wrong – my initial feelings were worry and disappointment: disappointment, because Wednesday is usually the “easy” day in the week for me, where I get 2 hours or so of Planning time, less contact time with the challenging members of my class and generally less marking; worry, because I left my laptop at work yesterday, as well as the fact that to complete planning at home I need access to the medium term planning on the school system and I can’t get onto that at home. A day off school, unable to do work, unable to use this time to prepare for next week… I felt like I should be happy about the free day ahead of me, but instead I felt anxious.

Feeling worried, I shared my feelings with my family, who told me to just enjoy the day. I knew I should feel like that… but I still felt underlying guilt that I wouldn’t be able to work. It wasn’t until our boss sent us an e-mail that actually told us all to enjoy ourselves (don’t do any work, and don’t check your work e-mails again!) that I started to feel better, that actually it was OK not to do work today.

So, with my gift of a free day, I did the kind of things that I usually long for – simple pleasures that made me feel much more relaxed and happy. I went back to bed, slept, caught up on some TV, chatted with family, met friends for a coffee… and we ended up making snow angels and having a laugh, walking like penguins huddled together under an umbrella as the snow came down around us.

It was a fun day, which made me embrace my inner child, playing in the snow, taking pictures of the pretty scenes, and finally just letting go. The roads here are also far too dangerous in these weather conditions, so it comforted me that by staying off school, we were keeping ourselves and others safe.

So, thank you Beast from the East, for forcing me to relax and to realise that the sky doesn’t fall in if you get off the treadmill for one day! (Even if there are huge snowflakes falling from it).

snow

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Back to School… is it just me, or does it feel worse on the other side?

back to school
It’s the night before the first day back at school for the second half of Spring Term and my heart is sinking at the thought of the intensity that is to follow, the intensity of long working days, constantly up against the clock with demands coming from all directions; the latest buzz words such as “progress”, “interventions” and “evidence” ricocheting off the walls of the corridors and pervading every decision or action in the classroom, and that’s not even counting the intensity of those 23 little darlings (my Year 2 class) who definitely keep me on my toes…

I came on here tonight to write about my trip to Amsterdam earlier this week (more on that to come), but after realising the time I thought I had better keep it short and sweet… and diverged a little to paint the nightmarish picture above. I can’t help but feel that it is worse going back to school after half-term as a teacher than it ever was for me as a child…

However, it’s intense but in an insane way I just can’t seem to get enough or I probably wouldn’t be writing about it, or I probably wouldn’t have spent what seemed like an obscene amount of time planning over the half-term break…

… Evidently I’m still trying to resolve that aforementioned (in the last post ‘Where did January go?’) issue with work-life balance, although thanks to half-term I have now made a start on another of my new year’s resolutions to work on some more sewing projects… it feels good to have started focusing more on my goals 🙂

So… wish me luck for the next term… and here’s to achieving more of my goals along the way (that, and spreading joy to those 23 “little darlings!”) haha!

ready

Mindfulness Update for Educators and Parents

Mindfulness has become political. Never before have I been so glad to see that some of my more “hippy” beliefs actually ARE relevant for all teachers and all those who feel that their working lives are like a treadmill. Since I became aware of what “mindfulness” is a few years ago, I have tried to be more aware of living life in this way. Now MPs are discovering its benefits. I hope this really does begin to inform government policy and those who care for others suffering from stress-related illness, and those who are prone to stress-related illness i.e. students and teachers, and those who need education about mindfulness, stress and all related areas i.e. society as a whole!

3D Eye

It seems a tipping point has been reached with regard to ‘mindfulness’ and it being a regular part of our national and international conversations. It’s only a few years since ‘mindfulness’ was first mentioned on television or radio, but is there anyone with any curiosity who’s still unaware of what it is and why it’s attracting so much attention?

The importance of mindfulness for a 3D Eye view of multiple intelligences is that it’s an essential component of what we call ‘personal intelligence’ – the realm of insight, knowledge and understanding of oneself. Mindfulness is to ‘personal intelligence’ what empathy is to social intelligence and what intuition is to spiritual intelligence.

The relevance of this to education should be obvious. What are we doing in schools if we’re not paying attention to young people’s developing understanding of themselves – their self-consciousness. self-esteem, self-discipline, self-awareness, self-confidence, etc? These aspects of…

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Snippets from my Day

Holding child’s hand, comforting teary-eyed girl, leading whole class downstairs

Holding colourful hula-hoops, colourful bouncy balls, stowing safely in cupboard

Mixing liquids with food-colouring for magical maths lesson

Staining hands with food-colouring for magical maths lesson

Putting bins out early this morning

Putting books on tables early this morning

Receiving thanks from some grateful parents at parents’ evening

Gratefully receiving cups of tea from colleagues to support with parents’ evening

Slowly and reluctantly taking onesie off and getting up this morning

Slowly but joyfully putting onesie back on this evening

Enjoying selection of cakes in staff room at breaktime

Enjoying more cake on sofa at hometime

Laughing at very expressive “actors” in class play

Frowning at impertinence of child “critic” in class

Feeling by turns, relaxed, stressed, happy, annoyed, tired, energised, calm, patient, impatient, peaceful.

A piece of me

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

I have spent the last eight to nine months training to be a primary school teacher, and I am reaching the end of the course, and the final test: taking a class for the whole school day, assuming the role of a newly qualified teacher for three weeks. 

During the course, everything I believed or thought about teaching has been questioned, moulded and shaped, and my “teaching personality” has been evaluated and cultivated and continues to do so with every assessment, reflection and “constructive criticism” offered by tutors, class teachers and head teachers, and myself (sometimes my biggest critic).

It is impossible to do a course like this without going through a process of change, and this can be difficult and confusing. Sometimes I have felt that teaching is at odds with my personality and I have had to learn to take on a “teaching persona” which is different to my persona outside of the classroom. There is so much questioning, reflection, evaluation, and conflicting advice from university and school placements, that you can get lost in it. 

I also feel that the heavy workload has made me neglect things that are important to me, and this blog is one of those things. This blog is a space for me to imagine, create and write, and I have missed it. But I have really struggled to find the time and space in my day to write here.

It’s half-term and I have decided this is a week where I can “find” pieces of me that I have let be forgotten. Starting with this blog-post. So watch this space 🙂

Happy half-term/bank holiday weekend everybody xxx

Acclimatising

Location map of Great Britain and Ireland, wit...
From sunny Spain to not-so-sunny Britain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t been writing as regularly as I would have liked, but in the last two weeks I have gone through a mega upheaval as I left sunny Spain to return (in what is intended to be a permanent move) to the UK. Following this was a 5-day placement volunteering in a British primary school, a requirement before I start the PGCE course in September. I am also trying to move back in to a room which is too small for all the things I have acquired over the last few years whilst I have been moving around from place to place. Knowing that I will be moving away again soon (to London), I am currently living out of two suitcases and trying desperately to clear out what I can to make life easier for the impending move Down South. Meanwhile I am also adjusting to the British summer weather i.e. severe lack of sunshine (the things that haven’t moved from my suitcase at all are my summery clothes, open-toed sandals – don’t actually know when I’ll be using them again if this ‘wettest-summer-on-record’ continues!) I’ve even brought out my cardies, slippers and jeans – things that two weeks ago would have broken me out in a sweat just thinking about.

Still, as ‘Life is Beautiful’ is all about appreciating the positive things in life, there is a lot to celebrate about the move back to England. No more constant smothering myself in sun cream. No more jokes about being a ‘gamba’ (prawn) for my pale-but-goes-red-in-the-sun British skin. No more massacring the Spanish language every time I open my mouth. I’ve been reunited with my favourite British foods (Yorkshire Puddings have never tasted so good!) I’m back in my tiny but peaceful Lincolnshire village. And most importantly I’m close to my family and friends, and I’m back where I feel happy and comfortable.

A traditional Sunday roast: roast beef, vegeta...
Happily reunited with British food! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finally, I feel that I can’t finish the post without a brief comment on the 5-day primary school placement. After nearly two years experience working with children of various other nationalities, I was interested to see what it would be like teaching British kids. And I was surprised to find that it is pretty much exactly the same, except for the fact they understand everything you say (which actually freaked me out a bit!) I got asked the same questions as I usually do by foreign kids: Do you have a boyfriend? and by the same kid two days later, You mean, you still don’t have a boyfriend?!, and even, most surprisingly, Which country do you come from? (!)

So, after that placement, my work is over until September, and it’s time to relax and enjoy the summer. There’s lots coming up: a trip to London to see Wicked, a much-needed massage and facial, flat hunting in London, and the Olympics… Watch this space 🙂

Saying Thank You

Two little words with a big meaning: thank you.

They don’t take much time to say, but the most heartfelt of “thank yous” can stay with you for years, perhaps forever.

With only about one and a half years of teaching experience behind me, I have already felt on several occasions that teaching can be a thankless job. I have put a lot of work in throughout the last academic year, and into all my shorter jobs previous to this, but, other than receiving a pay-cheque at the end of the month, I haven’t truly felt like my hard work has been returned.

Until today, I hadn’t felt the true reward that teaching can bring when a student says “thank you”.

It was the final lesson of the year with a class of 13-14 year olds, and I knew it was going to be a “Good bye” that we would all really mean, rather than students running out of the class desperate to leave, not caring or even thinking that I wouldn’t be coming back next year, and me breathing a sigh of relief, glad to see the back of them. I had just joined the class with my colleague, who also taught this group, when they presented us both with a present – a photo of us with the class – and following this, an entire bag of presents – a Spanish flag they had signed and written messages on, a personalised handmade badge, sweets, a lollipop, and some (hilarious) Spanish-themed shutter sunglasses. Of course, they didn’t have to give us anything, and even just one of these presents would have been amazing, but with all of them put together, their generosity was overwhelming.

one of the students’ gifts: a handmade personalised teacher badge

What was special to me is that I have rarely felt that I have made a difference to a student’s life. Of course, as a teacher, you know that you are helping your students in some way, but your work often goes unappreciated and has left me feeling downhearted, particularly when you face group after group of unappreciative classes. But this afternoon showed me that if you can touch the life of just a few of your students in a positive way, then the job is absolutely worthwhile.

These students’ generous “thank you” meant a lot to me, and aside from the presents, a simple verbal “thank you” is often enough to make someone feel good and feel rewarded. Saying “thank you” and really meaning it can touch somebody deeply, lift their spirits, and make them feel appreciated. So, if there’s somebody you want to thank, whether you say it, write it, show it with a gift, or in any other way – if you really mean it, the two simple words speak for themselves, and they speak volumes.

“You [have] a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say “thank you”?” – William A. Ward