Posted in Education, teacher, teaching, wellbeing

Pause.

100% coincidental that the blog subject is ‘pause’ and it comes after a 7 week hiatus from writing.

Things have been busy since we welcomed more children back to school. I’ve tried to get ahead of myself and plan as much as possible early so that I can be present for the children and not be worrying about the workload.

I’ve taken this evening to pause and reflect. I spent an hour long PSHE lesson today working with my bubble on managing uncomfortable feelings and exploring scenarios and good advice. I’m taking some of it.

I’ve found myself becoming overwhelmed by the changes that are about to happen in my life. I’m moving from my school of four years, the place I began my teaching career, leaving behind a few great colleagues and moving to a brand new school. I’m so excited to start at my new school. I’ve already connected with some new colleagues, I’m meeting some of my class next week, I feel fully supported by my new Head Teacher and the school in general aligns with my values.

I think it’s just the circumstances in which I’m leaving that are niggling away at me. I don’t get to say goodbye to all the children, I’ll miss my friends… As positive as I feel about the move I’m bound to be anxious about fitting in somewhere new and essentially starting again.

I’m taking a moment to pause tonight. I’m reflecting on my time at my current school, the highs and the lows, and ultimately my reasons for leaving. I’m reflecting on the most hardcore interview process I’ve ever been through, and how sick I felt because I wanted the position so much. I’m elbowing out the imposter syndrome that creeps in by reminding myself that the Governor, who was on the interview panel, said I was a pleasure to interview and was outstanding a week after the interview when I bumped into him.

I’m reminding myself that little things like having a stricter uniform policy (tattoos need covering, no exceptions) don’t matter, and I can conform because professional settings will never change their opinions on things like this. However, I’m concerned about how the one on the back of my neck and my forearm will be consistently covered… Surely we draw the line eventually? It’s an excuse to lose some weight and go shopping for some new school clothes that keep me covered!

I’m pausing to remember that these last few weeks in school are about plugging the gaps, but also about enjoying the time we have together, making memories and ensuring the children are having fun and doing okay personally. That mindset has seen a few Maths Mastery lessons go out the window, being replaced by interactive iPad and Seesaw based learning.

I’m pausing to consider how far we’ve come. I desperately miss my boyfriend, who I don’t live with and who I’m not really allowed to see. Since March we’ve maintained a long distance relationship over around 4 miles. I’m pausing to reflect on the last few weeks where we’ve been allowed to spend some limited time together and feeling grateful for that.

I made a conscious decision to leave my laptop at school tonight to ensure I don’t do any schoolwork. Even at a time where the stresses and pressures are different, it’s important that we take a break and find room to breathe.

I encourage you all to take a moment to pause.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, teacher, teaching, wellbeing

#Covid19WellbeingEdumeet – Supporting Student Wellbeing. #DailyWritingChallenge Bonus Post.

Teachers have been swept up in a wave of online learning, Google Classroom, YouTube tutorials and emailed assignments. I think we need to take a step back to ensure the wellbeing of our pupils, and worry less about the academic implications.

I am lucky in my current setting. Our head teacher’s take on home learning is to set a document of subject-specific tasks each week and respond to pupil emails as and when. We are working on a rota of some days in school and the others working from home. I have seen other schools that have taken a different approach and are going in on the online learning from a different angle. No one knows who is right and who is wrong right now. The word unprecedented is floating around so much, which is why we can’t be sure that what we are doing is the right thing. This is where student wellbeing comes to the forefront for me.

In recent days, I’ve started to try and see things from the child’s point of view. Our children have had their routine ripped away from them. That familiar classroom and teacher, seeing their peers each day and developing as members of society by interacting with children and adults each day. Children who struggle to focus in a classroom are now facing an even bigger challenge by trying to focus in a setting that is probably normally associated with down time and reward. We’re all living in a world which is alien to that which we know. Children must be terrified. I was heartbroken when I realised (through various PSHE activities) that the vast amount of my children have anxieties about death. Either dying themselves of losing members of their family. For those children now, how petrifying must this indiscriminate virus be?

Parents are trying to work from home and be teachers as well. Some may be handling it well, others may be struggling with their own subject knowledge or ability to juggle their various new responsibilities. So why are we concerning ourselves with setting assignments and chasing them up to be completed?

Student wellbeing should be number one on our to do list. I for one will be encouraging my class to do what they need to look after their mental wellbeing. My weekly home learning guidance includes practical, low maintenance activities to spark joy and creativity. I’m telling my children to pursue a hobby and learn something new. Do you know how to stitch on a button? Can you shine your shoes? Do you know how to tie your laces? Can you fold clothes properly? Do you know how to put a wash on and work the machine? Can you bake a cake? Have you ever planted and nurtured a flower? Can you learn how to knit or sew? Can you build something for your room or the garden?

There is a plethora of life skills that our children could be learning, maybe even more so for the older ones. I believe that the best way to get our pupils through this uncertain time with their wellbeing in tact is to encourage them to use this time to develop as young people and pursue new skills and hobbies. How marvellous will it be when you get your class back and you can share all the new things you’ve learned while you’ve been away?

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 9 – Wellbeing

Wellbeing is such a buzz word in education today. It was simmering just as I got into the profession 3-4 years ago and now it’s a hot topic. Everyone has a different opinion on what wellbeing should be, what it should look like, how it should feel. There are so many plasters available for the ‘wellbeing wound’. The majority of these seem to take the shape of compulsory activities planned by SLT which, sorry, isn’t wellbeing. We need to stop talking about wellbeing, as Kat Howard’s book instructs us, and address the deeper issues that are affecting it.

Well-being – noun – the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.

The etymology of ‘well’ explores words such as ‘satisfactory’, ‘agreeable’ and ‘in good health’. ‘Prosperous’ is also hanging around in there. The same research for ‘being’ throws up words such as ‘existence’, ‘state’ and ‘that which physically exists’. Therefore, I can unpick the the term ‘wellbeing’ to be concerned with the state of a living thing being satisfactory. Satisfactory being defined as ‘acceptable, though not outstanding or perfect’. This has given me a whole new perspective on wellbeing.

We can only be responsible for that which is in our control. I dip in and out of Stoic philosophy and find that I often deeply identify with many of the ideas put forth by historical figures such as Marcus Aurelius and Seneca. Something that I keep telling myself, in order to maintain some semblance of wellbeing at this time, is that I must accept that I am not in control. I am in control of how I react, but not of what happens to me or the world around me. This is a belief and practice which I will take with me back into the classroom, whenever that day finally arrives.

Life is a journey that is full of ups, downs and unexpected events. Our wellbeing will naturally blossom or wilt throughout our lives. We must accept that only a small proportion of what happens to us is within our control. So I invite you to ask yourself now, what is within your control today? What can you influence, stop or begin happening? Then go on to ask yourself what isn’t in your control. I will do the same:

I am in control of: the way that I speak to my friends and family, the amount of schoolwork I do, the social media and news that I consume, the food and drink that I choose to take in, the way that I react to the latest death toll and the daily briefing, the activities I partake in this evening (The Phantom of the Opera is the latest Andrew Lloyd-Webber to go live at 7pm tonight!)
I am not in control of: the way that other people speak to or behave towards me, any work assignments or tasks I am sent on or asked to do, the things people choose to send me via social media or text/calls, the news the Government relays to the nation, the weather when I take my daily walk.

The above is just an example, and you could probably get really deep into this if you think about it – that’s why I stopped myself there! Now I need to think about how these things will affect my wellbeing. That is, will they make my state of existence satisfactory, agreeable even? What things are good for my wellbeing that I have identified as things within my control today? Well, interaction with friends and family is good for me. Finding a balance between school work and personal tasks/reading/blogging is good for me. Choosing to eat healthily or enjoying a glass of wine this evening is good for my wellbeing. There’s no question that watching a musical is good for my wellbeing!

Image credit: https://www.njlifehacks.com/explain-stoicism-the-stoic-happiness-triangle/
Eudaimonia = happiness, Areté = being your best version here and now.

I thought that it would be too easy to unleash a full assassination of teacher workload or the way that schools are being pressured to reopen. I could have written for hours about my mental health as a teacher right now, but I’ve touched on that in a couple of other recent posts. What I’ve tried to do here is look at wellbeing from a deeper and more analytical perspective. It’s so easy to become blinkered with wellbeing. An early finish here, a scrapped piece of paperwork there. For me, keeping it simple and asking myself – am I alright? – is key for wellbeing. Can I control what is happening, yes or no? If yes, is it good or bad for my wellbeing? If it is, great, if it isn’t – do something about it. If I’m not in control, what strategies can I use to help me react in a way that is more beneficial for my wellbeing?

I’d recommend visiting the link in the image credit as the author, Jonas Salzgeber, explains it rather well. This is just an example of how I use Stoic philosophy to support my wellbeing. Stoicism teaches us that we’re very much in charge of our own happiness and unhappiness, and this can be applied to our own wellbeing, or lack thereof. That is not to say that we don’t sometimes (or often) find ourselves in situations or environments that are out of our control and negatively affect out wellbeing. The thought I want to leave you with is: can you now consider your level of control over your own wellbeing and thus improve it?

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, fitness, teacher, teaching

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 8 – Flexibility

I have dipped in and out of yoga for a number of years now. I always envied the girls in PE who could touch their toes without bending their knees and do the splits. Admittedly, I wasn’t interested in extra-curricular activities as a child. I didn’t do dance or gymnastics, and to be honest I was pretty lazy. That probably hasn’t helped my muscle development and flexibility.

After lockdown began and I started to experience some anxiety and stress about everything that was going on, I turned to yoga again. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I discovered ‘Yoga with Adriene’. I’m 4 days into a 30-day yoga programme called ‘Home’. I’m making sure I wake up and do it first thing every morning, I’ve been in a good routine so far, and it’s really helping me to cope. Practices such as the breathing and the idea of grounding yourself physically and emotionally can be easily transferred to real life. There’s been a few occasions now where I’ve taken a moment to breathe or to allow myself to become aware of the space I’m in and how my body feels. The flexibility comes slowly but I can already feel my body changing and growing to this practice. This is supporting my flexibility in other areas of my life.

I’m writing this post as I wait for the children to arrive for a day of child care. I have lots of fun activities planned which, although fun, took a bit more thought and effort than you would think. As a teacher, I’ve found it challenging to plan a full day that:

1.       Caters for a wide age-range

2.       Is enough for a small group – they get through things pretty fast

3.       Is engaging for children who are probably just as anxious as me

4.       Doesn’t have a WALT or specific objective, other than to occupy and entertain

5.       Finds a balance between being ‘just child care’ but also uses my skills as an educator

Flexibility has been key here. Being able to take holidays at different times so that every member of staff gets some semblance of a ‘break’. Working in a school that seems to be stuck in an endless INSET day loop (that’s how the atmosphere strikes me anyway). Working remotely and utilising email and video chat more often and efficiently (I have a Zoom meeting with my new head today).

It is vital that we as educators remain flexible for the foreseeable. I have a sinking feeling in my gut that we are going to be operating in such a flexible manner for a long, long time. I have a feeling that the way society operates will be different after this, how can it not be? For that, we must be flexible.

I have found that practicing yoga daily is having a positive impact on my mental and physical health. For me, that trickles down into every aspect of my being, thus supporting my ability to be a flexible and accommodating educator during these unprecedented times.

It is better to bend than to break.

Proverb
Posted in daily writing challenge, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 7 – Trust

As a former emo kid with significant trust issues, I could open up a can of worms with this topic. However, I’m going to keep it simple.

I have been too trusting in the past as most of us probably have. This has negatively affected relationships with friends and boyfriends. I was the member of the friendship group who had the FOMO (fear of missing out) because I was worried that people would talk about me or that I’d be betrayed. I know, they aren’t real friends if they do that, but as a teen or twenty-something your mind just doesn’t work that way.

I was bullied significantly as a child, I lived in Wales for around 3 years and had to move primary schools because it had advanced as far as physical abuse. There is still a question mark over an incident that landed me in the hospital with the tip of my thumb hanging off and my thumbnail in a paper towel in the head teacher’s desk drawer. I trusted people because I craved friendship, and instead I was the joke.

I met with these children again when many of us graduated up to the same secondary school. This is where the more sinister and sly bullying happened. I trusted people because I believed in second chances and that people are capable of change. These so-called friendships had been orchestrated to simply gain my mobile number so as to inflict 24/7 harassment and to find out any embarrassing secrets. We moved back to England as soon as we had the chance to.

I trusted boyfriends. Ones who turned out to have been cheating throughout the entire relationship. Ones who actually weren’t bad guys, but nonetheless didn’t deserve my trust. The worst example? A boy who, as it finally transpired after my relentless Twitter and social media stalking because ‘something just didn’t sit right’, had lied about his entire past, had fathered two children and abandoned them, had stolen money from my purse, had stolen my mum’s and nana’s money from the kitchen table and who had wasted 4 months of my life, including tarnishing the early experience of travelling and teaching abroad. It’s safe to say, I vowed to never trust again after being so let down.

I remember talking to my sister about it, voicing my concerns that I really didn’t know if I could trust another boy again. She said that when I met the right one, I wouldn’t give trust a second thought. I didn’t believe her. Then I met Matt.

This isn’t going to turn into a soppy ‘I love you’ post even though I haven’t seen him for nearly a month (thanks, Coronavirus). What I do want this post to illustrate is that trust is something that can be many things. It can be earned, given, destroyed and rebuilt. I trust this man with my life and I never question or second guess a word he says because, as my sister said, when you meet theright one, you don’t question your trust. Here’s to nearly 4 years of a meaningful and trusting relationship.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, teaching

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 6 – Emotion

Emotion.

Noun – a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

Anxious, frustrated, irritable, curious, frightened, sorrowful, calm, courageous, loved, determined, astonished, guilty, joyful.

These are just a few of the emotions that I have since Wednesday 18th March 2020 – the day that Gavin Williamson declared that schools would close to most pupils from Friday 20th March.

Tomorrow will be 4 weeks to that day, and what a rollercoaster I’ve been on since then! I am trying to pay more attention to emotions, by identifying, accepting and understanding them.

Naturally, I’ve always been a bit introverted. If I’m in a mood, leave me to get on with it, if I’m happy, I internalise it a lot and don’t push my happiness onto others – this can be both good and bad. I’ve never been brilliant at controlling my emotions. So may say I have a short temper, others may say I am very patient. The way that I express and control my emotions in my personal as opposed to my professional life is very different, and I find that an odd pattern in human behaviour.

You hurt the ones you love the most. This is a common phrase, and it rings true. I recall a Twilight on emotional regulation I attended that was delivered by Maria Collins-Donnelly, a psychologist. You can find out more about her here: https://www.collinsdonnelly.co.uk/about. She referred to this saying by shining a light on the way we speak to colleagues when we’re in a mood as opposed to the way that we speak to our loved ones. She highlighted that often, we will take our moods out on our loved ones more often than those in our professional life, and the reason is that we can get away with it. Family and friends forgive each other. I will hold my hands up to the fact that I can be a totally different person to my family, and to my friends, and to my colleagues. I wish I wasn’t though.

I’m trying to practice what I preach a little more, I work with my children and help them to recognise and regulate emotions. I explain how normal they are and suggest strategies that will support overwhelming or negative feelings. Yet, whilst I, as every other educator has, have been adjusting to a new way of working and living, I have allowed emotions to consume me and I haven’t been the person I’d like to be.

This is my pledge, to do better. I have a wonderful support network, for which I am extremely lucky. I owe it to my loved ones to regulate my emotions better, after all, we’re 4 weeks in now, I really should. I truly believe that being back in school on a rota system and having the #DailyWritingChallenge will enable me to cope with this uncertain, strange new world we are all living in. And so finally, to end on a positive note, here’s a song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYi5aW1GdUU

Posted in Education, teacher, wellbeing

Reflect On Your Ikigai

Our society is going through a troublesome time right now. Regardless of profession, religion, beliefs or social or financial status. Everyone is experiencing their own kind of difficulty. I have recently found solace in a daily writing challenge with some lovely educators and like-minded lovelies on Twitter, and I’d like to share something I’ve learned from the very woman who’s headed up the #DailyWritingChallenge.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.

Image Credit: Fran McEwan

After reading a host of inspirational and thought-provoking blogs on the topic of purpose today, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my own Ikigai and invite you to do the same.

What is your profession? Teaching & education. I am 3 years into my profession as a primary school teacher.

What is your vocation? I believe that my vocation is to help young people reflect on their development to help them grow and realise their aspirations.

What is your passion? I am passionate about mental health, English, reading, writing and creativity.

What is your mission? I am committed to guiding young people in their education by supporting their mental and social-emotional health.

What do you love? I love networking, reading a diverse range of genres, writing to unwind and being in a classroom.

What are you good at? I am good at being positive and helping others to do the same. I am good at remaining calm during stressful times and prioritising. I am good at believing that ‘this too shall pass’ and helping others to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What does the world need? I believe that the world needs compassion, love, optimism and happiness.

What can you be paid for? Teaching, mentoring, curriculum design, CPD delivery.

Some of the above came very naturally while others I had to think about for a while. I think that’s totally normal. Especially when answering questions about what you’re good at. Had I been asked what I’m bad at, I think I could have written a whole post on that! Alas, this is not a time to be negative. I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my Ikigai and think this is something I’d love to share with colleagues in the future, and it’s definitely something that I’ll come back to when I need to refocus and remember my purpose.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, teacher, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 5 – Purpose

The word purpose comes from Anglo-French roots purpos/porpos and translates as ‘aim’, ‘intention’, ‘goal’ and ‘to put forth’. I believe purpose underpins everything I do as a human being, from being a daughter, sister, girlfriend, friend, teacher and a colleague. I do everything with and for a purpose. To be truthful, I find it rather difficult to do things without purpose.

I’ve always needed to know why. As a child, I needed to know why my Stretch Armstrong was so stretchy, so I poked holes in him with a pin to find out. I needed to know how the Sylvanian Family animals were put together, so I peeled away their fuzzy skin to see. I always asked questions. I think this curiosity has developed into a need for purpose as I’ve grown. I need to understand how something is put together, how it works and how this translates into a purpose.

I need a purpose for what I do. Otherwise, what’s the point? If I’m teaching a scheme of work to my class, I need to know the purpose. What are the desired outcomes? Why am I doing this? How does it benefit the children? If I’m delivering CPD to my colleagues I need to make the purpose clear – I need to explain concisely how this CPD will develop them as professionals and how it can be used in practice.

What is a teacher without purpose?

I have a purpose – to teach my pupils and help them grow and develop into kind, knowledgable humans. I have a purpose as a daughter and a sister to pull my weight within out family unit and support everyone as they have supported me. I have a purpose as a girlfriend to be a life partner for someone else, whose needs will sometimes come before my own. I have a purpose as a friend to put into those relationships what I desire to get out of them. I have so many purposes that it makes my head spin.

Purpose is the reason for which something is done. Why do I do all of those things listed above? I do them so that I can share my knowledge and skills with others. I do them so that I can make other people happy and feel content. I do them so that I can feel like the best version of myself. I do them so that the people around me can be the best versions of themselves. Purpose can also be defined as a person’s sense of resolve or determination, to have a sense of purpose.

I worry that many people will be feeling like they’ve lost their purpose over recent weeks. As teachers we’ve had our classrooms and pupils ripped away from us and a whole new concept of education laid out in front of us. Don’t lose sight of your purpose. Now, more than ever, our sense of purpose is what we need to hold on to the tightest.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 2 – Freedom

Even though I’ve never seen the film, the word ‘Freedom’ instantly creates, in my mind, images of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart.

Image credit: Google & https://steemit.com/best/@bitwords/movie-quote-of-the-day-braveheart-1995-they-ll-never-take-our-freedom

Freedom is something which I believe to be very topical at the moment. Everyone is experiencing some sort of adaption to what they understood to be ‘freedom’. For me, freedom comes down to probably the most basic interpretation: living in a free state and being free to lead a life that you desire (within reason). Right now, the freedom to pop over to a friend’s house for a cuppa or to go out for dinner with your significant other has been taken away. For good reason, yes, but it’s nonetheless an uncomfortable adaption we’ve had to make.

The etymology of the word freedom is concerned with: ‘state of free will, emancipation from slavery, deliverance, civil liberty and in possession of privileges’. All of these links to the word connect with the basic understanding of freedom as not being controlled by another, being liberated and not being a slave. Freedom is a right, not a privilege, and we should make it our mission to understand how mankind has had to fight for freedom in the past before we moan about not being able to go to the pub again.

I will never take my freedom for granted again. Having time to reflect and needing to think twice about our actions – is this essential? – has really opened my eyes to the way that we live. Our lack of freedom right now is to protect our freedom in the future. Freedom comes with responsibilities, and right now those responsibilities are to look out for one another, be safe and hygienic, look for the optimism in each day and protect our society.

I’m blogging in my back garden and my dad has decided to mow the lawn – freedom is taking my laptop inside to finish in peace and without hay fever induced warfare.

Freedom is sitting in your garden, watching the birds come and go, listening to the sounds of lawnmowers and children playing around you. Freedom is logging onto the internet to a plethora of activities, knowledge, information, socialising and media – and not having it regulated by a higher order. Freedom is walking down the street (for your daily exercise) without fear or anxiety about your safety or right to be there. Freedom is reaching out to someone in need and asking, “How can I help?” I’ve read and listened to a lot of complaining about the world right now. People are understandably frustrated and feel like it’s ‘just not fair’ at the moment. What people seem to forget is how lucky we really are. We live in a democracy, we have access to the NHS, we have British Values, we have respect and above all else, we have freedom. If I had a choice of which country I’d want to live through this unprecedented global pandemic in, I’d choose the UK every single time.

Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.

Bob Marley