Life after Teaching

This is my 20th year as a qualified teacher.  Twenty years in a profession that has changed beyond recognition.  According to definition, a teacher is a person who teaches, especially in a school whereas a tutor is a private teacher, typically one who teaches a single pupil or a very small group.  I am now a tutor.

I love teaching.  I love being part of the learning process.  I love working with children.

What I don’t love is:

  • having my creativity stifled by indicators and outcomes
  • watching colleagues buckle under stress or being targeted rather than supported
  • being observed and judged by people who no longer teach
  • regularly meeting targets with token recognition
  • the expectation that you will work in your holidays
  • the school day starting at 7:30am and finishing at 9:30pm
  • the data driven ethos which eradicates the person
  • watching too many children struggle at school every day because they are not making progress according to an unrealistic trajectory
  • the lack of funding for schools
  • being blamed for a number of society’s ills
  • the constant change in policy, curriculum and practice
  • despite giving my all, it’s still not enough

For teachers who are reading this, thank you for all you do for our children, probably at the sacrifice of your own.  For parents and carers, please bear in mind that teachers are working under increasing pressure to meet targets and implement new policies; this is not their agenda but imposed on them.  For Justine Greening and all MPs who care about education, education in crisis.  Please act now.  Talk to children, talk to parents, talk to teachers – find out what it’s really like in schools beyond the OFSTED reports and league tables.  Education is in jeopardy.

For the first time in 20 years I feel free of judgement.  Teachers are constantly being judged both professionally and personally and this constant monitoring and scrutiny is both soul-destroying and damaging.  Of all the teachers I know, and I know many, very few are happy.  Many are considering leaving the profession because of the poor working conditions, unrealistic expectations and lack of recognition.

There is a life after teaching and it can be good.  I don’t want to see anymore committed and effective teachers leaving the profession but I also don’t want to see another colleague destroyed both physically and emotionally by the unrealistic demands expected of them.

As we settle in to half term I raise a glass to all who are defined as ‘teachers’.  I will always be a teacher at heart but thankful that I’m not one at the moment.

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The Dance of Life

It’s all so bizarre.  I laid in bed with my nearly teenage daughter before she went to sleep last night and she asked “how’s your blogging going Mum?”.  I was quite taken aback because if there is one thing that my daughter is good at is the whole ‘banter’ thing yet this was a sincere and genuine enquiry.  I answered her honestly and said I felt I had a bit of a writer’s block at the moment.  She came back with a wealth of advice about tiny things in a day that could be a great source from which to build a blog.  She further advised that I write down whatever comes into my head during the day, as she does, as this helps her make sense of her day and interactions. I kissed her goodnight and here I sit thinking about her words still in awe of my daughter’s insight and wisdom.

I feel slightly lost now when I don’t blog.  I feel invigorated and mentally revived after writing. Anyway, I digress.

Felix had a day off school yesterday.  His third Tuesday this term.  He was so wiped out he couldn’t even raise a smile let alone manage a day at school.  Twelve hours of silence and solitude and he is back in fine spirits but another reminder that he is still in treatment.  We kind of forget this now; or at least we try to.  Only this week I looked at our plans for this weekend and felt a surge of excitement.  We have things planned, normal things.  Things that we used to do.  Things that we used to take for granted.

And this is life.  A few steps forward and a few steps back.  A bit like salsa dancing if I remember rightly from the few classes I attended in the 90s.  Another ‘new hobby’ before kids, when I had so much time I literally had no idea what to do with it all!  Life is a dance and depending where we are will depend on the moves we are making.  At times, life might be graceful like the waltz, energetic like the jive or repetitive like the twist.  Whatever the rhythm, we are dancing to the beat and if we recognise what the tune is, it may help us make sense of where we are at.

Until Felix was diagnosed, I would’ve described our life as a jazz dance.  We shimmied along with highs and lows but little drama or recourse.  During the intense part of treatment we were dancing in time but in a trance like state; completely lost in the tune we were in, oblivious of the world around us.  There were days when things went as choreographed as a line dance yet other days when we were as emotional and passionate as the Tango.  Right now, I’d say we were dancing a salsa.  We are working towards keeping our body straight whilst our steps are constantly going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.

Life is a series of dance moves.  What is yours right now?  I’d love to know.

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The Burb Guest blog: Who’s in charge?

So, blog post writing! Mmm, tricky! I used to write a blog. A blog about food, something I’m somewhat of an expert in, I love cooking food and I love eating it. My blog was there to show cooking is to be enjoyed, not to be a chore! My blog with the help and inspiration of my wife got me on a TV cookery show, a great achievement for which I’m very proud. Sadly due to my laziness and making excuses of being too busy, my blog hasn’t been updated in many years, but I do still do a great deal of eating. Anyone can write a blog, it is what you make it and if you have the right mindset, anything is possible!

Technology and social media are ever advancing and evolving. All of us have had to move with the flow. I’m going to make an assumption, if you reading this then I’m going to bracket you in the category of the most advanced within recent centuries. From what I can gather from history books (who remembers a book?), research, communications and social interaction were done face to face with very little electricity/tech needed (maybe a light, a torch or a candle if it was dark). I remember playing football down the park with my mates, jumpers for goalposts! This wasn’t arranged by a phone call, a poke, a snapchat, WhatsApp or text, it was a given we’d be there. The most technologically advanced thing I had was Casio watch (with multiple melodies for the alarm).

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Now I often wonder what I did without my IPhone (other phones are available but their mostly rubbish). It isn’t just part of my life, it runs my life. The internet went off for a few hours today, nightmare, it was an actual nightmare. The phone signal is not too great where I am (and they’re talking about 5G super fast mobile network,FFS! I haven’t seen the 3G work properly yet!). So a phone with very little ‘G’ and no internet is photo taking storage device. This was an ideal time to charge it up, since I wasn’t using it for scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. I have days when I think social media and technology are the best thing since….unsliced bread (doorstep bacon butties for example), other days I think it’s the worst discovery since prejudice. I’ve dipped in and out of the newest trends and apps too use, but ultimately they all get deleted.

My latest obsession is Fitbit. I have the Blaze, all set up, synced with phone. This is great, it knows when I’m active, when I’m asleep (it can probably hear me), counts my steps. As great as this all is, it’s given me data, for which, I never realised I cared about. By the time I’ll go to bed tonight I will have done 19,000 steps (about 12k). This to me has been an average day. If I hadn’t had worn the watch then I wouldn’t have known. But by wearing the watch it has made me aware of what I did yesterday and a need to beat that step count. And I feel better for it. The annoying thing is, I’m now wasting a lot of time by not walking in an efficient way from point A to point B, just to get a few extra steps in. I only did 13,500 steps yesterday, so you must understand my frustration and embarrassment of 5500 extra unnecessary steps. How would I explain that, if I had a boss?  I’m self employed which just makes it worse.

 

My name is Wayne and I’m an addict, I’m addicted to my phone, my iPad and my watch. Please don’t judge. I leave you now with a few thoughts and would love to know your views. Thanks Lady K for the Burb guest blog takeover. Has tech taken over? For better or worse?  Is it time for TV/Radio news to give up? Has social media changed the way we hear news? Clouded judgment from likeminded individuals within your community?  We’ve had ice bucket challenges, no make up selfies, planking, manikin challenge…etc. Maybe the real challenge for the modern world would be to swipe to off and spend time with the ones you love, but where would the kudos from that come, if you weren’t tweeting about it.

 

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There is only one sure thing that happens when you shout at a child. You scare them.

I was starkly reminded of this at the beginning of the week.

It was Monday morning and, as usual, I gave the kids their 5 minute nudge to get ready to leave for school: socks on, shoes on, lunches and water bottles in bag and coats on. Five minutes later I looked to see my youngest still laying on the sofa, lost in the world of YouTube. Grrrrrrrrr! So I shouted at him to move and get ready for school. He leapt up and did what was asked and off we went to school. I didn’t think any more of it.

The next morning the same routine. I gave the kids their 5 minute nudge and this time my youngest immediately jumped up and got to it.  Excellent you may think, but the speed at which he reacted made me think.

He was worried I was going to shout at him again.

This broke my heart. I don’t know many parents or carers that haven’t shouted at their child. We all know we shouldn’t but during times of frustration it’s sometimes difficult not to. Children can become so absorbed in what they are doing or at times or they will ignore requests as a way of testing boundaries or trying to get what they want. This can push the buttons of the calmest of us and it can be difficult to resist that urge to raise our voices. Yet, by raising our voices, we can make children feel intimidated and threatened.  If a child feels this way they may instinctively adopt a fight or flight response which, if not considered in context, may come across as argumentative or belligerent.  If you shout at them the likelihood is that they will either shout back or turn on their heels and walk/run away.  This is not your child just being awkward, difficult or rude.  Their response, in fact, is a primitive response based on our need for survival.

This understanding of our instinctual primitive response will help us see how shouting can trigger behaviours in children. If children and adults feel at risk or threatened they will adopt a flight or fight response.  If they go for flight they will be gone, if they chose fight they will shout back.  If we then consider how things escalate, it is often because we have raised our voice. Yes, we could say that they should’ve done what they were asked to in the first place but they are children, yes children.  They are learning and as they get older they will test boundaries.  This is absolutely normal in terms of child development.  It is how we respond which will determine if a situation is resolved quickly or if it will escalate.  If you shout, the likelihood is that things will escalate very quickly.

This is the same in schools.  A school I taught at had a ‘no shouting’ policy for teachers, for exactly the reasons above.  Of course, teachers shouldn’t shout anyway but they are human and get frustrated and desperate as most people do.  However, the impact of this policy was phenomenal and it helped create a supportive and safe learning environment because children knew they would not be shouted at.

This moment of clarity I had this week, with my own child, made me reflect and consider my parenting.  The way in which we manage our child’s behaviour will impact on how they respond and therefore we need to try to get it as right as we can.   And for the times when we don’t get it right we need to  reflect, reframe and carry on doing the most important job in the world!

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Period.

So, as it turns out, men don’t read my blogs.  To be fair, I don’t think my husband reads them.  He dutifully likes and shares them but I don’t think he gets much past the first sentence.

With this in mind, this blog makes me smile.  This is about periods.  I’m hoping that, despite the title men will read this.  I doubt it though!

Over the last couple of days I have snapped.  Snap, snap, snap.  Snap at everyone.  Snapped at family, snapped at friends, snapped on the school-run.  I didn’t realise I was snapping until 9:23am this morning when my period came and it all made sense.  Why don’t I see it coming?  Every month, without fail, it catches me by surprise. The signs are always there: the sore boobs, the spots that hit the mirror, the fatigue and the mood changes but I can never manage to see the ‘whole’ me.  I also never have any tampons.

And then it comes.  Not sure if it is my age or having had three children but my periods are now quite tremendous.  The blood loss seems and feels far more than a teaspoon; it leaves my body with such force. Whilst it now only lasts for a couple of days, it requires full-time attention to manage it.  It is impossible to be away from a toilet for more than half an hour which has a huge impact for work and travel.

I hope that some open-minded men read this.  I know there are an abundance of jokes out there about periods and PMT and yes, we get them every month so we ought to be used to them but they are tough and they seem to be getting tougher (or I’m just getting older).

I am currently sat here with spots on my chin the size of my son’s head, a sanitary towel so thick that it’s like having a duvet between my legs and bazooka boobs as tender as marshmallows.

To anyone who has crossed my path in the last 48 hours … sorry.

To anyone concerned I was looking bit washed out today … it’s my period.

To all the wonderful men out there … we know it’s PMT but telling us doesn’t make it stop.

I love being a woman, I am proud to be a woman but I bloody hate periods!

Women, please feel free to comment or add to this tirade.  Men, thank you for reading!

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365 days later

I knew I had to pen a blog to mark the day of diagnosis.

I thought about sharing the emotional and physical trauma of the last year; the physical screams caused by pain, the emotional tears of desperation or the withdrawal caused by  despair experienced not only by my son but by everyone who loves him.  I considered documenting the number of surgeries, anaesthetics, lumbar punctures, blood draws, IV chemo, oral chemo, steroids, the sickness, overnight stays, dressings on, dressings off, the leg pain, the steroid rage, the excruciating mouth ulcers, the hair loss, the absence from school, the alienation from reality but that what would that achieve?

Instead this blog, to mark the year anniversary since Felix was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, is written to give hope.  Hope to everyone affected by any form of childhood illness.  To see a child suffering and being unable to take away their pain, discomfort or distress is the most difficult thing in the world.  However, the strength that you find is phenomenal.

I can remember, quite early on after Felix was diagnosed wandering around Tescos.  Felix had been admitted with an infection.  He was bloated because of the steroids, looked so poorly because of the infection and was tired, tired of it all.  I was so worried, scared really.  I walked up and down the aisles in a trance.  I was using all of the emotional and physical reserves I had.  That day I wondered if there was a limit to how much stress, anxiety and fear my body could take.  I really didn’t think my body could physically cope with much more.

But it did.  That inner strength came from somewhere and we made it through that particularly tough time.  This is what I wanted to share to mark the day of diagnosis.  We can do it, you can do it.  You have to and from somewhere surges an undefeatable strength and determination.

  • Your child will display more resilience, character and positivity than you knew they had.  You will be so proud of them.  They will astonish you every step of the way.
  • Their brother or sister will cope.  They will still love, fight and laugh.  They will find things hard at times but they will become even more united through the battle.
  • Friends and family will be there to help support your towers of strength when they buckle.  Some friends and family won’t know what do and may well fall by the wayside during this time.  That’s normal.  Let them go.  Concentrate on your towers.
  • There will be people out there who do understand how you feel and will be there for you.  They will make you feel humbled, loved and often reduce you to tears because of their kindness. These are your scaffolding, don’t take this down too early, in fact try not to take it down at all.
  • You can do this thing.  You might feel like you don’t have the strength, that you are scared beyond words and that you are petrified of the future.  Look at time in segments.  When you get through that five minutes, that hour, recognise it and then look towards your next period of time.  Your love, passion and determination will get you through this.

Today is just a day I know but I’m glad it’s here.  I woke up this morning, opened my eyes and realised that yes, it’s just another day.  We are different people compared to the ones we were a year ago.  We have been honoured to meet some amazing people and children on the way.  We have experienced the extremities of emotions in the last year; huge highs and desperate lows.  But throughout it all we continue to be grateful and hopeful.  We are more content, we are more at ease, we are stronger in so many ways.

We have 820 days to go.  Let’s do today, and the next day and the next day.  Let’s do it with love, passion and determination!

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Life is a collection of phases

This was the most valuable parenting advice I ever received.  It was a nugget that someone gave my sister and continues to help me when things seem hard. Whether it’s a bout of teething, relentless early mornings or teenager tantrums, it will pass.

Don’t relax too much though as we all know there is another phase just round the corner!

#dailydot #2 #parenting daily-dot-2