Wednesday, 28 December 2016

From Kirstie Allsop to a Frozen Food Christmas

 Last year, I endeavoured to create the perfect Christmas.
 I made Christmas tree decorations from scratch and foraged for natural materials whilst enduring off-the-beaten-path kinda walks with our mental dog. I dried fruits and hung them from beautiful threads of rustic twine with bows and ribbon and created jars of beautiful natural foliage freshly picked from one of my stressful dog walks, dressed with sparkling lights and scents of cinnamon. Every aspect of our Christmas dinner was handmade with stress and ridiculously high standards and guests were treated to a buffet breakfast and a buffet in the evening.
Sounds lovely, but it wasn't, it was bloody stressful. I never made it to the sofa during the entire day  and only managed to relax when my head hit the pillow in the evening, which was at around 9pm! Kirstie Allsop may have been proud, but my Christmas overall had even too stressful and pretty pants to be honest.

This year has been all about doing things simply.
Luckily, I still had many of the handmade decorations from last year to decorate the tree with, giving it the same rustic charm of the previous year. Many of my dried fruit decorations had gone mouldy in the box, so I unfortunately had to chuck those out and make do with fairy lights around the window sills, I also used battery operated lights in my jars this year, tarted up with a few oranges decorated with cloves from the spice cupboard. No stressful dog walks for fresh foliage involved.

I filled the freezer with as much easy to cook crap as possible and even made sure that our Christmas dinner involved as little prep as I could get away with. I didn't chop a single vegetable on Christmas day. Everything was boxed, oven-ready and microwave-able, the only thing I needed to do was to unbox and press the button... Ta-da!

Presents were mainly limited to vouchers: meal vouchers, shopping vouchers, wine tasting experiences, with the odd box of Christmas biscuits, wrapped nicely with ribbon as opposed to the heap of beautifully wrapped "bits" that people usually get. Gift bags were a God-send and my own child got what she wanted or needed for Christmas and not much else... easy! Hers were wrapped roughly and I didn't bother with tags... it's not like she can read them!

We have thrown 2 Christmas parties and buffet food has been plentiful, but unimaginative. On Christmas Day, the last guests left the house at 12.30 pm, leaving us almost an entire day of super relaxing family time; our toddler even remained in her pyjamas for the entire day!

I can honestly say that this year, I have thoroughly enjoyed my Christmas. I've hardly seen the kitchen really and although I've missed my usual baking bonanzas, I've not missed the stress of trying to fit everything in. It's been one of the Christmases I can remember as a kid: the usual buffet of frozen finger food, playing with toys in my pyjamas all day and lots of time spent with other family members. Christmas is about people not perfection.

In the run up to the big day, I worried needlessly that I wasn't making enough effort, that I didn't seem to be busy enough to be able to pull it all off. But I did, maybe not in style, but I certainly pulled it off. I saw photographs of other families in the run up to Christmas, particularly on Christmas Eve on Social Media, sharing snaps of their "Christmas PJs" and "Christmas Eve boxes," which left me questioning my own efforts. Then I had to remind myself that we all have enough pairs of pyjamas, we didn't need Christmas ones and that I don't believe in Christmas Eve boxes anyway, we get enough presents on Christmas Day for heaven sake, why do we need presents for Christmas Eve? Then there were the elaborate advent calendars, we made do with milky bar ones that cost me £1 from the corner shop.
But it was enough. Enough is enough.

The last few months have been testing for us and we haven't had much time to invest in creating the Perfect Christmas, but it's actually been great. It's reminded me about what Christmas is all about.
Family time.
Next year, I'd like to think that I'll have a little more time to use my creativity to indulge myself in a few handmade/homemade touches, but I certainly won't be busting my gut over it.
Life is too short to spend fussing over making things perfect, there's no fun in that!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The naughtiest kid in the room

You know that feeling? When you look around at everyone else's child and realise that your kid is by far the naughtiest in the whole room? I often feel like my boyfriend and I should be excelling in the behaviour stakes, we are teachers after all, we're pros at this, aren't we?

Turns out- No, no we're not.

Yesterday, from start to finish, the leaving-the-house-for-a-party preparations began at 4pm and the party didn't start until 7.30! This involved the larger than average snack to begin with at 4pm, to tide my toddler over until the buffet, bathing myself, bathing my toddler, 2 lots of hair to dry and style, a toddler to dress and me to dress and a toddler to entertain all in one go. Boyfriend is currently on an indulgent stag do abroad, so naturally, I despise him right now.

We got to the party in one piece, just about, after my toddler slipped over in her new shoes and banged her head, ripped my tights and had 14 meltdowns during the preparations to leave the house. I was happy to arrive at the party, plenty of family around to help me keep my daughter occupied and a chance to sit down, at last! But from the moment we walked in, it became apparent that my stress levels were really about to be put to the test.

I watched other toddlers, dancing on the dance floor close to their parents and checking in with them every few minutes or so, whilst my daughter stole their toys, poked and grabbed their faces and kept running off out of my sight with a cocky confidence (she would have gladly gone off with a complete stranger). 1 hour in and I hadn't touched my drink, my family dipped in and out, but gave up chasing my toddler after 10 minutes (I don't blame them) and I felt sweaty, red and breathless. On sitting down at last, I decided to just let my Daughter run off, I'd just stand up to see where she'd got to every few minutes and not indulge her in her chasing games.

It was the first time I stood up to check on her that I spotted her leaving. Out of the door and out to the car park. I dashed from my seat,almost knocking over unsuspecting children and found her wedged between 2 heavy double doors between the carpark and the venue screaming her head off. At this point I scooped her up in my arms and carried her, screaming to the front of the venue where I packed up our belongings in psychotic fashion as she tried to push me away from her as people watched, grateful that it wasn't their kid.

"We'll look after her from now on, just stay a little while longer" came  pleas from family members, happily slurping away at glasses of wine and G&Ts.
"You don't know what you're letting yourself in for!" was my snappy reply. I was right. They didn't.

Bunging my naughty toddler into the car was the best decision I could have made. As I pulled into the driveway at home, I looked back at her snoozing away peacefully in her car seat, still wearing her sparkly anters which she'd nabbed off some poor child at the party. I quietly and carefully dressed her in pyjamas as she cooed sleepily and laid her in her cot, kissed her, told her I loved her and felt guilty for cursing her in my head.

I tell myself that it will be some other kid next time, that mine will be well behaved and I'll be glad it's not me. Or this is what I hope will happen...!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

A letter to my students

I thought I should tell you that I'm leaving half way through the school year.

I know it's probably come as a little unexpected; I performed well up there on the classroom stage didn't I?
But believe me, inside I was breaking.
Inside, many of us teachers are breaking.

It broke me when I sat at my desk, eyes poised at the screen of my computer, filling in data, whilst I gave all of you a task to get on with in silence, because I had yet another data deadline to meet. Believe it or not, I much prefer the fun, interactive lessons, but there's just no time for them; everyone wants figures, predictions, scores, numbers; I just really want to teach.
The problem with giving you a task to do in silence is that you don't know how to work silently and independently anymore, because your previous teachers have also had hundreds of deadlines to meet and criteria to fulfil, so you've been spoon fed and taught how to pass the test.
That's what we all do.

So when I'm being interrupted every 30 seconds to answer very simple, monotonous questions, I'm becoming irritated because I need to meet this deadline and I wish you had a bit of initiative and imagination. Then the guilt breaks me, because I'm not supposed to feel irritated, I'm supposed to be the composed, rational adult in the room with no limits, no feelings and no worries.

It broke me when my school nightmare came true.
The recurrent dream before returning to school after a school holiday, where I'm standing in front of all of you, waiting to begin my lesson, longing to still be on holiday and the whole class completely ignores me, as if I'm not even in the room.

It broke me when I sat consoling my poorly child in the evenings, feeling guilty that I wasn't marking your work or writing your reports and then feeling guilty for feeling guilty, because ultimately my own child should come first.

It broke me when your mother emailed me to accuse me of bullying you when I instigated a punishment after catching you nastily bullying another student in my classroom. Had that happened outside of school, as a fully fledged adult, the punishment could have been quite severe; I was then asked to send more positive comments home about you in future and that really broke me.

It broke me when you told me that my lesson was "shit" after I'd spent a day of my own time in school during the school holidays (something I do regularly, when I could be at home spending quality time with my family) preparing lessons for you.

It broke me when I dragged myself into school through illness and ended up with an even worse illness as a result, because there was no time for me to stop and get better. I only have to return to the workload afterwards, which triples when I'm absent.

It broke me when I had no other choice but to take time 'off' sick and yet I sat in my dressing gown, next to a bucket full of sick, emailing in cover lessons for your cover teacher. Yes. Ever wondered where those lessons came from....?

It broke me when I had to give up on being a creative, exciting teacher with a zest for engaging lessons for being an exhausted, undermined, robotic one who ticks the boxes.

It broke me when my observation feedback requested me to do more marking, because even when I spend my evenings marking your work, I still don't do enough.

It broke me when I handed my child over at nursery, sweaty and crying, with a temperature and I spent the day teaching you when many of you didn't want to be taught, feeling like a terrible mother, counting down the lessons before I could console her and hold her again.
Because, I don't get paid for taking time off for my sick child, and I can't afford not to get paid.

It broke me when I gave up. When I realised that I couldn't make much of a difference, when the government stopped listening to us teachers, when they made you sit through a new curriculum that even we didn't fully understand. When I realised that sitting quietly in rows, sometimes over 30 of you, waiting to be engaged by one single person in the room, when you're used to so much more stimulation and freedom in the outside world, just isn't working. When I realised that your old fashioned, out of date, inadequate education system is failing you and when I realised that the only way to battle through it is to give up; it broke me, because ultimately, you deserve better.

I wish the best of luck to all of you.

Your teacher.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

When hobbies feel heavy...

We're back into the throes of school life, Summer is fading into the distance, nights are closing in and so are the September bugs.
3 weeks in and I've been hit by a germ fuelled steam roller, making the challenges of teaching and parenting all the more laborious. 
I promised myself that I would continue my new found pottery making hobby, despite the smothering demands of being a teacher and during the first week back at school, hobby won hands down. For 2 weeks running however I've given in; its 2 to school work and nil to hobbies. 
What I realise though is that it's not necessarily the physical "work" as such which holds me back from partaking in a wonderful hobby like pottery making, but the mental drain of the job which puts a fat cork in my creativity. The first week back to school was difficult, but I dragged myself off to my pottery class regardless, then I sat there, wondering what to make, feeling completely uninspired; drained. No ideas. No brain energy. I left feeling it had been a waste of time.
Last Wednesday was a really long, non-stop day and all I wanted to do when I returned home was sink into the sofa with wine and a bit of  Bake Off. I didn't want to socialise, to "try" and achieve anything else that day, because I was fed up of trying. 
Tonight, after a good few days of illness, I made my way pale-faced, aching and knackered to my pottery class. Half way there, I started crying.
I didn't want to go to pottery class.
I so wanted to want to go, but I just didn't have the energy for it. I needed to switch off.
I wanted sofa and Bake Off.
Having let myself down, I turned the car around and drove home crying, feeling exhausted,  knowing that I have a really long day tomorrow, knowing that I have already taken time out today to try and recover, knowing I had a shit load of lesson planning still to do, a pile of dishes, cold bolognaise and homemade soup sitting on the stove getting colder, a knackered boyfriend and a daughter at home who I haven't put to bed myself for almost a week. I drove home.

Forcing myself to do a hobby isn't what having a hobby is all about. Sometimes, even hobbies feel heavy. Having a hobby shouldn't feel like this.
I don't know what the answer is, I'm sure that my boyfriend would advise me to push myself and go to my class regardless, because I'd be pleased I did once I got there he'd say. But when a hobby involves thinking creatively, when I've used up all my brain energy and I need to switch off, what was once an enjoyable hobby, feels more like a chore.
Sad face.

Friday, 23 September 2016

In defence of the "slummy mummies"

I recently read an article in the Sunday Express where Camilla Tominey openly criticises a "hip, new chaotic childcare craze." However, she's not talking about mums who neglect their children for hours on end to sit drinking in the pub, or mums who happily throw their children into the laps of near strangers in order to fuel their own social lives or beauty regimes. No, she's talking about mums who simply go to the supermarket "covered in Hobnob crumbs" and ridicules bloggers and writers such as The Unmumsy Mum who apparently "celebrates the art of letting children go 'feral.'"

On reading the article, I felt completely disappointed that in a parenting climate where nothing we do is right, where we are force-fed the "proper" way to feed, wean, clothe, play with and nurture our children, that another woman could stick yet another poker into the ribs of mothers.

For me personally, discovering blogs and books by writers such as Sarah Turner (The Unmumsy Mum) has been a breath of fresh air. After spending my pregnancy reading tons of "how to" books which tell you to "trust your instincts" however DO NOT do x, y and z under any circumstances and make sure that your children are in bed by 8pm as soon as they can open their eyes, I needed something to kick all these expectations right in the goolies. For me, that's what supportive, honest, soul revealing blogs and books do. And I feel human again.

I want true stories and mistakes and mis-haps. I want to hear that someone else let their child cover the sofa in petit filous for the sake of 10 minutes peace and quiet. I need to hear this stuff!

I want to argue that these accounts are not part of a "hip" craze of parenting at all, but are reflective of real life. Nowadays, us mums have a huge array of expectations to live up to, particularly in comparison to our predecessors who did not have the added expectation of going to work, whilst also being the chief caregiver to our children. We didn't have social media thrusting picture perfect photographs of picture perfect families and mummies in our faces which give us mountains of impossible standards to live up to. If I can find another mum who isn't going to judge me for going to the supermarket covered in hobnob crumbs, I want to give them a big high five.

I can remember being so exhausted in the early days that my boyfriend and I took our 3 month old food shopping with a big smudge of poo on her head. We had completely forgotten to wipe it off before our trip and living the haze of sleep deprivation, we didn't even notice what was so obviously noticeable when we were there. We felt terrible once we realised. Does this make me a "slummy mummy?!"

The last thing us "slummy mummies" need is yet more judgement and yet more standards to live up to whilst we juggle the huge demands placed on us by modern family life and modern living. We're still trying to make it in the working world on top of being mothers and for the SAHM mothers, they're battling their right to be able to stay at home with their children without judgement.

The article finishes by saying that "it isn't just children who need boundaries-parents do too" and yet when I talk to my grandmother about her experiences of motherhood, she often tells me how it was considered quite normal to add a drop of spirits to a babies bottle if they had a cold and of how she used to feed her babies a mixture of sugar and water during night feeds so that they eventually stopped waking for feeds. Apparently, it was all the rage to have your baby sleeping through the night as early as possible and formula feeding was considered a godsend when it was first introduced, crying it out was the "only way" and babies were given solids when they were just weeks old to fill their bellies up!

In my opinion, children have parents flocking around them, endeavouring to do the "right" thing by them; things couldn't be more different than they were 60 years ago. More boundaries and more expectations would turn us into loveless robots and children need to learn resilience, we're not perfect, but we are doing it well! I argue that endeavouring to do any better would be counter productive. If getting through the day involves feeding homework to the dog for the sake of a shorter to-do list or a glass of wine helps us savour a slice of sanity, then so be it, us slummy mummies are doing ok.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

10 things I like about my job

After my previous blog, which details some of the reasons I was dreading my return to the teaching world after 6 weeks of blissful summer holidays, a friend has challenged me to write another. I have been asked to produce a blog which outlines some of the positives of being a teacher today; initially, I felt pessimistic at the prospect, but I'm on board with the theory that we choose the way we perceive things.

I therefore decided to keep a log of the positives of being a teacher as they sprung to mind over the first couple of weeks of being back at school and I decided that I should aim for 10.

The first week back at work was actually much tougher than I'd prepared myself for as I was met with several unexpected challenges, a couple of which will probably continue to challenge me as the academic year continues. Finding 10 things I like about my job, whilst in the depths of negativity hasn't been the easiest thing to do, but actually finding 10 things, regardless how small has actually helped me gain more perspective. There are many bonuses to being a teacher, it's just that the school politics, paper work and endless goal post moving often over-shadows the good; it can also be difficult to step out of the contagious, negative pit once you're in it.

 There are positives, I've found some! However, whether or not they're worth staying in teaching for is another question that I for one need to ask myself.

10 things I like about my job:

1. In my classroom, I'm my own manager.
Aside from observed lessons, most of the time I get to choose what my classes do on a day to day basis and how we do it. Being a person who likes to be in control and enjoys the freedom of doing things my own way, it works quite well. Sometimes I can plan a lesson and then realise half way through that the students aren't engaging too well, so I can swap and change things as I see fit. The freedom is great. 

2. If I need to leave work at 3.30, most of the time, nobody is going to tell me that I can't.
Aside from the obligations and expectations of after-school clubs, meetings and paperwork, a lot of the time, I can leave school at 3.30 if I want to. This doesn't mean that I'd be comfortable with leaving school this early as it means I just have to return to the marking and the paperwork afterwards, however the freedom is there. 

3. Sometimes, the kids make me laugh.
Kids are hilarious. They really do say the funniest things and now and then a child will crease me up and it adds a bit of fun and warmth to the rest of the day.

4. I have a free laptop which the school pays for and repairs.
I don't get commission or overtime, but I do get a laptop which I'm allowed to take home and use as I need it. I use it for work mostly, but now and then I use it for my leisure, like writing blogs for example.

5. I get to be at home with my family more than I could in other jobs.
If one of us are ill, I can leave school at 3.30 should I need to a lot of the time, I also get to spend the holidays with my family. I do work over the holidays, but I can work from home and that's not the same as working at work. 

6. My day never drags and I hardly ever look at the clock.
Until teaching, I'd never had a job where I'd gone all day without counting down the hours until home time, it's actually the opposite on occasions as I look at the clock and wonder how on earth it 
can be so late in the day when I still have X, Yand Z to do. 

7. I don't have to wear a uniform.
What I find really strange about teaching is the lack of dress code at all. Most teachers dress smartly: suits, blouses, smart dresses. Some opt for the odd summer dress when they can, maxi dresses, sandals and there are always one or two teachers who come to work in what can only be described as "hippy clothes" covered in splashes of wild colour, knee high boots and tons of clinking jewellery. I'm all for freedom of expression and I like being able to choose and wear a nice outfit for work or, if I'm not feeling it, wrap up in a snuggly jumper and boots.

8. I'm learning all the time
Teachers don't know everything and we often have to research our own subject areas before we teach certain topics. This means that we're constantly learning and developing as topics, the curriculum and the syllabus changes. 

9. When a kid achieves something amazing in one of my lessons, it's the biggest reward ever.
I love it when I know I've helped a child achieve something. One child I taught once developed a love of books after I introduced him to a genre I thought he might like; he then went on to excel in my subject.

10. Now and then, I connect with a child on a more personal level and it can make a difference to their lives and to ours.
A child once gave me a card saying I'd been "like an angel" to him after I'd supported him through a difficult time. Little tokens of gratitude make all the difference, which unfortunately, in the teaching world, can be rare.

If any teachers have further positives to share, please comment at the bottom of my blog. A bit of positivity is perhaps something that we can all benefit from :)

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Why I don't want to go back to school

With less than a week to go until the return to school commences, I'm feeling somewhat miserable. With 6 years of teaching under my belt, I've become more aware of the true nature of the teaching profession and what it entails, so this year I'm feeling more cynical than ever.

If I'm being honest, as each fresh, academic year approaches, I'm usually feeling optimistic, bubbling with new ideas, classroom seating plans, creative classroom management strategies, but this year, I'm not. All too often my ideas are wrung to dry as they are dried out by the true hardship and slog of being a teacher in a stifling and bureaucratic education system and this truth appears to have taken an exhaustive toll on me.

I worry that if I'm feeling like this now, how will I get through the next year? I thought that smart working and savvy time planning could save me as I ploughed my way into the academic year 2015-2016, but this apparently wasn't the case. The psychological impact of being a teacher in the modern day is very real and very raw as we juggle the need to please our managers, the children and perhaps, our most difficult judges: the parents. I have no new time management strategies as I make my way into the academic year 2016-2017, I have no innovative classroom management techniques to save my sanity, I just have the knowledge and experience of the last 6 years to teach me to be kinder to myself and to continue to follow through with honest, good intentions.

These are the reasons I really don't want to go back to school:

I really don't want to go back to school because I'm worried about myself or my daughter being ill, resulting in my absence from work.
Unfortunately and very ironically, in the teaching profession teachers can be very unforgiving of other teachers, not all, but some. We all know how difficult it is to make the decision that you need to be absent from work, but teachers have to face the consequences when they return, whilst other teachers often have to pick up the slack by covering the lessons. The unbelievable guilt is all consuming, but when a teacher makes the decision that they need to be absent, it shouldn't be taken lightly, as they're sitting at home with a sick bucket next to them or smothered in poorly child emailing in lessons plans for cover lessons to be taught in their absence. These lessons often need to be planned in on top of whatever lessons they had planned to teach that day, therefore the process is time consuming and dreadfully difficult when dealing with bodily fluids and sick children.

Last year saw me take several days off work to be with my sick daughter, which were steeped in guilt on my part, whilst having to take a fortnight of absence for myself after I was diagnosed with an inner ear infection. When you walk into the staffroom on returning from a spell of absence whether it be for yourself or your child, you can't help noticing the staff who fail to ask if you or your child is feeling any better and you feel like shit and even more guilty for being ill. Whilst if it was your child who was ill, you feel guilty for feeling guilty. All in all, you just feel shit. I know I can't control illness and I know that the probability of me needing to take more absence from work this academic year is fairly likely.

Hardly something to look forward to.

I really don't want to go back to school in case I need the toilet.
One of the really shitty things (pardon the pun) about teaching is not being able to use the toilet when you need to. This is a particular problem when you suffer from conditions like IBS, IBD or cystitis.
As teachers, we are considered to owe a duty of care to our students and unfortunately, this often means that we are unable to leave the classroom unattended when answering to very normal calls of nature. We are also encouraged to educate the children to use their break times to go to the toilet and it is therefore difficult to expect them to do this if we can't! On the other hand, our breaks are often not breaks at all and we find it difficult to escape form our classrooms to get to the bathroom when children come knocking at your door to ask questions during break times.

For me, this issue creates huge anxiety. Especially as I suffer from a very aggravating bowel condition, but many would argue that aggravating, isn't debilitating and therefore I have no reason not to be able to do my job.
I have had to run out of my classroom to go to the toilet on numerous occasions and I do not feel guilty about it, however it makes me fearful; this brings me on to my next reason.

I really don't want to go back to school because teaching is unforgiving of anxiety.
Education doesn't care how much sleep you've had, what's going on at home, how you're feeling, how busy you are, or how anxious you feel about any of these things, because children still need teaching and that becomes the priority. Rightly so that the teaching of children ought to be the priority of education (others may argue differently) but nobody allows for how the teacher may be feeling or coping under the buckling cloud that teaching creates. Some days, I'm anxious. Some days, I have a mountain to climb and I wonder how I'm going to manage it all, when random, unpredicted challenges get thrown in on top and my anxiety kicks in.

It's not only education and the demands of teaching that are unforgiving of anxiety or fear in a teacher, but the children themselves who often can't pick up on a teacher's tension or let's face it, who often don't listen to instructions and chuck in a load of unnecessary questions on top of the workload.

I really don't want to go back to school because the workload affects my mental health.
The workload is the workload regardless of how much sleep we've had or how stressed out we are, we can't give ourselves an easier day if we're struggling because the children we teach may have other ideas! We can't hide away or bury our head in the sand on the days we're not coping because the same amount of lessons need teaching and the same deadlines remain.

No matter how much I try to plan and prepare, sometimes stuff happens and we can't prepare for it, that's life. But this has huge consequences for my mental health and sometimes, nervous exhaustion kicks in.

I really don't want to go back to school because I have a huge workload and nowhere to work.
Being a part-time teacher means that we often don't get a classroom to call our own; I understand that this is sometimes the unfortunate nature of the job, however nobody then suggests where exactly we are supposed to do our work. With no desk space to call our own, the "frees" we get to catch up on our data crunching, lesson planning, marking and admin are left feeling somewhat uncertain. Where exactly do we go to complete our work when we're not teaching?

I really don't want to go back to school because it drains me.
Forget the physical workload (which is bad enough!) it's the constant repetitive questions, the persistent noise, the low level disruptive behaviour in need of regular challenging and the consequent way it sucks up my mood and my mind. It's this. The way I forget children's names because I'm listening to one child explain something to me whilst another is asking questions, whilst another is out of his seat for the third time and I've spoken to him twice before and I'm trying to catch his eye, whist taking the register and delivering the starter. It's this.

I really, really don't want to go back to school on Monday.

Monday, 22 August 2016

My values... Just incase you were wondering

Following on from my last post, just incase you were wondering, here are my values. Definitely a worth while exercise to un-pick your own. See my post "Hopelessness vs U happiness" for instructions on how to unpick them.

 1) Freedom- Free to express myself, freedom of responsibility at times, freedom of choice, freedom of taste, free to be me.

2) Stability- Stable home, stable relationship. Where I want to be.

3) Trust- Honesty, integrity, trust in responsibility, trust in my relationships.

4) Creativity- Making things, writing, able to use my artistic eye.

5) Space- Personal and mental space and distance

6) love and nurturing- to be loved, looked after, cared for, appreciated, to love with passion.

7) Purpose- Need to strive, need to grow, make a difference.

8) Independence- Be in control of me, my life, determination.

9) variety- Things not being too samey

10) Connections- communication, intimacy, socialising, friends

11) Fun and Enjoyment- light of heart, humour

12) Success- Producing, writing, creating things for people, a desire to be well received.

And after looking at my values a few times, I felt that something was missing. I get really angry when the house is a mess, when things don't look neat and tidy, or even when things just look plain and dowdy. At first, I thought that the value was "perfectionism" but I then realised that I often find beauty in broken, misplaced or tired things. That's when I realised that the missing value was "beauty."

13) Beauty- a need for things to look nice, appealing to the eye, interesting, something to admire.

The definitions just help me understand what each value means to me, you may have the same value but it could mean something entirely different to you.

It really has helped me enjoy life a bit more to focus more on what I value in life, something that appears so simple can make all the difference.

Hopelessness vs Unhappiness

I'm writing this post largely for myself, to gain a better understanding of where I'm at mentally; I could have just written it in my private journal, but thought it might be something others can take from too.

Shortly after my daughter was born I felt utterly hopeless; I had no zest for life anymore, the days passed by as one big, hefty blur, I hated myself and everyone else around me and I was struggling to deal and make sense of my emotions. Seeking help from mental health charity, Mind was by far the best decision I could have made in aiding my recovery. My mental health improved hugely as I embraced the weekly 1:1 counselling sessions with a wonderful counsellor who gave a safe place to share all of my feelings, worries and fears. The mental state and turmoil I was experiencing was no doubt a product of mental illness associated with post-natal depression, although I believe this began during my pregnancy.

Once I had completed a counselling programme with Mind I felt much, much better. I returned to work from my maternity leave around this time last year in relatively good spirits and felt ready to take on my new life as both mum and teacher. The first couple of months were tough, but I was feeling strong and I was performing very well in the classroom, achieving "outstanding" in my lesson observations and producing good results.

Then, at around Christmas time last year, I began recognising similar feelings of  discomfort. My daughter had suffered several bouts of illness, my boyfriend had a recurring chronic infection which was making him poorly, resulting in him needing time off work and I was sometimes going to work and teaching children on little more than 2 hours of sleep.

I was at breaking point.

Christmas came and went and I hated every second as I didn't have the energy for people, for present buying and for pretending that I was happy. Because I wasn't, I really wasn't happy,

With a higher awareness of my mental health following my issues with PND, I made the decision to seek out a private counsellor to help me build myself back up again. I thought it may only take a few sessions of talking therapy, of me getting to the route of my feelings to put me back on track. However, quite a few sessions and 3 counsellors later, I was feeling no better, I certainly didn't feel "hopeless" as I had in the PND days, but I still couldn't understand why I wasn't "happy."

Until I met with a friend for a coffee (ok an apple juice, I don't drink coffee or tea....  bleurgh) and she told me about a "life coach" she had been seeing. It wasn't counselling, but about working out what you want in life and getting to know yourself more. I made no hesitation in making the call.

I have now had around 5 or 6 sessions of "life coaching" and it has been truly life changing, just as counselling had been life changing for me when I'd needed that. On speaking to my life coach about my lack of recent success with counselling, she explained that there is only so far counselling can go and I now realise that I was ready for the "next stage" in getting my life on track. First of all, my life coach and I have been working on me, working out who I am and what I want from life. This is actually much more difficult than it sounds as expectations, other priorities, other people and busy lives often get in the way of getting to know and understand ourselves.

Our first task was to uncover my values. My life coach explained to me that people often become dis-satisfied with their lives when they're not living life in accordance with their values; our values are what makes us who we are and we're all different. They're made up of genetic and environmental factors, we can't change them, they're just who we are. The way to uncover a value is by looking at what makes you really happy or what makes you feel extremely angry; look at where your passions lie. When values are hindered, it affects our emotions.

We uncovered 12 values during our session.

Looking at my values, I could see exactly why I'd been feeling unhappy, aside from the sleep deprivation and juggling teaching alongside motherhood, I was not honouring my values in many ways. Sometimes, it can't be helped straight away when many of your values are being hindered, but making small adjustable changes can make the world of difference. One value that we discovered was being majorly hindered was my value for creativity. I wasn't making the time to write enough, I wasn't creating or producing artwork (a hobby I dip in and out of) and teaching was stifling my creativity. It was the creative lessons, displays and projects that I gushed about during my session with the life coach and yet most of my time as a teacher is spent inputting mind-numbing data, getting into psychological wars with teachers and pupils alike and ticking boxes (metaphorically speaking). It was no wonder I was feeling low since returning to work as a teacher, whilst trying to be a good mum.

Since then, I've been reflecting on my values regularly, ensuring that I'm honouring them as best I can and that doesn't mean 100% as every day life doesn't always allow for it and I'm feeling much better. I've accepted me and what I'm all about, I know what I need to do to feel happier and I'm not "really happy" yet but I am happier and that is great.

Sometimes life is shit and we feel massively shit and hopeless; that is depression as I remember it. But when we're unhappy, it doesn't necessarily mean that we' re depressed and in need of medical intervention, sometimes we just need to look at our values and ask ourselves whether we're living our lives in accordance with who we truly are. It sounds quite wise reading this paragraph back again, but believe me, until life coaching, I hadn't a clue about any of this! But it's one of the most valuable lessons I've learned, value your values!

Monday, 15 August 2016

The No-napper

Friends with children older than my daughter have spoken about the disappearance of nap-time and the impact this subsequently has on the day. I've empathised greatly with the thought of no toddler nap to pull myself together half way through the day, but I've also thought that I have atleast a few months of nap times to enjoy before they're gone altogether. This thought has been based on my own comprehensive study which consisted of asking loads of friends and family members with children at what age their nap times ceased to exist.
2.5 years was the average.

I have tried to think about how I'm actually going to pull myself together half way through the day when my daughter decides to stop sleeping after her lunch time and I have failed to think of a solution. On that, I've then drawn the conclusion that I don't need to worry about it just yet as I have around 6 months of nap times left to enjoy, based on the average of my comprehensive study.

With this in mind and 6 weeks of summery nap times to enjoy, I've planned activities to fit around nap time, even split the day in to 2 halves so that my boyfriend and I can enjoy our own free time. We even planned in nap time dates for ourselves which included wine lunches, long walks and even naps for ourselves. Our daughter has been following a predictable nap time pattern for almost 12 months now, it's not likely to change just yet, we thought.

Wrong again.

Having just turned 2, my little one has decided that day time naps are no longer for her. I am learning more and more to expect nothing where little ones are concerned; the minute you think you've Sussed them out or mapped out their routine to fit your own needs, they just laugh in your face and change everything.

I'm not ready to lose nap time. I haven't thought up my contingency plan, I don't know how to keep going non-stop with Mr Tumble ringing through my ears all day, or not being able to leave the room to take a well-earned toilet break without piercing screams or demands for my attention, I don't know if I have it in me to spend the entire day making silly noises and speaking toddler-speak without a break to communicate with adults at some point during the day.

I feel tired just thinking about it.

I'm not ready to lose nap time. My read-a-chapter time, my private lunch time, my social media binge time, my Netflix time. It's not fair. I'm not ready. I find myself hoping that this is just a phase, that nap time isn't over for good, but I've also learned that where children are concerned, the least you expect, the least likely you are to be disappointed....

Monday, 8 August 2016

Potty Un-training

As my boyfriend and I have "6 weeks off" we thought it might be a good idea to get our 2 year old potty trained 'ready' for our return to the teaching-Pit in September, when neither of us will have the time or energy to apply our minds to anything remotely difficult. The down side to this is that our time "off" becomes a bit of a slog, although this realisation has only dawned on us within the last few days.

The first 2 days of potty training went extremely well, our little star was pooing and weeing on the potty like a potty trooper and we were sharing the good news with anyone who would listen.

Then it stopped.

The novelty of the potty wore off and we have been trying to sell our house whilst masking the odours of urine on the carpet of our lounge with anything strong enough to battle it. There's been the emptying the contents of the potty on the carpet incident, the pooing on the floor incident, the splashing in the wee incidents-a-plenty, the wee on the potty through the pants incidents atleast 6 times a day and the constant weeing. She doesn't stop weeing, every 10 minutes she needs a wee. Inbetween the every 10 minutes Our Shining Star isn't weeing, she's telling us that she needs a wee and we're waiting patiently for her to do one.

We're knackered.

Pull-ups are great. We'll do the potty thing for a couple of hours, then nip out for a while with our Potty Trooper in pull-ups with the intention of asking her whether she wants a wee every hour or so, but we quite happily forget and let her happily wee herself in her pull-ups; it's a blissful time for us. We don't mention it to each other either and just gladly let it happen. Ignorance is bliss.

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Potters Wheel

As part of my Summer 2016 plan to be more selfish and organise less "family-friendly" activities, I've joined a pottery group. I've actually been on the list to join the class for around 5 months; they only have a handful of places which have proven to be extremely popular, with some members never leaving!

I felt extremely lucky to get an email offering me a place.

Being a creative person, I attended my first class naively, with a spring in my step, thinking that I would morph into a natural potter over night and within months maybe buy my own potters wheel and begin making beautiful, little pieces of handmade pottery to sell. I envisioned a website, lots of instagram followers and a pathway out of teaching... hooray!


I was greeted by Master Potter with a question "Have you done this before?"
I boasted about the lovely bowl I'd made at a pottery day at a Wedgewood factory some months ago. He laughed at me and smiled, "Ok, well watch me and then have a go at making that bowl again."

It seemed so easy, watching him massage the clay with his hands, creating defined shapes within seconds, his body and expression so at ease with his work. I couldn't wait to crack on and create my bowl.

Move over Master Potter, let me show you what I can do.

My first mistake was covering the clay in water before I'd even had chance to throw it on to the wheel, miserably and pathetically it slid right off the wheel and Master Potter laughed in delight "first lesson: we throw the clay on dry." Blushing, I retrieved my second piece of clay and threw it onto the wheel and began cranking up the speed using the foot pedal, only my foot wasn't positioned properly and Master Potter had to stop me once again. His brash, sarcastic, yet friendly demeanour had me feeling a little anxious at this point and I knew I was about to make plenty of laughable mistakes. Master Potter stayed close by to save the clay from drowning amongst many other harmful creative things I did to it and in the end, we collectively produced a goblet shaped piece of clay. Ok, Master Potter produced a goblet shaped piece of clay, despite the incompetent contributions I made.

"Try again now, by yourself" said Master Potter and so I did with a nervous, shaky confidence.
"Tea, coffee?" He asked.

"Do you do water?" I asked nervously and pathetically, regretting the ridiculous question before I'd spoken the final syllable.

" It's amazing, water comes out of the tap right behind you!" Responded Master Potter. I knew I was going to like him, but not yet, because at this point, I thought Master Potter was a dick.

I didn't manage to create another piece of pottery and I was glad to be taken off the wheel to have a go at hand moulding the clay. There were other potters doing the same thing, all avoiding the wheel for similar reasons to my own.

I left my first pottery class feeling a bit stupid. Pottery making is a wonderful but very specialised skill and I saw many talented potters creating the most beautiful shapes out of clay with ease; I felt as though I was a million miles away from what they were achieving. I hope Master Potter can chuckle at my naivety, although I'm guessing he's seen it before. I feel daunted about my next class, worried that I'll never be able to quite grasp the art of pottery, worried that I'll settle for making clay shapes with my hands (another wonderful skill) but that's not the reason I started the class in the first place. Most of all, I hope I can make mistakes without falling to pieces (a bit like my clay creations)!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Dream House

  As the school holidays are now in full swing along with birthdays, days out, pretend-you're-loving-it-instagram posts, weight gain and money-splurging, my boyfriend and I have had much more time to focus on selling our house. We took a gamble when we put off marketing our own home whilst casually 'browsing' the housing market ourselves, only to stumble across Dream House. We spent the next 2 weeks running around like crazed lunatics: painting walls, sprucing up the front door (it's all about  curb appeal apparently) and actually getting our hands dirty taming the hedges and shrubs in the garden.

Within 2 weeks of spotting Dream House, we were For Sale and Dream House still was too. With a high five, my boyfriend and I have waited patiently for an offer on our house after several viewings. Today, we've had 2 viewers come by and share their enthusiasm for placing an offer on our house and my boyfriend and I have spent the day feeling somewhat excited at the prospect of selling in time and becoming the proud owners of Dream House.

Showing potential buyers around our home has been a strange experience for us both: just today, my boyfriend asked me if I too wondered why we were selling our house after highlighting all of the positives to prospective buyers. I laughed and said I'd felt the same way, but then pointed out that if we're managing to sell it back to ourselves, then we must be doing a really good job of selling it!!

This afternoon we went to see Dream House again, knowing that nobody is currently living in the property as the vendors have left, we pulled into the driveway and looked out onto the garden. It didn't feel quite the same as it did the first time, we noticed that the slope of the garden could propose potential issues, that there were loads of huge conifers that would need chopping down because they were so close to the house and that actually, the lawned part of the garden was quite far away from the house. We then shared the few reservations we had both had about the layout of the inside of the house. We shook off our thoughts on the journey home and found ways around and over the little hurdles of Dream House, they were all aesthetic after all.

Dream House however had begun to feel more like House.

Bizarrely, my boyfriend browsed at the house on the internet this evening and bolted upstairs shortly afterwards to deliver the news that Dream House was apparently now SOLD STC. We looked at each other shocked and a little silent, in an effort to judge each others reaction, at which point we both said "it's actually ok." Maybe we have lost our one and only "Dream House," but even Dream House had it's flaws. Sometimes, things seem to happened for a reason and us driving to the house just this afternoon and feeling somewhat differently about it really helped soften the blow.

 You can guarantee that we'll now receive an offer on our own home and be desperately browsing the internet in search of our next "Dream House!" Who knows, maybe the sale of Dream House the first will fall through and we'll end up with our original flawed Dream House.

Telling ourselves that everything happens for a reason is a bit cliché, but maybe, just maybe it does.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hardworking teachers and big hearts

This week, I have been lucky enough to spend some time working with teachers from other departments,  offering a range of activities to the children within our school.  I enjoy opportunities like this to branch out from the crevasse of my own classroom whilst getting to know other members of staff as they peer out from the crevasse of theirs.

One lady I am working with is a teacher I have admired since I began teaching at my current school; she really goes above and beyond the call of duty and instigates many social activities between staff. However, she avoids any sort of "clique" and is inclusive of everyone. She soldiers on with what often appears like an unwavering optimism; we all envy her faultless dedication to her work and efficiency. I'd never be able to work that hard.

Anyway, this week she appeared exhausted and deflated, pessimistic even. She had clearly been reflecting on her many years of teaching and for the first time shared her regrets about working so hard over the years. She said that she had spent "hours and hours marking key stage 3 assessments" for the children to glance their eyes over the feedback she had given for 2 minutes before their attention was diverted elsewhere. She went on to say that the worst part of the process is that "nothing changes, the feedback makes very little difference." She appeared quite sad about the hours of her life she had lost through the mundane, marking of endless pieces of work for seemingly no benefit. She then went on to tell me about the amount of money she had spent out of her own pocket on materials she felt were required to perform her work well.

Her words made me think: is all of that time and energy really worth being "faultless" at your job? Or is being "ok" ok? Being a great teacher won't help you gain more friends, infact you'll probably lose a few, it will cost you financially no doubt and precious, precious time will be lost. Perhaps cutting corners really is the key to surviving teaching?

I think about the posters, resources and stationary I've invested in myself to help my students and to spruce up my own classroom with in the last few years; was it really worth it? Did anyone thank me? Did it change a lot? No, I guess it didn't. The posters were ripped from my classroom walls as soon as I entered my maternity leave or thrown into the annual school skip, or barely acknowledged and lost by students, only to be replaced by the good intentions of a replacement teacher who experienced the same thing.

Teachers often set out with big hearts, that's why they become teachers in the first place, but often within the stifled, bureaucratic ruins of education, the good intentions in our hearts eventually gets lost.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

6 weeks of Summer approaches

Sitting in my garden during nap time, abundant and busy with nature, basking in some glorious and rare British sunshine, I feel the end of the academic year 2015-2016 approaching. Being my usual tormenting self, I reflect on the year that has passed and beat myself with a stick for the things I haven't achieved.

There was no promotion; I never managed to mark and hand back the last piece of homework my top set produced; I had too many days off sick, whether it be my own ill health or that of my ear and chest infection prone daughter's; I didn't get around to finishing off my displays or decorate my classroom with enough brilliant work; I divulged in too many school-canteen-custard-smothered-puddings and I didn't speak to adults enough, choosing my safe and solitary classroom to spend my breaks alone. All of this aside, I did survive another year, just about and my first year as a part-time teaching career-mum. It could have been a lot worse. In terms of the teaching and learning that went on in my classroom, I've done a good job and I know it's this that's important.

Teachers live for the Summer holidays, many of us atleast. However, the last 2 years have taught me that the 6 week "holiday" isn't exactly all it cracked up to be, particularly once you have children! Many teaching and SAHM mothers I know have told me that they even "dread" the holidays, regardless of them being "off" for 6 whole weeks. 

I can only empathise. Going to work when I have a toddler at home often feels like a well earned break; it's even better when you get to talk to real adults. Then there's the added pressure of 'entertaining' toddlers; always feeling like you're doing a crap job of keeping them occupied, comparing your own experiences with other parents' social media snaps. 

I often create a social media album called "6 weeks of Summer" to capture as many moments of the holidays as possible; I even did this before my child came along. At the end of the holiday, I look back with smiles and longing at the captured moments, but I'm also knackered.  Absolutely knackered. This year is going to be more knackering than ever now that my little beauty has entered the phase of toddler-dom; we even have potty training to look forward to! The photographs I take are little snippets of nicety in between tantrums, arguing with my partner about what activity we're doing today; snippets of life taken an hour after I've walked off in a huff or after I've screamed the house down because it's filthy and more time in it means more filth to clean.

As my partner is also a teacher, I will often expect him to take on half the crappy cleaning work during his 6 weeks off, but I often find that he engages in leisurely pursuits of his own and "forgets" that there are actual jobs to do. When this falls on my shoulders, I become dragon-like. I often end the "holiday" despising the dragon lady I've become and happily skip back to work again by the beginning of September. 

I hope the Great British 6 week holiday is different this year; I'm preparing. I'm going to speak to my partner on the first weekend about doing his fair share; I'm going to embrace time at home, rather than filling time with endless activities in attempt to match the instagram fun of fellow teachers. Instead I'm going to tell myself that between their happy snaps are tantrums and outbursts, even from the adults! Whilst family time is important, I'm going to prioritise time alone and time for me, Afterall there are two of us to share the heavy work of toddler-dom. I want to do lots of walking; nowhere far, lap up the views on offer metres from my back door step. Just this afternoon, I stood to appreciate the beauty of the semi-rural walks right at the back of my home. 

Maybe this holiday, I'll even upload a mid-tantrum instagram shot to show a truer side to life as a family during the 6 weeks of Summer!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Taming the young

A teacher I hold in high regard once told me that he'd given up on trying to give quality education in return for giving quality "edutainment" in order to pass his classroom observations. "This is what they are really asking for" he laughed, uncomfortably.

My role as a classroom "entertainer" has developed somewhat over the last few years and my lessons are more entertaining than they used to be. But I can't help but feel cynical having ticked the box on my observation form (which of course comes under some other name like "engaging" or "interesting"). Most of my students may have been engaged during the lesson, most of them probably enjoyed it in some way, shape or form, but to create such an entertaining and engaging lesson requires hours of preparation. Hours and hours that can only be "used up" for this purpose every once in a while, because it takes so much out of you, your time and your family life.

I once attended a wonderful course called "Outstanding teaching" and low and behold, over the course of the day, I was taught how to become an outstanding teacher by an outstanding Teacher. She was unmistakably a wonderful teacher with some great ideas, but at the end she explained that outstanding lessons are impossible to teach all of the time because of the amount of preparation required to create them.

So the "outstanding" lessons that we fabricate to pass our observations are not true reflections of our everyday  teaching at all.

If this is the case then what is the point of observations? Why does ofsted implement such an impossible, unreasonable criteria for us to "pass" the teacher test? The test is not reflective of our everyday teaching; we would have to burn ourselves out to achieve such consistent standards so why does it exist in the first place?

My daily classroom battles consist mainly of challenging low level disruptive behaviour: twiddling with the blinds on the window, pen tapping, book bashing, nail painting with marker pens, note passing, fidgeting, demands for attention such as needless questioning, shouting out, chatter and lack of focus. Getting a child to sit still and straight for any length of time is a challenge, whilst taming the energy of 30 children to focus and control themselves in the modern day is draining.

During a time where travel opportunities are endless, where children are constantly entertained by ever-changing modern technological advances, where children live in a graphics infused world of make-believe and screens, how is a Teacher supposed to compete with this, entertain and engage them? Some of these children have travelled to places I can only ever dream about and experienced things that I've never even heard of. Yet within the 4 walls of my uninspired classroom I put every child down the same conveyer belt of education, following the syllabus, marking their written work and yet the world gives them and cries out for so much more.

I find it ironic that in the many modern advances of technology and of living, I am still expected to educated over-stimulated children within the confines of 4 walls, expecting all of my identically clad students to sit still, to focus, to pay attention. Outside of the classroom, family and modern-society demands freedom, individuality and self-expression; how do teachers compete with this in the ethos of the classroom today?

Every year we receive a fresh intake of faces from the nearby primary schools and every year the restlessness that sits before me grows and strengthens. It is not their fault as children are only acclimatised to what they know and how they live. What is the answer? Do children need to learn self control or is it time that education evolved to fulfill the hyper-stimulating needs of the current generation?

Ofsted are aware of this higher need in the classroom, but they lay this burden at the feet of teachers who already have huge mountains to climb. They lay unreasonable expectations in our paths, knowing that they are not achievable, knowing that we will only be able to meet the criteria in order to pass the test. So what happens to the children? The restless future generations of children that require more stimulation and engagement than ever? Many of them become disengaged, bored, tired and uninspired.

Now and then, I flip a 'lesson' on it's head and we opt for something a little more reflective of real life; we talk about relationships, politics, government, managing a budget, family life or nature. For a time, I see them engage with a lesson that has had little preparation and added entertainment, because we speak about real things and we all open up. These life affirming lessons are the ones I'm sure they'll go on to remember as they make their way through life and it's challenges; these are the lessons I remember from my own time at school.

Taming the young to sit still, to concentrate, to exhibit self control, for me is the hardest battle of the classroom. There is one of me and 30 of them, 30 individuals full of super-charged modern energy craving high-level stimulation. Modern advances that accompany their 'real' lives just don't coincide with the calm, focused behaviours required in a class room environment. Taming the young is hard work; our methods of education are out of date and our children are generations ahead of it.

Is it then acceptable to expect our teachers to tame our children to adapt to the confines of a classroom environment? Or are teachers destined for a career of further "edutainment" to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the young?

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

When I grow up

On a recent family outing to an adventure playground, I overheard an older lady make a point that I've heard mentioned in various forms over the last few years: You never lose the child inside you. Even with her old bones and aching muscles, I could see a yearning on her face that so many of us can only relate to when we watch children playing with the care-free zest we once did.

The way that life disables us from living as we age is a sickening truth to digest.

In a writing task I initiated with a class recently, they were given a series of questions and unfinished sentences to get them thinking creatively and imaginatively. One of the incomplete sentences stated simply, "When I grow up I will..." and this statement for many students, formed the basis of an exciting discussion about the future.

If I had been given that very statement at aged 12, I doubt I would have been able to finish the sentence; I may have written something down to fit in, but honestly, I hadn't a clue what I wanted to do. I think back to 12 year old me and wonder what she would think if I could tell her that I would eventually become a Teacher, would she be happy? I'm not too sure that she would. I'm not sure it would have filled 12 year old me with much enthusiasm or inspiration back then, regardless of what I know about the profession now. Growing up always appeared such an attractive prospect at age 12: the freedom to make decisions, a world of choice being so readily available, the idea of money and parties, driving, alcohol and the option to eat fast food whenever I should desire.

All of these things are great; freedom and independence is liberating, but of course, responsibility comes hand in hand with independence. At age 12, you somehow have this confidence in your future adult self that you will find responsibility a doddle and that you will know exactly what you want to do with your life; that you will somehow navigate your life into a safe and exciting destination with ease. I think back to 12 year old me who had no idea of what she wanted to do or be when she grew up and I know that the child inside lives on. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

I know that I love taking my child to the park and jumping on the swing alongside her to blow away all of my responsibilities for a moment or two, I know that when she has her first trampoline, I'll be eager to get on it myself, I know that licking the bowl after making cornflake cakes is just as fun as it used to be. What better proof is there that the child inside lives on?

Maybe if I could sit next to 12 year old me now, pen poised in a similar lesson to the one I taught recently, I would tell her that when she grows up she will want to do all of the things that already make her happy. That when she grows up she will enjoy playing on the swings, collecting shells on the beach, she'll still love glitter pens, singing into the hairbrush and reading and writing stories.

I also know that I put far too much stock in the future grown up me now who will at some point make the decision to break away from teaching in the pursuit of something more fulfilling and fun. I feel guilty in writing that, as what could be more fulfilling than teaching the children of our future? But I guess that's another blog entry. I know that when I grow up and grow old, I'll be happy to have lived a successful life, but all I'll really want to do is to play on the adventure playground.

The Juggling Joke

Nothing could have prepared me for the juggling act of teaching and parenting; teaching part-time couldn't be more full-time and parenting doesn't currently allow for much sleeping on the job.
I'm exhausted.
One allows little head space for the other and I long for physical activity to give me the opportunity to switch off; thinking dominates my time. By the end of the day, when teaching lessons, marking, data crunching, planning lessons, chasing homework, detentions, after school clubs, cooking, meal time, playtime, bath time, bed time is over, I struggle to face the physical activity I so long for and crumble under a duvet before 9pm. I'm mentally drained and I've no head space left for the world, I also need to sleep before the long wake-up calls of the night begin.
I've so little head space for thought in fact, that I even have to cut my blog entries short.