Hobbies – and Work: Don’t Let Your Job Break the Seesaw!

University is a new chapter in life. Close school: open socialising, parties and lectures, of course! After sixth year, I was totally – and utterly – DONE with carrying round Costa cups, chasing after first years and scribbling ‘tick the box’ assignments. The days of fifth year saw my writing wrist almost in a sling… from studying for my grades… but sixth year made my hand rather floppy. Overdoing the study-life balance was apparently worth it because: “there would never be anything harder in your life.” Wow. Oh. Wow. Most of my hobbies were thrown into a dusty-box during that exam year. Education mattered; nothing else hit the centre of the dart board. Upon entering sixth year with grades in the basket, hobbies started up again – but my interest was lower; socialising was higher. I knew that by next Summer, most of my after-school activities would no longer be continued. Why not, then, spend time an increasing amount of time with your peers? After all, S6 was our final year as a bunch. We might bloom together by chilling, chatting and checking that every school bucket list item had been ticked off.

I was wrong. Maybe some of my teachers did reinstate a few too many times that taking what is easy to bag those As is the best way – but I should have thought, carefully thought and deeply thought. Having a blog at school would have been an asset!. The changes in my personal stances and my professional opinions can be followed through my e-Portfolio, however my school days have none of that. That’s if you don’t count my Leavers’ Book signatures! Nevertheless, the point is that I work best when something is a little too-hard. My squirrel would rather reach out for the more delicious nut further away than pick all around. Many people are that thinking, even if it’s risky.

But, the year spent studying for my National 5 H.E, Higher Spanish, Higher music and A.H. French was not a leap away. Or, a couple of steps away. The subjects were academically invigorating at points; however I was accustomed with how to pass the exams (apart from H.E… my starter dish face-planted into the oven door!) The general advice was taken on by myself – instead, I should have chosen new ventures. What about P.E.? Then, wasn’t DT worth taking? English… the eclipsis tells you my regret for the full stop at Higher! There is nothing new in wanting to make amendments to your past: forever, humans moan of their mistakes. Simply stated: moving out of my academic home would have made the transition to university – My and the professional life – a piece of fruit. I refuse to write cake: it does nothing for me apart from a five-minute mouthful of joy.

Now, after starting my full-blown scientific reflection, I’ve started to understand my difficulty with the work-life balance on placement. And, why less emphasis must be on… passing exams or putting scores through items on a list. Out of 14.something years of education, fifth year (that exam-testing one) somehow associates itself with the happy-machine in my brain. Not that first year of university wasn’t enjoyable, but my penultimate school year was gleefully busy. First year university was ultra-quiet during semester one: yet, the second part cut down my free-time as quickly as forests are destroyed around Christmas. I wish that I had set-up my life like fifth year. Cram studying in university term one does nothing for you and everything for Red Bull. Then… over teacher preparation… coke loves that. Yes, I arose after four hours sleep on my first-year placement – and then forced a fizzy can’s contents down me to see me to the bell. Not healthy – and never AGAIN. Sorry, lack of sleeps make you write bad sentences (joking, 8 hours is my sleep ‘silent jam’). Let’s consider fifth year for the *insert a millions number* time. Even though the Higher exam year counted, the pressure is reality. The workplace doesn’t accept errors or chill-time – and so must education teach us that. Money cannot be laid like chicken eggs. Nonetheless, too much focus on work can result in sleep deprivation. In my case (at least) the eyelids gained extra muscle on first-year placement.

Staying up to finish that piece even though my duvet was crying: put Miss Smith in Harry Potter’s ‘naughty’ cupboard. Unhealthy lifestyle, yes it was. Sustainable: not at all. Everyone says that your teaching placement is never like the real job. Apparently, it’s not imperative to write lesson plans for every lesson. Post—it notes, you’re a teacher’s secret weapon. And, no-one stays up to eleven filling out paperwork. I don’t know, but somehow I feel the profession could turn into those never-ending jobs. Placement paperwork is the same as the real teacher’s work: no caster-sugar from Tesco’s, thanks! Switching off from work can be tricky, but we must discipline ourselves to do so. At times, it may be necessary to work overtime or mark to midnight… but that should occur little (and not too often). I remember thinking that my school class were my life. Eat. Sleep. Mark – and repeat. However, putting everything aside for your job reduces your ability to effectively teach. Being productive, it’s a priority. Being clear, it’s the aim. Being me, it’s equally important. In order to uphold the GTC Standards, we need to maintain a work-life balance. And it can exist: sorry, rubbish to those who say it does not! Hobbies allow us to develop other skills which we can transfer to the classroom! Isn’t that a form of CPD?

On that note, my university hobbies have altered. I luckily made it through the (rather picky) army medical to join the university army reserve core. The training given to us is the same – or so they claim – as that of the authentic reserves but without a ‘true attestation.’ War countries… deploying me there? Not for now as we, the university bunch, are essentially vegetarian soldiers. We have a normal training diet but the meaty stuff (live fire in a war location) is substituted with our degree. Practising the teacher-stare takes up enough time in the library: enough said. The opportunity to receive army training couldn’t be skipped, although. Spending time helping at a Café and bookshop lets me play ‘bubble catch’ – or recite my alphabet – but I needed more to do. I ought to keep busy so that second semester placement (and the 9-5 life) doesn’t push me for coffee too much! And, extra activities are vital in la vida.

Hobbies sit in the second rank after your studies. Education must be saluted first! Scream that, blast such an opinion through a mega-phone or let a giant whisper such words to me: my bones may rattle but they certainly have enough calcium not to snap. (Blue milk, you are a wise drink choice!) Extra-curricular activities balance out your personality – and teachers, please “lest we forget” that along with our solders. It’s (only a fortnight – without the e or capital ‘f’) away from the penultimate month before Christmas. Santa signs will soon be as common as road signs; Christmas tree fairy lights will add some more light along with traffic lights! No elf will stop me from reflecting on my hobbies this year. Everyone sat in their primary class and thought: ‘does my teacher live in a cupboard?’ The question has been asked. Repeated. And maybe even written in an assignment. Hint, hint: SQA Higher English makers, imagine how many teabags would be saved by laughs. A comical discussion always arises when pupils find out that there is a gate out of the school, a road and a path to your front door. There is life out of the school grounds!

Teachers’ own interests can significantly affect their classroom practice. Nowadays, students certainly still refer to their teachers by their surname; however, other formalities fail to follow through in schools of this relaxed generation. On placement last semester, Miss Smith (that’s me during the professional hours) realised that children should be paid to work for Sherlock Holmes. That’s eleven-year olds gaining employment from the top detective: highly impressive! In the length of my observation week with a primary six class, all the students could have composed a profile that an author could use to turn into an auto-biography. Being aware of how children can be tagged with the adjective of ‘curious’ (sorry nosy, you’re a cheeky synonym) left me wanting to hide in a suitcase. The zip came undone quickly because: SPR goal 2.1.4 is more than a number needing a neat tick next to it. Experience – and using Schon’s reflection in-action during lessons – was invaluable in demonstrating the importance of a work-life balance for effective classroom practice.

Hobbies, we must remember, make us who we are. You remember. I remember. We all remember that one activity which kept our brains cells’ smiling. The ‘little’ break that eased off the pain of memorising ‘je, tu, il/elle’ conjugations or the fact there is ‘a rat’ in separate. (Isn’t it amusing that animals can be found in words?! A linguistic term will no doubt cover that.) Nevertheless, teachers have a duty to help set-up, run and inspire children to engage in activity groups held out of school hours. Maybe ‘duty’ is a little too soft: it’s the bonus of the profession. My first-year module (on societal values) explored the disparity across the city between children. Monetary, family and community issues can all prevent after-school time from being spent effectively e.g. at Rainbows, an orchestra or running group. An hour a week (that is not X-box centred) could be the pass in a violin exam. And who knows, the child may exercise their fingers to make a living one day? Job-hunting is not a single-digit year old concern, however! Ensuring students uphold a positive self-esteem whilst growing up is imperative: teachers can lead activities to help their pupils’ emotional development. Dimech and Seiler (2011) found that: “Children practising team sports exhibited a decrease in social anxiety over time.” Rindl, cited in Jewel 2008, also acknowledged that after-school clubs teach transferrable skills and a ‘can do’ mindset. She commented: “By offering after school activities our children get the chance to succeed in a different area, then they can take success and use it to overcome barriers in the subjects they find difficult.” Curriculum for Excellence, as sneakily implied by the name, puts “successful, responsible, effective and confident” to our learners’ names – but, meeting the four capacities requires more than knowledge transfer.

Information can be spoon-fed into our brain from “I hope you’ve eaten breakfast bell” to the flinging open of the doors bell at 3 (or so) in the afternoon. Yet, the art of using figures, facts and more figures is futile if our skillset is not furthered. Say that sentence again (at rapid-fire speed) for me. The art of using figures, facts and more figures is futile if our skillset is not furthered. Go on for a third time! The art of using figures, facts and more figures is… you are now officially tongue-tied and… breath… needing a sudden downpour of O2 into your lungs. After 14.something consecutive years in education, more of my confidence has come from extra-activities, inputs and talks compared to the necessary ‘office hours of learning.’ What would you call that additional schooling (because hobbies are a form of self-improvement) Active learning. Scotland’s Education Department defines such form of education as being “learning in which the learner is responsible for investigating, planning or managing what they do.” This ‘swapsie’ teaching approach is crucial if our students are to put theory into practise – and understand the importance of mistake making. Self-confidence arises, not only from succeeding, but *doesn’t want to repeat a cliché but is compelled* reactively sensibly to less well-made choices in the big, bad world. Who else pictures the scary grown-up ‘dog’ from Little Red Riding Hood when that “big, bad world” phrase is mentioned? See my view? If not, blame my prescription. We don’t all wear glasses!

Perspective (she writes whilst wiping the specks off her glasses) is every. thing. (Score: compound word used.) Improvement in everything brings a combination of positives and negatives. We can assess a situation ourselves: 180-degree angle maximum. Humans aren’t Camera Obscura, although. Brookfield’s autobiographical lens – for instance, reflecting by writing – is effective in our own analysis of our teaching practise and our self-esteem. That said, our ears must be open to receiving constructive criticism if we are to improve ourselves. Teachers who run activity clubs have the chance to learn more about their children – and any ‘less-welcomed’ feedback can be exchanged between the pupil in a relaxed fashion. On my first-year placement, discipline was an issue which picked away at me. Being someone who prefers not to raise their voice, there were a few times when my authority was put to the test: my self-esteem enamel was a little chipped. During the six weeks, I tried to be involved in as many lunch-clubs and set-up activities from my own childhood, my own personal life. Not only did that help fill the gap, but at the end a student (who persistently adored the lavatory in Miss Smith’s lesson time) said: “I will actually miss you, Miss Smith.” Actually is self-explanatory. Love-hate relationship for me? I think so. And… a group of girls came to me with a box but the words were really the Sellotape:

“You were the best [all kids say that!] because you tried.”

I think, I consider, I know that behaviour management that placement is quite like my flexibility in yoga – or that Pilates class. (I’ve been advised by the elderly to attend an easier flexibility class!) Not the best: I accept. Into Semester Two … now undergoing some ‘washed-down’ army training, my approach might well be stricter, but the bun updo won’t fill me with the desire to take notes from Miss Trunchbull’s practice. Nope *echoed by the splintering of desk wood.* The GTCS’ 3.4.2 standard is: “ to engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise.” Professional learning, I believe, extends further than the library books, lecture theatres and CPD workshops. It is not just about essays; it’s about your changing views. My out-of-school hobbies fill my self-esteem glass with water. Not just because it develops myself; newly learnt skills can be transferred into my practice and experience can be shared with students. Completing my piano grades allowed me to help any students learning an instrument: due thanks goes to my parents. Sport, on the other hand, is a new extra-curricular venture – and my p.e. teacher was right about how wonderful it is. Years ago, young Claire ambled in the annual 1.5 metre race and bird-spotted because her gifts were not tying trainers or splashing water. But, my teacher’s words stayed put in my sole. There is no such thing as: “I can’t.” There is a theory; there is a famous researcher. Carol Dweck, that’s the woman who believes in the transformation powers of positivity. Look up The Growth Mindset if you’re an alien (sorry, most educators know if it already!)

On that cheerful end to the other paragraph, I’m ready to post this blog. I’ve clung onto my writing for too long now! The easiest attitude, I’ve found, is to paddle into everything and dry yourself off after any big waves. Sixth-year comfort zone attitude? That’s been reflected on. First year focus on perfecting my work? Not worth it. Care, I do about my grades but they’re not something to hug onto. (Claire has never owned a Care Bear!) I’ve matriculated into Second Year to actively learn – and that means that for every success, there might be a failure. I don’t bother myself, however. It’s about try … ING.


Reference for the Seiler (2011) Harvard-Style:

Dimech, A.S. and Seiler, R. (2011) ‘Extra-curricular sport participation: A potential buffer against social anxiety symptoms in primary school children’, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12 (2011), pp. 347-354. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2011.03.007.

 

Running 26.2 for One (VERY IMPORTANT) Realisation

The amateur runner has grabbed a rubber – and not another Cliff Bar. Never would I have thought that four hours and forty-six minutes (seconds don’t matter) of running would result in the action of erasing my social media account. Delete: my life on Instagram is gone. Some black hole online… you’ll find Claire Smith’s profile there. Just after a few mouse clicks, she no longer Instaexists – well, it’s a few presses more complicated. Oh sorry, let me pause the music (or perhaps not) of my words in your head. Hello, my name is Claire and I’m back on the blog – this time, as a second year. Studying what, you’re asking? I analyse stationary, more stationary and stickers. Not really! Apologies: me does like to (ever so occasionally) jazz up my sentences. Education is my field of study with the desire to become a lady in a lanyard (minus the posh aspect).

It’s the 10th of October. Yes, I know. Tell me off or put my name on the red face. A blog post really ought to have been uploaded by now (and my conscience did put on a lion mask and argue with me)! Oh my…the autumn leaf display is long gone; we are welcoming Mr. Pumpkin now! Time has PAST. Usually, my blog posts are a little more frequent, however the start of term seems to have just swept by like dust – vanished in a touch. Whether it was repeatedly angering the pavements (run, run, run) or ensuring my schedule was jam-packed, the e-Portfolio has been left to fend for itself. Too long and too lonely, it has been. A previous module, ‘Working Together,’ and several digital inputs during my initial year taught me that the arrow of progress requires you to go back down. Yes, go down to your seat – and write. So: here I am. Back again. Ready to tell you about an experience which taught me more than: my flesh, bones and heart are proud to be painted in blue and white with a ‘x’ pattern.

A few weeks ago, the Converse were traded for Brooks to quickly wander 26ish miles for CHAS (a children’s hospice charity in Scotland). The 2018 Loch Ness marathon, for sure, took a toll on my poor feet. The tiny, sign-up box covered all the after-pain and blisters: that aspect didn’t bother me. Although, legislation never confirmed that a relationship would be broken afterwards. Devastating times, these were. Running supposedly ‘improves’ your blood-pumping muscle, yet my heart was broken mine into several segments! How glad should we be that our organs aren’t made of china… Spending four hours (and exactly 46 minutes more) pounding resulted in a realisation, an epiphany about social media. Owls have never required it…so why have I constantly been feeding my time this perpetually hungry monster! Let’s say this: I’m glad that an extra half hour is slotted back into my day. More natural daylight can allow my pupils to dilate. Or, I can (also) glance over my books for a little longer.

I broke up with Instagram. Not sure if that was made clear. Thanks Loch Ness.
Are you an Instragrammer? Are you a face on the online book? Or, is Twitter sending your stream of thoughts flying? I love those websites – but, enough was enough. We all have different personalities; we all use social media to a different extent. However, my constant addiction to informing the world of my ideas was equating to #teninstastories a day. I’m aware that Facebook is much more common, so for those whose brains are searching for light in SPACE… Instagram stories are simply snapshots of your adventures in the world. Trip down Tesco’s stationary isle: imperative to inform my teaching pals about the Sharpie deal! Met a friend for coffee: aesthetical mug must be shared. Quickly wandering around a loch: better make everyone thirsty to visit Scotland. Share, share, shared my life. I guess… you could have easily given me the label of a ‘social media’ addict. And, I no longer needed that.

The marathon was rather long and… like anything that is long… you have time to contemplate. Running does count as your sixty minutes of exercise of day – as reminded by the NHS – but it also allows me to plan ahead (and not merely the route home). For this reason, my phone is left indoors to stay cosy and rest. Yes, material objects do need cared for! On the other hand, some marathon enthusiasts (because they kept grinning) went to the extent of taking a photo to share – or even Facetiming to inform that: “Mummy is doing fine but will not win the race.” What a laugh! Indeed… the pain in my feet eased upon my ears picking up on such a comment! But, such words also reminded me: Instagram was my shadow during the day. If I can run 26 miles free of music or a device, I ought to make it through daylight without this clutch.

Then came the recovery. After the run, I took the moment to pause and reflect – and not just because the muscles demanded some time off. Lectures commenced the following day, so it was only natural to consider things related to teaching. Oh, I did consider whether I could swap my train (to the super-speed one in Hunger Games) to save arriving back just before teaching began. Fiction will never be fact, however. The worry that our children are missing out on a real childhood… due to a (potentially poisoning) digital age… is of concern to me. Blisters heal, but a stolen 18 years (okay, less than that!) leaves permeant scars. And, can we recover from a lost childhood? Communication, it’s a face- to face matter.

What if our toddlers fasten their ‘digital shoes’ and never grow out of playing on Mummy’s Ipad? That may be hypothetical, but my brain cells fizzle at the prospect of it soon being a plain and harsh truth. A report – sent out to our Primary Teaching cohort – came back into the less dusty part of my cerebrum and confirmed my thoughts. Sometimes social media traps you: The Life in Likes 2018 report by the Children’s Commissioner wrote of the digital platforms as being advantage for holding “fun conversations” with friends yet many children felt forced to remain online… even if they desired to fiddle with their toys. The same emotion expressed as me earlier: helpless. The bubble of social media is rather comforting. I accept that. Nonetheless, there comes a time when you must see the real world for what it is. For me, the marathon was the needle in the balloon. Social media was my superglue. We all know how powerful that chemical is: no wonder Prit Stick occupies the shelf!

So, what am I saying? I am saying that as an educator, it is essential that we drill into the students’ heads the impact of too much social media usage. A recent campaign called the ‘Digital 5 A Day’ is a carbon-copy of our infamous fruit and vegetable diet suggestion – and it certainly of interest. It suggests five different points to help us take advantage of the networking sites (and our phones). Although munching through five apples a day will likely spike up your glucose-chart, it certainly is healthier than letting your digestive proteins work through the meat of McNuggets. (P.S. Everyone desires to change ‘five-day’ to every second one!) Anyway, back to squirting more info for you: ketchup (i.e. constant gadget usage) can also be applied to the computer – but such actions must mean an acting degree and job as a ‘toddler’ is on your CV. Emotional issues can result if we indulge beyond sensible boundaries, as you will soon read about! Overusing social media, like anything, can cause considerable issues – as I’ve discovered myself. Balance is key. Sorry, that’s actually an ‘overused’ statement. Oh no, better be back at the desk to find more linguistic devices. Let me turn off my phone first.

Having no technology around me was beautiful (even more bonnie than the hills of the Highlands). Although, life in the cobbled streets of fundee (deliberate mistake!) requires more than a horse and carriage. Loch Lomond, without my mobile, was just as AMUSING as life in Dundee with a block that receives signals. In the classroom, the same sort of situation is happening. One day there may be a ‘no phone’ fundraiser – and happiness cannot be measured. Yet, rules mean that any more than 24 hours without devices… and our human rights have been breached. This ‘logic’ even applies to the kids, the people who ought to p.l.a.y. Infants don’t need to learn how to type ‘play’ quickly on a keyboard! Despite the SPR wanting teachers to “include a variety of media” – hint, hint… digital, that is – in the lessons, being given a proper lanyard will only make me want to do the opposite. Arrogant: that adjective may fit me…oops. It’s merely that evidence implies our children are needing more than a ‘time-out’ from digital devices.

Social media is a problem: common knowledge, that is – so I hope your thumbs are up. What we need to consider is the seed that was responsible for the weeds (and time in the bin). Hands down…with or without gardening gloves on…I declare the mobile phone to be accountable. Evidence agrees. Zaheem (2014) writes of scientists finding detrimental health effects – that includes changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns – being associated with mobile phone usage. Thinking reflectively, there are many times in which my Snapchat Bitmoji will have taken longer gain zzzs next to its face – and my human productivity level will have certainly decreased as the sun rose again! Lack of sleep (from mobile phone usage) is a short-term consequence, however. Take the long-term consequence, that being poorer academic performance and emotional regulation, and the minefield has become substantially greater. Kuznekoff, J. and Titsworth, S. (2013) carried out an interesting study which highlights the aforementioned point. During a video lecture, the students who did not have access to a digital device took in 62 percent more information than their counterpoints. An average higher grade (by one and a half) was also achieved by the group without technology at hand. Soul-destroying: an over-reliance to our phones is essentially lowering our chances in life. A phone bucket can surely sit in a locked-away cupboard with an opening and closing time of THE SCHOOL BELL. It’s not torture, this idea: having a pet taught me something about cruelty being kind. Or, so I learnt.

A famous figure who helps push forward the devices to host the (sometimes) parasite of social media pats my back. Interestingly, Tim Cook (now head of Apple) remarked of not wanting his nephew to have a social media account. Could this perhaps be a result studies warning us of the lack of self-esteem as well as identity-crisis that children are facing? Maybe so. According to Ahmad, Soomro and Jan (2017) there is a linear relationship between increased time on Facebook and a lower self-esteem. If there was an emoji button on scientific studies, I’d put the tear-faced one next to the following finding in a social media study by Burrow and Rainone (2017): the number of likes for your profile picture partly determines how positively you think of yourself. Ssh…shh…shoking. I just want my students (potentially our future teachers) to let themselves thrive from experiences – and not the number of likes. And, does your opinion match with mine?

Call me ‘outdated’ or a crazy runner that is trying to teach: but, push yourself to live without a phone and you’ll (maybe) see why. Running the marathon taught me more about social media than the constant newsfeed. Why? First-hand experiences always wins. VisitScotland and Google if you ought to learn more: I better go for a walk. Another adventure may be calling, but it won’t be running through the wheat fields of Instagram. Nah. As the Scots say, “Naw, thank ye.”

After all I’ve said, no photos of the run should appear on this blog … except this is a rare find! After all, how often does Nessie come out from her den?                                                                       After all, there is no ‘like’ this post self-esteem candy!


Blog Post References (Harvard Style)

Ahmad, N., Soomro, A.S. and Jan, M. (2017) ‘Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem’, European Scientific Journal, 13(23), pp. 329-341. doi: 10.19044/esj.2017.v13n23p329

Burrow, A. L., & Rainone, N. (2017). ‘How many likes did I get?: Purpose moderates links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem.’ Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 232-236. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2016.09.005

Gibbs, S. (2008) Apple’s Tim Cook: ‘I don’t want my nephew on a social network.’ Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/19/tim-cook-i-dont-want-my-nephew-on-a-social-network (Accessed: 4 October 2018)

Kuznekoff, J. and Titsworth, S. (2013) ‘The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning’, Communication Education, 62(3), pp. 233-252. doi: 10.1080/03634523.2013.767917.

Naheem, Z. (2014) ‘Health risks associated with mobile phone use’, International Journal of Health Sciences, 8(4), pp. 5-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350886/