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.

 

Kefi for the Kids

Health and Wellbeing: This blog post is written as a reflection on a lecture about keeping our students active, fit and healthy.


Diet? What’s that word? Remind me again.

Children should never hear those four letters blended together in the perimeters of a classroom – unless it’s for The Times National Spelling Bee (for tiny-tots, surely!) Eating sensibly ought to replace the commonplace calorie counting. However, healthy eating is no mean feat when the processed-food list is growing at an unprecedented rate since the boycott of rationing. The detrimental impact of sugar, not just on our dental health, but attention span has been flagged to us many times. This tiny, little granule is drilling cavities in our systems, yet none of us appear to have speed-dialled 9-9-9. No gnawing aches, it seems to be.

If we were to really stretch our brains outside their plasterboard skulls, we could start regarding this addictive molecule as one of sand’s long-lost cousins. Transport yourself back to the afternoons when the sun invited you to the beach, the hub of sandcastle construction. Oh, happy days. Pure bliss. The joinery involved in creating bucket ‘masterpieces’ almost edged me on to apply for an apprenticeship in the trade profession! CVs (of well-thought out, genius scribbles) were devastatingly considered Japanese to any Scotsman. Plan: failed. However, experience sharpened my chisel (again.) Sand wasn’t that amusing when the remainder of your day was occupied by exterminating those grains tickling your toes, almost like ice pleasures in ‘burning’ dogs’ paws. Sugar acts as its double. This sweet rush we seek (as if it’s enlightenment) is a local anaesthetic. Numbs out surface thoughts in your mind, it does. That’s until the mighty grains are ‘resuscitated’… and our decrepit bodies are left scrambling to clear up the mess. Build a sand-castle whenever sugar cuts your line of thought short. Why? It magnificently magnifies the dots, the dots of those life-changing connections. These simple links could transform your final ‘picture’.

Since everyone concludes that life is better in colour, we would be very wise ‘owls’ to clean our palettes of the blacks and whites. The nation doesn’t have to be spotless, nevertheless. For most people, a radical food overhaul would pull the bristles out of their only brush – and there puts an end to their ‘painting’ too. The aim of altering our food consumption habits is also comparable to an attempt in recreating the Mona Lisa, for some. Simplicity is golden. Changes to our plates should be gradual because many top figures have proven that this is how success operates. So, where do we start – and who with? Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, the twenty-dreamers, thirty-doers, middle-aged and elderly… what a mouthful: they all need educating. Today.

Scientific experts from ‘The Sugar Crash’ documentary alluded to the reality that what we put on our forks as children in fact is cut by our knifes as adults. Slightly scarily, grown-ups exert as much influence on food-intake as that of the children themselves. These findings have undoubtedly provoked me to reconsider my approach in teaching my (soon-to-be) students about health eating. Delivering a series of lessons in which pupils “understand that [their] body needs energy to function and that this comes from the food [they] eat” will rarely result in a desirable outcome if their guardians don’t appreciate this too (based on the CfE E & O HWB 1-27a). A whole school approach sets the scaffolding for implementing positives adjustments. To lay the bricks requires the cement of an equally encouraging home situation. Guarantees for that are limited, especially considering the probability of receiving all the class’ permission slips back the next day is seldom above zero. A universal learning intention sounds like the payment to such a bill; though no-one ever pays with the same change. It’s futile reinforcing knowledge to guardians with impeccable lifestyles (they’re probably wearing invisible ear muffs) yet others may delight in advice and support. Differentiation – in the content and our teaching-style – is the staple in this scutter of a Health and Wellbeing improvement ‘recipe.’

The ingredients: there are many. Teachers, alongside numerous other professionals, are the aliments that could boil together to make a ‘broth’ – without too many ideas spoiling it, of course! Sourcing the method will only be feasible by taking advantage of social media. Those (generally) time-sucking online platforms can be invaluable. Tweeting, hooting and whoo-ing about effective health approaches would help put our hidden owls to bed earlier! Many minutes can fly away into those vast black holes if we constantly ignore other people’s suggestions. My Google tiger had recently built up quite an appetite, so to speak. R became synonymous with ravenous. A pounce upon Search equated to the human thrill of passing Go in Monopoly. In fact, it’s outrageous that I wasn’t more elated. Two-hundred (and counting) free ideas are teachers’ version of winning a million pounds. I would estimate that as being fourth-fifths more joyful than collecting your two-hundred pounds. (Kids, fractions aren’t exclusively for dishing up Dominos.)

The endorphins that waltz around our brains are of paramount importance to our wellbeing too. After firing up those muscle fibres, we are left in a calm-state (no, not from subsequently feeling less guilty about that cheese-dripping margherita pizza last night.) Physical education is a subject that some teachers majorly focus on -or hate. Just as we have zoomed in on the crumbs lying on our plate, teachers are collaborating on ways to motivate pupils to engage in exercise daily. The British Heart Foundation published a report in 2015 with the following recommendation:

“All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.” (The British Heart Foundation, 2015.)

Extensive. Effort. Demanded. But, so does: assessing; marking; and planning. Telling a child to run around the lush playing fields for an hour could welcome many sneers and scowls; pretend they’re smiles! All students, at some point, squealed and screamed (with excitement) in the playground as their ‘tigs’ became tags. Why has it reached the stage that we never question our reluctant students? Carefully converse with any pupil only exercising their finger limbs exhaustively. Tread with caution, however, as this is not small talk. I know. Those sitting-out, or ‘resting benches could have easily moulded to me. Gyms didn’t support radiators, however. (Totalling up the number of sports lessons that little me wasted would give rise to a cracker of a statistics lesson.) Back then, the notion of participating in sports drove me mad; I was as wound up as marathon runner with a pulled hamstring. How the days have turned… my calendar boxes are bursting with running events. Blame it on Carol Dweck.

Low outputs rise inputs: no exercise, more hunger. The United Kingdom needs to keep moving – in the right direction (and closer to Europe, preferably!) Sugar is travelling too close to home; it’s time we lock our doors for good. That would be the best pest control when any diet tries to intrude. Exercise and proper nutrition are as integral as attending school. In my practice, kids will leave the classroom suitably fatigued. Guardians, parents and grand-parents should see kids’ eyes sparkling with that zest for life. That kefi.  But when it’s bed-time, it’s bed-time! Curling up with the duvet after a day of commendable choices is the ribbon to the medal. Reward yourself with a run in the morning; the chocolate bars can practice some patience.


Kefi: This is a Greek word with no direct translation (in English). It is essentially the ability to persevere through the storm and see the all-anticipated rainbow. Someone who is upbeat and has a positive outlook in life could be referred to as having that kefiI haven’t actually travelled to Greece, but learnt this word from reading ‘To the Island’ by Meaghan Delahunt.


Due acknowledgments for this blog post:

 

Shirts, Ties and Blazers: It’s all gone too far…

Shirts, ties and blazers: the outfit staples that we all longed to put behind us as teenagers. School uniform was simply Satin in disguise to any budding fashionista. I can’t remember being overly concerned about the outfit’s fashion value, however the comfort aspect of top-button shirts did raise many concerns. You are probably wondering so far as to what great academic interest school uniform has right now? Why am I writing about this? Shouldn’t education professionals be far more concerned about fighting the supreme court to legally ban fidget spinners? Sadly not- welcome to the recent case of the school exclusion from wearing “the wrong black brogue-like” shoes.

As much as we can joke about school-uniform issues, there is a real sociological issue regarding the extreme lengths some teachers take just to maintain uniform standards. I have decided to write this blog post upon reading that twenty-pupils (yes, a big fat two and zero) were sent home on the first day at Hartsdown Academy thanks to their ‘ill’ choice of uniform. It becomes even worse when you find out the next two days at this school consisted of a police intervention and fifty-more pupils missing out on precious educational time due to the same ‘issue’ with uniforms. Uniform may not be a legal requirement for schools, but “98%… in 2007” opted for it. I always felt a sense of pride as I dashed out of my house with my blazer on. I wasn’t merely a girl satisfying uniform requirements; I was a pupil who was part of my school community. It is abhorrent to think that some students in the twenty-first century are made to feel so unwelcome. School is meant to be a place of love, laughter and learning – not some institution following a Victorian-style regime.

Having a uniform policy can help foster authority, however we must remember that respect can be destroyed in only a few words. British children are growing up in a world centered around commercialism- your societal value equates to your net worth e.g. whether or not you have the  latest iPhone with face-recognition. As educational professionals, our job is to ensure that children enter the workplace with the correct moral values. It is imperative that our pupils understand that your success in life will never solely depend on your income. The head teacher of Hartsdown Academy demonstrates the completely wrong disciplinary approach. Uniform can be costly (as many of us know);  sending someone home for the style of their shoes is teaching pupils all the wrong messages. It’s also… shattering their self-confidence, trust and stifling their creativity. This head teacher clearly forgot everything he had learnt about SHANARRI!

Other organisations aren’t so uptight about uniforms, so why should schools be so concerned? The other day at Rainbows, I was restored with faith. For those of you who joined the opposing team of Cubs (or did neither) Rainbows are typically seen attired in red clothing. A little surprisingly, some of the girls decided to go against the grain and wear the purple version of the uniform. The leaders embraced this fully because it gives each of the girls a personal choice. In the end, freedom is what we look forward to. After a day of work, we are free to go home and see family. In relationships, we are free to choose our friends. In life, we are free to choose which opportunities we embrace. Is it really asking too much to let children add a little personal touch to their own uniform?

To put it simply, the case of Hartsdown Academy frustrated me. It reminded me of how backwards our nation is in relation to our moral values – not technology, of course! Pupils should never be sent home for uniform issues. There are children on the same planet fighting for a pencil and paper. We don’t deserve the title of a ‘developing country’ if we are acting like this. I would like anyone who strongly believes in excluding children for uniform issues to book a plane ticket across the ocean… that would give them a real wake up call.

The following sites were used in the writing of this blog post:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-37298505  (Last Accessed: 29/09/17) This is the article on Hartsdown Academy’s uniform row, from which the inspiration for writing this blog post came from.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/the-politics-of-the-school-uniform-2346367.html (Last Accessed: 29/09/17)

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/514978/School_Uniform_Guidance.pdf  (Last Accessed: 29/09/17)