Keep your Chimp in the Cage!

January, you’ve caught me out again. Your presence inflicts upon me the sort of gloomy, stern feeling that tightly stretches out the hours of daylight and compresses the moonglow. I’m left hanging on until the end of month, desperate that a prince will rescue me into the romanticised February. This New Year seemed to shower me in confetti – but there was no bang. As a student-teacher, you would think that the entry of twenty-eighteen would push me into the fast-lane since my placement is a matter of weeks away, however it has reversed the dial. The high-speed, race car approach is to be left behind…like my learning-to-drive days. Instead, I’ve rationalised my views on yearly resolutions. Aren’t they as powerful as diesel in a patrol car? Seemingly great at first – until disaster seeps through.

There is no specific goal on my horizons because the calendar is renewed – yippee! Motivation should be able to strike at whatever midnight: do we ever predict the exact millisecond when power surges to a child? Never. (That’s why educational lightbulbs are so ironic.) Throughout my time at school, I achieved the academic expectations set upon me for entry to university. Tick in the box for that. But nowadays, the ‘baby’ needs more than food, sleep and water! A reflection on life outwith this nurturing nest has left me mind on spring-clean mode. There are many habits which don’t bore well with the kind of teacher – and person – I strive to be. Okay, at times we all envisage ourselves wearing gold, diamond teaching tiaras. But, I’m not aiming for that top-notch perfection… not now. My professional lanyard needs to be worn by a version of myself who is constantly organised. To reach that level, I cannot rely on external praise to keep my dinghy afloat in the rapids of the Tay. A change of mindset will give me the consistency to upgrade my sail. I see you, HMY Victoria and Albert; you’re in the distance.

The past is the past – but it’s what makes history so horribly captivating. I was always a geography enthusiast at school, however the tide has washed back some new shells. If a teacher hates contemplating their practice, their lessons will eventually push students to the countryside: out the school’s doors; past the hallways; and right out the exit. No, that’s never on our to-do-list! We may save our voices by axing a name or two off the ‘ceaseless’ registers – but our vocation entails the responsibility of protecting their future. These naïve, innocent students are the bull’s eye of our professional existence, aren’t they? My sight must be a precise twenty for my aim to be on point. (Don’t stress, glasses are firmly screwed to my head for that.) It’s the responsibility of all teachers to ensure their pupils are thirsty to learn. You are bound to have experienced the educator that made you feel dry to the bone from being ‘slumped’ at the box desks. The process of musing (but not during every waking minute) helps us to continually better our practice. So, who is up for combatting shrivelling brains? Are YOU ready to embark on a boot-camp efficiency course? Is it the time to mentally abseil down from your comfort zone (and reflect)? Maybe not, nope, never…

…That’s what my gut told me (many) months ago.

Idealistic me was floating in cotton-candy for the entire last year of school. All pressures were lifted; celebrations existed. After surviving the Hunger Games’ speed train of fifth year, I could dwindle away to the choo, choo of the steam train that was the journey of sixth year. The year passed, as time does, and that meant nothing other than a hard bump upon arrival. Ouch! The fluffy, sweetness of sixth year had eaten away at my time-management skills. I was left in a sticky situation. Washing my hands clean of my inadequacies was the best course of action – but I felt as wise as any primary one with their palms under the germ detector. I had the soap (i.e. my mind) but how did I put it to proper use? Improvement started by choosing Dundee to educate me… and is well under way with the world of words that now surround me. Who needs a Black Card when you have a library one? That is a fleeting thought when the beat of the union’s basement disrupts the tranquillity of nourishing your brain with knowledge ‘vitamins.’  It’s as if every time the music blasts, my cerebral cells shriek with panic and diffuse (from a state of concentration) like a gas being let out of its container. That’s not useful- not at all. Not in the slightest.

The books that have nourished my curiosity lately are real game-changers. Grab ‘Educating Drew’ and ‘The Chimp Paradox’ off the shelf… quick! You know, before owning these works of linguistic art, my time keeping skills were stuck in a rut. Then, as video-gamers do, I took the leap of faith and tried out a new move. Simply by turning the pages and focusing in on each author’s advice, my accomplishments have increased in number (albeit incrementally). Winning the ferocious battle against the gremlins of my mind will help me to be the teacher that I envisage myself as. My day-dreaming, airy-fairy nature can never be annihilated, but I can suppress it. Gremlins are the little creatures that are more often than not ‘bad-habits.’ Essentially, the chimp (more illogical area of our brain) is well- acquainted with these success-trapping parts of our personality; on the other hand, the human (the mind’s less expressive area) considers our impulsive, emotive actions as vermin. Finding the balance between these two will leave your as the passenger in life. But, is that enough?

An argument on what leads to life satisfaction would see me through my golden years. Decide on this for yourself, I beg you. Personally, I’m taking command of my wheel – and the gear stick. The automatic function has been alive long enough. Today is the time to push myself outside the dressing gown and hot water-bottle zone and embrace the cold. Creativity can learn to gear down to one, and organisation must up its level. When the clutch no longer fires back at me, I’ll know my chimp is content. Until then, bury me in all the daily planners. February can give me some love with an inner-clock and alarm. It’s a significantly better offer than January’s short, quick-fix of ‘New Year, New You.’ Eighteen, you sincerely are an insignificant figure after all. (Math teachers, vent your stress somewhere else; English is occasionally more reasonable.)


The texts referenced to in this post can be purchased from (super-speedy) Amazon:

‘Educating Drew’ by Drew Povey

  • This book led to me discover Peter’s book on regulating your emotions under pressure. Written by the inspirational headteacher of Harrop Fold School (from ‘Educating Greater Manchester’) this account of his experiences is very compelling and addicting to read! All the profits made are put towards trying to clear the school’s six-figure debt.

‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters

Also, this speech (by the author himself) explains your inner-chimp in detail.

  • Many athletes has sworn by this mind management programme. Even if you can easily juggle all the balls in life, it is still worth your time. Sir Chris Hoy describes the ideas in this book as being what “helped [him] win his Olympic Golds.”

As an aside, my first placement goal will be classroom organisation and management (SPR 3.2)! Simply writing this post has helped me to realise the most prominent area needing attention in terms of my personal and professional life.