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.

 

Ciao, adios, we’re done.

(Before reading, please be aware that this post strongly discusses my views on western feminism. All views are my own- I completely appreciate if you don’t support them.)

Boys,I could tell you that I love being a female. I could boast day and night to the apparently ‘strong’ species that you are, exclaiming that being part of the girls’ club is the best decision of my life. I could shout, using the loudest of all (near) deafening megaphones, that “nothing else is -or will ever be- comparable to our flower-power, pink-loving gang.” Yet, I won’t. I pinkie-promise on that. Sorry radical feminists… I feel it’s time to initiate some practice of self-control. For the first time in forever, my willpower is required for something other than resisting a beloved Frozen movie night; it’s control myself maturely time! Resorting to the simple wonders of scribbling words on a page is all that’s needed to push forward my argument surrounding patriarchy. Even though I could be such a forceful feminist right now, my wisdom has concluded that it’s best to stay far clear of the police and their ASBOs for noise disruption. Instead, I’ll make my own jam on feminism and gender right here. Listen up, friends: we’re in for a discordant ‘tune’ of pinks and blues.

You’ve heard it everywhere: boys are better than girls. It’s surreptitiously implied wherever you go. I’m often left wondering if there’s a little gender ghost constantly chasing after us girls; we can never quite shake off the feeling of inferiority in this male-dominated society. From tops to toys, our retail markets are despairingly flooded by patriarchal merchandise. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g on the shelf is designed with slogans set to boost the male’s (already) sky-high ego: “She can soak in the beauty of planet Earth; he can bask in the glory of conquering it.” How ridiculous! Come on- let’s call a boycott on all this tragic use of English! Our Sir William Shakespeare would be absolutely mortified of our word-choice. I’m putting BOTH feet (and hands) down on this one –  not only for his sake. These female-pitying phrases no longer penetrate right through to my core. I’m a solid, lava rock. That said, my humanly instincts still crave to protect every other human from this futile battle (regardless of gender).

British girls and boys, don’t you realise how time-zapping, energy-depleting this gender war is? Gender is only a socially-constructed concept (that’s biological sex minus the scientific evidence.) So… please, please, please halt with this nonsense: once our nation frees itself of these masculine and feminine stereotypes, we can work on the actual mess. Welcome to the mess abroad in which girls endure bloodshed whilst fighting for their basic UN rights- and it’s all because of men. Some of us are so mollycoddled that the word ‘gratitude’ lives in our thesaurus rather than remaining in our everyday vocabulary. (I’m addressing my girls here.)  We are extremely privileged to have an entirely free education – free of expense, free of judgement, free of violence. You name it: it’s all free.  Still, my whining British girls have the nerve to send snapchats in precious class-time. Western feminists, we have to put on our big boots and drastically change our outlook: here’s why.

Look, just look at Malala Yousafzai’s work. A girl, shot for learning her ABCs, is currently the leading figure in the global campaign that battles for girls to have a safe, liberal education- all whilst pursuing further education herself. Inspiring, Malala is. Honest, she is. A strong girl, she is.  She doesn’t contradict herself; she is deserving feminist. Remember the days when you had two gold stars and that so magical (but dreaded) wish in primary school- well those days still exist. Indeed, they do. Can I wish for every single girl in my country to seriously appreciate their education? Can my wish be taken with a whole pinch of chilli powder- and not the simple, old salt? I want a girl-gang of ‘Malalas’ (just if clones were legally allowed…!)

Guess what? My mind already knows the next question that you are desperately wanting to throw at me. (Please note though that I’m a student-teacher, not a psychic.) “Are you really a feminist Claire, and what does gender mean in your world?” curiously considers many of my readers. That’s the million-pound question. This is the billion-pound answer: I’m the feminist, that despites acknowledging British gender-discrimination, feels a stronger pull to support feminist-movements overseas. Girls there need me… not for a pay rise, but for life rights. Moving rather swiftly on to gender (to avoid further distressing some readers) I believe that we should still have the ‘framework’ of gender in our society. However, a framework doesn’t give rise to any sort of (organised) discrimination by any means. A girl should be nurtured as boy is nourished …and vice-versa. We are all free to have a religion, so why can’t we choose our gender without it being forced upon us?

You’ll thankfully find that my next statement provides a concise summary of my thoughts. Concepts like gender-neutral classrooms are our exit out of this vicious circle. I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but honestly these ideas are worth it. They would teach society’s future girls that they don’t have to dress up as hulk and boys, you can be pretty (or handsome!) in pink. Any transphobic creature could pin me to a post in disagreement – and I’d still stay firm on my stance. Gender must not be such a rigid, controlling term: if we all loosened up and disregarded masculine and feminine stereotypes, there would be no need for feminism. Consequently, we wouldn’t give any regard to the multitude of preconceived gender attributes which lead to many issues today. What’s the action plan then? I’ll tell you, tell you outright. Move out of your comfort zone, broaden your horizons and extend your view. Our world is a gargantuan (but also small) place and we cannot, must not AND will not create any more barriers. I’m up for truly uniting girls and boys; we are all one happy family…I hope.

The time has come. I’ve had it with this British feminism. I’ve handed in my notice to the girls’ club. We are too Eurocentric for my liking. Neither am I joining the boys although. I’ll ride it solo: solo until you decide to join me too. Goodbye girls, it’s been an interesting ride.

Ciao, adios, we’re done.


If you are dying to know, the text-colours were deliberately changed- boys being pink and girls with the blue. What was your initial reaction upon seeing this? I believe it’s so easy to think of ourselves as being open-minded. From personal experience, I can tell you how quickly I used to make assumptions based on biological sex. If you automatically questioned the colour difference, I can understand why. It’s maybe a sign that you are more judgemental than you consider yourself to be. Don’t panic if that’s the case… it’s best that we find out this information sooner than later!


Due acknowledgments for this blog post:

  • The University of Dundee for their lectures on the topics of gender, feminism and patriarchy;
  • Malala Yousafzai’s documentary on her experiences;
  • Anne-Marie’s song (inspiration taken from the title/main lyrics).