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:

 

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).

 

Po-Value-rty and Education

Our lives are constantly changing – and so must our values. It’s not something I’ve ever really stopped to ponder about until now. I know I am only eighteen – and that according to society, I should be living up my youth- but reaching the age of majority has added a new dimension of seriousness. As a child, your values are primarily based upon the people dearest to you. Until you break away from your childhood support network, you can never properly live by your own moral principles. That said, after merely a month of self-sufficiency (and seeing Fairy Liquid bubbles in my dreams) l headed back to the land of familiarity: home.

Home may only have four letters to its name, however its significance runs oceans deep. (Sorry, I detest being ‘cringy’ but in this instance, I deem it acceptable.) Whilst returning to family is an excuse for bringing out the good-old box of Celebrations, it’s also the only time in daylight where I become ridiculously nostalgic. Before you ask, I’m a tad ashamed to admit that! Nevertheless, this meaningful reflection led me to consider the impact my parents have had on my education.

Right from birth, my parents did their upmost to support my academic and social development. No joke, my first real memory (apart from fearing dress up characters) was learning how to draw a triangle. I’m genuinely sorry this is maybe not the stereotypical “let’s play with Barbie” memory you were secretly hoping for, however it does hold some points of interest. In nursery, we were assigned homework to practise drawing triangles -but there’s a catch… without rulers. What a challenge, to say the least. (Thinking back, rulers were of great health and safety hazard to three-year old Claire.) Despite the endless words of wisdom from Mum and Dad, the artist within me resigned. Drawing the tip of the triangle was not happening any day soon, certainly not until I gained rights for ruler usage. Anyway, this tiny example clarifies a much greater point: a lack of resources complicates the simplest of tasks. Unconditional support will take you to the start line, but without the right resources you will never finish the race.

As teachers, many of us will feel compelled to buy disadvantaged students the required resources: this urge, I warn you, must never translate into what you classify as ‘a good deed.’ It’s far from a sweet habit; it is simply creating an even larger divide in society. Britain does not need to live up to the great (pitying) heights of Trump’s wall – honestly. On a more serious note, the widespread issue of poverty is something all educational professionals desire to tackle. From 2015-2016, “26 per cent of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty.” Now, that figure embarrasses me on many levels. We must remember in all our poverty-reducing efforts that money is not the rocket power. It never will be: only love can fuel a notable change. You may think that I’m crazy saying that, however certain experiences have highlighted to me just how much our society needs to reconsider its core values. The standard “money solves all problems” attitude needs to be exchanged for a more heartfelt outlook.

Funnily enough, my first-ever university seminar managed to summarise all of that…in merely an hour.During the sixty-minutes in the classroom, our tutor demonstrated to us why our professional occupation can never be thought of as ‘charity work.’ He also made a teenager ever so thankful for her parents’ teachings! Through a simple, peer-learning art task (in which resources were unevenly distributed between the groups) the importance of having a solid set of values hit home. My family have always steered me away from materialism and excessive individualism: love, respect and being true to yourself were what they deemed (and still do) as being crucial to success. (My parents, I agree with you wholeheartedly.) When it came to the end of the task, the groups who lacked in resources actually came out on top. Undoubtedly, they acknowledged their situation of poverty, yet they didn’t let inequality rule them. Doesn’t that just show us something? Teachers need to stop ruling out of their pockets – and reach out from their heart.

As much as one may want to run away from all of these discussions, it is imperative that we pause in our hectic schedules to reflect on our values. I know we, primary teachers, all have an inner-child within us, so let’s think of it in this way: reconsider your own standards of judgement like kids ideally follow The Green Cross Code. Think about your existing values. Stop right before you decide to change anything. Look around and see how other teachers conduct themselves. Listen to the advice of those who have dealt with poverty first-hand. Okay, I’d admit it takes time. Yes, reconsidering our values will never solve the infamous educational debate on equity vs. equality. However, it’s for sure the first steps in beating poverty – without money. I’ll leave you (and close this half parental appreciation post) with the wise words of Jackson, Boostrom and Hansen (1993):

“Values are reflected in what teachers choose to permit or encourage in the classroom and in the way they respond to children’s contributions to learning, and children learn values from such responses.”

Due acknowledgements 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)