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:

 

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.

 

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: