Having been tagged in a #blimage challenge by @rlj1981 the aim being to write a blog post with some form of broadly educational content. Rachel passed on the following image, here is my take on it a few weeks after initially being given it (apologies!). Image via @rlj1981

People matter. Looking after one another showing our humanity as well as sharing it is important. Human connection, friendship and acknowledgement we receive from our interactions with other people are vital to existence for all of us, it helps us all grow and develop emotionally strengthening the familial or friendship connection and validating emotions.

The Calvin and Hobbes full comic strip shows Calvin distracted, ignoring Hobbes by working, despite repeated requests by Hobbes, Calvin ‘knocks him back‘ stating that he just needs to get the work finished as it’s deemed more pressing than his best friend. 

Interestingly ‘stuff’ does get in the way if we allow it. Work, life, bills, health it can consume us to the point that we shun activities with friends, family and loved ones ranking ‘stuff’ higher than them without even realising it. Horrifying thought isn’t it? Yet I’ll bet if you take a minute to consider if you’re guilty or not, most of us are, guilty that is. Please don’t worry too much about it because if you have realised that you are guilty of putting something or someone off to prioritise work, there is hope for you, you can change. 

A rather wise friend once said ‘great teachers need rest’ and of course that’s completely right. We all know that being ‘busy’ is the phrase that everybody uses and it has become an accepted norm in today’s society. We are busy and we have jobs to do but we need to stop, take time to recharge and refresh ourselves in both body and mind so that when we return in September (or beforehand) we’ll be better, keener and fresher. The treadmill of consistent and unrelenting workloads, drives us to cease certain things and all that ‘work and no play‘ leads to dullness, exhaustion and lots of very busy (and grumpy) possibly unfulfilled people. 

Ancient philosopher Seneca wrote on the shortness of life, and life is short especially if we spend all our time letting ‘stuff’ get in the way. We’ll never find time to;

  • catch up with hobbies
  • see that film
  • go to that new restaurant / pub / bar
  • read that book
  • try that new cocktail
  • watch that programme or match on TV
  • catch up with friends
  • travel to that destination
  • make that ‘phonecall 

or be just us if we don’t step away from the desk / planner / to do list. We have to stop, put the work to one side and have some fun. Remember playing out as kids? Well it was always fun if you were with the right people but the right people (your family, friends and loved ones) won’t wait around for you forever. So as we all need the human connection, let’s try to busy ourselves doing that instead so our friends, family and loved ones don’t shrink away from us. 

Sadly the final Calvin and Hobbes cartoon published in newspapers was on 31st December 1995 it depicted both of our heroes, two great friends, best buddies, out in deep snow excited at the wintry scenes and discussing the wonder and possibility of fun to be had in the freshly laid snow. (Who among you isn’t excited by a fresh snowfall?! I definitely am even now at my age!) The final panel sees them heading off for fun in the snow Calvin saying ‘It’s a magical world Hobbes ol’ buddy, lets go exploring’. Wonderful! I don’t think anyone can disagree with this, the world is a wondrous place full of magical moments waiting to be discovered and shared, but they won’t always come to us, sometimes we have to go out there and discover them for ourselves. So please 

  • put down your pen
  • close your laptop / Mac / tablet
  • close the office door on your way out

and get out there, unplug for a while and have some fun with your buddies. I doubt there will be snow in August but make the most of what is out there while you can.    Image thanks to http://www.calvinandhobbes.co.uk  Image thanks to http://www.brainpickings.com 


A level results day.


Results day evokes anxious feelings deep within, not because I am a middle leader, not because I have results to collect and analyse, not because friend’s children have results to collect but because of my own past, my A Level results day.  Image via http://www.theguardian.com

What seems like forever ago on a day like today I was given the worst results I had ever received. I was devastated, the dreams of being a French teacher were gone in the time it took to open the envelope and unfold the piece of paper. I hadn’t had the best nor easiest two A level years but I thought I’d done better than the letters in front of my eyes. Clearly not. The paper didn’t lie. Totally numb I slowly walked away from my friends, the teachers, the head of sixth form who had handed me the envelope. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t believe it.  Image via http://www.thestudentreview.co.uk 

In the end I was fine, all of my friends went off to university I continued the year in France working for a charity and ‘resat’ my A Levels at a Higher Ed. college in the centre of Leeds. I went on to university, completed the B.Ed (hons) that I had earmarked at 15 as “the one”. 

I’ll never forget that feeling of utter helplessness and devastation that consumed me, I felt lost and all at sea being tossed around in all directions. My friends were celebrating their successes and making plans to move on with the next exciting stages of their lives. I wasn’t. Image by Jo Empson via Getty Images 

Every results day I read the headlines feel truly happy for the students who have worked their guts out to achieve record results, pushing the bar higher than previous years, I feel elated for them. My mind turns to remember the ones that didn’t get the record results, the ones who didn’t make the grade and who feel lost. Just like I did.   Image via http://www.daily mail.co.uk

They aren’t useless, they need support, some time, kindness, some direction and conversation. They need hugs and some love too. In time they will find their path, the numbness will fade and they will make steps forward. Support, honesty and options will be required because I questioned absolutely everything, almost throwing in the towel after so much time, work and effort achieving seemingly nothing. 

Thankfully I wasn’t prepared to let my dreams be dashed by exams that decided how good I was in those two and a half hours rather than across the whole two year course. It took me quite a while to build my confidence up, and initial steps were tentative to say the least, but the steps forwards towards my goal were made and in time I arrived at my destination albeit via the scenic route.  

Image via http://www.shutterstock.com

I always tell students that exams results don’t make the person, they don’t make you who you truly are, they are impersonal, administered to thousands of people after sleepless nights and differing circumstances. They don’t give you a smile nor a pat on the back they are words on a page, in a booklet, hoops you have to jump through, dive over and scurry under rather like an assault course trying to persuade, argue and enlist all that the exam boards demand of you for the range of marks. Despite having to complete them and because the impersonal exams ‘system’ demands it they don’t complete you, they do not make you who you are. I share my results experiences with students and despite completing a degree, A levels were the hardest exams I have ever had to complete to date. I share my story because the system doesn’t work for everyone, if it did there would be a 100% pass rate. There wouldn’t be ‘disappointment’ and some newspapers wouldn’t have anything to report on on significant days in August! 

Pastoral and careers support are so much better and more personal now than in the early nineties. Students would have been tracked, supported and monitored by their teachers and today students will have been hugged allowing tears to be shed, support and direction given. Those students will find their way after a bump in the road, a kind word and support. It may take time and a different route but they will get there. 

A system that is far from personalised that assesses at the end of a two year course with its ever changing boundaries and moving goalposts and media that batters and questions the blood, sweat, tears and hard work of students rising to meet the systems demands having given their all is shameful. Students should be applauded for their efforts not berated. And those that have missed out, help provide to make them believe in themselves so they can rise again.   Image via http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk 

I don’t teach KS5 at my current school but today former students have been sharing their triumphs and blips with me. I’m truly proud of all of them and I hope the paths they pursue from here gives them joy and makes them better people but I did share this with them from Ian Gilbert’s excellent book ‘Independent Thinking’. Image via Ian Gilbert and http://www.independentthinkingpress.com