Category Archives: Commentary.

here today.

 

 

Paul Mahoney

Scott Turner

Suzy Higham

Hannah Marchant

Sarah Temme

Nadia Wearn

Mia Knight

Cheryl Broadhurst

Andrea Cole

 

None of you will leave my thoughts, ever.

Take the time to tell those close to you how you feel, even if it gets you into trouble or loses you your dignity and pride. Tomorrow might be too late, and tears, however cathartic, will never replace those missed opportunities, lost words and failed tries.

If you see me, hug me. I will need it very much, even if I say I don’t.


tiny little steps.

At some point in your life, you’ll encounter a side of yourself that you never really knew existed. It will arrive in the form of a niggling feeling, germinated in the very back of your brain; as it fights its way closer to the fore you will find yourself asking questions of yourself that you never dared ask. Gradually, you’ll begin to realise that things need to change. You will make tiny, tentative steps towards making yourself a better person and achieving that happiness that you are just sure awaits you at the other side. You’ll go to bed asking yourself questions and you will awake with them still unanswered; soon, you will realise that these matters need more than just ‘sleeping on it’.

Then one day, a new revelation will completely blindside you. It will arrive at an unwanted time and will almost certainly come from out of the blue ether when you least want to acknowledge or think of it. It will stick like glue to the front of your mind, a reminder of that thing that you need to do. The tentative steps are no longer enough. It’s time to turn them into a great big leap.

This is where we, as humans, hit a crossroads.

Some of us will fear this intuition. We will choose to retreat and ignore it, thinking that one day, we will wake up and it will have disappeared back into the night as quickly as it came. We will cling to that we know, taking solace and comfort in the bland events that make up our life. We will pursue that we have come to tire of; we will take back those tiny little steps and return to whence we came. We will be happy, for the time being. It’s nice. It’s normal. It’s our life, after all.

Others will take a breath. They will mull it over. They will weigh it up, chew it hard and spit it out again and again. They will count their blessings, count their curses and truly listen to the little voice that tells them… this isn’t working. They will decide, and undecide. They will sleep less. They will choke on tears of frustration, and seek solace in their time alone. Eventually, they will stand at the edge of the void, stare it right in the eyes… and jump.

The measure will only arrive at a much later time in life. Twenty years on, we will sit in our armchair, beset on all sides by the choices we have made and we will listen to that little voice once more. It will still be there – trust me.

Some of us will smile, the kindness in our eyes fuelled by a lifetime of chances taken, choices made and risks attempted.

Others will only look back with regret and a sense of ‘what could have been.’

Some of us are strong. Some of us are not so strong.

In life, it is all to easy to blame the universe for our choices. However, our choices are called ‘our choices’ because they are exactly that… Ours.

Your body is the most amazing, resilient and fluid object you will ever have in your own hands. It knows what you want to be. If you fight it, it will fight back every step of the way.

Don’t be that person who looks back on their life with regret.

Your choices are always half chance. Don’t settle for anything but that which you want. Don’t be a ‘what could have been.’

Be a ‘what was.’


you know i’m no good.

 

 

Addiction always starts with a choice.

Take a drag on this cigarette; have a sip of this vodka; take a toke on this spliff; have a snort of this snow; take a huff of this crack pipe… And so it goes, ad infinitum.

Everywhere in life we face crossroads. Some of us make choices that aren’t necessarily the right ones. Our reasons for that vary. We could be suffering due to bereavement – grief is a harsh mistress. We could be feeling crushed under the weight of a situation too stressful or too dreadful to even bear comprehending. We could just want to fit into a world that is too huge to understand… We make them regardless. We should never be judged for these choices, for it is only ourselves who can truly say why we make them. We do these things to ourselves, and though they do affect the people around us, it is only within our own heads and hearts that we understand – and it might even take months, years, decades for us to get there – why we have chosen that particular path. Still, we are human, and we will always pass judgement on that we deem to be stupid, foolish or hurtful.

It is when choice is no longer a choice that a habit becomes an addiction. An addiction cannot be refused, nor can it be controlled. It is consuming; it takes hold of the body and the mind with the force of a freight train and we are fragile. We can be snapped so easily.

It is what makes grown, proud human beings sit in the street, unwashed and suffering from lack of sleep, losing their last shred of dignity to ask perfect strangers for change.

It is what takes over careers and reduces literate, sparkling people into shadows of their former selves. You can see it in their eyes – sunken and bloodshot; it is as if all life has escaped through the gift shop long ago.

It is what tears families apart.

An addiction cannot be pinpointed, nor can anyone be blamed for it. A person never picks up a vodka and coke with the express intention to one day become that person who cannot get up in the morning without it. Nobody takes a drag on a cigarette, dreaming of the day when they get to spend £12 in one go on two packs of twenty. Nobody draws on a spliff whilst bidding hello to schizophrenia. And yet we all start off there, in the same place. We have a part of our brains that allows us to ignore those little warning signs, those little voices that tell us that what we are doing is no good. Because, as we always say, I can look after myself.

Addiction creeps up silently, pouncing on a person when they are at their weakest. Who knows why?

So before you pass judgement on the situation that has arisen this week, I ask you to remember this simple fact: regardless of how far we go, or what we choose to dabble in, some of us are strong enough to hear those voices at a critical point and take heed; some of us are not so strong. Some of us cannot hear. Some of us are unable to. And that is the only difference between you and them.

Addiction takes no prisoners.


freedom.

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A life without ills is a straightforward one, but remember: if you have no shadows, then you have never truly stepped into the light.

We are free to shape our own lives; it is a gift.  Sometimes we will hurt and other times we will be submerged in joy… The important thing is to remember each and every little step that makes us who we are.

Ride the merry-go-round, for life is too short to deny yourself such simple and innocent pleasures.  Embrace these moments.  For these moments are your life.


peace.

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It is vague. It raises hopes and then crushes them, building a false sense of security before revealing that it is just a shadow, an illusion created by our world to give us something to live for.

We talk of ‘inner peace’ but how do we achieve such things? Peace passes through us rarely; we live in a society so full of petty conflict that I doubt we would even recognise its face. We live to be at war with something, anything. We bicker, we argue, we sabotage. We love, we destroy; we ruin perfectly wonderful things just so we can feel a sense of unrest in our meandering, peaceful existences.

But why?


enfp.

“Like the other Idealists, Champions are rather rare, say three or four percent of the population, but even more than the others they consider intense emotional experiences as being vital to a full life. Champions have a wide range and variety of emotions, and a great passion for novelty. They see life as an exciting drama, pregnant with possibilities for both good and evil, and they want to experience all the meaningful events and fascinating people in the world. The most outgoing of the Idealists, Champions often can’t wait to tell others of their extraordinary experiences. Champions can be tireless in talking with others, like fountains that bubble and splash, spilling over their own words to get it all out. And usually this is not simple storytelling; Champions often speak (or write) in the hope of revealing some truth about human experience, or of motivating others with their powerful convictions. Their strong drive to speak out on issues and events, along with their boundless enthusiasm and natural talent with language, makes them the most vivacious and inspiring of all the types.

Fiercely individualistic, Champions strive toward a kind of personal authenticity, and this intention always to be themselves is usually quite attractive to others. At the same time, Champions have outstanding intuitive powers and can tell what is going on inside of others, reading hidden emotions and giving special significance to words or actions. In fact, Champions are constantly scanning the social environment, and no intriguing character or silent motive is likely to escape their attention. Far more than the other Idealists, Champions are keen and probing observers of the people around them, and are capable of intense concentration on another individual. Their attention is rarely passive or casual. On the contrary, Champions tend to be extra sensitive and alert, always ready for emergencies, always on the lookout for what’s possible.

Champions are good with people and usually have a wide range of personal relationships. They are warm and full of energy with their friends. They are likable and at ease with colleagues, and handle their employees or students with great skill. They are good in public and on the telephone, and are so spontaneous and dramatic that others love to be in their company. Champions are positive, exuberant people, and often their confidence in the goodness of life and of human nature makes good things happen.”

Taken from http://keirsey.com/4temps/champion.asp – from a test taken at http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp.

Scarily accurate.


gove off.

On Thursday, I marched.

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I marched for every single teacher who has ever had somebody tell them that they do nothing of any worth.

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For every teacher who has ever been spat at; sworn at; assaulted; violated; verbally attacked or bullied.

For every teacher who has ever stayed in work past eight marking papers and arrived in school at seven the next day, without whinging or moaning about the ‘twelve-hour rule’.

For every teacher who taught somebody, anything.

For every teacher who has ever had to explain exactly why they might actually deserve a pension.

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Yesterday, somebody directed the following at me in an email:

“Do you contribute to my private pension? Because I’m pretty sure you don’t. Why should I pay for yours? Normal people shouldn’t have to pay for public sector workers.”

You’re right; I don’t contribute to your private pension.

I also don’t get paid for my overtime or extra-curricular clubs. Those things that I do, for free, that enable you to earn your wage and keep your family happy and healthy.

It seems that we are stuck in a world that feels it appropriate to bash teachers as in the eyes of the public, we do nothing. But let me ask you this:

How many articles on Wednesday were bashing us because children missed out on a day of education?

I can tell you.

Not one.

The Sun ran a story about how parents would have to pay for child care, and so all teachers were evil. The Daily Mail tried to pin a death on us, because we weren’t there to look after the poor soul. The Guardian passed comment on the glut of bookings for nurseries, creches and babysitters, leaving parents out of pocket. The Mirror ran an image of a mother and her son, resplendent with pit bull, attached to an interview where said mother was angry that she could not partake in her ‘day-to-day activities’… Which included going to the betting shop. Not a single publication focused on the loss of a day’s education; the fact that students were missing out on something important that would serve them a benefit in their future lives.

Where are our country’s priorities?

We’re not babysitters. We are far more than that.

Of all the children I have taught in the past six years, the vast majority are now at university or in full-time work, training themselves to be your future. They are our hope, our investment, our gift to the world. It is upon them that the future of society and its success rests.

And yet we continue to vilify our educators and claim they are worth nothing?

I may not pay towards your pension, but what I do do is worth far more than that. Because if in ten years, you suddenly have a heart attack and need a doctor; if you decide to start a business and need a consultant to look over your plans; if you get married and need a wedding planner/priest/photographer; if you work for a firm that has cleaners…

Every single one of them will have been trained by us.

So yes, I went on strike. I marched proudly with 3,500 other people and was greatly encouraged by the huge amount of support afforded to us by the residents of Brighton and Hove. We have Caroline Lucas on our side. We have a voice. We care about our students and we care about our future. Pension contributions increasing and working until 68 will only push perfectly brilliant teachers out of the system and into private jobs, and where will we be then? Where will our children be? A good education has to cost something, and if that means I have to pay tax to assist – and I do – then that is fine by me.

If you think your minimal tax contributions to our pensions are not worth the future of the world, then so be it.

I disagree.

All I ask is that before you bemoan the fact that you pay for their help, you think about this: without your teachers, where would you be? Would you even be paying tax?

Food for thought, hey?


what i make.

 

 

People get at me all the time for the choices I have made in my life. The conversations could be scripted, they are so predictable:

Cynic: So, you’re a teacher? Easiest job in the world, hey?
Me: What now?
Cynic: Well – working nine ’til three; stickin’ a video on; all those holidays… It can’t be that hard, surely.
Me: Seriously?
Cynic: Come on. Gold plated pensions? Working with kids? Teaching them to spell? It’s not exactly rocket science.
Me: Fuck you.

It’s not people judging my career choice that gets my gander, but more so the fact that they feel they know the life and stresses of teaching well enough to comment on how we as a profession feel without even ever setting foot in a classroom. Can you say arrogant? I’m not now, nor have I ever been, say, a lawyer, but I would never in my right mind dream of trying to tell one that their job was a cinch. I’ve never cleaned toilets, but I’d think twice before telling one of the school cleaners that they’ve got it easy. I know my doctor takes home a six-figure salary; I wouldn’t ever try to tell him that he doesn’t deserve it.

What makes us such easy targets?

The truth of the matter is thus: we take home a salary, yes. But we don’t get paid for our holidays – rather, our pay is simply stretched over 12 months to ensure that none of us is left short during holiday time. Our hourly pay is less than a lawyer, a doctor, even a cleaner; for we are paid based on 1265 hours a year: six hours a day. Show me a teacher who leaves at 3.30pm every single day having done all their work, and I’ll show you a liar, and a pretty tired-looking one at that. For that teacher’s pay cheque may state that they earn £25.00 per hour, but taking into account the hundreds of papers taken home, the extra-curricular clubs; the missed lunch breaks, the staying behind to resolve bullying issues; the parents’ evenings that drag on for hours longer than necessary; the parent resolution meetings; the report writing, the data collection, the assessments; the planning and preparation, the photocopying; the trawling of the internet/library/newspapers/books for resources, the reading of set texts; the early morning breakfast clubs, the late-evening catch-up sessions; revision, revision and more revision… And it works out more like a tenner.

That’s barely above the minimum wage.

We get holidays; agreed. However, it’s not like we don’t work. I have colleagues that end holidays early so that they can run a holiday revision session. My HoD spends hours during her ‘holiday time’ creating resources so that we have an easier time of it during the term. Headmasters never stop; especially mine. He’s a man on a mission and if one thing’s for certain, he never takes a break. Not to mention that we are role models within society; one false move on Facebook/Twitter/a trip into town for drinks and we are facing disciplinary action. No drinking in the week. No drugs. No hard partying. Holidays cost double what yours do. And we have to spend them with yet. more. children

I’m not allowed to wear short skirts or ‘provocative attire’; when my hair was platinum I had to tone it down. I can’t get the tattoo I desperately want and I had to kiss goodbye to my dream of a nose piercing when I was 24.

And yet we still turn up every day at half past seven with a smile on our faces.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m a lucky teacher who struck upon a method that works – I rarely stay past 4.30; I get all my reports done (somehow) and my classes are happy and achieving. I earn enough to keep me in shoes and well fed and I never miss out on a night out with my friends. I understand that there are far worse things that I could be doing with my life. I dedicate my life to those little oiks and I love it. I love it with every inch and fibre of my being. Which is why I turn up every morning and greet every one of them with a smile and a good wish, even if someone out there spent the evening before crushing my ambition with their ignorant comments.

I suppose I just wonder why those who do not wish to participate in my profession feel it appropriate to insinuate that we do nothing.

Which is why today’s post is headed with this amazing footage of a poem written by a passionate teacher who has just had enough.

What do we make?

We make a difference. And that’s what counts.


brighter.

“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.”
Vincent Van Gogh

Today has definitely been a better day.


for you, the sun will be shining.

 

I won’t lie to you; this song was introduced to me via an episode of Glee, which probably makes me the saddest wannabe-poet to walk the halls in many a year. I don’t care. All that matters is it found me; it found me at a time when I needed it the most.

Reflecting on the past is a tough thing to do at times. I am not and have never been perfect; I have made tens of hundreds of mistakes throughout my time on this planet and there are often days that I feel like I’m being thoroughly punished for each and every one of them. I try my hardest to live by the motto ‘never regret anything’. Sometimes it’s tough. Now I try to live by the motto ‘this too shall pass’ – for often life is tough; it can bite you hard. It’s often far too easy to give up on things simply because we’re too tired to deal with them any more. We give up on love, our career, our friends – when what we really should tell ourselves is ‘one day, this will all be a memory’.

I’m a huge romantic. I fall hard and I fall fast, and always, always for the most inappropriate men and women. Of course, the upshot of this is that I live eight tenths of my life in a love-struck haze; I sing loud and hard, walk with a bounce and appreciate the lyrics of songs like the above. However, the downside is that when love ends, it ends with a smack in the mouth and there’s nothing I can do but trudge to work and deal with the endless monotony until it too passes and becomes memory; becomes myth. It’s times like this, times when relationships that once consumed me end, that I try to listen out for the markers the tell me the experience is almost over. I’ve been here before. I’ve cried endless tears over countless failures; I’ve spent endless amounts of cash on cigarettes, drugs and booze in an effort to kill the sinking feelings inside me; I’ve found myself underneath the least suitable people in a half-baked effort to forget. It usually helps; it rarely works. But what else do we do? I am an expert wallower; I am even better at self-pity. I’m a drama queen and though I hate the feelings, a small part of me appreciates the drama behind it all.

I read with avid interest a blog by Carrie Lloyd, which can be found here. In it, she expresses the things she has learned from life – a post that inspired my ‘things that I have learnt’ post from earlier this week. I took solace in what she was saying and she offered me some personal words of assurance and advice in response, which I intend to hold on to – the notion that one day, all of this experience will be committed to memory and it can only make me a better person in the long run. What am I now if not an expert on failed relationships? Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, after all.

I will never, ever fall out of love with being in love. It’s my favourite emotion. Which is why I still listen to this song and look forward – I may be in my fifties when I finally find the right person for me, but what does it matter? On the way there, I intend to fall in love a few times more yet, even if it is fleeting, unsure, or unreciprocated. Right now, though, I will not go looking for it.

-B. x