The difference a status can make…

I returned to the UK on Monday to read an article on the BBC news page again about why many teachers say they want to leave the profession. For those readers who have only known me since my art “phase” Jan 2017 onwards, I used to be a teacher.

Over a period from 1999 to 2016 I had about every three years a breakdown that disabled me completely. I would have to have time off work before returning. In this time I started to take antidepressants because my first solution increased exercise failed to have enough effect. The first break was only six weeks, the longest break about three and a half months. I always went back because teaching was my vocation, I could not see myself doing anything else.

In my last three posts additional pressures outside work significantly increased and I was struggling. Until in 2016 after a particularly painful period in my last school in London where I felt I had virtually been pushed out of the door, I moved to Dorset and to what either had to work or I would have to stop teaching. Several factors made the start of the new role have additional pressures that I could not cope with. They had given me a named person to talk with if feeling that I was struggling with my mental health, which I had been open about in my interview and application. I couldn’t admit to them or even to my family at the time, back in Essex, that I felt suicidal on a regular basis after about 5 weeks in. It all “blew up” after ten weeks in, the offers of help that came were too late and from the wrong people, I.e. not the ones who had been the primary causes of my stress in addition to my own thoughts.

I left and made the very sensible decision that I could no longer cope with the stresses of a job that in its purest form, I.e. teaching 11 to 16 year olds I still loved with a passion. It was the ridiculous obsession of measuring and reducing individual pupils to the status of “data” that I could have no part in.

So now a broken ex-teacher I had to restart a new life in a new place and an inability mentally to cope with full time work. Due to a combination of circumstances from January 2017 to April 2019 I felt like a person who had “failed” at the vocation I loved. I could accept feedback from ex- pupils and colleagues going back over 30 years, however I still couldn’t consider a full time role or what to do. I have rebuilt a new life, I am now an artist and have sold well considering my starting point. I have a summer seasonal part time post I love, but I was no longer bringing in a steady income. Savings and careful financial management has meant we have survived.

So how has my status changed? through 28 years of full time teaching we were always told how the teacher pension scheme was a good one to be in and to keep paying into. When I left teaching an ex colleague pointed out I could claim a reduced pension from 55 years. On Tuesday April 9 while on our first fortnight’s holiday away from home in 21 years my status changed. I am now a “retired teacher”, I will have a steady regular income, I will still work at my art and summer job because they help give me enjoyment and fulfilment. I do feel guilty that mention of such a luxury is not fair on many friends locally who are self-employed and don’t have that security ahead but I know I worked hard for this and now my status change means I can now leave ex / couldn’t hack it – teacher status is gone. I paid into a scheme for 28 years and now I have payback.

So really this is a self-indulgent post in many ways, but I think it offers something to others too. I see a teaching profession, not just in the UK but in many countries, where fellow professionals are put under so much pressure in the name of “performance” that the profession is haemorrhaging staff far too fast.

Every generation of children is currently being out under too much pressure. The result an education system that is flawed. With an increasing ageing population we need a good workforce to contribute taxes to run our countries. To achieve that we need to value the members of that workforce. So many years of the jokes about how many weeks holiday teachers get every year, but ask those same people why they are not teachers then and a very quick about face about how they couldn’t do that job.

If we want a healthy, happy and skilled workforce then we need to put less pressure on those individuals as they grow up and are educated. To achieve that we need a healthy, happy, skilled and valued workforce to pass on that education. Unfortunately I see a world full of words and good intentions but little change. I still follow some debate about education because it has always been important to me and always will I see fellow professionals open up about their mental health struggles as I did through this blog and on Twitter – but the support comes from those under pressure not those causing the pressure.

Please can the powers that be wake up and start a new process for change, it is time.

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Freeletics recovery break

No, I haven’t given up. I got to week six and did four workouts in the first week of a fortnight away in Canada but long walks in the day me at my energy levels could not sustain workouts as well. So I made the decision to take a week out and I admit this week so far jet lag etc means I have not restarted yet but will be doing even if my completion of task may be less efficient.

I admit the programme is suiting me but admitting to myself I had to take a rest after going from no workouts to six weeks at four a week was catching up with me. Jet lag and jumping straight back into work shifts and art events mean I will need to monitor how I am coping but week seven will be blogged about soon.

Canada trip will also make a show in some posts too.

Freeletics week four

The saga continues, yes I am still going. This week has seen me knock a significant 8 seconds off my pb for 200m and 4 seconds off my 800m time. I know from many previous years of running that this pb pattern will not always happen. Also it will be interesting to see how times vary as the footpath / track dries out as we go towards summer.

The drills are adding new exercises each week. I am terrible at burpees etc, I can not sit up for the sit-ups. Pushups are done with a new arm position but so far easier to do but in small quantities. I am feeling that gradually I am adding greater flexibility and my cardio fitness is improving.

I do feel sorry for anyone passing out front garden when I am exercising on the front step and so far have managed to avoid people walking on he track, the sight of me lumbering along may distress.

Was it a good idea for me?

Yes, as I have a structure, I am exercising four days a week consistently and have rest days too. I now look ahead to check clips on new techniques so I will know what I am aiming for. I am not trying extension exercises but nor am I doing easier exercises either. I am being introduced to a range of drills I would not come up with or do on my own even though I essentially train on my own each time.

While doing this I have also gone out rowing and my new squat practice helped in the boat. I have cycled 18 miles and only tired in the last two miles so I am adding my own extras too. I have even started to modify diet slightly and I already have worn a shirt to go out for a meal that previously wouldn’t do up. When I get to 12 weeks and the end of this particular programme I will post photos of me at the start and after 12 weeks, you have been warned.

Freeletics training

So I am onto week 3, this week Friday will see me trying to run 1500m “like an athlete”, a sluggish one. I am enjoying the challenge of the exercises four times a week. Sessions are usually between 20 and 30 minutes.

My flexibility is improving and I have even started a new Pinterest board for stretching exercises to start using to work on my shoulders and neck which have caused sleep disruption for several nights recently. I am also aware of the need to loosen my hips and as my core starts to develop to add more strength for sit ups especially.

The runs have so far been mainly on the Houns Track path and so far I have been lucky not to scare any walkers as I attempt to “sprint” 200 or 400m and “run like an athlete” for 800m.

Some of the exercises are becoming easier to correct form and technique and I am keeping up the pace on most things.

No photos as I said last time, Anne took some pre Freeletics pics on day one and we will do a second set when I complete the first 12 week programme.Admittedly less eating of treats would accelerate any change but I am not ready for that yet!

Rigorous training starts

Since the post I just posted I have invested in a year’s coaching from an online app called “Freeletics” had looked at it a number of times when it was advertised on Facebook and Instagram.

I am walking more, I have used both my bikes already but I need to improve my fitness, size of midriff and flexibility. I used to have a great exercise ethic when I was younger where I would exercise, often to the point of addiction and keep very fit. Age has slowed that and I have widened as I like my food but the exercise drive has dwindled hence previous posts.

So I have invested in this app to get me out and exercising. In week one I have done four workouts. Each has involved warming up and cooling down exercises. I have already challenged my breathing, flexibility and core strength. I have completed a number of exercises that following instructions drives me one more than I can do for myself. I have also done two 400m runs and an 800m one.

A positive start, I am not going to publish the weekly photos of my shape until I complete my first 12 week programme.

As there is a rest day between each workout I have held off doing other activities this week but will add those in so I am out walking, cycling, kayaking etc in addition to the workouts.

Please follow my progress and see what my “stickability” is.

Changes in plans

Plans are meant to be flexible aren’t they?

So 2019 started with an old Andy habit – want to show something is happening – make a spreadsheet / logbook. I did this to show I was exercising more, Anne questioned why I needed a spreadsheet for that and to be honest she was right so that method has gone.

In January post-beach huts event I found myself fighting germs that had not been “allowed” to kick in during the event. Fitness dropped as previous posts said. I have pulled back from training at the rowing club as others are training towards the Scillies in May and are getting fitter and fitter, the gap between us kept growing so own exercise was needed.

Anne and I are doing a few more walks locally – recent examples are parking in Worth (Matravers) village car park and walking down to Winspit, exploring the old quarrying area then walking onto Seacombe on the South West Coast path and then back to the ‘Square and Compass’ for a pasty and some live music.

Pictures above show climbers and other walkers visiting Winspit.

After walks or cycle rides or even kayak trips I use ArcGIS Explorer to measure the rough distance covered, it is also good for sharing with others about routes to take.

The next walk was along ‘Houns Tout’ and as it was a calm day, we descended the steps towards’ Chapmans Pool’ then returned up the valley towards Kingston.

We have had a sunset walk along ‘Houns Tout’ and saw no one on our way to the bench at the end where we watched the waves and sun going down. We only saw one couple on the way back too.

We have just changed phone contracts and invested in Huawei P20 Pro cameras each with a Leica linked camera which hopefully will show in the quality of pictures taken.

We have also had a few walks in and around Swanage including a sunny morning sat at the end of the pier which led to some sketching time. It was good to stop and rest at the pier shelter.

The recent mild weather also inspired me to be out on my other bicycle, not the fat bike but the cyclocross one. I had seen and heard about the bike track through Rempstone forest but it was an area I had driven along the edge of but not explored. For some reason my phone app did not record the distance correctly, the map shown is from ‘Explorer’ again.

An incomplete circuit because I tried to do too much, this is not new as people who have exercised with me know only too well, but I do like to push the boundaries. So a descent down Kingston hill which I am gaining confidence on, through Corfe village and onto Norden and the road across Hartland and Middlebere. Then I left the road and took the bridleway / National cycle route 2 that cuts across to a Studland in the east. Loose sand sections would have suited the fat tyres better. Lots of stopping to unfasten and refasten gates. The scenery was great I saw a few other people out on foot and bikes. A chance to see Poole Harbour from the southern shore.

At Studland I cycled up towards the village and then took the road past the Pig at the beach hotel, and the Banks Arms, the road was busy with cars and pedestrians. I made my way out to Old Harry Rocks then cycled up until fatigue kicked in and had to walk for a while across Ballard Down. The views appeared hazy but the coastal landforms were still clear.

A picture at the triangulation pillar and then I descended some of the bridleway into Swanage, it became too steep and risky for me so I dismounted and walked. A break in Swanage and an ice cream. Then I set off for home. Langton (Matravers) hill was a slow process with many stops at the side to rest, I refused to dismount. Then once just past Burngate I realised I was wiped out, a phone call and my friendly bike taxi came and collected me.

All in all a positive difference and more exercise – enough?

See next post…

A geography teachers skills can be transferred…

See my latest art blog post for how my geographer roots help my art.

Art post

Fatbike ride 2

So I bought a secondhand Calibre Dune fatbike at the weekend. Today I had decided to go out in the day for my second ride. I had some ideas for a route but how much I did would depend on my fitness.

I live up on a ridge called Houns Tout – I descended through my local village Kingston and took the bridleway past Blashenwell Farm. A rock track where care was needed in places. The lower slope then runs onto Corfe Common and is more undulating. I cycled through the village of Corfe Castle and turned uphill under one of the bridges carrying the Swanage Heritage Railway. Soon I turned off to start the climb up onto the Purbeck Ridge (chalk). I cycled about half the slope which is probably better than I was expecting. I walked the second half until I reached the direction stone. I turned back to ride to the tumulus on East Hill above Corfe Castle. I took some photos on my phone to help with a current piece of art.

Then I cycled eastwards along the ridge. in a couple of places I had to dismount for the slope as well as opening and shutting gates.

I reached the end of the ridge above Ulwell and took a picture before descending.

Descending needed care and attention with small pebbles and rock steps aĺl passed without incident. I continued into Swanage and a refreshment stop at Java Independent Coffee House, a personal favourite.

After my Apricot and Marzipan toasted scone (yummy) and peppermint tea it was time to set off back upto Kingston. This time I would be following the southern Purbeck ridge (limestone). I started on the road then went onto “The Priests Way”. Very muddy in places and lots of gates. I worked my way up feom Swanage behind Langton Matravers and Acton and on towards Worth Matravers. Tiredness was setting in so rather than taking the hillier option from Worth that I had cycled on Sunday. I returned to the top road that runs from Langton to Kingston past several local stone businesses. In Kingston I cycled very slowly by now back up through the village and back along the Houns Tout track that passes our house.

In total 16.4 miles covered and I have rested since except for cleaning the Dune.

In 2019 I want to gradually increase the distances covered and the pace I ride at. Some rides will be more road bases and will use my trail /cross bike. An encouraging start to the year.

Exercise – week three

Germs have dominated week two and also affected week 3. We have got out for some gentle walks in the open air at Durlston and Studland Bay. Walking and being outside has always been good for my mental wellbeing and it offers the chance to look about us at our great surroundings here in Purbeck.

Today I travelled up to Fleet, Hampshire to look at a second hand fatbike, but only 6 months old. It was all that I was expecting, so once home a quick lunch and then out for a first ride.

I set off from home and stayed offroad for the first 4.5 miles. The return journey included more road but despite 4.0 inch tyres the low gearing made it easy to ride. I got wet and muddy and had a great time.

In total an 8 mile ride and there will be more like this soon too.

Reminders – positive ones

On Twitter yesterday a Depuy Head teacher that I used to correspond with about various education ideas remade contact. He commented how he had read my blog up until the point that I left social media for a while as teaching as my core thing imploded. In chatting it made me realise that now after two years I have actually moved on. I have landed very fortuitously living in a coastal area, I have the finance to support our life and when I work I can choose to do things I like.

Today, wondering how it might make me feel I scrolled down through all of my blog posts on here back to 2011 and revisited my 365 photo blog that I started blogging with on a platform called Posterous. Then I imported the content into WordPress and Mishmashlearning was born out of my first experience presenting to education peers at a Teachmeet in Feb. 2012. This caused some reflection on how much went on and changed between 2012 and 2016 for me to leave teaching all together. I wasn’t getting upset which is a relatively new feeling, teaching is over.

I read on through 2012 and the amount of initiatives I was aware of and trying to bring into school while discussing ideas with professionals I admired online and in several cases met at education events in the next four years. I still feel passionate about Solo Taxonomy although I resist applying it to everything I do now, I just know that my enjoyment of learning new skills and ideas has transferred into my boat work and art.

So many thanks Dan B. for a prompt.