764 posts

19126 days old, some numbers discovered in the last 24 hours from reading others posts, follow up research and curiousity.

Never a blogger who expects to attack mega readership like several that I have met in education. In many ways my posts are more reflective and for me if others like them that’s good.

I have increasingly posted on Staffrm.io now on 143 posts.
Why do you blog?

Ups and downs, the cycle of a day

I am writing this blog to share, vent, diffuse…so many reasons or excuses, you decide.
I am a teacher as most readers know, so I am now in the 5th week of my summer break. Traditionally a time to spend with family, relax, let go of school thoughts, go away for a while, then wind self up in the last week as I prepare to go back into school.

This summer is my new beginning, a move to a dream job teaching, not managing others, with chances to be creative and outdoors. An opportunity to bring my extended family together in a new place in a great location. That is all still going to be possible so why is it getting to me?

Well complications over selling and buying properties and delays … mean that the choice to be in our new location for the 9th of August has been and gone. The various companies involved in the reason for the loss of one sale are being elusive. The follow up process not moving at the speed we would like. It is causing frustration. As part of the interim measure four of us share our three bedroom terraced house, space is at a premium, there is nowhere to hide for those moments on tension.

I have had many good points this holiday, many spent with family, ex collleagues, ex pupils celebrating the start to a new stage yet my mind and body roll from one extreme to the other.

I am participating in #DrawAugust where I sketch (at least one) a drawing each day and post it online – I am doing this on Facebook and Twiiter where I am combining it with #Teacher5adaysketch. Today’s drawing shows how my mood has varied today. I have had the happy smiley, finding it difficult to take compliments about the way I work with my classes. I have had the neutral where despite nagging doubts about the pace of progress towards the new life I have offered the whole family, not just myself there have been great thoughts that neutralise or even balance out the mood. Then there are the silly things I allow to niggle away, the gnawing and gnashing of my jaw in frustration where my mood drops and my boat seems to start sinking.

So why post this, because to be honest blogging is my release. It doesn’t matter whether people read it, it is like a tap. I can alter the flow. When I was younger and I felt low I would bottle it up, I wouldn’t share and I would fly off the handle and get very shoutey, I would slam doors. I was not great to be around and I apologise to my siblings and parents for that. Those outlets didn’t make me feel better. I have used exercise, sketching, walking, crying, hiding in a darkened room to various extents to release the internal pressure. I reflect I have a mind which is overactive, I don’t always advise such a thing. So today as the day has progressed, I am not in the mood to exercise, I want to hit out but I don’t, I want to scream but I don’. I want to hide but I don’t – so I blog and I will post it once on FB and Twitter as a link and it will stand as evidence of one day in my head. Some say I shouldn’t be this open but I suffer from depression I have a Mental health issue and I want others to know that it is not easy on some days. 

This August the 31st I am going to host an online chat as part of #teacher5adayslowchat3 and talk with people online about this mental health thing that impacts on many of us, that makes others judge us. Then on September 17th I am opening myself up in a room with other people, mainly teachers ( nobody might turn up) to have a conversation about mental health from the teachers perspective as the sufferer rather than the supporter. 

As I have written this post the therapeutic effort of putting my thoughts down by drawing, then typing (and correcting) have brought me to a calmer place. If you have read to this point, thank you. If issues like this affect you and you don’t have an outlet say hi – I am on Twitter at @aknill, I am on email at Andy.knill@gmail.com. If that scares you, I am sorry and ignore my offer.

I am now back to midway between picture two and picture one. 


Mental Health – Sharing from the inside

On Wednesday 31 August I will be leading a #Teacher5adaySlowChat on Twitter on this topic as a lead in to a new school year and also as a link to my session at #Pedagoohampshire16 on 17September. 

The slow chat offers an opportunity throughout the day for people to reflect, challenge, ask, share what I mention in this post based on the questions I am going to post here. I am NOT an expert on mental health, I am a person that suffers from the effects of my own undulating mental state at different periods of my life. I have blogged quite openly about this now for a number of years, taken part in projects looking at people who have ongoing unresolved issues, chatted to people at open events about it and also shared thoughts with others online.
So why do I think my perspective might help others at a teacher meeting aimed at well-being as a new school year starts. Why me to promote a discussion about mental health before term even begins?

In the media and through online networks mental health has become a much more openly discussed consequence of modern life and how we cope with it. Some people are never troubled, some can not work at all, some have problems from time to time. As edipucators we are increasingly seeing more signs of stress in our pupils and colleagues.

Some schools have very clear and explicit support mechanisms, sometimes these target both staff as a resource as well as students. Sometimes one group is dealt with more effectively. Sometimes it seems for some that it is an inconvenience and people should just snap out of it and get on with life. We can all cite differing views. I believe that students and staff both have needs in terms of support and understanding. My outspokenness in the minds of some former employers make me a thorn. I have a profile online for speaking out. It is not for selfish reasons although that could be aimed at me because my own mental wellbeing is of course on my agenda.

So if this is an issue for you here are five questions that I will put out throughout the 31 August;

Q1 Are you aware of mental health being an obstacle for some students and /or colleagues? How are you aware?

Q2 Do mental health matters impact on you personally? If so, how? (Please set own limits on openness in an open conversation)

Q3) Does your work place have an explicit structure to support mental health? Is it a common policy for all?

Q4) How do you think mental health can/should be discussed openly within the workplace?

Q5) How can online networks support staff especially in having a supportive ear at times of need?

Following chat convention when answering a particular question please put A1… For the number  question that you are answering.

I have participated previously in the Mindshackles project led by Iesha Small. This helped me to vent some of my thoughts over time although it was misquoted back at me by a member of SLT during an attendance review. I have blogged extensively through this blog and also on Staffrm about my own struggles. I tweet and and share on Facebook and LinkedIn and belong to a group called #BDamigos who reach out to each other.

It I look forward to leading a conversation about being a mental health sufferer and how we make it work for us or alternatively why it isn’t or hasn’t worked for us. It will be a session where sensitivity to others is key as there may be very personal sharing. I look forward to meeting all or anyone that attends. It is the first time I have set out an explicit session as a sufferer so I am intrigued about what the response will be.

I hope this post has whetted your appetite, provoked some thoughts, made you want to share. If interested what I have posted previously please see the index on this blog for my mental health posts.

Responses, comments on here or through other online channels are welcomed.

The errant blogger

I have been disloyal to my own blog. I apologise to myself and my readers. The link above should take you to my Staffrm profile where I have built up a log of somewhere between 130 and 140 blogposts in addition to my pieces here. Why the transfer of allegiance – some are challenging gets like blogging for each of the 29 days of February. Some because I get a larger readership and sometimes the ego likes that.

So I need to re-engage with this blog and hope to do more so as I go into the new school year.

Triggering a piece of detective work

This morning while retweeting some news stories on the @gasigict Twitter account I found a piece from The Independent about the Louvre having to close to move art stored in underground areas above the current level of the flooding in Paris. This made me think – if I want to know about UK river levels and flood risk I can look at the Environment Agency website or Shoothill’s Gaugemap work. This is now being extended to include cam views on some rivers too.

I then started to wonder what was available at a European level – some success in finding sites which I tweeted out. This is why I am keen on using IT as a resource support in Geography.

New life approaches…chapter 2

Life has become a cycle of time spent in the loft going through the detritus of the last 22 years of familial hoarding (mostly mine!), trips to the local recycling centre and the fun that is house viewings. We are selling two properties to move – my mother-in-laws went in the  first week. We are starting to become more popular with a series of viewings over half term and a flurry since June 1st.

We have had a building survey done on new property and now need to revisit and check a few things out more carefully. We need to find a builder(s) to quote us for some work. My new HoD has been great at providing names and contact details for sreputable services in Dorset.
My mind has turned to some ideas for the new role and I have passed on some ideas to my prospective headteacher re. Geography conference proposal for April 2017. 

I am currently doing a six week Stress and Mood Management course through my local Primary Care Trust and it has been quite timely as a valve for letting off steam between all the above plus work and family matters.

I can now see why moving etc is seen to be stressful and we are only at the early stages really. I suppose to be honest I just want to get on and be able to move then piece together our new life, gradually settling into a new place, job and way of life.

My guided visualisation relaxation place was Swanage Bay above, in my sit on top kayak on a dry, calm day. First sitting still listening to the water on the bottom of the kayak then paddling around gently – starting to feel part of the place.

New life approaches …

At Easter the family went on holiday to Swanage. While we were there I saw a new school building and looked them up online. Intrigued by what they offered I looked at their vacancies not expecting anything of interest – but there was a Humanities teacher post. The curriculum and structure appealed. So I rang the school, the headteacher was in school while year 11s were revising, what time could I be there…I walked (10 minutes from the cottage) and Mr Hobson greeted me and showed me round, I also met Mrs Gray – humanities lead. I was interested but the holiday was why we were here. In the second week prior to the GA conference I posted off my application.

The week of the 25th April saw me travel down for interview – I would be teaching about War and Peace to Year 8. I had researched and come up with an idea – a walk along the Purbeck Ridge above the school pointing out historical features for tourists or locals. I travelled down the afternoon prior to interview day and sent a pleasant evening down busy the beach watching the sea rowing club and sailing club out at play. Wednesday saw me take a 15 minute walk from my hotel to school. Four of us on interview, not all younger as I had anticipated – I stood a better chance now, I thought. An interview, a student panel, a free lesson (one candidate had dropped out), teaching year 8 and I had what I later described on my drive back to Essex as my best day possible. I had done all that I could, yes I really wanted this job and new lifestyle but would understand if I didn’t get it. Well, Thursday I had set off to work when the phone rang – yes I was successful.

In the last two weeks and three days I have had all my checks done, signed my new contract, resigned from my current school, had a weekend in Swanage for house viewings, made an offer on a property and had it accepted, put our house and my mother in laws on the market and one has sold already…oh and started clearing the loft – two journeys of a whole carful done each time to date. Life is changing….fast. 

A life at the coast beckons, the speed things have changed at is quite mind boggling. I am looking forward so much to the next stage in my career. I am also looking forward to a slower pace of life, lots of fresh air, strolls on a beach 15 minutes walk from our new home.

I will track this adventure as we move to Swanage. If I seem to be gloating I am not I am just so happy about this new adventure.

School holidays and rest

It’s the Easter/Spring break. Some tensions reading latest comments from union conferences and Education politics. However, since my return to school and kept away from KS4 classes I have no revision responsibilities and anyway I have booked to be away for much of the break.

Currently in Dorset. Days have included a small bit of driving, but more walking and tea shops, beach walks, photographs and sketches. Our youngest is interested in trains and with a heritage railway at his disposal has been making the most of it.

I am relaxed, I have at last shed the chest infection that didn’t really stand a chance while I was trying to teach with it. We slept mainly through Storm Katie, the houses here are quite packed together and solidly built but glad we weren’t outside in the wind / rain.

Most days I have posted examples of sketches on social media. Today we met up with the family of a fellow geographer also in the area. We have decided that this could be the coastal area that we would like to move to in the future or earlier if a job application comes off but don’t hold your breath, I am after all expensive even with a drop in salary.

I have enjoyed having social media contact with friends on FB and Twitter and it’s good to read and see examples of many taking time out – keep this up.


Stick your head up high and wait …

Enough … Is a post I wrote on http://Staffrm.io this weekend. As a parent, teacher and mental sufferer the three were thrown into hiatus with the political decisions about funding for disability payment reductions in the budget, declaration that all schools should become academies and the school day should also be longer. Both of these buy into my own anxieties as the parent of two adoptive sons with additional needs who I want to be able to support towards more independent adult lives. Also as a teacher I see my work/career subject to whims that are not well argued for and a cause of unnecessary. Hange for myself, colleagues but more importantly for successive cohorts of children who are used as Guinea pigs for politicians to tinker with.

So I wrote a post and I have then actively sought online support from many that I know / have met / follow to see if they would agree to share it further. The article will be promoted throughout the next week as we head up to the Easter break. This afternoon it has hit about 1500 views in a weekend an achievement I have never made with a post previously.

As an experienced teacher and parent I believe it was time to make a stand, what do you think?

Well… #29daysoffebruary are completed

This month I have posted a blog post everyday on Staffrm . In fact in the last 14 months since Dcember 26, 204 I have posted 113 stories. They are a part of a community, I unlike blogging here which sometimes seems a lonely existence. Please follow the link and see if any of the stories interest you. It averages out at two posts a week for 14 ,months, much more prolific and there have also been posts on here in that time too.

Now I have  agreed to try and post once a week for #44weeks, we will see how that goes. But I will be returning to my own blogs too.