Monthly Archives: October 2015

Developing a skill…sketching

Since June 20th I have been sketching and I have now bought books to read to look at others work, techniques and ideas plus the #teacher5adaysketch initiative currently taking place. I have used a variety of sketchbooks mainly A5 in size so far as they are easy to transport and carry around with me. I bought some drawing pencils but have then stuck with using fine liner pens. My first purchases were Pilot drawing pens bought individually in London from the London Graphics Centre. My student Rotring set awaits setting up to use – I must do this soon. Then I discovered Cass Art while on a break in Bristol and have since visited their Charing Cross Road branch in London and using Staedtler pigment pen set which others line widths from .05 to .8. 

I have thought about using colour but lack the confidence to try yet on paper, I have found a solution and am now using Paper app on the iPad. I sketch on the iPad or photograph one of my sketches and import it to then colour with pens or “paint”. The results are developing and it offers me an introduction to using colour.


Teachers encouraging each other #teacher5adaysketch

  This year one wellbeing initiative that has drawn in a number of #tweachers (teachers on Twitter) is #teacher5aday. The initiative led by Martyn Reah has helped to encourage conversations about wellbeing and taking time away from work. There have been #cook, #read over the summer holiday, #PE in October – so still going and now for half term homework there is #sketch. Also we have seen an exhibition that has been displayed at the Haslemere museum, Institute of Education and PedagooHampshire.

Are you looking for a community to link with? Other teachers to talk about subjects other than teaching? I admit #cook didn’t see me participate but I have taken in all other aspects. Currently #sketch is apparently linked to me sharing the sketching I have been doing as a break and recently as a recovery strategy from my recent breakdown.

Take part, have fun, that’s what it’s all about.


#TLT15 a reflection from a non attender

This year, I got my #TLT ticket for the third year in a row. I looked forward to attending, arriving early to stick signs up with blu tac and just help out as I did pre TLT13 and TLT14. I might wear an alternative to the globalsolo hat seen at TLT14 but I would just attend to meet, network and gather ideas for my own learning and ideas I might take back to the department.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you are aware that the last few weeks have not gone to plan, so knowing that being surrounded by very capable educators talking shop would actually be intimidating I returned my ticket so that someone else could attend.

So Saturday 17 October I woke up at Blu Tac o’clock. I tweeted to some friends attending and took part in the #teacher5aday chat especially. I drew some sketches based on photos and comments tweeted. So I felt that I was there in spirit. I could socialise but I still could not cope with the ed. stuff.

I hope to attend TLT16 if the event continues and I am enjoying reading the reflective posts through sites such as @staffrm.

  The hat from TLT14 that several mentioned.
  Twitter references and logos.
  UKEdchats pod which apparently only 4 people spoke to, a shame for Martin, but I am sure there was a lot going on, there always is.
These count as early pieces towards #teacher5adaysketch.

Picked up …

So Tuesday, I was looking forward to a trip to IKEA and also the gym. Gym trip was slightly flat, I stretched parts that haven’t been for a while – ached on Wednesday. Trip to IKEA was successful and other things for Mrs K. Agreed on returning home that I was not to start building shelves in the evening. 

Wednesday treat was appointment to have programme set at the gym. This went well, so a programme for two visits per week and cardio classes for other two visits. Then a chance to build new bookcase for room that has become my quiet space. Book wise I have some of our crime fiction collections plus various travel / geographical related books and some education books ( on the condition that if they distract rest they are to be removed). Tired later meant I was quite flat but recovered to do some sketching from own pictures.

Thursday was a mooch in Basildon and purchase some art materials. I was weary and napped then in the evening a warmup with new phone of 80 wall sits, 80 sec plank and 80 squats. Spin/ bodybikeclass was full on to tracks from Sham69, Sex Pistols … Very energetic and sweated buckets. In fact later despite putting 2 litres of fluids back in still slightly dehydrated.

Friday – due at GP later for follow up in raised meds- today is a slow tired day so backed off and just going with the flow.

No looking at work emails, know I have to see Occupational health before I return, still resisting it slightly but accepting my lot and using one or two targets a day. More successful at pushing any work related thoughts back out of my head but time drags sometimes.

Update completed…

Oh dear…..

Sunday afternoon I visited the gym as planned and did a workout, several things I tried I couldn’t sustain as my focus was limited to about 7 or 8 minutes. My mind is jumpy at the moment. 

My advice is to forget about work, it is for me something I find extremely difficult as I probably have far too much of me invested especially after carrying things last year. Monday morning started flat to good, I managed a few minor tidy / organisation jobs. Each one was a short task so focus was ok. I had Spotify playing in background. I then attempted some sketching from old photos of mine now available through Google photos albums. But the sketching would not settle, I was unable to commit / focus. I did some doodles, self reflected and a task I had considered wrote some key words / points about work difficulties but didn’t try to analyse. Then, in my wisdom, thought quick peek at work email just to be aware of what’s happening at an arm’s length idea. Fine until decided to look at borough job pages – interesting to see what schools were posting locally – often been a discussion starter with ex colleagues before about how things are. So there is a post for a lead geography practitioner at my school… . It was like I was standing on a tablecloth and a magician had whisked it away from under my feet and my mood plummeted. I fired an email off to the contact person and welfare contact. The latter got back to me almost immediately, part of a longer term plan, that reassured me that I wasn’t under threat as I had indicated I was afraid. However, different to previous plans going forward. That reply seemed to calm me. I went to make some lunch – I was shaking, my arms were difficult to settle. I had agreed I would go for a walk or to the gym but now did not want to be outside or around people. I retreated to the sofa initially and watched snippets of programmes again settling to anything was almost impossible. By 4pm I needed to retreat and rest. I cried myself to sleep and woke later and spent a neutral to low evening with the family.

What have I learnt, now a  new day has started? 

– do NOT go into school email system – leave until I have been approved to return

– days can change – see how my mind and body feel

– try to let go of this guilt ( see previous posts )

– try to “just be”

Tuesday, a flatter start, looked at own mail (NOT work). Switched devices back off, hopefully a trip to IKEA later to look at flat pack ideas for book storage. Maybe a gym session this morning but distraction and endorphin release as much as anything else. Fired off this post as a reflection point and sort of self admission.

Now some of you like some previous colleagues will question why I blog these things, they are on the web, anyone could read them. This blog represents me, I have problems with mental health but I also do so many positive things too. See I know there are good aspects that I can regain, after all it’s only a few weeks since I travelled down to Hampshire and shared teaching ideas with other teachers. My sketching for relaxation through programmes like #teacher5aday has inspired a half term homework project on sketching for others to join in after showing friends what it has done for me. My blog posts are like a diary of sorts or a notebook, if you don’t approve, don’t read, it’s that simple.

Yep, ……., Oops…

Saturday – gym was good, did some exercise before class and still able to give it my all. At home helped son with an assignment for Monday for his BTec. The slipping into teaching role was welcome at first. His disorganisation and gaps in knowledge of the task led to an increasing stress feeling. I finished Saturday mentally exhausted. 

Did spend lots of time chatting online and sharing World Mental Health Day images, posts, poems…that I found and chatting about sketching and #teacher5aday.

Sunday – low / flat – lowest point since Tuesday, so move away from return to teaching role. A walk and brunch at local country park – Thorndon South. Issues starting to filter through my head – will start to note down but not try and analyse yet. Can I try and sell idea of my time off as a sort of sabbatical to assuage my sense of guilt for not being there in the classroom? Watch end of Russian F1 Grand Prix, then some more RWC. later this afternoon I intend another gym visit as I can almost hide away without locking myself in a room or curled up in a ball and benefit from it at the same time.

In conclusion, I tried too early to do something teacher-y, I need to switch off, my mind difficulty is that guilt assuaging as mentioned above. New positive mention and wellbeing teacher5aday Homework for half term with a vehicle for more sketching which won’t be an issue as I return to Norfolk and lots of potential subjects.

Patience isn’t easy, but I’m working on it…

So Wednesday was a good day after two BD (Black Dog) days. Well, good news, the week continued positively and I had three positive days consecutively, but I was worn out on Friday. The new gym subscription saw me exercise Wednesday and do Bodybike class (all indoor cycle classes depending on trade name involve same sort of thing) on Thursday evening. I also went to the Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead Market, Essex with my wife and Mother in law, the gardens were lovely and I admit they sparked ideas for planned long term project with science department at school linked to John Muir Trust Award scheme and Greater London National Park proposal… A slip but a positive one. 

Friday saw me very weary in the morning but a visit to local nature reserve without lots of young families on the Wind in the Willows trail meant it was quieter. Identified two new unknown spottings – immature cormorants and their lighter fronts and Pintail ducks. Watched New Zealand v Tonga in the RWC and played taxi drive for youngest son.

In the evening on Twitter found myself drawn into chats about teacher workloads and new GCSE specifications – or lack of approved final specifications. So yes, work related but again one of the key pressure areas for departments this year preparing for September 2016. I had chatted with a few colleagues on Facebook on Thursday evening and it was nice to have some contact again. I feel guilty when absent – not surprising and I know, … Also completed paperwork so I can see Occupational Health and rang employee support service who I will recontact once I have had second GP review.

It’s Saturday, I woke early and watched YouTube clips which means I will have to get Cedric my cello out again soon and challenge myself to play after watching videos by the 2cellos who I was aware of already but also Emil and Dariel, two American teens who are the junior equivalent of the Croatian pair. This morning sees me doing the 9.15 Bodybike class. On Thursday after class Andy, the instructor, enquired about how my running training is going – doing a 10km on 1 November – I admitted lots of cardio but no running as I find exercising outside alone my mind wanders and I am avoiding that at present. It turns out he and I have both gone through the #mentalhealth mill and he offered support which is appreciated too. As he said even though I struggled at times on Thursday, I was in the class and I finished it – two positives.

So, for those of you reading my posts and commenting on here or via Twitter (@aknill) thank you for your continued support it really is valued.

Learning to be patient…

I am not always good at being patient. So today first review of time off with GP who I have known almost 23 years, saves so much time when he knows lots of background. So, I am to stay off and continue meds increase agreed last week. I am not to rush and must bide time so I return well, not just patched up ready to fail and restart again. A review in 10 days will see if meds are being effective – today has been first positive day of three this week.

My shoulders drooped at the news but I have moved past it. So such a positive day I was able to ring and speak to school re outcome, and I was told to follow professionals advice re. return well. Slightly frustrated but now accepted. Also converted week’s free pass intro to 12 month commitment to gym and continued with #teacher5adayPE challenge.

Did a bit more sketching today including a picture for my sister in New Zealand who I had a good chat with last night. Hopefully, tomorrow can be a positive day too. But, if it isn’t, so be it, see I am working on this patience idea. Also had some very complimentary remarks about influence / impact I have had on two ex pupils (35 this year – older than most colleagues), which helped my self esteem.

Falling apart, glue fails…

BANG, the glue undoes, a day which has felt like pieces. By Monday evening thanks to some supportive friends chatting on Twitter things started to look up. I went to bed determined to get up, push ideas forward this morning…Tuesday has been a write off. Appetite has forsaken me – a true rarity, but have eaten some late lunch. Energy levels plummeted. Today I returned to bed, sleep, tears and only awoke when someone knocked vigorously at the door, espied out of the window – I was not answering about drains and gutters. A late lunch, light but food nonetheless meant that I was up. I have had to accept reluctantly again that I am ill. I am not returning even after a week. Tomorrow I go back to the gps and ask for more time. My meds increase again from tomorrow, no side effects on 1.5x previous dosage.

I keep telling myself I will come out of this just don’t know when. Wife went out but apparently was worried about leaving me alone – well thoughts have not been that low, phew.

This afternoon one achievement, a friend and art teacher had given me an art / sketch challenge – I did ask first – so my unique interpretation of Balinese girl by Vladimir Tretchikoff has been sent electronically and I look forward to feedback.

This evening, I stay in and just be. Tomorrow is a new day.

Glueing, tacky …

Well it’s Monday…I didn’t post for Friday, Saturday or Sunday…more exercise at the gym distracting myself, more walking, sketching, reading… On Saturday I kayaked five miles with my wife, the water was calm and we had a peaceful trip. I do not know that I could exercise outdoors on own as mind tends to take a downward spiral, the gym doesn’t allow that as I am pushing myself each time.

Sunday saw an effort to try and think about school, fairly unsuccessfully, poor sleep and today Monday I am tired – so a long called for exercise rest day. I started low, tried to go food shopping with wife. Almost had a panic attack in coffee shop before shopping. Managed to get breathing under control but retreated to car with bought magazine. Able to read a bit and look at tech pics.

In conversation online yesterday saw others mention marking – flat response to, planning, guilt / flat response; shared number of #mh events in one month – one friend suggested get out of teaching and put health first. I do not know, to be honest. Read a piece this morning about a book on resilience but aimed at surviving first five years of teaching….did that but changing challenges and demands have made job much more demanding.

So, where do I find myself today? I am not in any fit state to be around larger groups of people at the moment so standing in front of a class is not possible. Gradually I need to look at what the issues are… Last academic year drained me so much more than I acknowledged and I feel in a limbo currently. So rest, read, sketch…not exercise and strike today off.

For anyone following this series of posts thank you, any ideas, comments please make openly on here or mail / direct message me on Twitter or FB wherever we are in contact as many of you who read these posts are.