Monthly Archives: December 2015

#connect #exercise #learn #notice #volunteer in a day to end the year

Thursday / New Years Eve – a gentle day, not as a precursor to wild partying as I am far too boring for that, I will enjoy Hootenanny as usual. This afternoon a late walk was decided upon. Our first port of call at the local reserve at Hanningfield Reservoir was curtailed as another family told us (#connect) the centre had just closed. So back into the car, a plan B was rapidly formed and we set off for Galleywood Common on the southern side of Chelmsford. We have been there very few times previously – some puddle splash trips when the boys were about 2 (now approaching 18 and 20); some off-road biking, kite flying and walks. The common lies alongside our usual route into Chelmsford and includes open common, woods and a fenced off area that looks like a racecourse circuit for horses.

So we arrived and parked. Boots on we got out and started to walk (#exercise). We headed up through a wooded section and soon found ourselves an open grass area and a second car park we had never realised existed (#learn and #notice). The walk continued and we found details of how the “racecourse” should be used by horse riders a only the inside track marked by white topped posts and at no more than a trot. We discovered a pub, heritage centre and tea room, church and churchyard all of which we were completely unaware of before. We followed the outskirts of the common and returned to our starting point. What had looked like a fairly mundane walk had turned into a voyage of discovery (on a small scale). 

Once home my measly (#volunteer) bit was to relocate the green garden and food waste bin back where it belongs.

This all stems from the #teacher5aday movement that I have been involved in and an advocate of this last year. I haven’t posted a set of targets for 2016 as I believe they mesh easily with my targets under the last post for #Nurture1516.

I wish all who read my posts a happy and relaxed 2016 wherever possible.


Last year I set 15 targets split in 5 sections – so I will review these first. I will decide as I post how targets will be set for this year. 

Dec 2015 review
1) Family: (3)
spend more time with parents – this has varied as own pressures impacted but speak to even more regularly especially as now both living in same residential home.

spend more time with both sons, whatever is happening in their lives- seen less of eldest as he has been accommodated in fewer places this year but finishes the year after six months of relative stability. Youngest at home, have done a few mote things together including some Forza sessions on xbox 360.

couple time – Anne and I to get back into our dining / evenings out more frequently- some dining but more day trips, break in Bristol and time for walks and nature. Support each other’s interests with choir and sketching.

2) Self: (3)
– I have a kayak and a bicycle which both need more of my company throughout the year and exploring far and wide – not used a lot,limited kayaking but some trips with Anne past Ulting church and met school D of E expeditions at Papermll Lock. 

– Cedric, the cello and subject of a recent post, and I are to make music more in 2015 and maybe even some guitar and the keyboard that is currently hidden in the loft-  failed

– screens are nice and I can access and share information, but 2015 is the year where I rediscover the pleasure of reading from books. I can start with my recent purchases from Tate Modern: London Villages and I’ve lived in London for 86 1/2 years by Martin Usborne- more successful including 10 books in summer with #teacher5adayread. I have also bought a read a variety of books on sketching from the urban sketching fraternity.

3) School / work: (3)

– I have two more terms leading to our first set of GCSE results under my management. Three sets are under my tutelage, so mocks in January, revise intervention groupings and work hard to a happy August results day – worked b***** hard throughout the year, results ok but not progress I had hoped for. Analysis interrupted by September breakdown. Best success girls results A* to C  up from 25 to 65%.

– continue to develop our revised KS3 curriculum and delegate sections to Adam and Michelle as we develop as a team – aha, well rewrote ks3 year one with more to develop, inclusion of John Muir Trust award successful. Adam lasted the year and a great loss. Michelle didn’t return for Spring term and in fact staffing throughout school year caused lots of stress. Started better this year with Gordon, but then own breakdown  upset the rhythm.

– more student voice and more hands on geography to make our department a “happening” place- considering staffing upheaval a good reputation generated overall in first year in post, tbc.

4) Twitter: (3)
– 2015 will see account no. 6 start with a departmental one so pupils can follow and share geographical ideas, sites …- didn’t start this as too much else to do.

– @knillsocks to continue especially as a bumper load of new socks hopefully being opened later today- account continues, remains novelty of teaching – the one with a Twitter account for …

– @globalsolo and @gasigict to continue to develop and facilitate discussion and collaboration globally- gave up @globalsolo in May and passed Twitter account to Pam Hook. Still using solo taxonomy including in own teaching but staffing crashed development in department. Shared ideas in school and at some events.

5) Blogging / presenting / … (3)

– have another successful year with GASIGICT, Promethean Advocates… – GASIGICT goes well and Twitter account from strength to strength. Presented at #GAConf15 on developing global network to small group. Ceased Promethean link as no time and no benefit to what I am developing.

– develop all of the linked blogs and Mishmashlearning to continue to have less #mentalhealthmatters – GASIGICT blog is paused, global solo gone, but now two mishmash – original and new sketching blog.

– present throughout the year – BETT, TMBexley, PedagooLondon3??, GA Conference, Northern Rocks, TMHavering2015?? TLT15??? ……- missed BETT and TLT15. TMBexley was good, also did a Medway event – interpretive dance and solo taxonomy intertwined – used this at NRocks15 with Andy Day for second year (this also featured jiving with KDWScience. GA Conference session – small attendance but seemed well received. GASIGICT stand display I did was popular. PedagooLondon was in July and presented this year on John Muir Award, also did this for PedagooHampshire in September plus an impromptu solo session when presenter no showed. Contributed photograph to #teacher5adayexhibition. Inspired (I am told) #teacher5adaysketch in October and took part in #teacher5adaype in September. So however busy school was still did some of own CPD. Also applied for FRGS – heard all ok and await paperwork. Fellowship of MirandaNet confirmed in January.

So a reasonable review – still did too much and it has had an Autumn consequence which I am recovering from. Also not mentioned here- finding all 50 of London Shaun the Sheep and 37 in Bristol. Family holidays in Cromer twice, Cardiganshire once. New hobby sketching started, 400 plus sketches to date in 6 months art supply shop geek now as yesterday’s Christmas money spend shows. Attended urban sketcher meets in London, Cambridge and Colchester. Rejoined a gym. Have lost 3-4 inches of waist fat.

2016 targets / priorities

I am sticking with five headings but more generalised and definitely not 16 targets.


1) Family

Regular phone contact or via social media with all branches of the family.

Quality time – this links to work targets as I rephase back in. School work to not come home.

Trips out especially with Anne sharing our interests. Lots of London day trips.

2) Self

Keep exercising – bike and kayak where possible plus walking

Hobby time – play some music and sketch skills and practice inc. sketchcrawls

Read more often

3) school/work

Based on return to work aims:

– give work 50 hours of my time each week

– school work stays at school

– pace

– Inform others when stressed/ mood issues as agreed

– develop department

– Friday social time / staff sport to end the week

4) Twitter

– go with the flow, if tired less, use and stay in contact especially with friends

– GASIGICT – do not over commit time as discussed at meeting

5) Blogging / presenting/ …

-mishmash continues plus sketching posts in own blog too when feel like it

– presenting – less in Jan to July. TMEpping February to attend and listen only. GAConf16 workshop. See how year goes after Easter.

Key aspect is listen to my mind / body and work with them. That also includes friends too and reciprocal support.


Betwixtmas or between Christmas and New Year

So what do you do in the twilight zone between the two celebrations especially if on a two week break? If my emails are to be believed you sit in a darkened room online shopping for all the bargains or if a lover of frantic crowds (retailer’s desire) you shop in person scooping up the offers in the sales.

Me, a break from the first feast of richer food than normal. The eating up of the food that remains from festive meals and Christmas presents full of calories. A chance to catch up on sleep and most importantly reflect.

Online I am offered the opportunity to participate in #teacher5adayslowchat on Twitter, a chance to think and share about well-being. It is the time of year pre resolutions to look back a year at blogs for #teacher5aday resolutions and #Nurture1415 ideas before drafting and publishing new resolutions with a hint of reality and achieveability, deciding for #1516 how many targets I set to be sensible.

I am thankful for the chance to see many of my family in the past few years to meet Doug, a Canadian cousin last met in 2001. As shown in previous posts I spent three and a bit days with both of my sons together – a first in a long time for reasons shared in several previous posts. 

I will go shopping, I hear a possible washer dryer replacement on the horizon. Visits to favourite art supply shops – it may be cheaper online for some items but I enjoy the wonder of the art retailer. The gym, neglected a lot last week before the new annual surge of members who will have disappeared in many case within a month.

How do you spend your betwixtmas?

Christmas – true sharing

Today our eldest son is at home and we spent some time together this morning before the others woke up. It felt very special and I was able to share this post that I wrote in February and which individually had the most views and gave rise to a variety of comments:

Also this follow on piece:

I explained how proud we are to see how the last six months have picked up and how we hope that will continue. Each time I see him my reaction is to hug. This feels like a very special end to 2015 and is hopefully part of an ongoing period of stability.

Those of you who are parents may well have many periods with your children where you have felt a particular time marked a good point. Like we have, learn to enjoy these times and hopefully they may be repeated.

I am on holiday… and Christmas approaches

So since September 29 I have been on a journey of recovery. Many friends, colleagues and family have checked on me and my progress. So since Saturday (seems so long ago) I have been online at different times checking on friends who did the whole or more of the term than me. Why? Because I am well enough to know what I need to be doing so I valued the opportunity to give something back too.

So what does that involve? If friends were spotted doing school work, completing planners for 2016, sharing ed resources then I left a post checking on their well being encouraging them to rest. All took it in the context it was intended. Most was at a distance, because we live at one. One opportunity was to take a colleague out sketching – a new hobby for them, I am to blame partly I know. We saw parts of the area they had never been to previously, we sketched and they were able to take some photos too. It was good to do. Another friend it revealed was going through a difficult time and I was able to offer support at a distance but an outlet.

I was brought up as practising Christian, I have lapsed since of my own volition, but religion or not I believe in sharing and helping others and the Christmas season especially is a good time when the season’s dark mornings and evenings gets to some.

I hope that anyone who reads this has a safe and pleasant time over the next week of seasonal days. If you need to chat say so, I will be taking time out occasionally and can respond. The commercial aspect and religious links attract some but for many it can also be overpowering. I have found it so previously. I am currently in a good place and I hope I can maintain that through the combinations of personalities I will be among.

Do what you need to have a calm time.

Thanks to #teacher5adaype

Earlier in the year, in October,  I took part in an initiative called #teacher5adaype in which Jonny McLoughlin (Twitter @MrMcLoughlin_PE) provided a month’s programme of exercises. Included were points about hydration, rest, balance and some exercises I have not done in a while.

I had just joined a gym as part of my mental health therapy / recovery and became hooked on the ever increasing reps / seconds combination of wall sits, planks and squats. It’s now December, I have been into school so contracted germs of course and was looking for a sensible workout this morning as a spin class was out of the question. I took myself back to those familiar exercises combined with some gym taught stretches and managed three rounds of 60s wall sits, 60s planks and a combination of other stretches – did it hurt? Yes but meant that I could then do some steady cardio on the rowing machine and get back into the gym and feel achievement.

All I have to do now is keep exercising through the break pre the New Years resolution crowd joining up.

I am on holiday and I did return to my classroom

Two weeks ago I started my phased return to the classroom after a 10 week break. 

What was it like?

Four half days in school. I taught one lesson each visit the first week and two lessons on each in the second week. It was great to be back in the classroom, more so, my classroom even though things have moved around and it still needs that major declutter it hasn’t had yet as other areas of the department were sorted first for others.

Classes welcomed me back although I did pause to ask if not listening to instructions how these two actions didn’t quite match. I made classes work on the penultimate day of term – cruel me. Teaching just happened naturally, remembering characters and their individual foibles. I got to mark the two sets of books and get written feedback from them, two way discussion restarted. 

Essentially I enjoyed it but omg I am so tired and open to germs so I still got the end of term going into holiday germs.

Changes made?

– I have not looked at a school email outside school

– I have not taken work home or done any school tasks outside the school grounds

– I have avoided conversations about longer plans and just focused on immediate tasks

– I have spent break/ lunch around other staff being sociable

– I have caught up with a variety of pupils and chatted with them at the start / end of the 


-I have successfully started to trial the pomadoro timing method to focus on admin/non 

   teaching tasks

Lessons for January 

When I first return to three days per week I need to work my day, use non contact for marking, planning, take breaks for myself. Leave promptly and build energy levels so that at least once per week I can go to the gym in the evening after a day at work.

Work the phased return sensibly and build on the ideas discussed through my phone counselling programme and self reflect each day.

Enjoy my time in work and then enjoy life away from work. 

Twitter et al.

I have already decided to reduce commitment to outside events but will be attending some meetings, exhibitions, conferences but keeping energy levels and family balance in mind more. Twitter has seen less comment from me- notable as some others have commented on it. At the moment that feels right, we will see longer term how that develops.


A return to full time working and keeping to my new habits – I will continue to blog how it goes. If it’s of interest read about it, if not it will be here anyway for my own record of reflection. Here’s to a balanced life…

A release… What is yours?

A month ago I started the above, a new and separate mishmashlearning adventure. It is a blog about my sketching, a hobby I have embraced especially since the start of the school summer holidays. Recently while clearing a dusty corner under a desk at home I found an old notebook with three sketches from 2009,2010 and 2011 – 3 sketches in three years did not qualify as a hobby but I wouldn’t have taken the time out to apply myself to developing my skills.

I have liked scribbling ideas down, drawing diagrams in the classroom for years. In 2015 I have taken time to discover the restorative qualities of sketching, be it a corner of a rail carriage on the way to London or an architectural detail in a fine building or recapturing the awe behind a photo I took or I saw and wanted to emulate.

I have to thank Lucie Golton principally for helping me open my eyes. We have linked online and met now a few times, usually around hunting for large models of Aardman animation characters. She recommended sketching as a creative outlet and also the group known as Urban Sketchers or come from a broad brushstroke of life to sketch/paint/… live. When I started Lucie reassured me that I would see my output (refuse to use word #work) develop over time. She is 18 months ahead of me. I am now in my sixth month of sketching most days and it has given me a new outlook which I value dearly.

Yesterday I travelled to London, drew sketches on a train, in a crypt, out of the National Gallery window looking across Trafalgar Square and then inside the gallery. The other artists came from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds. Amateurs like me upto professional artists who earn their living from it, this is most noticeable when we gather to compare and discuss, if we wish, our pieces. The overriding atmosphere though is a shared love of using art to record. Previous meets have seen discussions on techniques, which paper/ pad /sketch pads to use; equipment – pens, pencils, obscurely name items that I am learning about; where did you purchase said equipment? – comparison of favoured shops / stockists. I am learning a new language and a new shopping habit, I confess I have the full colour selection of Cass bag for life bags (up to date on 12/12 anyway); pencils, pigment pens, alcohol based markers, bleed proof pads, sketch pads with bound or spiral bound spines, erasers, white pencils, art books, …Christmas will see money gifts that will be given for me to develop new techniques like water colouring in 2016. 

Yes I am hooked. This has become my mindful release. When I am sketching I am absorbed in the task, I am not easily distracted, other worries are left in picking up my sketch tool. I have blogged about it, talked about it with a range of people especially educators on Twitter. In October I even seemed to have acted at least as one of the inspirations for #teacher5adaysketch which was a great honour amongst a growing community actively promoting teacher wellbeing. The fact that I was signed off work due to my mental health breakdown just emphasised why I needed a distraction that took me away from work. If something doesn’t move it is fair game to attempt to sketch it.

What do you do to relax, switch off work, take time for yourself? Please share.

London Urbansketchers Sketchmeet yesterday – 2pm photoshoot, picture from Alexa Ramsaroop.


This teaching thing is tiring …

Well, one week passed. I went into school twice this week. Each time I completed a half day and taught one lesson, the second visit was a bit longer as I was in school over lunchtime and stayed after school to mark the set of books from our two lessons this week.

So what did I do? Taught a lesson each time, slipping back comfortably into the role where for an hour my attention is focused on up to 30 12/13 year olds. Setting tasks, answering questions, chivvying, asking questions, pushing for accuracy in work, stopping disruptions from developing, being interested in a range of individuals with different personalities – after 10 weeks of not doing this I was tired after each visit, but I enjoyed it, back in my element. I also met other staff, answered queries about my health, where had I been … More interaction than I had become accustomed to.

So week two, the programme says two more half days. The same plan? No, I have asked to up the amount of teaching and will be delivering 4 lessons, so less meeting, talking and more teaching. I have calculated that if everything progresses steadily I want to increase the number of lessons each week so there are no jumps and my stamina builds apace.

One of the nicest and most supportive elements has been the support of pupils, staff and friends online who come from so many different avenues of my life. They have responded positively to my posts here, in staffrm, on Facebook and Twitter. Mentally I have felt strong, physically I realise is going to hit more more than I hoped but I can work at that a week at a time. The support and comments about my honesty in posts is also touching. I will continue to be honest about mental health because I want it to be a more open point of discussion. I know from my own experience that since 1999 and my first absence from it that it is less of a taboo but there is a long way to go and it takes time for people to feel more comfortable about others bringing it to the fore.

So onto week two …

A Half day in the life ….

Another song link in latest piece in – posted here as a picture of post.