Category Archives: Post teaching

Dreams? Nightmares? Self doubt?

I last posted directly on this topic in June 2017, here we are almost 11 months later and my last section of sleep included a “dream” that led to an upset me waking to start a new day. I still have “nightmares” which I think are based around my self doubt about if I was contributing in my last 10 years of teaching in the way I thought I had.

Was I doing any good for my pupils? Yes I cared but was the subject side good enough? I know that I struggled with the changing focus away from the individual child to the piece of data and its relative place on a “progress” chart. I taught people and parenting two sons with additional needs made me very aware of this and how trying to fit all children into predetermined shaped slots did not make sense. I myself was a peg that didn’t fit slots.

I clashed with managers, I challenged decisions but offered alternatives which didn’t always help my popularity. My enthusiasm for investigating new ideas made me friends internationally across the globe online and at a variety of education events but my interest and passion was questioned in the places that I taught within.

My mental health and parenting needs at home didn’t fit the right slot. I was open about my issues, uncomfortably too open for some that I worked with. I was the victim of bullying in at least three schools and my nerves and anxiety was fraying. In conversations with other teachers online with open mental health issues I discovered that working through up to 7 breakdowns that led to extended weeks / months off was rare, should I have gone sooner? To be honest I don’t know. I snapped in the end and know that I could never return to the pressures of the classroom. This all happened before I was ready or prepared for it. I am in my second year now of pre-retirement earning some money through part time work.

I have discovered that I can do other things, I can enjoy free time in the week and School term times. As I have typed this post a fight returns in me that yes I did a good job, sometimes even better but teaching broke me over my 28 years. Here is to hoping the dreams fade with time, my self confidence can build and I stop looking back as much.

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Taking the time …

A lot fewer blogs recently and generally for positive reasons. It is now almost the end of April. I have been working back on the boats on the river Frome for about a month. Weather has been variable affecting shifts but twice I have arrived early and before I open up I have taken a kayak out for a short paddle downstream to the First river bend to the right and where Monarch the steamboat is moored.

I have pulled back from rowing commitments as I realised I had over committed myself and the art, boat job and flat decorating needed to come first.

So now,we have a flat with the agents to rent in Swanage with decorating done. My second season of work has started with the boats, I have work in the Purbeck Artisan Yard and I am planning my studio for PAW 2018. The next month will get busy as the lead into and then the PAW fortnight.

Taking time out as a couple means that Anne and I need to take time when available to do things. Recently that has included drives out with lunch fitted around an art errand usually including a trip to Art2Card in Upwey. We like to visit Craig’s Dairy milkery and enjoy a bacon and dorset blue vinney panini. On Thursday we fitted in a trip into Weymouth and explored the south side of the old port. We discovered Revolver, a record store with vinyl, a coffee shop and retro items too. Then our walk extended to beneath the Nothe fort and a great lunch at the Stone Pier cafe with a view across the town and towards Durdle Door. We also found a new art store in ArtyCrafty.

Another recent trip for a car service was combined with a walk and picnic lunch in the New Forest. This afternoon we popped into the Artisan Yard to restock one of my cards and also enjoyed an hour paddling upstream on the river Frome from Wareham. Most of these activities have been on weekdays which in my previous work existence I could only do in school holidays. Today a Sunday afternoon on the river instead of planning and marking.

Our new life offers a great location and a variety of opportunities and it is gradually rebuilding my mental strength.

Pause . . .

Life just reared its head again and I found myself bouncing on a bungee emotionally. I have a potentially idyllic life in a fantastic place but head stuff gets in the way.

Action – education

So I have reduced people I follow online still in education because headlines about the visions from central government and who has published a book and … just make me feel completely inadequate. I can not teach anymore, I broke and recent nightmares have made me wonder when the cracks became unglueable and did I just push too far? Well obviously I must have done because I have seen I can be in a classroom as a visitor ie artist, but the main role – nope can’t even contemplate it anymore.

Action- commitments

The old Andy returned recently I said Yes a lot. I can do that and that and that and … what a surprise I find myself overloaded. So I have contacted and paused all ties with SSRC for the moment. I have art events and an art venue that I now belong to. I restart my seasonal role from Easter. That will do.

Action – health and fitness

I need to lose weight and I want to be fitter. To do that I need to get out there and exercise and eat less cakes, crisps, biscuits, roulade … I am surrounded by beautiful countryside and coastline. I own a bike,a kayak, a rowing machine for self torture, trainers, walking boots – they need using and it needs to reestablish itself as a part of my lifestyle. The boat work will help and as I intend to be pedalling to and back fromWareham a lot, that will help.

Action – Me

Yes, my brain has entertained #those thoughts, no I am not going to. I am going to just have to learn to accept that I have a life that can and should be enjoyed, oh and enjoy it. I have a wonderful wife in Anne to share that life with. I know there are more people out there that I get on well with but you are not my main focus. I don’t need to travel for great surroundings as I have them here. I live in a great location as the roebuck confirmed this afternoon and the hares yesterday morning and the partridges and pheasants and …

So, yes the Black Dog has me in its shadow right now. I recognise it, I know what it is, I know actions that I can take and I have started to implement them. Blue sky suit man, super penguin, man overboard volunteer etc will all be back but for now I am going to try to:

Just be me.

New adventures of an artistic kind

Ok year 2 calling myself an artist and new challenges taken on. I have moved so far from the broken person I was just 14 months ago. My first year as an artist saw that break into selling some work, being commissioned to do some pieces, exhibiting work in a number of locations and taking part in two events locally. So year two already has a pattern to follow and is not brand new.

I started the year with the last week of Artisans on the Beach on Swanage seafront. Swanage TiC team chose me as Artisan of the Year for my enthusiasm. Today I have applied for a committee post to help next year’s event be even better for all involved.

I then put two pieces into an exhibition by participants in Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW) sketching programme in 2017. The exhibition was in the Orchard Cafe at Holme for Gardens and finished this week.

I have worked with two classes at Swanage Primary School with a sketching project which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I have entered PAW for 2018 and will be opening my studio at home again. This year will see the addition of refreshments and supporting three local charities through this. More detail on this going forwards. I believe that the art Weeks are a good opportunity to highlight local charities and what they offer in the Purbeck area. I am also putting together a trail map to link studios across the villages between Swanage and Corfe as there are more of this year and working together we can help visitors to see what we offer. Last year having enough work as a concern, this year I already have quite a catalogue of pieces both original and prints /cards to offer.

Last week I visited Purbeck Artisan Yard who have had a recent turnover of bay holders. The atmosphere and range of artists has changed and I took a bay which I will use over the next 12 months as a permanent gallery and selling space for my work. This was a missing aspect for me in being able to have work on show all year round. At the end of 12 months I will review what steps to take next. I look forward to working alongside and learning from my fellow Artisans at the yard. Duties will see me managing the “shop” on regular days and at other times I intend to be there working as the bay is light and I can discuss work with visitors as I was able to do during Artisans on the Beach.

Today my newest batch of card designs arrived for proof checking and I look forward to getting customer feedback too.

I have also started, slowly I admit, adding my work to an AndyKnillArt Etsy store. So in 2018 my work will be available direct from me; at the Purbeck Artisan Yard; on Etsy; during events – PAW and Artisans on the Beach and anywhere else that stocks pieces – currently Java Independent Coffee House and Swanage Tourist Information Centre.

I just need to enjoy making art, showing it and if people like they can buy it. my ambitious sales target for this year – to sell some art.

Once a geography teacher…

Thursday March 1 2018. My local coastal town of Swanage in Purbeck, Dorset faces a range of conditions.

– Spring Tide due to full moon – so higher tides

– Storm Emma bringing snow from continental Europe

– an associated area of low pressure which raises local sea levels

– easterly winds gusting into the bay at 45 mph

All of these combine to a flood warning status. In November 2016 Storm Angus caused flooding in the Lower High Street and damaged the sea wall – my first experience of the power of easterly winds into Swanage Bay.

I woke early and decided to go into Swanage to watch the high tide and the trial of a new temporary flood defence system. I knew where would be unsafe to park and where my car should come to no harm, nor obstruct any emergency services if they were needed.

I roved around with my camera and phone recording images in the run up to high tide. I posted images and video clips on social media – facebook, instagram and twitter.

The following images show some of the things that I witnessed. On Friday March 2 I was unable to go down to watch events on the next Spring tide as overnight freezing rain had caused sheet ice which meant I would only be leaving home on foot and not travelling far.

Shore Road – sea foam -I saw the remains of this later in the day when it had lost its lively nature.

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Then I moved around to the stone quay area by the flood barrier which was being extended by the coastguard and council workers.

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I then took pictures from further around the south side of the bay.

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I haven’t gone into any geographical explanations but I did enjoy my trip and finished it with a breakfast at the High Street Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to school …

This afternoon I shall be working in a school during the working week rather than visiting an after hours training event like TMPoole (Nov. 2016) or Pedagoohampshire17 (Sept 2017).

Working, yes; teaching, not as such. While taking part in Artisans on the Beach at Swanage in Nov/Dec/Jan I was approached by a primary school teacher from a local school. They are studying Landscape art and she wondered if I would be willing to come in and work with Years 3 and 4.

Today after communication by email, and cancellations due to funeral / flu I am going in today to do two separate introductory sessions. I shall write more about the experience on my art blog AndyKnillArt.com.

I am looking forward to this as I have been invited as a local artist, my teaching background was unknown to the teacher. I see this as a positive wellbeing step for me as school buildings should not have to be a place to avoid.

Post afternoon post to follow.

Nurture 17/18

My New Year’s Eve blogpost I have now done for several years but in a slightly different format as teaching headings are not necessarily relevant, balancing my life is however.

Work

A new phase completely, no more teaching. At first we considered the idea of me just having a year off – no attempt to work, but that felt wrong to me. I launched AndyKnillArt as a web blog on 31 January. I will review its first year on the first anniversary on www.AndyKnillArt.com. My art has earnt money, I have exhibited and participated in many events – a great success overall. In March I secured a part time job at Wareham Boat Hire with Matt and Julie Jones. The season saw me working at Abbot’s Quay, Wareham until the start of October. I love the outdoor nature of the work, standing in the river, talking with passers by and customers and guiding on safe use of our fleet of craft. I have learnt many skills and I look forward to my second season in 2018. Both of these offer much free time which has been spent with family, especially Anne.

Family

2016 had ended with Mum passing away. 2017 has mirrored this as Dad has passed away too. This time I was with him at the end and felt very privileged to be there to support him. Liz and the New Zealand clan came to visit while over at the start of the year and explore a little of what our new area has to offer. More contact with Jonathan to start the year after a low end to 2016. From May to November came a gap. We have now seen him but the circumstances were difficult and we hope contact can be more regular in the future. Living as a family unit across three generations has taken some adjustments but generally works harmoniously and of course we do live in such a beautiful place. We have also purchased a property to let out in 2018 as an investment for the future.

Exercise

At times too much, at other times gaps have opened up due to overlapping events and a need / desire to pace myself more sensibly. So ongoing membership of Swanage Sea Rowing Club although craft fairs and work at Wareham meant that after the Three Rivers race in March I didn’t compete in any other events until the Swanage Supervets event in October. I continue to help with Juniors on a Monday. My overall fitness has benefitted and rows over the tidal race at Old Harry and along the coast to Dancing Ledge have been highlights in seeing the coast from a different perspective.

My river work in Wareham helped my fitness with lifting and shifting equipment and also meant I did more paddling some in work craft and some in my own kayak . I have also paddled the entire coastal perimeter of Swanage Bay now. More kayaking is needed in 2018. I have underused my bike, it has been used to and from some rowing sessions but I haven’t really done any extended rides. I have achieved a nonstop ride / drag up Kingston hill which I was pleased with. I have walked quite a bit on local trails, some with Anne and some alone.

Learning

Two new jobs, setting up a business and learning other new skills has meant a busy year for learning. Learning I wanted to do in connection with new pathways. I have extended my art skills with attendance at Swanage Art Workshop with Anne which has given us a shared interest and led to new friendships. Art skills, purchasing equipment, self employed tax returns, working and selling at art/craft events including printing, mounting and framing work. The list goes on and on. Using a petrol driven mower…

Connections

After a poor January I cut most of my online ties for a while and closed whole accounts. I am now back online but with far fewer links / contacts and many are new ones that have been formed in the last year. It is difficult to believe when we are in Swanage that we have not been here longer from the number and variety of people we know, are friends with, who we stop to talk with as we make our way around town.

I have remade some of my education connections but steer away from discussing matters in education. I only taught at TSS for 10 Weeks but the lasting connection I made with pupils continues even over a year on and that is immensely satisfying.

Health

Physically I went through a bad passage after straining a shoulder at rowing training and receiving treatment. Otherwise physically, scratched insect bites have been my worst problem, generally I have been physically healthy. My mental health has continued to vary but the differences between high and low are not as wide as earlier in 2017 and suicidal thoughts are not my instinctive reaction to unease. I attend two groups now in Swanage and Wareham where I have made good friends, joined in with facilitating at meetings and even attended a training course with MIND.

I am not making specific plans going forward: we will rent our new property out, I will do Art and work on the river, we will spend time with friends and drinking / eating in various local coffee houses, pubs…, we will spend time together, especially Anne and I. We will continue to watch our wildlife and enjoy our location. We may welcome some of you to visit us. We will look after ourselves physically and emotionally.

Thanks for reading.

#Pedagoohampshire17…after

I left teaching, I attended a teachmeet in Poole in February and I went to Pedagoohampshire today. So what is going on?

Well today was my third visit to an event that started in 2015. Teachers and others connected to education gather, chat, listen to talks, participate in workshop sessions, chat with new friends and old, go away and try to mplement some change based on their new learning. These events happen in people’s own personal (non work) time so that shows commitment too.

I had a great day.

I was told how much more relaxed I look. I looked ten years younger. My art is great. My experience had value as how often do you get to talk to people who have actually left… I sold some art, I designed and received a tshirt. I chatted.

I really enjoyed attending and my thanks go to many who were there today or in 2016 or 2015 and the many other events we have met at. At the end a friend said which event will I see you at next? And I had to admit I wasn’t planning to be at anymore to be honest as. Am now out of the profession. I then received invites to be at events again in the future including this one – we will see.

Finally thanks to Martyn Reah the driving force and host behind this great event.

#Pedagoohampshire17 …before

Tomorrow morning I shall be up early and out to play with the A31, M27 and M3 On my way to Alton, Hampshire and Eggars School. I shall be attending Pedagoo… for my third year, I have previously attended as a teacher and presented about Solo Taxonomy, Mental Health and this time I will present as an ex teacher how you might look after your own Mental Health WellBeing so you don’t get to that same conclusion that I did, or maybe you shall.

Friends from teaching and various ed. conferences have called me brave – earlier I was feeling nervy and not brave at all. More so for taking my art as a stand than the mental health aspect that I have talked about before. 

I have a long term habit of sticking my head over the proverbial parapet I don’t have to anymore but I am still drawn to speak out. The good thing is I will be amongst many friends made over the last 5 years mainly.

I will blog how it goes and then provisionally at least draw my head down from the parapet and try to adjust to just being myself.

Perspectives …

I have just returned after spending three days visiting my father. We spent time, just the two of us. Sometimes we spoke, sometimes he slept and I sat, we had a drive out to view the local coast and we had lunch at a favourite ice cream parlour. The key thing is that since my mother died before Christmas last year his memory has been declining and also some other skills. This makes conversation difficult at times or at least confusing. 

Over the last few years both my parents health declined and my own mental health wasn’t doing too well either. Seeing my parents put life into perspective as I saw two active people lose that ability to freely move about and / or communicate. After my own breakdown last November I am still rebuilding and adjusting to a different life where I don’t have the full time commitment I had to teaching previously but I don’t always make the most of this and find myself a bit “at sea” with who I am.

I enjoy my time with Dad, yes there are conversations that make no sense. I have to think about volume and diction. Memories of past events emerge sometimes that I have not heard about before. I visit Thanet where I spent my secondary school years and have visited ever since – I see changes but places trigger memories too.

Why did I choose the title perspectives? I suppose because I have gone from someone who was frequently rushing about to one who has time to sit, listen and look. I express this in blog pieces, my artistic output and my self reflections. Slowing down time sometimes admits doubts about self worth and my purpose but I do now find myself challenging these or rolling with a mood because I know there is a brighter side ahead. This change is positive. Next Saturday I have offered a session at an education event on Mental Health wellbeing,  I guess from the perspective of one who has left the teaching profession – some friends have called me brave for doing it, maybe I don’t really know but I am aware that teachers under stress are not alone and if I can help someone use strategies to stay in work or make that big decision to step out then it’s been worth it. I miss teaching young people, not admin, pressures, constant referral to targets and data – I went into education to share learning with young people. Sometimes they are hard work but they were my reason and I miss them in that respect.

I am lucky I am able to sit back and take time out I just need to appreciate it more and stop setting myself targets or looking for evidence of achievements – as a friend once said ‘Can’t you just be?” – at last I have the time to be.