Category Archives: Post teaching

Can you? Would you? …. Yes / No

These questions and similar became the bane of my life in the past. I had the tendency to say Yes when I should have said No. Our family social worker when adopting over 20 years ago used to say to Anne and I, “can’t you two just be?” and often the response would be no.

Why? We had plenty on our own plate with my career’s demands and the needs of the boys and … but often we found scraps of time to support others because by working as a team we could back each other up. Eventually it started to backfire and we started to say No more often, or attend meetings and sit on our hands so we couldn’t volunteer to do more.

So when my career crumbled back in 2016 – see previous posts from November plus 2016 and April 2019 – a change of status… the answer had to be a definitive NO.

Life has changed since.

From November 2016 I joined the Swanage Depression Support Groups and then helped when the Wareham Depression Support Group started. These two groups were part of me taking control of my depression and working to improve that aspect of my life and its impact on those around me. Eventually after about 18 months to 2 years I found hearing many similar stories over and over was not helping my recovery. I still attend when my life wobbles, we have hosted the May social for the last three years and now, particularly, my free time means that if a meeting’s cancellation becomes likely I am happy to stand in and help by facilitating the meeting be it in Swanage or Wareham. I did one of these back in May for Swanage and last night I ran the Wareham meeting. Groups like ours are not run by professionals but fellow sufferers who speak from experience, we support each other and we welcome others who need friends in their time of need. Last night reminded me yet again how special that link is.

Wednesday had been due to be a quiet and restful day only through a combination of circumstances I needed up attending a meeting in the afternoon and evening too. I actually came away refreshed mentally from both of them.

So what did I do in the afternoon? The first working group meeting for Artisans on the Beach 2019. Yes meeting in June to discuss the beach hut arts and crafts event for December. An event which exists to encourage locals to develop with their hobbies.

In 2016 I sat on the seafront with new friends very fresh from my November breakdown and leaving teaching, I drew a piece of the Swanage Beach Huts – my first piece to sell in 2017. In 2017 I took part, I was almost hyper at times, energetic, enthusiastic, drawing out in the fresh air, wearing outfits that caught people’s eye and I ended the event as ‘Artisan of the Year’. In 2018 I had become one of the two Artisans on the working group and we added some changes and structures to the event which continues to grow by reputation for participants and visitors.

In 2019 that role continues – my art hobby has become “AndyKnillArt”, I do two main events a year with PAW (Purbeck Art Weeks) and Artisans on the Beach, I also exhibit and sell my work year round as a member of the Purbeck Artisan Yard, it will never be a full time job, nor will it stop me pursuing other ideas but it is a channel through which I share my creativity and I love it.

So…?

I attended two meetings …. I said yes. Does that mean I now say yes to every opportunity / query? No, I don’t. I need my free space to explore, relax, enjoy. I have earnt that right after 28 years teaching, after 20+ years of parenting and seeing both our sons live elsewhere.

Moving forwards

I am investigating more ways to use my motto “ArtForFun” where I host activities for any age to do some art for the joy of it, no judgement, mindfulness, relaxation, … whatever suits. This is also not going to turn into a ‘crusade’ that sucks me into overcommitting myself timewise and emotionally. I will do it from time to time, e.g. every time I do a duty at the artisan yard I post on the AndyKnillArt Facebook page so that passersby can drop in and have a go. When I do events like PAW and Artisans on…. then I can offer it again. I don’t want it formalised into an activity which engages all those officialdom forms and risk assessments and … been there, done that, thrown away the uniform. As the ‘tag’ suggests it is about “fun”.

Many years ago after working in outdoor pursuits prior to my pgce (teacher training) I adopted the motto “Life is not a rehearsal”, I now have time to enjoy my life, I live in a location where I can enjoy my life, I have Anne whom I enjoy life with. So sometimes I will answer yes to queries. Often I will say no because I need my enjoy life space now.

For you

Are you a yes, a no, a mixture? Volunteering makes our society work. It is the glue that supports communities. Please consider saying yes occasionally, but at a scale that you can cope with.

Thanks for reading

Andy

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Skills and interests that reappear

When I was teaching especially from 2004 to 2014 I did lots of IT (school term ICT) based work both in terms of subject content taught, responsibility posts and developing ideas and presenting at Teachmeets etc.

Having grown up essentially pre PCs once I could access the technology and use it to enhance my teaching I did lots of research and tried out many ideas. This led to swapping ideas with education colleagues globally teaching a range of ages. I became a geek or nerd, not sure which. Two aspects I really took to were the use of apps to enhance teaching and the use of the tools and capabilities of Interactive whiteboards.

After leaving teaching many of my IT skills were neglected. I now use my excel skills to organise my finances and art stock. I have always had a smart phone and tablet, usually iPad so have used apps but nowhere near as much as I used to.

The slow death of the family laptop meant a new home computer was needed so I decided to buy something which would help with photographic and graphic work to use alongside my hand drawn art. My first iMac. I also wanted to be able to draw and add work onto computer apps, at first I thought this would need to be a graphics tablet like a Wacom costing hundreds of pounds. Luckily despite such items being advertised in the Apple store they weren’t stocked in the Apple shop I visited. I decided to delay the purchase as I enjoy the use of pen and paper.

Reading an Apple magazine this week it talked about a new opportunity the new iOS 13 and macOS will offer at the end of the year using something called Sidecar. Not available yet so today I did some research and found Astropad Standard that essentially allows me to draw on the iMac using my iPad as a graphics tablet in effect but for under £30 so I have invested and look forward to developing my designer and photo editing skills with both Apple devices that I have.

This will be an extra with my art and I may invest going towards 2020 in a good standard photographic printer so that I can produce work of a suitable standard to offer as part of the AndyKnillArt portfolio.

It feels positive to reuse skills I had started to develop while teaching. At the same time I would still prefer to spend the evening watching a deer or Hare graze in the garden than sit in front of a monitor for hours, so we will see how this develops.

Art focus

I am currently running my Open Studio (22) as part of the Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW19) and am blogging daily with linked posts on Instagram – @Andy.Knill and Facebook page – AndyKnillArt.

If you wish to see the posts there are all linked on the Facebook page or http://www.andyknilllart.com.

My art started for my mental health and mindfulness – it still is and I am keen to spread the message that “Art is fun” at all events that I attend.

Andy

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.

A geography teachers skills can be transferred…

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

Art post

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.

2018 review and going into 2019 (Nurture 2018/19)

My New Year’s blogpost I have now done for several years but in a different format as no longer in education but balancing my life is always a priority.

Work

AndyKnillArt celebrates its second anniversary on 31 January 2019. Initially my aim was to see if I could sell some of my art. Those who have followed this new path for me will have seen that I have achieved this aim consistently. My art year includes:

January

: ending the previous year’s Artisan on the Beach in the Shore Road Huts on Swanage. In 2017/18 I was awarded the title of Artisan of the Year for my enthusiasm, dedication and general “artyness”. Tomorrow, we complete my second Artisan of the year event and this year I have been one of two artisans serving on the working party and I took on the named role of event organiser. My role has been social media marketing and care of our artisan team during the event. A role I have generally enjoyed.

: drawing the next two designs for the “Santa over Purbeck” Christmas card series. In the 13 months of sales of this series it now approaches 400 card sales, a great success with many ideas to take the idea further.

: starting work toward Purbeck Art Weeks for the year.

: for 2019, continued participation as an artisan and member of the collective at the Purbeck Artisan Yard, Church Street, Wareham where I have been full time since March 2018.

February, March and April

: continued time for art work development

: Purbeck Artisan Yard

May and June

: participation in PAW (Purbeck Art Weeks) as an Open Studio when I welcome visitors to our outbuilding and my exhibition and possible sales of my work and art catalogue to date for 16 consecutive days.

: Purbeck Artisan Yard

July, August

: continued time for art work development, this may include PAW sketching events

: Purbeck Artisan Yard

September to November

: helping to organise Artisans on the Beach if I keep my working party place.

: continued time for art work development

: Purbeck Artisan Yard

December

: Artisans on the Beach participation

: Purbeck Artisan Yard

In the last month I have celebrated my gross sales income exceeding £5k and enjoyed my first month where my art income exceeded £1k.

Clearly a positive direction to take and I really enjoy my art for the help it gives me with relaxing too.

Wareham Boat Hire with Matt and Julie Jones. In 2018 I completed my second season, a wet April but then from May to September the weather meant record numbers of customers throughout the season. I worked three days a week in 2018, however my duty commitments at the artisan yard means that I will go back to two days per week in 2019.

I continue to 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 third season in 2019.

Both of these offer much free time which has been spent with family, especially Anne and is a priority going forward as we continue to explore Dorset.

In 2019 I also intend to start my life as a retired teacher by taking up my teacher pension at 55.

Family

2018 started with Dad’s funeral and his ashes being interred with Mum’s. Family came from New Zealand and Canada and from the UK. An end of an era which at the end of the year sees No. 4 (family base since April 1975) sold (subject to …) and sharing of family heirlooms, nostalgic items. A new era starts for us all as a family.

Contact with Jonathan our eldest continues to be patchy. This year he announced his marriage to Sarah. We have visited and remained in contact as has Kate my sister. His journey going forward needs to be driven by him.

Here in Dorset the tri-generation household has its peaks and troughs but has settled more.

Exercise

Sea Rowing

Difficult to commit when doing art events, summer boat job etc so I continue to train with the men’s squad when I can. My only regatta participation in 2018 was our Swanage Supervets in October which enjoyed superb weather for the second year. I bought a Concept2 ergo from a fellow club member, but it is still underused somewhere between the worry of over exercising and never actually starting.

In 2019 a more balanced approach I hope.

Cycling

I cycled around Poole Harbour in February with Dave Furmage and achieved 34 miles with no long term after effects except no repeats. I also cycled the Ulwell to Corfe Castle ridge after a steady push up to the ridge itself. I cycled a handful of times to work in Wareham.

So in 2019 I need to cycle more and drive less.

Kayaking

Limited use again but some trips on the Frome pre work in my Triumph 13 SOT (Sit on Top). I also paddled more in Swanage Bay including some trips with Anne too. This is an area we want to repeat more in 2019. Anne has taken swimming lessons alongside this ambition.

Other

We have done some local walks but all fairly short. I want to get out on longer exploratory walks like one I did to Kimmeridge and back via the coast path this summer and combine walking, drawing and photography. I do need to swim much more too.

Learning

This continues with my art skills and my work developing as noted by several friends arty and not. My business skills have developed and I have found some of my teacher admin. skills useful at the artisan yard and for Artisans on the Beach.

A clear target for 2019 is to explore online retailing of my work more thoroughly. I also want to develop my boating skills and qualifications too subject to time commitments.

Connections

Being in business has meant reestablishing an online profile both blogging, sharing my art, using Instagram as well as Facebook and Twitter. This has also led to reconnecting with friends of old and has led to several friends visiting including teaching colleagues from my first post over 30 years ago.

Health

Staying uninjured physically is a key ongoing aim now to allow more time outdoors and also during the boat season. Mentally there are still ups and downs but on the positive side I have ended 2018 on a reduced doseage of my antidepressants and less need to attend support group meetings.

Going forwards

The key priority is to spend lots of time with Anne especially, forge more friendships locally and get out in the great Purbeck air and enjoy our new home to the full.

Thanks to anyone who actually reads this. Feedback welcomed as long as constructive.

December and Christmas

Hello mishmashlearning, not seen you for a while. I now blog more frequently about my art through http://www.andyknillart.com.

So December – last year I took part in an event in Swanage calls Artisans on the Beach for 7 weeks. By the end of it I was announced as Artisan of the Year and it was suggested I should be on the committee / working group for the proposed 2018 event.

It is now 2018, I am one of two artisans on the working group. This year the Artisans on the Beach event started on December 1 and finishes on January 2nd after about 5.5 weeks. I have also become named event organiser from the artisan aspect and taken on tasks including the social media marketing on Facebook and Instagram.

I have at last arrived at that old phrase transferable skills – organisation, spreadsheets, social media work etc , when someone praised my organisation skills I was at pains to point out the demands were less than those needed for a days teaching. I am enjoying my role and will be asked no to be considered to repeat the role for 2019 and possibly subsequent years.

My art is also found at the Purbeck Artisan Yard, Wareham. There I have found myself producing admin. Documents again for the same reasons and those skills again. My artwork is d finitely selling more in my second year. I have greatly increased the range of my work available and initiatives like Christmas cards started for December 2017 now account for a third of my card sales of over £2k.

I am back doing winter training with Swanage Sea Rowing and haven’t injured myself so far, so fitness is increasing gradually. I hope in 2019 to be out exercising much more.

Memories – December has been a difficult time for my family the last two years. Mum passed away in 2016 and last year at this time I sat by Dad’s side before he passed away on Christmas Day. I had a dip thinking about this last week while at the huts one day. I now feel in a better place but will miss the family gathering in Broadstairs even though I found them hard myself from a mental health perspective. Mum and Dad both believed in an afterlife, so I hope they can communicate with each other easily again and are happy with what they see their offspring up to these days. Clearing the family base as it is now sold (almost) turned up many memories and items from their lives and their families too.

My eldest has made changes in his life this year but is still difficult to communicate with, I wish him all the best and stay in contact when possible. My youngest took on a job this year and has shown much maturity about work and maturing in some ways. My mother in law at 96 continues to thrive but it would have been nice for where we live now for her to have retained more of her sight so that she could see the birds and wildlife more easily.

Finally Anne, my fab wife of 25 years now who I am getting to know again now that work is not a barrier that separates me from the family as it had a tendency to do when teaching.

So Christmas Day rest well washing up for me tomorrow. Then back to the hut but hopefully a focus on positive memories.

Seasons greetings to anyone that still follows this blog.

Andy

Art blogging time

Well, today will be the ninth day of Purbeck Art Weeks, my Open Studio so far has welcomed 140 visitors and only 9 canine visitors. Sales have already exceeded last year but then there is a lot more work to choose from and there have been a number of return visitors who people have chose. To visit my studio which is a great compliment.

I used to blog about education and as a reply to Iesha Small on Twitter today said I blog about lifelong learning rather than education but I continue to lead many things in this my new main occupation, but one in which there is less pressure.

So on AndyKnillArt.com there is a developing series of posts. If people like my work the easiest way to buy it for people who can’t visit is to contact me as I can invoice buy email to allow payment online. I like feedback just as much as sales, honestly.

Here are a selection of pieces I have drawn in the last two weeks or are working on to try different audiences.

Thanks for reading

Andy

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.