Category Archives: Wellbeing #Nurture1415 #Teacher5aday

Life is a changing

Since I arrived to live and work in Purbeck, Dorset at the end of August 2016 my life has changed several times.

September to November 2016

School teacher continuing into my 29th year as a teacher.

November 2016 to January 2017

Nervous breakdown (two in fact) and looking for a new direction.

January 31 2017 to present

Start to use the term artist for myself and producing work and selling it to others

March 2017 to September 2019

Seasonal job for Wareham Boat Hire, using my knowledge of kayaking and rowing especially. Working 6 months of the year outdoors and often standing in the river Frome.

September 2016 to October 2019

Joined and rowed with Swanage Sea Rowing Club and got to see the Jurassic coast from the water.

November 2016 to present

Attended Swanage Depression Support Group and then Wareham Depression Support Group and now act as fill in facilitator for Wareham.

July 2019 to present

Got involved in retraining at my own kayaking skills and developing a new love for sea kayaking which is now going to replace gig rowing for my water sports time.

The change from Geography teacher to artist has been the biggest change. I have now taken part as an Open Studio in Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW) for three consecutive years. I now have my work in the Purbeck Artisan Yard in Wareham where I joined the co-operative in March 2018. I currently have a solo exhibition in the cafe at RSPB Arne due to the link with PAW. I have work with a friend’s business in Lytchett Minster. I am about to take part in my third Artisans on the Beach in Swanage, the last two of which have been as a member of the organising working party. This weekend on November 2nd I took the keys of a shop in Swanage in partnership with one of my fellow Artisan Yard artists. So now a part time shopkeeper.

This new role means that the boat job will go as I am only willing to work part time so that Anne and I can enjoy the remainder of the week doing activities together.

So let’s see where the new adventure leads . . .

Asthma and how it puts life on pause …

Well it’s the first week in October. Last week I went to Essex with Anne and we stayed in two lovely hotel suites on consecutive nights, luckily for me both had suitable sofa / chairs I could sit upright in. Why? Surely they came with a bed?? Yes but since Tuesday September 24th I have been unable to lie down to rest as my breathing runs into difficulties.

A week on:

successes – managed to visit our eldest son Jon in Essex

– attended family funeral on Anne’s family side

– Missed hanging first solo art exhibition

(delayed not  cancelled)

– two days of planned sketching with primary

school classes (delayed not cancelled)

– unable to collect mower yet after its most

recent service, not that I would be able to use
it as grass too wet, oh and own health

So, why the fuss, well tbh I would like to be getting on with commitments but staying indoors is what I have to do. I have endured six nights of extracts of sleep between 20 minutes and three hours to be awoken coughing and gasping to catch my breath. I have been to the doc, I have steroids to help ease the breathing and I am using my salbutamol inhaler when I need to.

Asthma has been in my system diagnosed since I was 11 and go at time said I could get out of cross country – I went on to run for school team and running club. I have done a range of sports but I recognise conditions that trigger my asthma which I work around. Currently I just have to “be” and recover, those who know me that just “be” ing does not come easy.

So, that was it, no big explanation of what asthma is – difficulty in getting enough oxygen into your system comfortably – try breathing through a fine straw, alternatively get your rib cage wound tightly in bandages and try breathing. Currently add razor blades liberally in your throat while doing above.

Just letting off steam, but also started InkTober 2019 drawings; doing some art; chatting with Anne; reading; watching wildlife…so keeping busy in a just “be”ing kind of way.

 

School holidays…

Oops these don’t apply to me but many friends in education have clearly been stretching themselves to reach them. For me the difference is that the boat hire shifts in Wareham are now going to be so much busier and this week a heatwave too although luckily Dorset has lower temperatures than where we lived previously.

I don’t actually have holidays as such and I don’t have a 5 day working week either. I now have my teacher pension and sometimes adjusting is confusing. I am not complaining I assure you.

A typical week at the moment sees a sensible Monday with maybe some chores or tasks in Swanage which has to include visits to friends in their shops and a cafe break at Java. The evening up until the 19th August is two hours of quite energetic kayaking with H2O adventures taking part in the River to Sea course that Steve runs. I am rediscovering skills I have forgotten or not used as my own kayak is a sit on top, or learning new skills. We are a group of six and the time spent on the Frome is proving very enjoyable.

Some examples;

Tuesdays are boat shift days and we are now firmly in the 9.30 to …6ish shift patterns. If I wake early enough I cycle to work and enjoy a swim in the river beforehand if the tide is suitable. If I am tired I drive. As I said above,we now enter the summer holidays so shifts will become busier. From the 30th kids club moves to Tuesday and I will spend 9.30 to 10.30 on the water and expect quite a lot of water fights to go on as is usual in the holidays. My energy levels after kayaking on Monday night have been lower so I will need to be careful to get as much sleep as possible.

Wednesdays vary, today I feel very tired so am resting, other weeks it may include a trip out with Anne in the morning. At the moment I am helping out by facilitating at the WarehamDepression support group on the second and fourth weeks of the month.

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays again vary and will usually include some time out with Anne. These depend on artisan yard duties and I am currently on a run of three working weekends with either extra boat shift or artisan duty.

Sundays are boat shift days again and I try to cycle where possible, usually after upto a nine hour shift I Bly cycle 5/8 miles home and then Anne picks me up, I cannot face Kingston hill yet this summer.

Visits away from Purbeck – not often but we live in such a wonderful place already.

Taking time to stand and ….

Life is often rushed. All the time I was teaching and increasingly in the second half of my career as I took on additional management responsibilities I was often plagued by the feeling that my work was incomplete and I should do some more. It wasn’t doing me any good as the free time was reduced and I didn’t relax properly. I became more short tempered too.

Now my life has changed so much. I don’t know that I could hold down a full time post as I can’t focus fully for long periods. It is a relief then that many years of being told I should pay into a pension scheme has paid off for me.

Life is not wealthy but nor is it poor. I am much more time-rich and also can do two jobs / roles that I enjoy in my summer boat job which is part time and my art which continues and is creative when I am in the right frame of mind.

I now have time and do increasingly spend time standing or to be honest sitting and looking around me. I don’t often analyse what I am looking at as I did when I was teaching but I do wonder now if it is something I might represent in a piece of art.

Today Anne and I went to the Summer Festival at Sculptures on the Lakes our towards Tincleton, Dorset. We drove through roads enclosed by trees with tree cover overhead, something we both find restful. The sculptures were in many cases beautiful and as the quotes in the gallery barn said, brought to life by their surroundings.

We spend more time exploring our area and stopping. If you don’t stop often, please try to do more – notice your surroundings.

Freeletics return and health plans

Last week I did a Comeback week that included exercises never set before – I was surprised to be set clapping push ups when I struggle with push ups. Whatever, I completed the week and now should be doing week Seven, I find at present I am lacking in energy and then fear I can not complete sets well enough.

Also for June we have decided that Anne and I both want to lose some weight so a diet will kick in that means cutting out the cakes and tubes with the lid that pops. So over the summer I hope that diet and exercise can combine to give me more energy and a slimmer middle especially. I am posting about this then I hope it can be a positive reminder.

Last Autumn I reduced my antidepressant dosage and had considered reducing it again this summer, at present that plan may go on hold as having some lower reactions to events, but an aspect to be reviewed up until the end of October as a possibility. I acknowledge that antidepressants are part of my life and have been for over 17 years, but reducing my dosage would be a sense of moving on.

Around the Freeletics commitment I am now back to working at my boat job with Wareham Boat Hire, shifts will become increasingly physical as the season moves towards the school holidays. I have also cycled one way, one and three quarter ways to work and back with Anne collecting me and the fat tyre or cyclo cross bike. The intention this season is to cycle more often and my Hartland / Middlebere route is 9 miles each way.

Continue to follow for progress, I look forward to being able to do sets of burpees without crawling through them etc..

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.

Freeletics recovery break

No, I haven’t given up. I got to week six and did four workouts in the first week of a fortnight away in Canada but long walks in the day me at my energy levels could not sustain workouts as well. So I made the decision to take a week out and I admit this week so far jet lag etc means I have not restarted yet but will be doing even if my completion of task may be less efficient.

I admit the programme is suiting me but admitting to myself I had to take a rest after going from no workouts to six weeks at four a week was catching up with me. Jet lag and jumping straight back into work shifts and art events mean I will need to monitor how I am coping but week seven will be blogged about soon.

Canada trip will also make a show in some posts too.

Freeletics week four

The saga continues, yes I am still going. This week has seen me knock a significant 8 seconds off my pb for 200m and 4 seconds off my 800m time. I know from many previous years of running that this pb pattern will not always happen. Also it will be interesting to see how times vary as the footpath / track dries out as we go towards summer.

The drills are adding new exercises each week. I am terrible at burpees etc, I can not sit up for the sit-ups. Pushups are done with a new arm position but so far easier to do but in small quantities. I am feeling that gradually I am adding greater flexibility and my cardio fitness is improving.

I do feel sorry for anyone passing out front garden when I am exercising on the front step and so far have managed to avoid people walking on he track, the sight of me lumbering along may distress.

Was it a good idea for me?

Yes, as I have a structure, I am exercising four days a week consistently and have rest days too. I now look ahead to check clips on new techniques so I will know what I am aiming for. I am not trying extension exercises but nor am I doing easier exercises either. I am being introduced to a range of drills I would not come up with or do on my own even though I essentially train on my own each time.

While doing this I have also gone out rowing and my new squat practice helped in the boat. I have cycled 18 miles and only tired in the last two miles so I am adding my own extras too. I have even started to modify diet slightly and I already have worn a shirt to go out for a meal that previously wouldn’t do up. When I get to 12 weeks and the end of this particular programme I will post photos of me at the start and after 12 weeks, you have been warned.

Freeletics training

So I am onto week 3, this week Friday will see me trying to run 1500m “like an athlete”, a sluggish one. I am enjoying the challenge of the exercises four times a week. Sessions are usually between 20 and 30 minutes.

My flexibility is improving and I have even started a new Pinterest board for stretching exercises to start using to work on my shoulders and neck which have caused sleep disruption for several nights recently. I am also aware of the need to loosen my hips and as my core starts to develop to add more strength for sit ups especially.

The runs have so far been mainly on the Houns Track path and so far I have been lucky not to scare any walkers as I attempt to “sprint” 200 or 400m and “run like an athlete” for 800m.

Some of the exercises are becoming easier to correct form and technique and I am keeping up the pace on most things.

No photos as I said last time, Anne took some pre Freeletics pics on day one and we will do a second set when I complete the first 12 week programme.Admittedly less eating of treats would accelerate any change but I am not ready for that yet!

Rigorous training starts

Since the post I just posted I have invested in a year’s coaching from an online app called “Freeletics” had looked at it a number of times when it was advertised on Facebook and Instagram.

I am walking more, I have used both my bikes already but I need to improve my fitness, size of midriff and flexibility. I used to have a great exercise ethic when I was younger where I would exercise, often to the point of addiction and keep very fit. Age has slowed that and I have widened as I like my food but the exercise drive has dwindled hence previous posts.

So I have invested in this app to get me out and exercising. In week one I have done four workouts. Each has involved warming up and cooling down exercises. I have already challenged my breathing, flexibility and core strength. I have completed a number of exercises that following instructions drives me one more than I can do for myself. I have also done two 400m runs and an 800m one.

A positive start, I am not going to publish the weekly photos of my shape until I complete my first 12 week programme.

As there is a rest day between each workout I have held off doing other activities this week but will add those in so I am out walking, cycling, kayaking etc in addition to the workouts.

Please follow my progress and see what my “stickability” is.