Category Archives: Wellbeing #Nurture1415 #Teacher5aday

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.

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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.

Changes in plans

Plans are meant to be flexible aren’t they?

So 2019 started with an old Andy habit – want to show something is happening – make a spreadsheet / logbook. I did this to show I was exercising more, Anne questioned why I needed a spreadsheet for that and to be honest she was right so that method has gone.

In January post-beach huts event I found myself fighting germs that had not been “allowed” to kick in during the event. Fitness dropped as previous posts said. I have pulled back from training at the rowing club as others are training towards the Scillies in May and are getting fitter and fitter, the gap between us kept growing so own exercise was needed.

Anne and I are doing a few more walks locally – recent examples are parking in Worth (Matravers) village car park and walking down to Winspit, exploring the old quarrying area then walking onto Seacombe on the South West Coast path and then back to the ‘Square and Compass’ for a pasty and some live music.

Pictures above show climbers and other walkers visiting Winspit.

After walks or cycle rides or even kayak trips I use ArcGIS Explorer to measure the rough distance covered, it is also good for sharing with others about routes to take.

The next walk was along ‘Houns Tout’ and as it was a calm day, we descended the steps towards’ Chapmans Pool’ then returned up the valley towards Kingston.

We have had a sunset walk along ‘Houns Tout’ and saw no one on our way to the bench at the end where we watched the waves and sun going down. We only saw one couple on the way back too.

We have just changed phone contracts and invested in Huawei P20 Pro cameras each with a Leica linked camera which hopefully will show in the quality of pictures taken.

We have also had a few walks in and around Swanage including a sunny morning sat at the end of the pier which led to some sketching time. It was good to stop and rest at the pier shelter.

The recent mild weather also inspired me to be out on my other bicycle, not the fat bike but the cyclocross one. I had seen and heard about the bike track through Rempstone forest but it was an area I had driven along the edge of but not explored. For some reason my phone app did not record the distance correctly, the map shown is from ‘Explorer’ again.

An incomplete circuit because I tried to do too much, this is not new as people who have exercised with me know only too well, but I do like to push the boundaries. So a descent down Kingston hill which I am gaining confidence on, through Corfe village and onto Norden and the road across Hartland and Middlebere. Then I left the road and took the bridleway / National cycle route 2 that cuts across to a Studland in the east. Loose sand sections would have suited the fat tyres better. Lots of stopping to unfasten and refasten gates. The scenery was great I saw a few other people out on foot and bikes. A chance to see Poole Harbour from the southern shore.

At Studland I cycled up towards the village and then took the road past the Pig at the beach hotel, and the Banks Arms, the road was busy with cars and pedestrians. I made my way out to Old Harry Rocks then cycled up until fatigue kicked in and had to walk for a while across Ballard Down. The views appeared hazy but the coastal landforms were still clear.

A picture at the triangulation pillar and then I descended some of the bridleway into Swanage, it became too steep and risky for me so I dismounted and walked. A break in Swanage and an ice cream. Then I set off for home. Langton (Matravers) hill was a slow process with many stops at the side to rest, I refused to dismount. Then once just past Burngate I realised I was wiped out, a phone call and my friendly bike taxi came and collected me.

All in all a positive difference and more exercise – enough?

See next post…

Exercise – week three

Germs have dominated week two and also affected week 3. We have got out for some gentle walks in the open air at Durlston and Studland Bay. Walking and being outside has always been good for my mental wellbeing and it offers the chance to look about us at our great surroundings here in Purbeck.

Today I travelled up to Fleet, Hampshire to look at a second hand fatbike, but only 6 months old. It was all that I was expecting, so once home a quick lunch and then out for a first ride.

I set off from home and stayed offroad for the first 4.5 miles. The return journey included more road but despite 4.0 inch tyres the low gearing made it easy to ride. I got wet and muddy and had a great time.

In total an 8 mile ride and there will be more like this soon too.

Germs….

Yep, most activity now involves four walls from the insides, knowing where my emergency inhaler is just in case at all times. If doing any physical task, pace, do it slowly. Maybe I could…no, don’t be silly.

No, I am not ill very often and in more recent times more mental health than physical illness so crap at being patient or patience. So mental health wise fine, physical – just keep doing a little more each day if body says yes and today I stayed awake for the whole day .. also had the shortest of walks outside, but what a feeling of achievement.

Normal service to be resumed soon – I am a man so apparently this is how we act.

A good way of feeling relaxed – Alpaca walks

Today, Anne took up her birthday gift of an Alpaca walk, she had to cancel back into November due to very strong winds and rain. Today we went to a local centre at Longthorne Farm, just north of Monkey World in Dorset.

We were to walk with Harry and William and Anne was to lead Harry. These two young males get on famously apparently. We were given lots of facts about Alpacas which I admit I generally let roll past me. Very calm animals with “teddy bear”like coats. We were allowed to stroke their necks. William was fairly “talkative” throughout the walk. The biggest noise was the tanks passing to their training grounds, the Alpacas took it into their stride as for them it must be a familiar sound.

When an Alpaca decides it wants to eat, drink, scratch you stop with them, a mind of their own but no mean spiritedness at all. We got to feed them in our return too. When we left I felt incredibly at ease and we will be back again.

Stopping in the cool stream and having a drink.

Time for a group photo.

Harry.

Harry allowed Anne to stroke his head, William wasn’t keen although he allowed his ears to be stroked.

William.

Feeding for two.

Harry demonstrating how Alpacas settle similarly to a camel.

I have had allergy issues with horses at sanctuaries before that meant I couldn’t visit. The Alpaca wool is hypoallergenic and I had no trouble being around them.

A big thank you from us both to Longthorne, Farm.

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.