Tag Archives: Reflection

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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World Mental Health Day – Tuesday 10th October 2017

How was it for you? Many friends were in school, some probably wore yellow to show an awareness. Others’ institutions wouldn’t let it disrupt their day I am sure. Last year I wore an awkward mix of many yellows, I had talked about my mental health struggles as part of my introduction to the school in assembly-it has helped when meeting now ex pupils and parents in the months since my final breakdown as a teacher and my resignation from my vocation.

So I know about mental health issues, I left the job that triggered many incidents for me so I must be fine now mustn’t I?

Of course not – I have struggled with these issues since a teenager back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, possibly earlier. it’s part of me. Triggers are many and varied. So Monday 9th circumstances saw me hit a rock bottom day. I knew there were positives ahead, I could mention and acknowledge them -this is new and very encouraging. But essentially there were also thoughts where I considered the whole suicidal concept -it’s not a choice I have ever attempted for real and I don’t want to but it’s an ever present escape that pops up and says hi in times of stress. So I am participating in #Inktober2017 on Facebook and Instagram, it is a daily drawing in ink project for October using a daily prompt, yesterday was #screech, today was #gigantic. I used these in my drawings to be open about my state of mind. I have blogged about it for several years now and don’t really care what response I get, it’s a topic I will continue to stick my head over the parapet to talk about  so that someone might not have to go through the same thing as me.

October 9


Today I have woken in a more positive frame of mind and taken part in the day and exercised at the rowing club this evening both on the rowing machines then out on the water and was able to show this as;

October 10


I have many supportive friends and family members who reach out. Tomorrow on the 11th I will attend one of the two Depression Support Groups I attend -we are sufferers who listen with empathy and support where we can. Sometimes when I am low I resist attending even though it’s the best time for me to go. The key thing s I can always be there to aupport others.

So my WMHD has been an exercise in recovery and reaching out to many others online. I hope your day has been a shared experience today.

#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.

Reflections . . .

This blog has had a more retrospective / reflective role in the last 8 months as a new beginning fell apart and an alternative new beginning started. Last night I sat and read through all the posts from August 2016 to April 2017. It was good to see how low I had become and I was able to see that even on #rollercoaster days where my mood varies that I am in a better place.

So, how is life now we are in May:

This weekend I do my 14th and 15th shifts at Wareham Boat Hire – I have now manned the business on my own a couple of times and successfully set up and packed away. I have had a go in all of the boats except the SUPs which have rarely been out so far. I have learnt routines, how the various types of equipment work. I have a better knowledge of Wareham and am able to help visitors with questions. I really enjoy my days by the river in our sun trap. I have been fortunate to have only had one shift rained out. Last week Anne , while visiting, asked how I would score the job out of 10 for how happy it made me feel – my answer 19 !! Yes it is that good. At the end of the day I go away relaxed with nothing extra to do. I have started to paddle my own SOT kayak too in Swanage and on the River Frome. I will do more of this as it helps me when guiding our clients.

My artwork – I enjoy it but the being commercial aspect has caused variations in my mood and self doubt to come thundering in. In the next 16 days as we head into Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW17) I will:

– collect exhibition piece one back from L’Artishe gallery in Swanage

– drop off pieces, exhibition sheets and labels at Etches fossil collection in Kimmeridge, Verges piece for RSPB Arne and Corfe Castle canvas, prints and cards at Rollington Barn for PAW HQ exhibition. I will also have pieces on show at Art Workshop in Swanage

– make my home Open Studio (22) ready to receive visitors with signs, a silk flag, old examples of work and new pieces developed through the 16 days of the art festival.

– I must just enjoy the experience of chatting about my work, mental health linked reasons for starting. A lot has happened since the end of January, yes all that time ago!!

So life has enough to keep me busy. In addition there are family linked tasks that take up attention to. If you are in Dorset over May 27 to June 11 please pop by between 10 and 4pm for art stuff and contact me about other times. We have some guests booked but others are welcome.

This week some things have knocked me off kilter but now over 130 days into my GOB diary keeping only 11 have ended as being below ok. I don’t always dismiss the negatives now and some of those dominate my thoughts but every day has positives of some sort and there is clearly another side to me apart from teacher and I have a future worth living. Those two aspects are huge compared to where I was mentally just a few months ago.

Alternatively there are also weekly news updates about the art work on AndyKnillArt blog.

Reflections…ongoing

So it’s Sunday. Yesterday was a positive day. A week in which I lost two days to very deep lows both linked to seeking support from secondary care mental health services locally, seems ridiculous that applying for help causes more uncertainty in my self esteem. However, as a couple we have fought this battle many times with social services, post adoption support … We live in a country where needs often are not or can not be supported, but to access the services that are available you have to demonstrate great #stickability which of course is difficult if you are already struggling and also on your confidence in challenging systems or professionals in their own field.

So this reflection bit, based on my first five months in my new home county:

– I love Dorset and especially Purbeck. I now live in an area where countryside and coastlines are readily available and are so beautiful. My and family interests in leaving behind the suburban traffic noise we lived amongst previously are not missed.

– my job here did not work out, I did not fit into a particular close knit team, c’est la vie. I loved actually teaching the pupils, I would liked to have fitted into the team but it wasn’t to be and I made the wise decision to pull back straight away in the circumstances. 

– I have made new friends and acquantances already by talking to people I meet and especially through the companionship I have found in the Swanage Sea Rowing Club. I get to exercise three or more times a week, I am allowed to help coach junior rowers, so the teaching aspect is still there.

– at last we approach completion of the sale of our property in Essex which brought much stress and tension from July to October especially. This means we are financially stable and will be able to look forward and make choices without the burden of mortgages etc.

– my wife, Anne, very sensibly suggested that after 28 years without any career break I might take a work break and readjust. I have been revisiting as constantly felt I should be back working,  but having removed teaching which I have used to define myself for so long, there must be a break and I think today that I have actually accepted it.

– my mental health has dived lower for an extended period than ever previously but I am working at it. Anne is being very supportive as we work at our new life together. Next we apply for the local “Steps to Wellbeing” programme, we have found a very supportive GP practice in the Corfe Castle Surgery. I have joined the Swanage Depression Support Group who are a great group of people with whom I have a common demon. I am going to work to fight the suicidal thoughts and response to flee that went through my head especially in the period mid September to mid January, honesty is helping with that.

– I have had an alternative therapy approach to solving shoulder issues which has made me look at how my body works in a new way and it has been a positive experience.

– I was given lots of supports by some of the local artists especially Sue and Kate during the pop up beach hut season on Swanage seafront in the run up to Christmas. I have booked a table for April 1 – no, it’s not a joke for @AndyKnillArt to see if others want to buy some of my photography and / or art. This idea foundered for a while with the mental health dips but I hope to see it move forward this year at whatever pace I can cope with.

– we are renting for the first time and the property is fab. A dream to live in the countryside and see a range of wildlife every day,this gives a great sense of privilege. It brought its own lows at first when I was here on my own almost rattling around. Anyone know an easy foolproof way to earn a £one million so that we could stay here forever – I like it that much. I have dug out paths long hidden under overgrown rough grass,started to look at skills I can l learn locally so that I can restore features like the drystone walls. I was going to keep a record and will do this where I will map the property as we learn more about the fauna and flora that we live amongst.

– shared places, I mentioned that we love Purbeck – from National Trust properties at Corfe Castle and Studland  beach, Swanage bay and headlands at Ballard Point and Peveril Point. Durlston Castle and national nature reserve with its links to local heritage and quarrying. Country pubs like the Square and Compass and Scott Arms. Walks out onto Houns Tout,Swyre Head where we can look out over the Jurassic coast and the local diverse geology.

and so on and so on and …

I came off Twitter,five years of networking and around 8500 contacts. I am fine without it, I have read 
books again, I have joined the library, I try to be outside in the fresh air at least once every day. I stopped blogging but as you can see it is a reflective outlet, so it’s coming back like this post. Thanks for the feedback from new readers and for acquaintances from education and so on who are part of that Twitter legacy.

I still use FB but cleared 400 contacts out, a more select circle that will grow again slowly I am sure but with me in a far better place to use it and keep life in perspective.

I think I have rambled enough for this post, let’s keep seeing how 2017 goes, onwards…

Who am I? What am I? Why am I?

Well the cheap Charging cable for the iPad gave up working. I now have a new registered product and hence a recharged device. So a post.

The title states my state of mind really at present.

What’s been happening? Lots. Not a lot I can remember some bits but not others.

I may repeat things said previously.

On the positive side;

– I get up each day willingly

– I usually get outside for some of the day

– I have attended three meetings with local depression support group

– I have spoken to a professional about careers in outdoor pursuits/ field study education

– I travelled to see Mum in Kent when she was ill

– I collected my sister from the airport so that she did not have to travel alone to Kent after flights from New Zealand

– I sketch / take photographs most days

There have been more, especially linked to being honest with GP, Headteacher, family, friends about how I am doing.

Yet, 

A) who am I?

I am finding it hard to identify myself from Mr Knill / Sir who I have been from 1988 to 2016. That status exists in the minds and hearts of many I have taught and I thank them for their comments and encouragement especially on Facebook. I put so much of myself into my role as an educator who cared. Coming out the other side is hard especially as it wasn’t planned and I have no clarity going forwards.

B) what am I? 

I am a former teacher to be; I am a dad; a husband; a son in law; a sibling; a child; an incomer… This is intrinsically linked with the above. Am I needed? Has been the type of question I have posted online? Am I just a burden? As a friend I would tell others no you are not, as I try to support them, reverse that and I find it harder to accept support but it is nice to read.

C) why am I?

Yes I have had a miserable time since moving to Dorset, I have also had some fantastic times. I have gone from the deepest of lows to actually feeling positive about myself occasionally. I have considered life itself and if I am worthy, I have self harmed and clawed at my own wrists with fingernails, a new first and something I am resisting doing again. I have lost my mother (rip) 6 days after I last saw her. I believe I have a potential future but I have no clue what it maybe, I now have some ideas of what it can’t be as I have already considered some alternative futures only to find that they won’t offer me the balance of life I desperately need. 

What I hope are universal conclusions:

– I have a chance to build a new future in Dorset

– I live in an area I love for its outdoor space and potential activities, especially getting out in the fresh air

– I have Anne’s support

– I deserve to live

– I suffer from depression and anxiety and my admission and openness helps other people in some way as well as not letting me hide away

– I have many friends made through a number of routes who believe the above

– I should take my life one step at a time

– life for me is going to include trip ups, challenges, obstacles that I can overcome

So overall, who I am, what I am and why I am are there in my head but it is a head that has time and opportunity to explore them and find out some answers. For me at this point that is a huge step in the right direction.

Betwixtmas or between Christmas and New Year

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

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

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

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

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

How do you spend your betwixtmas?

Oh dear…..

Sunday afternoon I visited the gym as planned and did a workout, several things I tried I couldn’t sustain as my focus was limited to about 7 or 8 minutes. My mind is jumpy at the moment. 

My advice is to forget about work, it is for me something I find extremely difficult as I probably have far too much of me invested especially after carrying things last year. Monday morning started flat to good, I managed a few minor tidy / organisation jobs. Each one was a short task so focus was ok. I had Spotify playing in background. I then attempted some sketching from old photos of mine now available through Google photos albums. But the sketching would not settle, I was unable to commit / focus. I did some doodles, self reflected and a task I had considered wrote some key words / points about work difficulties but didn’t try to analyse. Then, in my wisdom, thought quick peek at work email just to be aware of what’s happening at an arm’s length idea. Fine until decided to look at borough job pages – interesting to see what schools were posting locally – often been a discussion starter with ex colleagues before about how things are. So there is a post for a lead geography practitioner at my school… . It was like I was standing on a tablecloth and a magician had whisked it away from under my feet and my mood plummeted. I fired an email off to the contact person and welfare contact. The latter got back to me almost immediately, part of a longer term plan, that reassured me that I wasn’t under threat as I had indicated I was afraid. However, different to previous plans going forward. That reply seemed to calm me. I went to make some lunch – I was shaking, my arms were difficult to settle. I had agreed I would go for a walk or to the gym but now did not want to be outside or around people. I retreated to the sofa initially and watched snippets of programmes again settling to anything was almost impossible. By 4pm I needed to retreat and rest. I cried myself to sleep and woke later and spent a neutral to low evening with the family.

What have I learnt, now a  new day has started? 

– do NOT go into school email system – leave until I have been approved to return

– days can change – see how my mind and body feel

– try to let go of this guilt ( see previous posts )

– try to “just be”

Tuesday, a flatter start, looked at own mail (NOT work). Switched devices back off, hopefully a trip to IKEA later to look at flat pack ideas for book storage. Maybe a gym session this morning but distraction and endorphin release as much as anything else. Fired off this post as a reflection point and sort of self admission.

Now some of you like some previous colleagues will question why I blog these things, they are on the web, anyone could read them. This blog represents me, I have problems with mental health but I also do so many positive things too. See I know there are good aspects that I can regain, after all it’s only a few weeks since I travelled down to Hampshire and shared teaching ideas with other teachers. My sketching for relaxation through programmes like #teacher5aday has inspired a half term homework project on sketching for others to join in after showing friends what it has done for me. My blog posts are like a diary of sorts or a notebook, if you don’t approve, don’t read, it’s that simple.

Half term / bank holiday reflections of a teacher…not working for a change 

Nothing earth shaking, just thought I would reflect on recent months as I have actually slowed down for a change rather than trying to fill every moment.

So this week last year I went for an informal interview and was appointed to my current post as Head of Geography. Well, it has certainly been an eventful and packed year. The pluses far outweigh the negatives, but I have probably sacrificed too much of myself at times so I will make sure that offers of support are accepted in the last half term so everything is shipshape for September and I have the energy to enjoy the summer break.

I have taken part in reflection programmes in Nurture 14/15 and Teacher5aday,have they worked? Well my mental health has been better this year in general. I am finding myself gradually getting back into a doing things out of school phase – ie. last three Saturdays I have explored nooks and crannies of London completing the Shaun in theCity art trail. Best of all, most with twitter friends, many found through previous #BDAmigo correspondence and mutual support – we are all teaching again in a variety of settings.

My teaching – generally much more effective and I have had the pupil response that the department is developing a more effective provision. TES article from Friday – wrath has appeared in my demeanour recently and it is something I must address.

i have dropped some of my outside commitments, a shame but to be honest it’s fine I have gained time and it’s a great feeling.

This post rambles, it doesn’t have a clear purpose – does that matter ? no as it works for me- most of my posts don’t get that many reads anyway and it means I sat still. If you have read

it and have any insights please let me know as comments on blog or tweet or just say to me.

Second week of the Christmas break

The initial rush and excitement of Christmas is over, the reflective posts for #Nurture1415 and now #Teacher5aday have been written. I have read others reflective posts, I am tweeting as more big stories that we can reflect on in geography appear, unfortunately many of them tragic for others.

Exercise – I have been outside for walks, unfortunately the freezing nights and mornings limit me as I am careful not to trigger a wheeze on an already congested chest. Family time including sky+ catchups. It would be fair to reflect that I am relaxed.

Marking – yes I know two weeks off. I have some outstanding marking from last term in the form of projects / assessments so got that started this morning and made some good progress. I will need to do this all week to complete the backlog and also plan units for the next half term but I feel in a positive place, which is good.

Globalsolo marks it’s first anniversary on New Year’s Eve – in the eve itself and with 1700+ followers it has far exceeded my hopes from a year ago. Much more could / can be done, it’s just fitting it in around everything else, hence it can never be my first priority. The Gasigict twitter account rumbles on more as a newsfeed that introduces others to web based sources and apps from time to time. 7 months in by the end of the week, it is also exceeding expectations and will provide a sound back story to a workshop at conference in April 2015.

Why am I blogging this? I suppose self reflection to be honest – my thought outlet. If it is of interest, good. If not I quite understand.

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