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Friday, 30 May 2014

Miss Honey Says Relax Kids II

The wedding of the year has been and gone and it was probably one of the best weekends of ALL TIME. Watching two people you love dearly share their promise to love one another, surrounded by nearest and dearests, was a real honour. The bride looked absolutely stunning. I found myself staring at my oldest friend, finding it hard to believe we weren't playing make believe - thinking I have never seen her look happier. Rachel's dreams came true that day and I hope it stays that way for her and her lovely husband. Of course, this has nothing to do with my blog, but it was so joyful that I had to write about it. In other news, Irish people are awesome.

On Monday when we all arrived home after too much food and not enough sleep - it was a shocker coming back to earth, but knowing I am venturing out on my own makes it all ok again. As I said last week I've recently completed my Relax Kids training. It took place in Ilfracombe, Devon. As I headed away from London and drove over the brow of a hill to be greeted with the ocean on the other side, surrounded by trees, cows and flowers, I knew it was going to be a goodun'. Over 3 days I was introduced to some already practising Relax Kids teachers, three ladies about to take the training like myself, the owner of the company Marneta, and her dog called RONNIE BARKER. I think that says it all really... 

What really surprised me was that there were coaches who had travelled from Holland, Germany, Canada and the United States to further their training and become trainees for their region. This speaks volumes to me about how much of an impact this is having, not just in the UK but internationally. These ladies who had been training for a while had only good things to say about the positive impact that the Relax Kids work they had been doing. These ladies aren't exactly your average Joe's either. They are teachers, counsellors, psychologists, successful business owners... and all raving about how positive Relax Kids is.

There's a lot to Relax Kids and I suggest you go to the website to have a look to find out more, but as a coach, I can now work with children in a vast number of ways. I have been approached by several schools to do class sessions, 1:1 sessions, Mum's who would like me to work with their children in the holidays, Staff sessions, ... The possibilities are endless and it is SO exciting to have the chance to spread the joy in a different way. 

In a typical class, the idea is that we work with the children through a 7 step programme, working from a high energy to low energy state. This way the kids get to work through their energy systems and basically chill out. This is the way they explain it on the website;

• Dynamic warm-ups and exercises 
• Exciting games
• Relaxing stretches
• Calming breathing exercises
• Soothing peer massage
• Positive affirmations
• Creative visualisations, mindfulness and meditations

It sounds a bit hippy dippy doesn't it.. but it is MARVELLOUS. As an adult engaging in an example class I had the most joyous of times and felt SO relaxed at the end of it all. It's wonderful to know I can go and do something I believe in, that includes magic and make believe but is so good for the children. 

I now have a lot of work to do to get certified so I can ready to rumble... Eek! Wish me luck. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Miss Honey says Relax Kids

In 2014 I've been on a little rollercoaster ride that's taken me to all sorts of marvellous places. I've learn a lot about lots of things - about what I think education should look like, about what it actually looks like, about what I think life should look like and what life actually looks like. In honesty, education can sometimes be rubbish and so can life. I was very close to sitting around and just letting life and a job I hated take over - lounging around in elasticated waste bands, eating cake, moaning about how awful it all was. A miserable porker. 

ALAS. I am not a miserable porker. I decided to go away and sort my life out. In January I went away for the weekend - whilst I was there I found a book called   "Aladdin's Magic Carpet" by Marneta Viegas. 52 visualisations/stories/mediations for children, all based on classic fairy tales and designed to help children relax. They are so busy. The poor little mites don't have a moment, as a typical day in school looks like this:

8.45 - White board work
9 - Literacy (5 ability groups) 
10-Guided reading (5 ability groups) 
10.30 - Play
10.45- Phonics (5 ability groups) 
11.10-Maths (5 ability groups) 
12- Lunch
1-Foundation subject 1
2-Foundation subject 2 
2.45- Assembly 
3.05- Home 

Not forgetting for some, they start at 7am at Breakfast club and finish at 6.30pm with dinner club. Or any other amount of clubs after school. 

Where possible, in my classroom I always tried to use lots of different techniques to allow the children some time to breathe. So we'd aim for 3 very short 'brain breaks' a day to help them calm down and remember who they are for a second. Every morning we'd start with some stretches, breathing and forgetting our worries - blowing them out of the window. My TA's and I always let them know when they're at school, they are safe and will be looked after.  On a Friday I had them all laying down, listening to some music and giving them a chance to actually reflect and think about what they'd learnt that week - there's no time for consolidation otherwise.

Sounds daft - but the children relish the opportunity for this. Sometimes we'd go off to a make believe  land, all whilst sat on the carpet. I'd watch the kids, their arms stretched out like wings, flying them off to another world inside their head. Magic. "Please Miss, can we do that again?"

The children in my class always made progress. Sometimes phenomenal progress - I believe it was because they were happy; happy children learn.

Back to my Aladdin's Carpet book. When time I bought it I remember thinking, I wish I could do this for a living. Go into schools and focus on making the children relaxed, happy, confident - ready to learn. As I said, when I went into teaching it was because of Miss Honey - she saw the magic in Matilda, gave her confidence and love and all the things she needed to defeat The Trunchbull. WELL. It bloomin' well turned out I can do it for a living. The lady who wrote the books, the lovely lovely Marneta, owns a fabulous company called Relax Kids. 'Calm Kids in a Chaotic World' - is their motto and you can train to be a relax kids coach, learn about their methodology on how to help the little darlings out in today's busy world. So guess what? I found a course - booked it - and just got back from a glorious training weekend in Devon. 

I don't have time to write about it now, as I'm on a train on my way my best friends wedding (so excited I could wee) but, I look forward to writing about the GLORY of my training weekend. 

As I've said before, I'm not here to slate the government. I'm not about muck spreading. I'm about JOY spreading. If we can't change the system from the top, get in at the bottom and do it, on the front line with the kids.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Lunging, huogliens and SATS.

A lot has changed since the first blog post I wrote here. In January, I was a class teacher unhappy in my job. I have since left that job and am as the blog title suggests, lunging towards my destiny

At first I went into a minor meltdown - holy moly - i'm unemployed. After the blog entry about quitting teaching, I suddenly had lots of people telling me to find a new school to teach in. I was extremely fortunate to receive offers to interview for different class teacher positions. Sadly, I just know that class teaching isn't right for me - sadly I don't think it's right for many people, but I won't spend time harping on about that.

A fabulous lady I know, Mrs Hope (I think there's something in the name there) offered me the opportunity to take on some one to one tutoring at a local school. This seemed like the perfect break away from class teaching, but I still get to use my skills and most importantly, work with children. I work with 15 children across three days, ages 5-11, for an hour each. The real beauty is I get to tailor the learning to their individual need and personality.

Something concerning has come out of this though. My first sessions are about getting to know what makes the children tick. With the boys, it appears there's a theme. Their main interests seem to be Chelsea FC (which I will leave you to cast your own opinion on) or more worryingly, the Xbox. What's even more worrying are the games that are most popular appear to be Call of Duty, Assassins Creed and Grand Theft Auto. I'm no expert on this but I'm fairly certain that killing, stealing, prostitutes and money doesn't make for friendly childhood viewing. I'm approaching 30 and I remember getting an original game boy was marvellous as a child. However it was still more exciting making a den with my brother, playing in our sweet treehouse, hanging out at the castle... playing with real, 3D objects and people in that magical place called... the outdoors. 

It's not just the kids though. I was at the train station on Monday, watching the sea of faces stare blankly at their screens. There was joy though, in the form of one woman. She was wearing bright orange tights and embracing a very deep lunge on the platform. She didn't stop. She had her eyes closed and moved between what I imagine must've been  different yoga poses, phone nowhere to be seen. I'm not suggesting we all start lunging instead of looking at our phones, although that'd be great, but it does make me really sad. I'm guilty of forgetting totally what's going around me because i'm very engrossed in what's happening in my group chat on Facebook. (You know who you are.) At least i'm not 7 years old, playing Call of Duty, shooting naked ladies running around on the TV.  My other half made a valid point that he ran around with sticks, pretending to shoot people when he was a boy, but did he get points for murdering them? Was there visually any blood or guts? Were there any naked ladies? I really hope not. It's no wonder kids are so angry. This brings me on to my next venture.

For a while now I've been studying mindfulness. Meditation. Some of my friends rib me for being a hippy. Some people ask if the amount of food I eat is because i'm working on the Buddha belly - cheers for that, but no. I think people presume that I sit in some kind of kaftan making 'ohm' noises - I don't at all. Generally I'm just trying to get my mind to pipe down for a moment so I can calm down.  I'm nowhere near mastering it, it's really hard work. We're all so busy and stressed but we're not the only ones..

It's been SATS this week and I know a lot of children have had struggled. I've over heard Mums in the playground saying there's been tears, tantrums and all sorts. I know a number of children have been to counsellors to try and deal with the pressure. In a big school, where there's 120 kids in Year 6 - that's a lot of potentially unhappy children. What about in a tiny countryside school, where one child makes up for 20% of the school's grades at SATS level. Imagine the pressure on those guys. Then there's the children that aren't submitted for entry as they don't have a chance to make the grade. They're not that silly, they do know what's going on. What's worse - taking the test and failing? Or knowing you're not taking it because you're stupid. This would all be worth it, IF it was beneficial to the child. However, the children will go to year 7 and be re-assessed anyway in most cases. So then, apart from putting the schools in position on league tables.... what is the point of putting an 11 year old through that?

This is one of those moments where I want to stand on a cliff and shout loudly - but this doesn't help. I mentioned in my last blog the theory of, if you can't beat them, join them. I am one woman. I can't change the world on my own, but I can get myself into schools and be nice to the children and try to help. I am VERY excited to be going on a 'Relax Kids' course this weekend, it is about teaching children the art of mindfulness, building self esteem, helping them to chill out and mostly to enjoy being a child, when all else around them is failing to let them do so. My plan is to go into schools, teach teachers how to do this alongside working with children to help them out in a schooling system that is in places quite simply, mental.

There is one child I'm tutoring who doesn't care about the Xbox. The first question he asked me was;

'What planet are you from?'

I really, desperately wanted to say 'Uranus' - but remembered this would not be appropriate. I said, possibly not earth and asked what planet was he from. He told me he was a 'Huoglien' (human/dog/alien) and that he was from JasonPlanet* - that he wasn't born here and when he was younger he was an entirely different colour. One day he plans on going home. This was a child with an imagination, someone who doesn't rely on a screen for it. His Mum is a teacher - then it made sense.

I am in the process of setting up my own business. This requires being a grown up and is terrifying - but it means I am taking control of my own life instead of letting Mr Gove do it for me. Please remember what is important - feel the joy! FEEL IT. I mentioned in an earlier blog how my friend Rachel and I used to play dress up when were children and this would sometimes involve wearing our Mum's wedding dresses. Next weekend I get to watch her walk up the aisle as her maid of honour - and I can't wait. It's these moments in life that count and really matter. 

Finally, here is a embarrassingly deep and meaningful quote from good old Dalai Lama. After convincing my other half to take a day off work as he had turned green with sickness, it seemed fitting.

“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

* I have changed the name of the planet to protect the child's identity.