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.