Wednesday, 24 December 2014

#Nurture 1415

This year had been an interesting one, and initially, not all for the best of reasons. This time last year I was signed off work, and could not contemplate the thought of stepping into a school again, even worse the last thing I wanted to do was teach. 
   Thankfully, things got much better and choosing a mere 5 from all the good stuff that eventually happened will actually be quite hard, so please forgive me a wee bit of cheating. 

Good Stuff of 2014

1. The de-singlification of the Nelson.  

I started teaching in my late 20s, and to be honest, in terms of a personal life and a love life, both were in short supply over those 12 years. As far as the love life thing is concerned, I may as well have joined a convent.  I'd bantered with my now OH on Twitter for a good few months before we actually met (initially, I had even blocked him as I found him a bit scary) in October 2013. Out of which came the most tentative of friendships. To use the phrase 'slow burner' would be a severe understatement. But, after a MAMMOTH cleaning session of his house (I was off work, and wanted to feel useful), which was frankly a HORRIFYING mess when I first encountered it, we became much closer friends,  Later on, this lead to a Muppet Movie night where friendship changed into cosy coupledom.  Nine months later, we are still together despite nearly giving him multiple organ failure when he bought me a Vivienne Westwood handbag for my 40th. Something he reminds me of OFTEN. 

2. Being published in a real-life bonefide book! 

Firstly, in 2014 I stayed with Rachel Jones many times, who on one occasion was BUZZING after becoming a Google Certified Educator. Rachel had an idea of asking various edu-Twitter types to send her 10 top teaching tips that she could compile into an e-book, selling for a nominal amount with proceeds going to a children's charity. I helped a tiny bit by asking a few people to contribute, whilst Rachel constructed a Google form for us to use, and later formatted it into a beautiful e-book on some clever bit of Apple software. 
    As well as I, who is a petite fromage in the scheme of things, there are such Twitter grande fromages as Vic Goddard, Andrew Old, John Tomsett, Alex Quigley, Tom Starkey, Chocotzar, and the lovely Rachel Jones herself. 
   Before long, Crown House got wind of it, got in touch and offered to publish it into a real book! A REAL BOOK called 'Don't Change the Lightbulbs.' proceeds of which go to charity. Click on the link to get your own copy. 
  The book launch was great, and somehow I managed to talk to the whole of Twitter about literacy, and more inexplicably, told Twitter to 'grow a pair' and just get on with it. 
  The launch became a mixture of Edu-Twitter-Pokemon, the mission getting fellow contributors to sign their pages, and a selfie-a-thon getting your self snapped with the grander fromages. I'm STILL dead chuffed that I met Vic Goddard. 

Right, in a typical English teacher way, I've been quite verbose. Succinct Nelson, be succinct! 

3. Published again  - but in picture form! 

This is down to two remarkable forces of nature, @Chocotzar  who wrote a really moving blog about a pupil at her school who needed and deserved a holiday, sadly the likelihood of  that actually happening was zero. @Cazwebbo quickly cottoned on, and whipped us up  into posing for holiday themed pictures frenzy, in order to create a calendar to raise money for the Family Holiday Association.  Thus was born the 'Sweet Dreams Desk Diary 2015'. Still available to purchase! (Carol, my mum bought a job lot, meaning my sister got one, whether she wanted it or not.)
  A few of us clubbed together for a photo-shoot in Manchester - thanks LOTS to Carol for organising, Cherryl and Carolyn for helping this camera-phobic through the photo shoot. The combined efforts of these friends, the photographer and make-up artist meant I did not look like a grimacing corpse. Miracle. 

Still not succinct...sigh...

4. Maintaining and building various Twitter friendships, and making the most of opportunities.

2014 meant attending quite a few Twitter edu-events: Pedagoo London, Policy Exchange bash, a few Teach Meets, Research Ed, the London Currries, Wellington Education Festival and Starkeyfest in Leeds; whilst also meeting up with old and new Twitter friends individually. Out of which has grown an increasing amount of strong friendships, a sisterhood - you know who you are - who have seen me through my darkest of days; even better pulling me away from my walk with The Black Dog.
  This has also lead to great opportunities - most memorable being getting into the Master's Lodge at Wellington due to my OH being a speaker at the festival. I ate lots of good cake, I saw numerous famous types, which was bewlidering, and Oliver Beach from Tough Young Teachers (see what I did there Oliver), who, it has to be said gives a very fine hug indeed. 
  Later on, I gate-crashed a meeting with Sean Harford (the new Ofsted head honcho), Andrew Old and David Didau, and later on attended a meeting with Mike Cladingbowl (the out-going Ofsted head-honcho) and various other Twitter folk at Ofsted Towers in London.        At Research Ed in September I introduced Mike Cladingbowl and Sean Harford (to be interviewed by Andrew Old) to a huge hall full of people, during which I called Mike the 'Grande Fromage' and Sean 'a not quite so Grande Fromage' of Ofsted. Mike nearly spat out his tea, Sean virtually choked on his biscuit, Andrew stared at the floor, my knees nearly buckled. Kev Bartle told me he loved it. The tumble-weed response of the rest of the hall suggested the potential idea of a stand-up comedian being a second string to my bow, blew slowly away with the forlorn tumble-weed. 

5. Getting back to work

In May I found a part-time FE post teaching A-Level and GCSE English. By that point I had been off work for 7 months, my salary would end for definite in August as literally a few days prior to applying for this job, I had resigned from the old one. As interviews go, it felt very high stakes. However, the stars  were aligned and I got the job! For the lengthy version, click here.  The response from Twitter after I tweeted I'd got the job, was AMAZING. My timeline went bonkers with lovelieness for HOURS. 
  In short, the move to FE and being part-time was exactly the right thing to do. I love students, staff, colleagues and my boss is sound as a pound.  Although, thanks to the hideous road-works on the A5, the commute home is a real ARSE. 

Bonus Bit
Oh and this is too memorable not to mention. I had the FUNNIEST time on Twitter after Stuart Lock tweeted a picture of a fox in his garden, which none of us could see. Thus ensued what is fondly known as #Foxgate - well fondly for everyone except Stuart that is. 

One more Bonus bit
Over the past 18 months to 2 years I have participated in @ieshasmall's  photography journal of people who have had, currently dealing with, or recovering from depression. It is also on Twitter as @mindshackles - do click on the link to view. 
    Other participants I know are Rachel Jones and Andy Knill. It has been a really rewarding experience. Iesha is great company, knows her medium of photography, and documents our stories with heart and diligence. Our last sesssion was at The Globe on The Southbank, where as gronudlings we watched a great production of A Comedy of Errors. 
   Thank you so much for asking me to participate Iesha, it has been life affirming. 

Hopes for 2015

1. To celebrate a proper anniversary with 'im indoors. 

We are but 3 months away dearest, what shall we do to celebrate our 12 month adversary (that was a typo in a text to him a while back, but 'adversary' seems to have stuck)? I'm thinking something Muppet related. Just an idea. I think another Vivienne Westwood handbag might give him actual multiple organ failure. 

2.. To spend more time  with friends, to nurture those friendships better

I am fortunate that I have great friends. I know some wonderful people. I don't see or talk to them as much as I'd like. My past 18 months or so walking with The Black Dog has not helped these friendships much, neither does my phone-phobic nature. Friendships need nurturing, I need to nurture them far better. 

3.  To grow my confidence back as a teacher

I'm getting there, really I am, but after being off work for 10 months and the after-shock of being in an untenable situation at work, epic levels of stress and the stuffing being knocked out of me, it doesn't take much for the insidiousness of self-doubt and anxiety to creep in. Also, I'm teaching all new texts (to me) in my A-Level courses, it's terrifying. BUT SO MANY Twitter folk have Drop-boxed me resources, and I would have sunk into a pool of my own stress dribble if not for their help, I am HUGELY grateful. Next year is new A-Level Specs' so, it is no easy ride next year either, but it's the challenge I like. 
Already I am thinking of how to teach better, much better. 
  I'd like to start attending Teach Meets again, and have a crack at presenting once more. It terrifies me, but it will get easier the more I do it. 

4. To go on holiday in the school summer holiday

Not something I've actually done. Ever. The main hurdles are: money and to persuade the OH that not ALL foreign places 'smell of wee' so that we can at least get out of the UK on said holiday. 

5. Do some more tutoring

Currently this is a bit of an experiment, but recently I have done some 1:1 tutoring with the son of the folk who run my local sub-Post Office. I tell you, an hour barely seems long enough. It's very enjoyable, it's a little extra pocket money, it's another string to by bow and it could be developed. My pay is much less than it was, so I'll have to see how it goes. Plus I need to keep Mr. Tax Man in mind if this little venture is to grow. (If there is anyone who can give me advice on this, please do so. I am Mrs. Clueless here). 

Hurrah, finished! Well done for getting to the end! 

There are a few other things I'd like to do, many no less important than the ones above (cheating, sorry):

  1. I want my new students to better than both they and I expect in their exams in May and June. 
  2. Hear the words 'lesson observation' without tumbling into the well of anxiety and almost lurching into the zone of panic attack. 
  3. Do bloody awesomely in said lesson observation -  by that I mean get through it without panicking. 
  4. Go on the super-long zip-wire in Blaenau Ffestiniog and do Bounce Below (boinging on trampolines in a cave) also at Blaenau wiith a group of friends. 
  5. Do  something else wacky - like a parachute jump, or a hot-air balloon ride. 
  6. Get another discrete tattoo, Welsh and Wales being the theme. It's my 40th year and it will also be 10 years since dad passed away in November 2005. Ergo, it seems sort of right. Suggestions welcome. 
  7. Do more Yoga - it helps with my rubbish feet and general aches and pains. 
  8. Get more comfortably into my size 12 clothes - cosy coupledom has equalled weight gain. 
  9. Do an assault course again. I don't think I'd survive Tough Guy again, but something in the 10K region would be do-able. 
  10. Exercise at least 3 times a week, 4 if I can. (Which will help with No. 7)
  11. Write on this blog more regularly. I've been very cautious since behaviours of certain people at my old work meant I knew I was being 'monitored' - but they never openly admitted it, just mentioned stuff I'd tweeted or blogged about in passing. Way to make you paranoid, huh? Being in a new job has also made me cautious of using this blog, which, initially, I think was wise. I mustn't be scared of using my voice. 
  12. Continue teaching a GCSE English class in the evening. It's very enjoyable, the students are smashing.