How I Changed My Life in 2015

imageI started preparing this a few weeks ago, revisiting my posts from 2015 to get an overview of the year. It didn’t take long to realise just how much my life has changed in such a short space of time.

Indeed, 2015 has been the most frightening, busy and truly incredible year of my life.

Instead of setting myself the usual list of resolutions that I knew I would inevitably ignore, I gave myself one mantra that I would follow: this was the year I would take the risk. And I did just that, making the decision to quit a ten-year permanent, secure and successful teaching role and start out on my own. Continue reading

I Quit My Job Update: Seven Months On

I quit my teaching job update

I was scrolling down my Facebook feed this morning, and one status from a teacher friend immediately stood out:

‘Is it wrong to have the Sunday night blues at this time in a morning?’

How I remember that feeling. Twelve months ago, my state of mind was exactly the same, except, my Sunday night blues would start on Saturday morning – the respite from the almost permanent state of anxiety I experienced would be on Friday nights, when I knew I wouldn’t have to face anything for two days and was busy comforting myself with huge amounts of junk food in an effort to make myself feel temporarily better.

Just over seven months ago, I decided that I’d had enough, and I quit my teaching job without a new job to go to. This was the scariest thing I have ever done – I’ve had a job since I got my National Insurance Card at the age of 16, and I’ve never left one job without securing another first. Want to know the full story? Click here – I’ve had an amazing response to this. Continue reading

Back to a New Reality

imageI did my first day of supply teaching today. I was lying in bed at 8.45am, contemplating getting up and facing the day, when I received a phone call to request two days of cover for an absent teacher at my former school.

I was surprised, I didn’t expect this sort of work for at least a few months, but it was a brilliant opportunity to see all of my former colleagues and earn a bit of extra cash – never a bad thing in my opinion!

Admittedly, I was a little nervous on the way there. I was covering languages all day, which is far out of my comfort zone, and I hadn’t met any of the new students. There have been a few changes in the faculty as several staff left with me last year, and after ten weeks of being away from the classroom I was concerned that I would struggle.

It was initially a very surreal experience. My surroundings were so familiar, and yet it seemed totally different. It was a completely new reality.

However, it turned out to be an enjoyable day – I was greeted by some of my favourite students with ‘I thought you’d left – good to see you back!’ and one sixth former launched himself down the corridor to give me a massive hug. I also found it amusing that staff said hello as they normally would, and then did a double take when realising that I was at work. It was really good talking to everyone and listening to stories of their summer adventures, and after a while it almost felt like I had never left.

Almost.

What was particularly brilliant was that after a few months of doubt over my decision to leave the profession, there were several occasions where I had to deal with challenging behaviour, (despite knowing these particular students well), and it was a solid reminder that I was absolutely doing the right thing.

Best of all, I left at the end of the day just after the students, several hours earlier than I used to, without a single piece of work to do in the evening – no marking, no paperwork, no worries. Instead of going home with a headache and anxiety, I met my friend and went to the pub.

I could get used to this!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks, and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.

 

Ten Things That Teaching Has Taught Me

image1. I have more patience than I ever believed possible. As somebody who possessses a nasty temper when pushed, I’ve surprised myself by usually being able to remain calm and speak in a slow, positive tone even when faced with the most challenging of behaviours. Usually.

2. I am capable of adapting to unforeseen circumstances at the last minute.

3. I am never too old to be able to learn new things and develop skills, and I enjoy doing so. Continue reading

It’s Over – Summer Begins Here!

imageI can’t actually believe it. After months of a proverbial roller coaster ride consisting of the highest of highs, followed by the lowest of lows, it’s done. I was feeling a little bit rough after going out with my colleagues and indulging in cocktails for the second night in a row, but I gave my leaving speech, gratefully accepted lots of lovely cards and gifts, said goodbye to my form and staff and did my final performance with the most talented group of students I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.

Ok, it’s not quite done, I still have to go in on Monday to tidy up my classroom and hand everything in, but to all intents and purposes, the summer, and the start of my new life, begins here. Continue reading

Waiting…

imageI’m feeling really anxious today, but can’t put my finger on the reason why. I’ve been awake since 5.00am, and since then I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I should be doing something. I’ve been for a run, I’ve continued in yesterday’s house blitz and I’ve bought something nice for dinner later. However, it hasn’t helped.

It’s been an odd time – the students now know that I’m going, I’ve taught my last ever lesson as a classroom teacher, my final coursework folder is almost finished, my data is complete and from tomorrow I have just three days of activities with my form left in the academic year. Continue reading

The Day After the Week Before…

imageAll great changes are preceded by chaos.

And how chaotic it has been. After twelve consecutive days of full rehearsals and six performances, we finally finished the production at work. By the end of Friday night, we were all completely shattered – the staff were exhausted, the kids were exhausted, even The Bloke was exhausted after being my personal taxi service all week and we had done it all during the hottest week of the year so far. Continue reading

Expectations of the Perfect Partner

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Our students participated in an interesting set of workshops today. They were all off their usual timetable, instead discussing issues surrounding physical, emotional, social and sexual health. I spent most of the day supervising the sexual health workshops, which were predominantly focused on personal relationships and the expectations that each individual has of them.

The facilitator set the kids a really interesting activity. They were asked to draw out a shape in the form of a gingerbread man on a large piece of paper, with the title, ‘The Perfect Partner.’ Around the outside, they had to write the physical attributes that they would like, and on the inside, personality traits.

By the end of the third workshop, I had developed so many ideas in my head that I did the activity myself.

This was what I came up with:

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I’m in a long-term, happy relationship with a wonderful bloke, but being Little Miss Cynical I found myself thinking that the activity was perhaps setting false expectations for the students – surely there is no such thing as the perfect partner because there is no such thing as the perfect person? I mentioned this when I had a conversation with the practitioner after the workshops had finished, and there was something that she said that stuck with me for the rest of the day…

“None of the things that they all listed were impossible or unachievable – nobody wanted a partner that could fly or magic money out of thin air. The idea behind it is not to give young people false expectations, but to have expectations in the first place. By acknowledging things that they want in a partner, it gives them a chance to focus on two things: that personality is far more important than the way somebody looks, and that they will only be treated in the way that they allow themselves to be.”

She was absolutely right. Their ideas were not anything unexpected. Initially, the boys thought more about boobs and large bottoms and the girls talked about the importance of height and blue eyes, but by the time everyone had finished they had all filled the middle of their diagram with lots of ideas that would make the perfect personality.

I asked some of the students after school what they had gained from the workshop. One of them simply smiled and said,

“I am going to go home and do the activity about me instead of my perfect partner. That way, I know what sort of person I want to become and then I can expect exactly the same of my future boyfriend.”

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A lesson well learned, I think!

What about you? What would your perfect partner look like?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook and Pinterest pages

http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks
http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks

 

If We Were Having Coffee #8

imageIf were having coffee, I would tell you that with it being Father’s Day, every area of my social media is littered with messages of love and photographs of the special men in my friend’s lives. I haven’t acknowledged this particular day in a long time. My father is very much alive, but I haven’t had any contact with him in about thirteen years, a decision that I have never regretted. I am conscious of the fact that The Bloke, my mother and many of our friends are remembering the father’s that are no longer with us and are dearly missed. However, I am thinking of my wonderful grandfather, who was one of the most wonderful men I have ever known. For those of you with amazing fathers, and for those with beautiful memories, I’m thinking of you.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have just been ‘up North’ for my sister’s birthday. We went to the same place that we took our mother to for Mother’s Day, 47 King Street West, for a champagne afternoon tea and cocktails. Like the last time we visited, the food was beautiful and we all had a nice time chatting and catching up. However, as we consumed more and more alcohol, the conversation became a little more raucous than it was when we started, and very soon the pictures we were taking went from this:

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To this:

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Gorgeous.

It was fun, but by my fourth Amaretto Sours I was beginning to feel a little bit worse for wear (I’m such a lightweight). My brother-in-law picked us up, which was really nice of him as he had been feeling quite ill recently, and I felt truly sorry for him when my sister and mother decided to crank up the music and sing “Ain’t No Moutain High Enough” so loudly that passengers in other cars started to join in.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on Thursday I received an email from a colleague at work, requesting food donations and cleaning products for one of our families who are really struggling. After spending the last few weeks throwing myself a pity party, I felt completely ashamed of myself, particularly about complaining about spending some of my savings on vets bills for Daisy, the Dream Killer. Yes, I could have done without it, but when I looked at everything I have, I’ve got nothing to complain about – The Bloke and I aren’t rich by any means, but we don’t want for anything, often frittering our money away on things that we don’t need. We’re lucky, and we live a charmed life.

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After work, The Bloke and I had a chat about it and decided to do something. We set ourselves a budget, went to our local supermarkets and bought enough (hopefully) to last for the next two weeks for a small family. As we were walking round, it was a humbling experience when I realised that there were so many things that I take for granted when I am buying them. I don’t even bother to look at prices sometimes – I know what I like and I go and get it. When we added everything up at the end, we realised that we had spent more on a meal the other week with some friends. In fact, I spent more on my phone bill last month.

It’s inspired me further, and it got me thinking about making a difference on a wider scale and all of the local school children who won’t be eating well over the holidays because they will be unable to get a hot meal at school. My tutor group and I are going to set up a collection over the next month where we are going to ask the rest of the school to donate one thing each, and then The Bloke and I will drop it off at our local food bank before the end of term. I worked out that with nearly 1000 students and 150 staff in the school, we should be able to do something great.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am going to be spending this evening catching up on Season 7 of Castle. It’s one of my favourite TV shows of all time and I was devastated at the cliffhanger at the end of Season 6… No spoilers please!!

And finally, if we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am now on Instagram – you can find me at http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

What about you guys? What would we talk about if we were having coffee?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks and my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks

 

Things Teachers Want Parents To Know

imageThe other day, I attended Parents Evening for a cohort of my students. After nearly ten years and about seventy similar events, I realised that this was my last ever set of parental meetings. It was quite an unusual revelation. Of the thousands of conversations that I have had with parents over the years, there are things that, from a teacher perspective, I and many of my friends and colleagues want them to know.

1. I genuinely care about your child and their well-being. I believe that your child has the potential to become a well-rounded, successful human being and I work hard to help them in their journey.

2. Teacher training days are important and aren’t there for the purpose of inconveniencing you. Most professions require training and professional development on a regular basis and we have them to develop our ability to support our youngsters in every aspect of their lives.

3. Your child isn’t stupid. Even at the age of thirty-three, I still struggle with maths. If you asked me to sprint 100 metres it would probably take me longer than most. My attempts at drawing and sketching real life would make Picasso look like an amateur. None of these make me stupid, I just have talents in other areas. Your child has their own strengths and weaknesses and telling them that they aren’t clever or good at something could possibly result in self-confidence issues that may affect them on a long-term basis. Levels aren’t always everything – if your child works hard and does their absolute best, I can’t ask any more from them.

4. Discipline and manners begins at home. I shouldn’t have to explain to a sixteen year-old why rolling their eyes, tutting, huffing and snapping ‘what?!’ at me is not an appropriate response when I call their name in a lesson, or remind them to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ during their interactions with myself and their peers.

5. Correcting your child when they make a mistake doesn’t mean I dislike them or am ‘picking on them.’ If a child makes a mistake in a lesson, I will speak to them about it and give them the opportunity to change their behaviour. If I have to speak to them more than once, I will issue an appropriate sanction that is consistent for every student I teach. You may believe that your child is an angel, but telling them that they don’t have to do a detention I have set and that I am clearly being biased is teaching them that their behaviour is acceptable.

6. Allowing your child to play on their XBox until 1.00am does not help me. When I’m tired, I lose concentration and motivation and I’m far more irritable than usual, even as an adult. An eleven year-old who has had five or six hours of sleep may as well not be in school – by lunch they have switched off completely.

7. My job is to facilitate learning, not to actually do the work for them. Your child is not finding the work too difficult, they’re simply lazy. I set differentiated tasks in each lesson to accommodate the needs of the entire class and I try and challenge each individual as much as possible. I set weekly coursework catch-up sessions, detentions, I ring home, send emails, I even remind students of impending deadlines as I’m passing them in the corridors. If your child doesn’t complete their coursework to the standard that they are capable of, it is because they haven’t put the work in, not because I am a bad teacher.

8. I am not perfect and I make mistakes. Move on. I treat each new teaching day as a fresh start and if a child has had a bad day we start again with a clean slate in the next lesson. Reminding me of the time I upset your now sixteen year-old when they were twelve is not relevant or productive to their education.

9. Your child is not being bullied, they are a troublemaker. This is perhaps the most difficult element of the profession that I have dealt with in my conversations with parents. I experienced years of bullying when I was at school, and as a teacher it is something that I will absolutely not tolerate. However, I have been in many situations where a child has deliberately gone out of their way to cause trouble amongst their friends because they like to create an element of drama in their lives and have then accused others of bullying them when they have retaliated. Of course, any parent will want to protect their child if they feel they are being threatened and I will always do my best to resolve any conflicts amongst students regardless of the circumstances. However, yelling at me without listening to the whole story first is not going to teach your child that deliberately causing trouble will have consequences.

10. I want us to be a team and I appreciate your support. My job is made much easier with the knowledge that I can share your child’s achievements or my concerns without fear of judgement or blame being placed in my direction. Thank you.

What about you? Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to say in your profession, but can’t?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks and Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks