I Did it Again!

Just over a year ago I made the decision to share my experiences with coming out to the pupils at my old school. You can read about it here. It was a step I had wanted to take as soon as I got into teaching (and felt comfortable with knowing what I was doing). It was the best feeling finally being able to be myself and share valuable lessons I have learnt over the years. I didn’t have to hide who I was anymore. I then left and joined a new School in September and felt like I had only made a small impact on those kids as I had left so soon. But it was pleasing to have positive comments from many pupils and staff so I know to some of them it made a difference.

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At my new school I was almost back at square one, with none of the children knowing who I really was. I guess part of that is through my own choice to a certain extent but I wanted to settle in to the school and find my feet as it was very different to what I was used to and much more challenging. Nearly a whole year has passed and of course in a new school I was being asked questions like ‘do you have a boyfriend?’ Are you married?….Etc! Anyone who knows me will know I much prefer to make a point about something so it can have a bigger impact, I like leading assemblies and trying the share my words of wisdom with more pupils rather than hearsay (well I like to think I can sometimes be wise). So last week I decided to bite the bullet and do it all again, how very fitting that it came in the week after Bristol pride. I really couldn’t care less what people think of me and I wish I had only realised that sooner in life, and thats part of the message I wanted to get across. The only people who’s opinions matter to me are those that love me and are closest to me. Frankly, I don’t need anyone else’s acceptance.

So why? It’s simple really, how can we expect children and pupils to understand how to accept themselves or each other if a teacher in this day and age doesn’t feel as though they can come out and be themselves in their workplace? What kind of message does that send? I have seen pupils struggle with it and not realise what they are going through, when I was at school I wasn’t comfortable or confident enough to feel as though I could talk to anyone. I was a closed book and then was almost made to feel like I was wrong or weird for feeling the way I did so just denied it instead. The recent Stonewall School report shows an improvement in the LGBT bullying figures in young people, which is fantastic! But there is still work to be done. Pupils need a role model, I think we forget or sometimes underestimate the affect that we can have on these kids and if there is someone brave enough to be open and willing to be a role model then maybe more people will follow suit. I wanted to share my story again because if I can help only a handful of pupils then I know it will have been worth it. I want to be someone that the pupils feel comfortable talking to, to help them cope with what I struggled with. And it has already started, I have had 2 pupils come to me and discuss their sexuality with me, and I think it’s nice for them that they can have a listening ear and just to know that how they are feeling is normal. I hope they know that teachers are there for them.

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In light of this, I also want to work with other staff and educators to make an even bigger impact. If you are a teacher and identify as LGBTQI then I urge you to come out and make a difference. It might be a scary decision, but be brave enough to share your story as I can promise you, it will be worth it and you will have a positive effect on pupils.

On the back of this, we have now decided to go one step further and register with Stonewall to become a Diversity Champion School. Our intention is to celebrate diversity and encourage acceptance for all. Not just for LGBTQI individuals but to celebrate that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated with respect. We also want to encourage the #nobystanders campaign and try and get more people to feel comfortable speaking out and standing up for others. I am sure there are some amazing things being done in schools already so I am open to sharing best practice and new ideas. So please, feel free to get involved as it will only add value to what we are trying to achieve. The Stonewall report still has some shocking comments and figures in that we need to work together to try and change and hopefully eventually eradicate. Watch this space….

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What a Difference a Year Makes!

Wow, has it really been that long since I last blogged?! I have been a busy bee and to be honest, I just haven’t made the time. So here is my pledge, I will blog a lot more in the next year.

A few things have changed for me. I travelled America, moved to Bristol, bought and have been completely renovating a new house, started a new job in a tough School, been promoted to a Level 4 referee and more recently a level 3 referee, got a puppy, joined the Crossfit community (which I love) and retired from playing football (again). As you can see, a busy year filled with lots of new experiences. I have definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone and it’s so important to do that. You never know what will happen. IMG_8078

It has been a rollercoaster full of ups and downs but I wouldn’t change any of it. I have learnt a lot and am now more confident in some aspects of my life than I have ever been. The most difficult part was starting my new job. The School I am now in is situated in a tough area of Bristol and comes with many challenges, in particular the behaviour of the kids. It took me around 3 terms to adapt and start enjoying it, there were times when I wanted to leave, I have been ill more times this year than the previous 4! But since around February half term, I have adjusted and am now very much enjoying it. The staff are extremely supportive and the department are great. There are some absolutely amazing children here who just need a bit more time and tlc. I am looking forward to starting a new year in September with some new focuses and new challenges within the academy. We are implementing a new policy for behaviour which I think has the potential to make a positive impact. I will also be hear of year which I am really looking forward to. It will come with many challenges but I will be sure to blog about them. Watch this space.

My refereeing experience in the last year has been hard work but again it’s been really rewarding! I went into the season with a really positive attitude and nothing to lose. I wanted to get promoted but at the end of the day I just wanted to do my best. As it happens I had a really successful season and have been lucky enough to become a level 3 referee (pending passing my fitness test and laws of the game test). Proving that hard work pays off. I now have another new challenge for the next year and something else to look forward to. Can’t wait for the season to start.

I blogged about the power of change  a while ago and the point I want to make is that change is good and you need to embrace it. With the correct mindset anything is possible, you just have to go out and work for it. There are times when things get hard and I have experienced that a few times this year but despite a few tough moments I have come through the other side.

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I finally did it :)

I haven’t blogged for a while as I have been pretty busy but this is something I feel I need to share. I have been a teacher for 5 and a half years. In this time I have taught hundreds of children. I became a teacher to try and make a difference to these pupils, not only educationally but also in their lives outside of school. Take away all of the crap and pressure from the government, I absolutely love my job, more than I thought I would. It gives me the opportunity to affect the education of many children and help them grow into adults. I believe developing positive relationships with them is essential, this allows them to respect you more as a teacher too. There were things I went through in school that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about, let alone teachers. So I wanted to be approachable and if there were students experiencing similar things as I did, I want them to feel they can talk about them.

Just over a year ago I did my first whole school assembly. I was extremely nervous about it and wanted to make a positive impression to the pupils. Quite often kids switch off in assemblies, I wanted to talk about things that were current and would inspire them. After the assembly I wrote a blog about it; The Assembly Bug. In this assembly, I focused on homophobia and shared the story of my sister and a friend of mine who I played football with. At the time I wanted to share my story but I lacked support of the Head and after contacting Stonewall decided it was a bad idea without it.

We now have a new head (who is an awesome guy). Two weeks ago I had an upper school assembly to year 10 and 11 pupils. I decided once again to try my luck and ask if I could share my personal struggles with coming out in school. I was ecstatic when the head agreed, he gave me full support and I left his office with a huge smile on my face. I have previously blogged about how I was bullied at school but I felt unable to be completely honest. I was worried that if pupils or parents read my blog, my secret would be out and it could affect my job. It seems ridiculous really that someone should feel they can’t be themselves in all walks of their lives because of the opinions of others.

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Theme of the week for my assembly was forgiveness. This was perfect as it fitted with my story. When I was in year 10, I told my ‘best friend’ that I had a girlfriend. She then told everyone my secret. I wasn’t ready for everyone to know and wasn’t mature enough to handle it so made the decision to deny it. In hindsight (powerful thing that), I wish I had just admitted it and been honest. I even lied to my own twin sister to start with. It would have been so much easier. However, I didn’t really know anyone else that was gay and I hadn’t been exposed to it much. It was all new and even though it was only 13 years ago, we have come a long way since then in accepting it into society. I then became ill with glandular fever which I have now linked with me not coping well with all that happened. I didn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through, possibly because I didn’t really understand what was causing it all. I really wish I had had more courage to talk about it to teachers but it is what it is, I can only learn from it and try and help others deal with it in a better way than I did, by sharing my story. The point I wanted to make to the pupils was sometimes forgiveness can set you free. I forgave the girl, myself and let it go so I could move on and accept who I was. They care so much about what other people think of them, when they let go of that, they can lose the fear of being different and just be themselves.

So I shared this story with the pupils. It was an extremely nerve racking experience as I wasn’t sure how they would react. At the end of the assembly I then showed a picture of me and my girlfriend. It was interesting to see their reaction as I didn’t actually say what the secret was when sharing the story. Some of them were shocked, others already had their suspicions.

After the assembly, it was almost like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could finally be who I was and more importantly, share my experiences in my teaching. I have taught many PSHE lessons about discrimination, same sex couples, gay marriage or bullying and I just wanted to share my story and opinions but I couldn’t. Now I can and I feel empowered by the experience. The feedback from all the staff and pupils has been really positive. It sparked conversations with pupils telling me how brave I was for sharing it and how they respect me more for being so honest, that it inspired them, I even had a member my tutor group hug me and tell me she was proud. They had been waiting apparently. I have even had a few girls come to me and share their stories and struggles, I think it’s good for them to speak to someone they know has been through it. It is easy for pupils to forget that teachers have been through things too, we are human beings not robots. The worry I had about negativity was unnecessary, so far no one seems to care and I have a feeling it will stay that way. We have come a long way in 13 years, pupils are openly gay and so much more accepting than they ever used to be. But that being said, there is still a long way to go. I just hope that by me coming out, I have taken a positive step towards changing perceptions of gay teachers and I urge and fellow teachers to follow suit and have the courage to share your stories with pupils. They have a lot to learn from you.

I am happy I can finally be myself and be honest when I talk to the pupils. Now I don’t have to worry about them asking me if I’m gay. They already know ūüôā

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Week 13/14 – Work/Life Balance

The weeks blog is on a popular topic in teaching. The work/life balance. This is something that is essential for all teachers. It is coming to the end of the Easter holidays. I know all teachers will agree with me when I say holidays are needed. Teaching is a mentally tiring job, many teachers work longer hours than they are required. There is endless planning and marking, throw in report writing, parents evenings, tracking and then a busy exam period and there is more work to do. Any good, committed teacher will genuinely care about their pupils and always try and do what is best for them. Yes we get 13 weeks holiday a year, but not all of this time is spent relaxing.

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I decided to see what other peoples views were and I came across some interesting stories. This story is about an ex deputy head of a primary school. She had been teaching for over 20 years when she finally became ill from stress and working too hard. She seemed the learn the hard way that there needs to be some emphasis on life and not to get too consumed by the profession. Food for thought? I wonder how many other teachers have been through similar experiences.

Last year @Teachertooklit blogged about #Guiltyteacher¬†¬†This blog was extremely popular on twitter and opened the eyes of many in the profession. It was prompted by Mr Steer on the TV programme Educating Yorkshire. This was a brilliant programme that gave the public an insight to just how hard teachers work. Mr Steer still went to work even though he was really ill. The #guiltyteacher is someone who goes to work even though they know they won’t be at their best or really shouldn’t. But they do it because if they don’t they feel guilty. I’ve done it, and I can guarantee you there are plenty of teachers who do it too. It is sometimes easier to come in and teach rather than set cover for your lessons. If I am off because I am ill, I am still thinking about school, wondering how my lessons are going. When in reality..school is not going to fall apart without you. So‚Ķif you are ill, genuinely ill and need to rest. Then you are better off at home and not being a guilty teacher. Plus, depending on the reason you may infect other teachers which won’t be good or appreciated.

I looked into ways of maintaining a good work/life balance. Some of the tips for work/life balance can be seen here. It’s incredible to see the amount of posts about it. Not just within teaching, but work in general. A popular piece of advice is to always make time for your family and friends. If you are a teacher with children, I imagine life can be even more stressful. having to do all the work and then go home to entertain children. This PE teacher decided to quit teaching after 10 years because she wanted to spend more time with her son. This story in particular made me realise that as teachers, you need to make sacrifices in your work to ensure you have a good life at home too. She also mentions ¬†that doesn’t help is the pressure teachers are put under by the government. If there was less pressure, teachers could actually help develop children further as well rounded individuals. Not just prepare them for an exam to get good results because else we won’t get paid as much. That’s a whole other story.

I personally have other commitments outside of school. I currently play football for Yeovil Town Ladies and we have just started a new season in the FA Women’s Super League in division 2. This is the 2nd tier of women’s football. I love it and I wouldn’t change it for anything. But fitting it in with my teaching career is not easy. There are days when I have to drag myself to the gym or training because I feel so tired after a long day teaching and possibly going to a fixture. Or I go straight to the gym on my way home, then come home and spend the evening marking or planning. At the weekends I referee on a saturday and we usually play on a sunday. I have to make sure I do any work around this time. Time management and organisation are 2 skills that are essential in this industry. Along with a desire to have some time to do what you want.

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So my advice after reading on this topic‚Ķ.have some time for yourself. Use your time wisely when you are in school. Ask your colleagues for help or if they have resources that you can share rather than having to make extra yourself. The best departments share work, this makes it much easier for all your teachers. I have an ambition to be Head of Department in the near future. I will make sure the teachers are getting enough time to have a life. Not to spend each evening a week doing work. The last piece of advice I have is to find a hobby. Preferably an active one. This will not only relieve stress, but will give you a physical outlet and a way to take your mind off work. Having a work/life balance isn’t a luxury, it’s a must.

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Week 9 and 10 – Job Applications and Interviews

I am finding this half term the busiest so far. With year 11 exams looming, there seems to be an awful lot to do. I know many teachers will be worrying about covering all the content of their course with enough time to get some revision in. Obviously some subjects are worse than others. I admire the lengths teachers go to providing support to pupils, ensuring they are adequately prepared for their exams, especially when there is so little time to cover so much content, yet they manage it anyway. There are then other pressures such as progress grades and parents evenings. Making sure data is correct and that books are marked to back up the levels. 

For me, I often count myself lucky that I don’t have the stacks of books to mark that others do. I do however, have GCSE Dance practical assessments coming up, moderation for all of their units and lots of BTEC marking to do. I also have the annual talent competition, GCSE PE books to mark and there is always planning to do. I ensure I make up for the lack of marking in other ways that I can. For the past 2 weeks, I have added some extra work to my load. I applied for a new job. You will all know how stressful this can be in any case, but or teaching, the application forms are always huge, and you accompany it with a covering letter. A LOT of time goes into this. Trying to cram as much information as possible into 2 pages without waffling is not easy feat. It needs to be tailored to the school and the job description too. I have a few tips that really helped me.¬†

  1. Write down the key things the school are looking for
  2. Have a strong and intriguing first paragraph 
  3. Do your research, mention the schools strengths
  4. Back up what you say with examples
  5. Have an interesting summary paragraph
  6. Always get a colleague to read it and help with the process
  7. Keep it to 2 pages of A4 

Thankfully my letter was good enough to get me an interview. I have spent the last week preparing for that interview. Preparation is key when you go for any job, but the interview process for teaching is pretty extensive, especially i going for a higher position. I have been researching about the school and the local community to help me. I have spent time looking on their website for as much information as possible, looking at policies, Ofsted reports and generally what the school is like. 

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The interview process for many schools involves different aspects, tours, teaching a lesson, student interviews, interviews with the panel and in some cases a presentation too. I am no expert at this but as I have already mentioned, being prepared is vital if you stand any chance of being employed. If you do not prepare effectively then you are setting yourself up to fail. I feel the things I have done this week has enabled me to be as ready as ever. I know whatever happens on the day will happen for a reason. I will give it my all because that is what I do. I have nothing to lose.

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The good thing is, I already have a job. As you can imagine, or may have experienced, the process is much more stressful for those that do not. Teaching jobs are few and far between at the moment. What with the current political climate in education, teachers are under a lot of stress. The education sector is always changing, there are new policies or ever changing curriculum ideas. Luckily, I am still young and not considering leaving as I know some are. I want to make a different to young peoples lives, the further I progress up the teaching ladder, the more affect I believe I can have. It is such a rewarding career, if you don’t have any dealings with young people as a teacher, coach or some sort of educator, then you are missing out. They are truly amazing and can surprise you every day. Never a dull moment.¬†

For now tho, I am as prepared as I will ever be. I will just be myself and enjoy the experience. Every day is a school day Рalways learning. 

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Week 1 in 2014 – The life of a PE teacher

So we are one week into 2014 and this is my first blog of the new year. I thought I would start this year writing weekly blogs on what I encounter both as a PE teacher and in my personal life.¬†I spent the first few days of 2014 doing the usual, eating healthy and exercising to get myself prepared for the new challenge that 2014 brings me on a personal level. As you may or may not know I play football for Yeovil Town Ladies. We are embarking on a new adventure this year in The FA Women’s Super League 2. This is an exciting opportunity but I know it will be a huge challenge juggling my time for work and ensuring I am in the best shape possible for this higher level of competition. It is of course, a challenge which I will give my all.¬†

I also spent a day or so doing extra planning ready for the new term. Anyone who knows me will understand that I am organised. I believe there should be a definite balance between work and life so I always make sure I am pretty much organised for the new term before the old one finishes. I know it is probably easier for me than most as I teach PE so the marking load is a lot lighter but for any teacher I believe they need to make time for family and friends and spend less time working at home (easier said than done I know).

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The first week back at school after a 2 week break is always tiring. I have been planning on setting up primary school support with the PE department in my school. The aim is to support local primary school PE to help the children get a more varied experience of PE but also to support the primary school teachers with their delivery. Giving them ideas they can take into lessons with all of their staff and pupils. It is something I feel strongly about, especially as 95% of neurological development takes place before the age of 10. It is important that children are taught skills right so once they pass the age of 10 they have the skills to cope with further demands of sport. This will also help increase their confidence and social skills in secondary PE. If we can get Primary PE at a higher level then it will have a huge knock on effect later in life. Well in theory anyway. Will keep you posted on how this goes. 

Although I teach PE full time, I also have to manage work commitments with my personal ones. I train 2 evenings a week and a Sunday with the squad and also then have to fit in 3 other gym sessions a week to ensure I am fit enough for football. In addition to this, I am also a qualified referee and have been refereeing men’s matches for the past year. This is something I really enjoy. It is sometimes extremely hard to juggle of of this with a hectic work schedule. But, I really enjoy being busy and doing as much as I can to help the students. I am still running the boot camp this year. It was very successful for the last two terms so decided to extend it to benefit the fitness of the pupils involved. I would love to run it all year long to help pupils understand that a healthy lifestyle isn’t a short term goal. It needs to be a longer term target and needs to be maintained. This will start again next week and I am looking forward to the positivity the project will bring.¬†

So that sums up the start to my 2014. It will be a busy one with 3 exam groups and the new WSL2 but a year I am very much looking forward to. I am now off to do some marking. 

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Bullying – misused term or serious issue?

I have been wanting to blog about bullying for a while as I think it’s a really pressing issue. It happens to be anti-bullying week too so I fugured now was the time to write it. There have been many stories in the press about children being bullied to the point where they take their own life. It is shocking and heart breaking that they feel it has to come to this. For many, I feel they suffer in silence, too afraid to tell anyone what is going on. As a teacher, I know that we cannot deal with these issues if the child doesn’t come forward and tell anyone about the problem. I would hate to think that a child, particularly in my tutor group, were too afraid to come forward and talk to me about it. I want to encourage children to come forward and not suffer in silence.

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I understand first hand how bullying feels and how they can affect your life. I was bullied in school in year 7 and 8, and then again when I was in year 10 and 11, both for different reasons. Anyone who knows me will probably know these reasons. I was made to feel small, like I didnt matter, and these were constant, as you can see from the timescales. People would call me names in the corridor, I even remember people going through my stuff and putting it on show. There were times when I would go home and cry. I am an outgoing and strong minded individual who is pretty stubborn. Because of this I learnt to ignore it and not to care what people think. When I reflect on my school life, I have realised that when I had glandular fever in year 11, it was probably partly due to the fact that I was being bullied, I lost friends, didnt eat as much as I should have, worried a lot. All of this just before I did my exams. I have never put this together until recently. There were probably a few other reasons too, I was playing a lot of sport, and my immune system was probably weaker than it should have been. However, I believe that I am now a stronger person because of my experiences. I am unique and if people have an opinion about me then who cares. I am not going to let what other people think influence me or what I do.

I suffered in silence, I didn’t tell the teachers and I can’t remember if I even told my parents, I just got on and dealt with it in my own way. Having experienced ‘bullying’ in schools, I know that some children genuinely do suffer and get bullied. Kids can be very cruel when they want to be. However, I also believe that the word bullying has lost its meaning with some. Children are very quick to accuse people of being bullies when they may have just fallen out with their friends. A week later they are back talking again. I am confident that this happens all over the country. It is almost like their tolerance to this has become less, they arent not ‘thick skinned.’ The youth of today has changed and are changing. We are educating them for jobs that don’t yet exist. But some are less inclined to ‘take it on the chin’ and stick up for themselves. Someone calling them a name is them being picked on. Bullying in my eyes has to be a constant occurance, things repeated. It can be verbal, physical, intimidation and more and more now it’s also done via the internet and social media sites.

So, there is a very blurred line, are those being seriously bullied suffering in silence? Are those not really being bullied as such making more out of the situation than they should be? Are social media sites creating more problems? Do we need to reiterate on a regular basis what bullying is? There are lots of questions raised.

In the news yesterday, and the reason I wanted to blog today is the use of the term ‘gay’ as a derogative. I spoke to my tutor group about it and it spark a conversation in which I was told about this clip. It is 19 minutes long but creates a powerful message about what bullying can do and can lead to. It is also based on true stories. It is a real eye opener and I believe it can be used in our teaching to show children what their actions could be doing to others. Maybe we need to demonstrate the consequences of this sooner in education to get the message across earlier and try to prevent bullying. What else can we do to encourage children to be an individual and not to care as much what others think.

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