C is for Connect.

Con.nect (verb): to join together or to become joined. (Your Dictionary.com)

 The origins of the word connect stem from the latin word conectere, “con” – together and “nectere” – bind. Depending on how the word is used, as we know, the definition changes. So I am going to use connect with regards “to forming a relationship or creating an infinity with someone or something”.

I do not have many talents, but one thing that I do seem to have a knack for, is an affinity with children. This is not, to be confused with being “childish”. Like you, I still have all the joys and pleasures of adult-life awaiting my attention: bills, work, cooking, cleaning, shopping and so on, but, I am also able to take pleasure in moments of childish joy. I am able to connect with both my child (as a mother) and my inner child (as an adult).

This may sound a bit wishy washy. Some of you are already inwardly cringing: “is she going to tell us to sing the hokey cokey, play dress up and have tea parties?” (Wikipedia offers this sage advice.)

During the first few years of teaching, I was able to transport myself into my students shoes with ease. We would romp around the classroom, go out to the playground for games of “stuck in the mud” and “leap frog”, do box craft and *glitter-based activities in art and sing until my voice was so hoarse that I needed a whole weekend of silence just to be able to speak again on a Monday morning. Over time, my workload increased, the pressure of meeting targets and curriculum preparation, exams, meetings, etc started to slow me down. I felt constrained, frustrated and tired.

My mojo then packed its bags, waved goodbye and off it skipped into the sunset. I was devastated.

Don´t worry though. This story has a happy ending and when my daughter was born, my mojo finally decided to make its way back to me. After spending the first year of motherhood basically bumbling around wondering who and where I was most of the time, my mojo began giving me tentative pokes in the back, encouraging me to start letting go a little, have fun, make a bit of a mess, jump around, dance (the hokey cokey), sing, play and basically feel that childish joy and wonder again.

Children are mini-miracles (I also went around sharing this mortifying fact with people for quite a while after Dani was born). There is nothing quite like being inside a child´s head. It is like being on a full-time and endless adventure. It is both beautiful and marvelous and at some point, they and we, will outgrow the wonder of all things child-like.

I was talking to a fellow mother last week (not under educational circumstances) and she told me that she felt awful because, between work and domestic life, she believed that she had no “real” time left for her son. I felt like that too for a long time, however, being exhausted will pass (mostly) and small opportunities to re-connect with yourself, your child or your students will reappear once again.

Your version of your inner-child may not be the same as mine. Or the same as the mum next door. Or the teacher in the opposite classroom. So what?

Childish pleasure should be a selfish experience of freedom, even just for a few moments. It should also be anything that has the ability to make you feel happy, from playing hide and seek, cooking cupcakes (and of course eating them), to rolling down a hill in a park, splashing through puddles or dancing to your favourite music (necessarily the hokey cokey). Whatever it is though, you need to be smiling at the end of it.

If you feel you may be lacking a little in the mojo department, or you are controlled by time, then you will need to consciously take a time-out in your day. A minute or two is a good start and if you are in view of the general public when you get your buzz on, then you will need to just suck it up and go with it. I often get “wtf looks” when I am dangling from a climbing frame or “riding horses” through the park. I no longer see them because I am too busy connecting with my (inner) kid and loving it.

So go find your (unicorn) wings again, spread them wide, be free and fly.

Beki.

 

* Glitter should only be used in tube glue format. All that glitters in indeed not gold and takes day, weeks and even years to find and clean off!

B is for Bullying.

B is for Bullying.

Bul.ly.ing (noun): abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc. (Merriam-Webster).

If you look up the term bullying, there is a vast sea of literature that you can pick your way through: books, links, helplines, articles, websites, organisations, courses, yet bullying is still an uncomfortable and often taboo subject for many people. It is out there and in our face, but also hiding slyly at the sidelines.

I often doodle in a journal when I want to clarify my thoughts or spark my creative buzz. My “bullying” doodles however, got slightly out of hand and I began to loose perspective on what I was trying to say. My pulse started to jump and I had to stop, sit back and calm my breathing. I called on some friendly backup and asked the question: what is the first thing that pops into your head when I say “bullying”.

Now close your eyes, and try it.

When I was at school I was bullied. Bullied for being ugly, bullied for being stupid, bullied for being different. Bullied for just being me. “School” seemed to be a key word that either came up straight away, or after some discussion.

My own experiences with bullying were fairly mild: name-calling, spreading of rumours, being excluded and deliberately ignored which later escalated into pushing, shoving, hair-pulling and waiting for me both in and out of (secondary) school.

My story is fairly standard but I also know friends that suffered far worse than I ever did. Bones were broken for a start.

When we leave school, we may leave the school bullies behind yet we will still probably come across bullies all our lives: friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, partners and even teachers. I have known them all.

Bullying in the adult world is often called something different and executed in a slightly different, sneakier and grown-up manner, but the same rules apply. It is about a balance of power and the ability or need to make another feel powerless. I once knew a teacher who would make jokes and incite laughter with regards to fellow colleagues. Their daily banter was never taken too seriously, but it was always as someone else´s expense and it was always done with light ridicule in mind.

I have also known colleagues to sit on the sidelines when students were bullied within their own classrooms. Instead of intervention, they chose to make less of the situation when actually it deserved their utmost attention. Many of us, at some point, will have been a spectator to bullying. Here, the need to stand together becomes greater, as the power of unity binds us and makes us stronger. As Ryunosuke Satoro staes: Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.

Dealing with bullying is as tricky now as in childhood. It always has and it always will be. Often, the victim will suffer in silence, as fear of repercussions can be far greater than the need for intervention. Children can be very good at hiding what they don´t want us to see, which is why there is still a need to be vigilant. Educating our students and children is fundamental, not only for them, but for us as well.

Celebration of diversity may be much greater and more open than it was when I was at school, but as times change, so do the methods used to bully. Through the use of mobile phones, devices and social media, it is so much harder to escape bullies. We are open and available at all times and there is no easy escape from online persecution.

I am not an expert in this field and have no illuminating advice to give, other than what I have lived through and experienced first-hand. Bullying is never and will never be acceptable, no matter how old you are and no matter when it takes place in your life.

I would like to think that our vigilance and willingness to be honest and open about our own experiences may help to shape and change future generations, and the bullies we know or have known throughout our lives will no longer have power over us or our children.

Beki Wilson.

- https://www.bullying.co.uk/general-advice/

- https://www.ditchthelabel.org/top-10-tips-for-overcoming-bullying/

- https://espanol.stopbullying.gov/niños/lo-que-puede-hacer/t4r/índice.html

- https://www.savethechildren.es/donde/espana/violencia-contra-la-infancia/acoso-escolar-bullying

- https://www.eitb.eus/es/television/programas/navarra-directo/videos/detalle/6228886/video-unax-flores-profesor-universidad-publica-navarra-bullying/

A is for Amazing.

A is for Amazing.

A.maz.ing: (adj.) inspiring awe, admiration or wonder (www.thefreedictionary.com).

Used as an adjective, amazing can also be used to describe something that is astounding, inspiring or incredible, pretty powerful yet scary words that can both motivating but also intimidating.

Whilst doing a little bit of background research for this post, I came across an interesting take on the word amazing stating that it can also be used when something is “really good”, which at first surprised me and then, more interestingly, led to a feeling of relief.

I started this post with the idea of giving everyone who needed it, a shout-out about how amazing we all are. I wanted to inspire, motivate and give you all a feel-good post and a pat on the back. So, imagine my surprise when my fingers started tap dancing to a different beat on my keyboard.

Amazing or awesome are words I often use to describe the people around me: teachers, parents, friends and loved ones, and I genuinely think you are (you can hear the but coming now right?) but, what if it didn´t matter if you were amazing? What if you were “just” good?

This post is as much for you as it is for me as this is an area that I could benefit to learn from because here is a little secret that I don´t often share: I don´t actually consider myself to be amazing in any way. At all. In fact, if I am really honest, I would even go so far as to say that I am my very own number one all-time, personal critic when it comes to, well, pretty much every aspect of my life. I am very hard on myself and although I take pleasure in my achievements, there is always a little voice whispering in the back of my head that tells me that I could have, should have done better.

As a teacher I have always been self-critical, and I am also very self-aware as a parent. After 20 years walking this path, I have never given myself the opportunity to think that being good has ever been good enough. I tell my 6 year old daughter who is already feeling the pressure of being perfect, that it is ok to make mistakes, that we all make mistakes and yet, I don´t seem to hear my own words. I tell her that she is awesome and that she has done a great job but also need to take time to remind her (and myself) that it also more than okay to do an okay job too.

My first year of teaching was probably one of the hardest and daunting years of my life. It was terrifying, awful and scary (as was being a first-time mother). I had no idea what I was doing and I refused to surrender and admit that I was way out of my depth and badly needed help. Everyone around me seemed to be competent and confident. I was embarrassed! How could I ever ask my colleagues for help? If they could do it, and with such apparent ease, then there must have been something wrong with me that I couldn´t.

Here´s another little secret that no one wants to tell you: none of us really know what we are doing. It´s true! Most of us are making it up as we go along and at the end of the day, the majority of us are just damn pleased to have managed to have survived to see the end of the day.

Asking for and accepting help can be so much harder than offering help. I am constantly trying to help or “fix” problems but what I often forget is that my help or advice is not always wanted or needed. It is an annoying habit that I am currently working on (hey, we all have our quirks right?).

I also know this to be true because, as a general rule I am the very last person to ask anyone for help. Ever. We are talking do or die situations and this is not a lesson I want to pass on to my daughter or anyone else. I would like her to learn that asking for help actually makes you a stronger and more empathetic person for it. 

It is okay to offer to help and just because we are not immediately needed, does not mean that we have failed our students, children, husbands, wives or friends. It means that we cared enough to ask in the first place and that makes us pretty decent human beings to begin with don´t you think?

You should also feel free to accept or decline help when offered too. There is nothing wrong with that. A door has been opened and you are free to close it or walk through it whenever you wish. “Choice” is a beautiful word.

Part of being human is being able to make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes make us who we are and shape and enrich our lives in all different kinds of crazy and beautiful ways that lead and guide us to be better, kinder and nicer people for it. Being good is often good enough.

So, a little little bit of “amazing” sprinkled here and there can go a long way and it is also just fine to colour outside the lines sometimes.

You got this (or maybe you don´t. But that´s okay too.)

 

Beki Wilson.

www.funphonicspain.com