Friday, May 6, 2016

We As Teachers...

"Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree it will spend its whole life believing it's stupid" -Albert Einstein

As teachers our job is so much more than teaching, we are role models and motivators. We are also partly responsible for a childs self-esteem... When a child enters our classroom they give us their innocence along with their self-esteem, they fully trust us with it and we make the decision consciously or unconsciously to help it grow or to minimize it.

We, as teachers NEED to be motivators. I, as I'm sure many other teachers do, make the conscious decision not to tell my student they are wrong. Instead I smile and say "Try again" followed by "Would you like a clue" (giving the first letter of the word if they need the clue). If they still can't think of the answer I simply say "That's okay, don't worry, you'll get it next time". And  I have found my students are more willing to try and participate. I think we all forget that constantly saying "No", "Incorrect", "That's not right", "You're wrong" or whatever quote you want, slowly breaks self-esteem. We, as teachers need to help build their self-esteem, to help protect what they so innocently trust us with every time they walk through our classroom door.

I've had the honour to be able to talk to Kyle Schwartz, an American teacher who created the "I wish my teacher knew" activity. Each child is given a piece of paper and writes something he or she wants you to know about them. Kyle informed me that most of the time you get papers that say "My dog is called Bongo" or "My favourite ice- cream is chocolate" but every now and then you read one piece of paper that takes your breath away. And she was right. I did this activity today, one of my 10 year old's papers made the world stand still for a minute. On this paper was written: " I wish my teacher knew I try my best in English class and I'm sorry I make mistakes."  I was speechless... Give a child a voice and they will surprise you every time.

"Sobre cada niño se debería poner un cartel que dijiera "Tratar con cuidado, contiene sueños."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Fears & What If's...

So the Christmas break is over and back to work it is... The year hasn't started great, only two weeks in and we've had to say goodbye to a loved one and seen my little cousin admitted to hospital...

But these fears weren't my biggest over the holidays; I became very anxious about returning to work with one group in particular. My youngest and largest group: 10 kids between the ages of 3 and 7; it's a challenging group. We have 5 beautifully behaved, polite, bright, willing to learn kids but we also  have 2 selective mutes aged 4 and 5, an autistic boy aged 3, a 7 year old with ADHD who can be very disruptive and another boy with extreme ADHD who is also very violent aged 5...

We are known as the circus class and it's very easy to see why. Every class, my classroom assistant and myself and breaking up fights, giving countless timeouts, trying to keep the attention of 10 very active little kids and trying to defuse problems before they start. We encounter hitting, kicking, swearing, spitting, chairs being thrown across the room... pens, pencils, books, rucksacks have all flown across the room at some point. So you can imagine my anxiety levels towards the end of the holidays...

 Before Christmas we had made huge progress with 4 of the 5 challenging children: Both my selective mutes where able to whisper to my assistant and myself; We had made the 7 year old with ADHD the "classroom helper" so he would help us hand out colours and activity sheets, it seemed to really calm him down and his behaviour had improved  very very quickly; With the violent ADHD 5 year old, things improved a lot slower but we still made progress, we were starting to learn what triggered the violent outbursts so we diffused the situation before it got too bad, we weren't perfect and still we had days where he was totally out of control, days where he swore at us teachers, hit, spat and kicked everyone who was in his reach and threw chairs across the room, but they were less. With autism it's different, we aren't equipped with all the tools to help him fully, but we do our best, we have days where we make progress and you start to think "Okay, we can deal with this, we're going in the right direction" but the next day you are right back at square one, progress is almost invisible.

My anxieties were in particular with the selective mutes and the ADHDs: After two and a half weeks with no class, not seeing us twice a week, would they still feel safe enough to whisper to us? After two and a half weeks with no routines, no structure, was the ADHD going to be worse? Were we going to have to start back at square one? Were we going to have to do all of this over again? Was everything a waste of time? Had it been worth the stress and worry?

First day back, all seemed calm to begin with, we sat down and did and colouring activity; Our 5 year old girl who is one of the mutes, whispered to me "Yellow please" my heart skipped a beat, I passed her the colour, smiling from ear to ear "Good girl you remembered the colours, high five!"; Our eldest ADHD sat nicely, helping one of our younger children who can't read yet, "Good job buddy". I turned to my youngest mute, held up a colour "What colour is this one?" silence, in my head I was begging him to talk, I'm not sure if I wanted him to talk  more for the benefit of his confidence or mine...still nothing..."Okay... don't worry. It starts with Rrr.." he smiled "Red!"  another round of "Good boy, well done, high five!" was in order. Our kids survive because of the constant praise we dish out. The children beam when we praise them, they are happy and proud with themselves.

But it wasn't long before my tummy flipped, I heard the dreaded word..."FIGHT"...Oh great here we go again. Yep I could have made myself a million air if I had bet on who it was fighting, violent ADHD vs Autism, the result? hurt feelings, a scratch and timeouts. I still get frustrated that a 3 year old autistic boy is capable of doing a timeout very well, yet a 5 year old ADHD will not sit still and just starts attacking me for putting him there, but it's something we knew we'd have to work with...

Oh it's good to be back, I still have anxieties, but now they are different. What else can I do to help these children? What if this as good as it's going to get? What if I'm making it worse? What if I'm not good enough? Will we have also taken 4 steps back after Easter break?

We have another 5 months left with this class, on bad days we look and each other and say "How the heck are we going to survive another 5 months?" but on good days we are more positive "Can't believe we only have another 5 months with's going way to fast" Yes we still have days where we feel like just breaking down and crying, days where you clear up after the kids have left without saying a word to each other, days where you feel helpless, like you're never enough. But those days are getting less. We also have days where we smile constantly, were ALL the kids get sticker for good behaviour, days where when parents ask how their child behaved that day you can smile and say "Wonderful, they did a great job today".

Maybe 5 months is a long time, but we are sticking with these kids and helping them the best way we can. Our goal as teachers is to do the best possible job, to help the kids learn, have fun, smile and most of all to see happy little faces. Anxieties aside? Yeah, we love our job.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A look back on 2014

Wow, can't believe another year is over. Can't believe all the things that have happened over the past 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8765 hours, 525949 minutes, how ever you want to put this year.
As a whole we've been through many ups and downs: Schumacher's accident, Banchi's accident, we lost Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Peaches Geldof, Joe Cocker, John Button, P.D James, Lynda Bellingham, Richard Attenborough, Maya Angelou, to name a few, we saw  Oscar Pistorius sentenced to Jail, we watched Syria get ripped apart, watched planes dissapear left right and center, Ebol spread like wild fire through Africa...
But it wasn't all bad news, There we more fifth birthdays then ever before, it was annouced that Little Prince George would become a big brother later this year, a paralysed man was given the ability to walk again, a deaf baby got to hear for the first time, In Toronto a  high school senior took his great grandmother to his prom because she had never been to one before, a family in Alberta who have triplet boys all fighting eye cancer were donated thousand of dollar by strangers to help fund the treatment, thanks to social media many missing people/kids have been found safe and well...See it hasn't all been bad no has it?!

For me personally 2014 has been filled with many ups and downs. Many woderful things have happened and I've met some amazing people. I've laughed, smiled, jumped with joy... but I've also struggled, cried and shattered into a million pieces. I've gained a lot but also lost so much. You can be so depressed and no one even notices, you can be on the verge of tears, drowning and everyone is oblivious.You put someone first who puts you second. You work at something really hard only for it to fail. You give 110% in a realtionship with someone who only gives 40%. You are there for your best friend at 3:00am because they need help but when you call a few days later they won't even pick up their phone. It seems like all you're doing is giving everyone everything and they are just walking away with it. When I look back I'm happy with how I coped and the way the year ended.

I also learnt a hell of a lot this year:
-Its not necessary to be in a forest to be lost; you don't need to see everything grey to see no colour in your life; but you need sufficient strength to fight your problems.
-I'm a lot stronger than i though I was, but I don't have as much patience as I though I did.
-I'm not good at taking advice and criticism.
-I can't let go.
-it only takes one person to give you a chance so you can prove yourself.
-Never give up, just keep moving foward, doesn't matter how slow you advance, as long as you keep going.
-No one else cares about your problems, they are fighting their own battles.
-Friends just take advantage.
-Never trust anyone more than 90%

Every year is going to be full of ups and downs, no year is going to be perfect. It's what you do with these ups and downs that makes the difference!  I wish all who read this a happy new year, I hope it's filled with health, happiness, laughter, love and joy. I also wish you hugs, comfort and strength when you face bad days.
"Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An easy profession?

The other day I was stopped in the street and asked what my job was; So I said: "I'm a teacher". They looked at me, smiled and said:"A teacher, that's an easy job, all you do is play with kids all day long"

I'm a decent person,
No I DON'T work in an office, but I have my own space to share my knowledge with young people.
I DON'T discriminate anyone, I treat all my pupils equally.
NO Im NOT a boss of a huge company, but your kids see me as a leader, they look up to me and I set a good examples for them.
NO, I'm not a psychologist, but I can make you child believe in their own abilities.
NO i'm NOT a doctor but I can diagnose problems, dislexia, ADHD, autism and struggles.
I DON'T have a fixed timetable, because when you are at home sleeping, playing with your child or watching the television, I'm sat at my table for hours on end planning lessons and activities to be able to give your child a better education, hours I don't get paid for.
I'm NOT an architect who designs buildings, but I help build your childs dreams.
I DON'T play with the kids, I participate in their education, helping them reach their full potential.
I DON'T play with plastecine, I helping my students shape their dreams.
I DON'T turn kids away, I listen to their stories giving them my full atention even if they've told me the same story before.
NO I DON'T know how to stop wars, but I do know how to teach your kids right from wrong, to treat their classmates and others with respect and good manners.

NO, being a teacher ISN'T easy, but it's worth it, it's rewarding.
Yes there are days when you feel helpless, when you couldn't help a child to understand how to do an activity, when you see two of your pupils fighting, when a child turns around swears at you and kicks you because you've told them they can't go and play until they finish their worksheet. Those awful days when a child turns to you and says "Yesterday I was sad and you didn't realise, you didn't help me" but that is all outweighed by the good.
The feeling of proudness you feel when you see one of your pupils helping others, getting an activity right for the first time without help, over coming obstacles, finally believeing in their own abilities, a pupil turning around and saying "Thank you" or "That was fun", a child saying "Please" for the first time or child who has selective mutism to feel so safe and comfortable that she will actually whisper to you... That feeling, those few seconds, no words can describe.   I wouldn't want to change my job, even though  some of you think it's easy and silly. Everyday I get to see little faces light up, I get to watch children grow, I get to help them chase their dreams. Everyday I get to make a difference.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Formula One, not just a sport...

Mark Webber taught me that sometimes being second best is atually better than being the best.

Felipe Massa taught me  never to give up no matter how bad things are going.

Lewis Hamilton taught me that to be understood you must first listen.

Jenson Button taught me that it's okay to have bad days and be  down as long s you pick yourself back up.

Susie Wolff and María de Villota taught me to follow my dreams and don't let other people comments stop you.

Kimi Raikkonen taught me that it's okay to be quiet, that sometimes one worded answers are best.

Senna taught me it's okay to walk in others shadows until it's my time to shine.

Fernando Alonso taught me that you need more than just talent to be the best.

Claire Williams taught me that women have no boundries, we are just as good as men.

Rob Smedley taught me to put others happiness before my own.

Michael Schumacher taught me that my problems are small compared to those of others.

Jaume Alguersuari taught me tht not everyone will appreciate  how talented you are.

Sebastian Vettel taught me that it's okay to be a little bit selfsih as long as I'm a good person.

Daniel Ricciardo taught me that it's okay to be overestimated, It only takes one person to give you that chance to prove everyone wrong.

Pedro De La Rosa taught me that it' okay to step aside, but always be there when they need you and that you're never to old to continue living your dream.

Bruno Senna taught me to fight through pain and disappointment, because it mkes you a stronger person.

Niki Lauda taught me that set-backs are there to remind us of how much we really want something.

Toto Wolff taught me that hard work pays off, you just have to be patient.

Jean-Eric Vergne taught me to never stop fighting to better myself.

Frank Williams taught me how to turn my weaknesses into strengths.

Adrian Sutil taught me that making one mistake doesn't make you a bad person; everyone desrves a second chance.

Jules Bianchi taught me to be grateful for everyday  and to live my life how I want.

Kamui Kobayashi taught me that people will still like you even if you're not the best.

Jessica Michibata taught me to stand by my loved ones through ALL there ups and downs.

To many, Formula One is just another sport, predictable, boring and not much point to it. To a select few, it's more than a sport it's a way of life. To me Formula One is more than a way of life, every driver is there to teach you something, its up to you to learn.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I'm sorry i couldn't save you...

10th of September is suicide awarness day so I want to take the chance to talk about something that over the past 4 years has become close to my heart, something that inspires me. Its called the Will-To-Live Foundation. I have the honour of knowing the family who set up the foundation in memory of their 15 year old son Will, who they lost to suicide on the 15th of October 2010.

The age of suicide victims has dropped to as young as 9 years old in the last 15 years, yes 9! So why aren't more people doing something about it? It's simple, nobody talks about it, it's taboo. But how can something so common be taboo?

The Will-To-Live Foundation teaches kids to look around them, to talk to their friends about their problems but also to listen to their friends when they need them, These kids/young adults find that they are not alone, they have Life Teammates to help them along.

One thing that MR Trautwein said, that stuck in my head was "You kids have it tough,the pressures you are facing now I didn't feel until I was 4-5 years older than you guys" and it's true, or modern day society pressures us to be beautiful, to be perfect but refuses to give us a consistant defenition of either... Nowadays we are constantly critsiced everywhere , by the goverment, by friends, by family. teachers, bosses, the list doesn't stop.

A couple of weeks ago I was told a girl I went to school with took her own life. Her suicide note read "Mi Depressión me ganó" (My depression beat me)... Why do we live in a world where the words "I suffer from depression" aren't said, or if they are said they fall on deaf ears. If someone tells us they suffer depression, why do we run a mile? We are scared of talking to someone with a mental illness. But are we scared or are we ashamed?

A kid in the USA loses the will to live at a rate of 1 every 2 hours, thats 12 a day, 12 kids a day attempt to take their lives in the States alone, it's chilling. It's the 3rd biggest killer in people between the ages of 15-25, behind accidents and homocide, 3rd!!

And yet a lot of us turn our back and pretend we don't see... If someone you know says they are gonna take their own life, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. When you're walking down the street or shopping smile at someone or say "Have a nice day" you might just make that persons day worthwhile.  tell your friends and family how much you love them, they are your Life Teammates, the ones who willl pick you up when you fall down. Don't be ashamed or embarassed to drop a "I love you man!" on someone once a day. Life Teammates are important they are what keep you going.

The Will-To-Live Foundation is crustial in many kids lives, it gives them Hope, it shows them they are not alone, a place to go and talk, it teaches them the value of life with Life Teammates. I've learnt a lot overthe past 4 years and i'm very grateful and inspired by the Foundation.

Thank you John and Susie Trautwein.
Love ya Man!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams, We will miss you...

Four days ago, I joined the world in mourning the death of Robin Williams, one of my favourite actors of all time. He was so funny on screen, so full of life, so natural and had perfect timing, and now he was gone. I was lost for words, I felt numb and empty. How can someone you've ever met, you've never talked to, mean so much to you?
I was instantly replaying all my favourite movies of his in my head: Dead Poets Society, Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji,  Hamlet, Good Will Hunting, Flubber, Robots and the Butler. Yeah I grew up watching Robin Williams, he made me laugh more than anyone else to date. He always seemed so happy on camera...
He always had such a jolly demeanour, a happy face, that brought a smile to millions of people around the world. But behind that smile was a man battling server depression. Depression is like a war, you win or you die trying...
Robin talked about his depression  in interviews, using quotations that will forever stick in my head: "I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone." , "You are only given one spark of madness. You mustn't lose it" and "You can judge how heavy a persons burdens are until thye put them down and the whole floor shakes"
The afternoon of his death I was given the unbelievably hard task of telling my 7 year-old cousin that his favourite actor from his favourite film (Hook) had died and gone to live in Heaven with the Angels. His answer was "But Granny is older than him and she still lives, so why did he die?" I knew I couldn't tell him the whole truth, he was too young to learn about suicide, so I took a different approach "He was sick Hadyn" "Oh...okay" and off he went.

Dear Robin Williams,
On behalf on millions of kids and adults, Thank you. Thank you for making us laugh hours on end. For bringing comedy into our houses. For talking about depression and making people aware.
We will miss your laugh, your personality and your silly smile.
Sleep tight, fly far and wide.