when fashions come around again

man people woman art
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The wardrobe full of musty fabric,

Thick velour and patent shoes

That once were in and out again,

But soon they’ll waltz back into life,

I hope, at least, as I twirl in dresses

Bought way back in teenage years.

I went shopping the other day and I couldn’t believe how 90’s the fashion is at the moment. I’m a 90’s kid through and through so my heart leapt for joy as I saw all of the denim pinafore dresses and corduroy bucket hats all lined up in pretty rows.

I just find it funny that so many people have this desire to go back to the age of about fourteen, when friendships were the strongest and it felt like we had the world at our feet. We seem to forget the pain of becoming a woman and the raging hormones that go with that.

I would love nothing more than to put my bucket hat back on and pretend that I’m Britney Spears circa 1998, but times move on and so must we. I think that for now I should steer away from those clothes but I might pull out some of the old CDs.

Why do we need to keep recycling old fashions, though? Is it because we just run out of inspiration? Or do we crave that feeling of nostalgia? I think that we really need to hang onto the feelings we had in the past. We need to feel the familiar when everything around us is changing so quickly.

However, I can’t help but feel really old knowing that all the stuff I used to wear is now coming back into fashion and some clothes I have tucked in the back of an old set of drawers could be considered ‘vintage’.

I hope that all of you 90’s kids are enjoying our moment in the sun. Just remember that the next thing to come along is the gypsy skirt, so enjoy this moment while it lasts!

Much Love

Rachel xx

if i could turn back time

shallow focus of clear hourglass
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Those balmy days of diamond sun

That warmed the skin with baked in heat.

I wish we could return to that,

From these windswept winter shores

Where we find our boats are moored.

The clocks are going back this weekend and for most of us that means that the summer is well and truly over. There will be no more sitting in the garden at ten at night, and there will be no more going for walks in T-shirt and shorts.

But there are some of us who love this time of year more. I do like all those things that summer brings, but who can hate the rain beating against the window as you sit curled up with a good book? And who can hate the spiced pumpkin lattes? Or the new winter coats? Or Christmas being just around the corner?

There have been so many bad things that have happened this year, and so I think that we owe it to ourselves to embrace everything that comes our way. There is a little bit of positive in everything, so lets not just trounce on something just because it’s cold and dark.

I know that the clocks going back is normally such a negative thing in our lives, but try to think of it positively for this one. Even if it’s just because you’ll get an extra hour in bed tomorrow!

Much Love,

Rachel xx

congratulations on completing your first half term

cream ice cream in cone
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It was like a finish line that loomed

In distant reaches, never sure I’d make,

But eager to undo the past,

I knew that I would battle on,

I’d make it and enjoy the fact

That tides can turn and luck can change;

I can be what I dreamed.

First and foremost, congratulations to everyone working in schools on making it to the end of term today. We are now, thankfully, going into the first half term break (although I know I’ll be busy doing my first assignment)!

But this is a particularly special achievement for me because I have got through it without any tears or any visits to a doctor or the hospital. I’ve only once or twice felt so overwhelmed that I’ve literally wanted to drop everything and run. And for me, that is such a huge step in the right direction.

I once tried to be a recruitment consultant and by the time I was seven weeks in, I was regularly crying on my way home from work, dreading the day on the drive in and even getting chest pains with the anxiety that I felt. I was scared that I would be equally as stressed doing my teacher training, but so far so good.

I know that the workload is going to go up each half term so I’m not going to rest on my laurels; but I’m in a good position and I’m thankful for that.

When the bell rang for the end of the day all of the teachers went out to the entrance and we were all given an ice cream and enjoyed a socially distanced social. It was so lovely to feel that we had all achieved something together. But I felt particularly proud of myself and the other two trainees that I work with and who I have come to see as good friends.

Well done to everyone else who has just finished their half term. You are all legends for getting through a pretty crazy start to a pretty crazy year.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the pain of perfectionism

The hard and angry coal face

Grates at skin that wishes for a cleanliness

That’s unachievable to you and me.

But still I’ll rub myself along that wall,

Skinning knees and elbows too.

I wish for skin so snowy white

But dirt is all I can believe.

When I was doing my Open University degree, my mum came home once to find me sitting at the computer and sobbing. The reason for my break down was that I couldn’t get one particular sentence in a 5,000 word essay to sound right.

I’m not a neat freak and I think I can let go of many things nowadays, but letting go of academic work is still really hard. And I’m realising that this week as I’m starting my first assignment for my teaching qualification.

Today, I started the introduction. It is only 200 words long and it has taken me hours because I needed it just perfect. I wish I could just let go of this because I can feel all of that scratchiness in my brain that I felt in my 20’s when drinking became the only answer.

Obviously, I’m not going to drink over this, but it’s giving me a bit of a wake up call. However, I am still on this upward learning curve and I need to remember that all I need to do is pass. I don’t NEED to be top of the class. I would like to be top, but it won’t be the end of life as I know it if I’m not.

So my last thoughts as I put away my laptop and go to sleep will be positive and kind towards myself. I won’t ruin my half term worrying over this. I’ll write the report and send it in with no tears. I’m letting go. It’s scary but it’s also necessary.

Much Love

Rachel xx

confidence despite it being an absolute cluster f**k

auditorium benches chairs class
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My heart can swell as chemicals

Swirl through streams within my brain,

Filling me with confidence.

It may have all been falling through

But still I powered on,

And reaching the sweet finish line

Was something of a miracle

That helped me grow towards the light

That shines on all the chosen ones,

The ones that always win at life.

It’s no secret that I have had some horrible self confidence issues throughout my life. I have always doubted myself and it has meant that I have never really gone for it as far as careers are concerned.

What is worse is the fact that even when I did take a leap into the unknown and at least try something that was going to push me, I would curl up in a ball and die at the first stumbling block. I just didn’t have the resilience to take it on the chin and get up and carry on.

I feel awful saying it, but I know that a lot of these issues were because I was living with my mother and she always told me that I couldn’t; so I believed that was true.

I’m sure that she only said these things to protect me from getting hurt, but the damage it did was monumental.

Now that I’m away from that I’m really coming on and I noticed something really positive just the other day when I taught a class on my own. The teacher left the room and while she was gone the power point turned itself off and I couldn’t log back in, I couldn’t play the video clips I’d found and a girl had to leave the room because I had upset her with the subject matter.

It was the first time I had taught this class on my own, and quite honestly, it was a cluster fuck of disasters.

But I got through it. I thought on my feet and I carried on and the kids all had a piece of work at the end of it.

And you know what? That made me feel so much more confident. I didn’t run home and think I was a failure; I thought that I was great because I got through it and the outcome was the same as it would have been if all the technology had worked.

It’s one of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned over the past four years: I can only control myself. Everything else, I just have to go with it.

I hope that if you’ve had a catalogue of disasters happen, you too can see how well you’ve done just to get through it. I think that we learn more from the less than perfect events in our lives, and long may the technology issues continue (with any luck we might go back to blackboards and chalk)!

Much Love

Rachel xx

do you remember the day we moved in?

potted plant
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The day we moved in to that little place

We walked to the store, and bought red wine

And little squares of sweetest chocolate.

Shall we get one of these? you asked,

Holding aloft the cactus we shared.

It was small and tacky and I shrugged one shoulder;

I could think of better things to buy

With hard earned money made by scrubbing

Tables, floors and walls on knees.

We bought it anyway, and placed it on the sill,

Where I’d stare at it when you were out.

We called it Betty, and she was like a child;

A spiky offspring, hell bent on hurt.

Betty lasted longer than we did,

Eventually lost, in a move through heartbreak,

Probably finding her obstinate way

Into the life of someone better,

Equipped and loving and falling in lust.

when to talk and when to just shut up

overgrown trees from window with drops in rainy weather
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The arms are out to hold some balance

But really it’s impossible

To strike a fair and even pose

When some will love the gore and blood

While others shy from simple words.

It’s hard but, oh, it must be done

To teach our kids the darker side

Of a world we built with our own hands,

Passed to them with shameful eyes,

Lowered to avoid the guilt.

I wrote about grief the other day, and how difficult it seems to be to talk to kids about these difficult subjects. It’s especially difficult not knowing all of their personal circumstances and what could be particularly triggering for them. But where is the line between being too graphic and just sheltering them from a pretty dark world.

In my tutor group I was asked to speak to them about what happened to the teacher in Paris on Friday. It was pretty gruesome but they handled it so well and they asked some amazing questions. They are Year 11 but it was still refreshing to have such mature conversations with them about something so terrible.

I then went to a Year 7 class to teach A Monster Calls and I had a student in floods of tears because of the cancer that is brought up in the book. She had lost a close family member and it was just too hard for her to deal with it. She handled it so well, asking if she could speak to me outside and I found her somewhere quiet to go and sit and read.

But this just goes to show how different students can react so differently to an event or a story. And where do we draw a line? One teacher refuses to teach A Monster Calls because parents get angry. That’s a perfectly acceptable point of view, but are we sheltering them from a world that’s pretty nasty? What happens when they become an adult and they don’t have the emotional resilience to cope with problems?

I ask this because I was one of those sheltered kids and the only way that I could deal with emotional pain as an adult was to drink. It stole my twenties away from me and I fear that these kids are going to suffer in the same way.

It’s a difficult decision to make, but it’s such an important one too. I applaud the Year 11’s who approached the story of the killing with so much maturity and my heart goes out to my Year 7. But I also think it’s really important to actually educate kids in what the world is really like.

Much Love

Rachel xx

how do we talk about grief (a bit of a book review- a monster calls by patrick ness)

It twists us with it’s sharpened claws,

Wringing out the tiny drops

Of feeling left for loves of lives.

But grief is part of daily life

And talking is a cooling balm.

It’s just so hard to find the words

That make that wound feel healed at all.

I got a work email the other day to say that one of the students I work with has had some terrible news. It has long been known that his mum is ill and his behaviour has been problematic to say the least. However, the email said that he would be off school for a little while because she had been given days to live.

My hear sank as I read the words. Selfishly, I wondered how on earth I would ever be able to talk to the poor kid. I could only imagine how awkward it would be to utter the words ‘are you OK?’

Those words always feel so empty when you know that somebody is going through something so unimaginably painful. And so yes, my heart sank.

But interestingly, just one day later I was asked to write and deliver a lesson on bullying using the Patrick Ness book, A Monster Calls. I only had to read one chapter, but I got into it and found that I couldn’t stop.

The book is about a kid called Conor whose mum is dying of cancer. A monster comes to visit him to give him advice and lessons in life that will help him through what is going to come.

I’ve only read one Patrick Ness book before this and I hated it. But this, just blew me away. It was beautiful and sensitive and insightful and everything that I would look for in an adult read. It was perfection.

I don’t know if it will help me speak to this student that I know, but it felt serendipitous that the book fell into my hands at just the right moment. It just goes to show that we really are given all the tools we need, we just need to be open to receiving them.

I loved this book so much that I’m excited, rather than nervous about delivering this lesson. I hope that my enthusiasm for the book can inspire the kids to have a go at the whole book too. And perhaps I can encourage a couple of you to read it too.

Much Love

Rachel xx

you only get given what you can handle

green tree photo
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You only get given what you can handle,

Fucking annoying to hear, I know.

But it’s so bloody true

As we grow like trees,

Creaking with effort.

Our branches are stronger,

Thickening with age

And making us tougher

Than we ever thought real.

I’ve always hated it when people say that you only get given what you can handle. Even if you have a faith and feel loved by something much bigger than yourself, it can feel really difficult to believe that life is that linear.

If it were true, then we would grow at a fairly steady rate and things would steadily get more difficult as we got stronger. It would be kind of like a computer game where we level up every couple of months.

And that’s not the way that it works.

But, in saying that, I look at the way my life has changed since I got sober and I have managed to take on more and more. If I had tried to do a teacher training course back then, I just wouldn’t have had the emotional resilience to get through it.

And so I feel that we are given what we can handle, but a lot of the time we are only given more because we choose to take it on. That doesn’t take anything away from the beauty of it. And it doesn’t take away any of the pride I feel in being able to bear the weight that I now can.

I feel strong, even when I’m sometimes feeling like my branches are a little bit shaken. Whether or not it’s because I’ve grown as a person, I don’t know, but I’ll keep on plodding in just the way I am.

Much Love

Rachel xx

am i the only person that’s furious with the attitudes of our young girls?

woman wearing red beret and gray long sleeve dress with wild feminist print
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I want to shake my fist and burn my bra,

Get these girls to feel some passion,

A cause to love with all their lives.

But everything is dull and bland,

Until they find their freedoms gone,

But by then it’s far too late

And all they do is wave goodbye.

I had a really eye opening tutor time the other day. I have a small group of fifteen year olds that I have in my group and every day, for half an hour, I talk to them about a subject that is important in the world, and yesterday it was equal rights for women.

I am normally met with an audience of totally bored faces and I have managed to get my head around that and not feel too offended by it. But yesterday, I was totally blown away by the attitude of some of the girls; and not in a good way.

I made this whole presentation about some really inspirational women and I delivered it with as much enthusiasm as I could because I do feel that it’s really important that these kids understand these topics.

I spoke about Sheryl Sandberg and Emmeline Pankhurst and I was really getting into it. I mean, I spoke about one of the women who fought for my right to vote and shape my own life. And then, when I had finished, I had two girls come up to my mentor (their actual tutor) and ask why we have tutor time when it’s such a waste of time and so boring!

I stood very quietly behind them as they told the teacher what a waste of their time they thought that tutor time was. I felt a little bit hurt but more than anything I was shocked that that was how little they thought of the rights that had been gifted to them by those women that went before.

I wonder if we started to revert to the way things work and all of us women work for less than our male counterparts, whether they would then think that the lesson was boring? Would it be boring if their legal rights were taken away and they couldn’t vote? I think not.

I’m reading an incredibly frightening book called Vox by Christina Dalcher which is about a fictional future where this kind of thing happens. It’s terrifying because I’m now seeing how easy it would be to undo all of the good work that has been done. A lot of kids don’t give a crap if it doesn’t affect them right this second or it won’t bring them some immediate benefit.

Please, if you have children, make sure that they know about this stuff and they they do care about it. They’ll regret it if they don’t, and everything they thought was their right will be just a distant memory.

Much Love

Rachel xx