still don’t like da shouting

collage photo of woman
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Sticks and stones my break my bones

And shouting hurts me just as much.

They say I need to toughen up

But every time the volume rises up a notch

I feel my spine is curling up, protecting me

From too much damage as the letters

Puncture through my skin so paper thin.

There was a situation today when all of us trainee teachers came together for our central training. Everyone is feeling a little bit tetchy and there was a bit of an argument between one of the students and the director.

It wasn’t a screaming match, but you could feel the tension, despite the fact that it was through a screen. And as it happened, I felt myself curl up a little bit, as if to protect myself from any harm.

Of course, these are civilised adults so even if we were in a normal setting, there wouldn’t have been any punches being thrown. And yet I still felt as though I needed to run away. There is something so embedded in my psyche that I fear harm from words.

To me, shouting, or even stern words, are painful and I really can’t explain why. I wish that I had thicker skin but I really do hate it when people tell me that I just need to toughen up. Like how, exactly?

On the other hand, this ‘disability’ of mine, makes me really empathetic. So perhaps it’s actually a super power. I could see that the director was trying not to bite back but I could also see that she looked really hurt, and that made me hurt a bit.

I guess we all have things that we think are weaknesses, but could in fact be a real strength and this is definitely one of mine. I just wish that I could toughen up my skin and still feel for people, but we can’t have everything.

Much Love

Rachel xx

summer concerts in pretty fields

There’s picnic blankets spread in patchwork squares

As people wait for music men in suits, with violins,

Their humming strings are buzzing with the bees

That flit between the sandwiches and champagne fizz,

Sipped from plastic beaker cups. And when that music

Strikes a chord, the wall of sound that rushes through

The audience that holds its breath, forgetting drinks

And canapes. They want to let that tide roll in

And let their bodies sing with joy, at the concert

In the field, as the sun sets golden on the stage.

on missing shopping

grayscale photography of mannequins
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Those rooms with fronts of shiny glass,

Lit with spotlights on the slender mannequins,

They call us in with cash and cards

To fill our bags and little holes in gaping souls.

But when the virus crept inside

The doors were locked and lights turned down.

No more balm to soothe the loss

And now I see the need to have

Is stronger than the tidal flow.

When we went into the first lockdown I was really quite happy. I didn’t care that most of the shops were closed. Everything I needed could be bought in the supermarket, so what was the problem?

But this time around, I’m surprising myself. I seem to be missing the ability to go shopping, to buy stuff when I’m feeling low. I’m not a big spender so it’s only things like a new pair of jeans, some books and some wool for my crochet project; but it’s actually making feel quite anxious that I can’t get hold of these things.

I find myself going through town and looking through all of the windows at the mannequins wearing beautiful clothes and the desire to go in and try them on is so strong.

I think it’s a case of wanting what I can’t have. It seems to be a flaw in our human wiring that we need whatever is just out of reach. I suppose in some ways it’s what drives us forward to greater things, but when we can’t control the ‘problem’ it’s not the most pleasant of feelings.

I know that in a month or two the shops will slowly open. I just need to find other ways to entertain myself. Perhaps I’ll find a new passion for something? The little struggles in life are the things that make it awesome in the end, and not being able to buy wool in the colour that I want is pretty easy to get through.

Perspective is the key to getting through these grotty times like this. And when I get angry that I can’t get what I want immediately I need to let it out in healthy ways.

God, I sound like a spoiled brat, but I hope that there are other people out there who are missing shops and access to ‘stuff’ whenever we want it. We’ve grown accustomed to it and perhaps this will change the way a lot of us behave in the way that we buy stuff. That would be good.

Much Love

Rachel xx

i’ve put in considerably more work than you

Toiling over extra work,

The stuff I wasn’t asked to do,

I do it anyway,

To gloat, to show the world

I’m the one that cares the most

Or needs the praise to make me whole.

When I was training to swim the channel, I got really upset one day because training had gone badly. I had set out to do a six hour sea swim and I ended up getting out of the water after three hours. I’d been sick and the weather was awful and I was feeling cold. Everything felt stacked up against me.

However, I wasn’t upset because I hadn’t reached the six hour mark. I was upset because I went on Facebook and saw that somebody else training for the channel had done a seven hour swim that weekend.

We both went on to complete the swim and I actually did it faster than her, so that disaster of a training session didn’t actually matter. The sad fact was the I was upset because I thought it looked like she was a harder worker than I was.

I’ve had similar experiences in the work place, where I’ve almost felt angry that somebody has looked like they work harder than me. But I can’t understand what for?

I’m learning that the amount of effort you put in is important but it’s not the be all and end all. Why on earth would you want to be the hardest worker in everything? Surely it’s more impressive to get the result and prove you’ve done it with the least amount of effort possible. Then people will be much more likely to think you could achieve more.

So nowadays it’s all about getting the job done with the least amount of work. Life’s for enjoying, not for proving that you worked for seventy hours last week. You get me?

Much Love

Rachel xx

the good bits outweigh the bad

close up measure measurement number
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My arms stretched wide like cast iron scales,

The bad bits of this precious life

Will weigh down heavy on the left

But on the right I’ll drop the good,

The shining moments warming hearts

And there we’ll see the gracious pull

Of kindness, praise and little wins;

They’ll always weigh one hundred times

The weight of hate, of sneering lips,

Of whispered words that loving skips.

I had a double with a Year 7 class that I have never met today. I worry about the fact that I have never met these kids and that I’ll do them a disservice because I don’t know them.

These thoughts do weigh heavily on me and it is a crappy part of the job at the moment. But then something wonderful happens and it just totally outweighs anything bad.

I delivered my lesson and afterwards a girl emailed me to say that she really enjoyed it and she can’t wait to meet me in person. Can you believe that? An eleven year old sent me a sweet message full of emojis and lovely words.

I’ve never had a job where there is enough good stuff to outweigh the bad. In my last job, I literally had to scrape crap off the toilet floors. I would sometimes clean the toilets and be gagging because of the smell. Nothing could make that better.

I’ll always try to look for something good in every situation, but it’s really nice to not have to scratch around for that one thing. Today had its down sides, but on the whole, it made my heart feel warm.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the great realisation….that there’s so much positivity in the world

I did my first tutor time session with my new Year 7 group today. For anyone not in the UK, tutor time is when students are registered and it gives them the opportunity to talk to a teacher about any problems and do an activity that normally has something to do with what is going on in the world. It only lasts about twenty minutes but it’s every day and it gives you a chance to build a solid relationship with that group of students.

Year 7 students are all eleven and twelve year olds and they are in their first year at secondary school, so they’re still pretty young. However, I think that with the internet and constant streaming of news and media, they are all clued up on a lot of the things that are going on in the world.

Today, I decided to play them this poem and then let them talk about themselves and it was so nice to enjoy a little slice of positivity in my morning. I began the session by playing the poem and then sharing that good things can come out of these awful situations. I told them that as a result of lockdown I’d decided to get a cat and it’s the most wonderful thing ever.

They shared back to me for almost quarter of an hour and I was blown away by how much good we can see in any situation if we put our minds to it. I heard about great staycations that they’d had; camping trips and canal boat holidays. I also heard about family time and new pets. Once I’d got them started it was almost impossible to stop them.

I just thought I’d share this because I know that I sometimes start to dwell on the bad, but those twenty minutes with the kids this morning, they buoyed me up for the rest of the day. If a bunch of pre-teens can do it then I’m sure us ‘groan ups’ can do it too.

Have a lovely Friday!

Rachel xx

avoiding the dangers of a wiki hole

stylish man playing cello on street
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The swirling vortex always lures me in,

Enticing me with facts I need not know;

Upsetting when I wished to learn crochet

And ended up with Grade Eight cello.

I am back into planning lessons again, and as much as I love it, I have a real problem with slipping into Wiki holes. They are scary because they rob you of hours and I am powerless over them.

Today I needed to find out a little bit about Jekyll and Hyde and lift a little quote from the internet so that the students could analyse it. Three hours later, I knew the story inside out and the advances in medicine at that time and every fact about the emergence of Gothic literature.

I’m sure I can’t be the only person who has this addiction? I struggle with TedEx talks too. I watch one talk on running and then I end up learning about string theory. It’s great to have all this information at our fingertips, but sometimes it’s overwhelming.

I sometimes watch Dawson’s Creek just so that I can remember that time just before the internet really blew up. They don’t carry mobile phones and they don’t take selfies and pictures of their food to put on Instagram. I find that comforting, like a warm hug from an old friend.

I’m hoping to get to bed before midnight, but not before I learn how to play the cello.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the dating show

There’s an abundance of those shows on TV,

The ones where strangers meet in circumstances

Different to the normal ones that hold the world in place.

One day, I applied for one. The type with food,

Cooking to be precise.

I made it on.

He cooked for me in his London flat, with camera crew

Packed into the space. Hardly romantic,

And I found myself perspiring, needing a drink.

I downed a gin and tonic, before he served a starter.

Soup, velvety and smooth,

Then chicken with a white wine sauce

And chocolate sundae for dessert.

He didn’t pick me as his favourite,

He went for Becky, a gorgeous blonde who laughed

At all his jokes and touched his leg, underneath the table.

I shouldn’t care, but I do,

Rejected on TV, an audience there

To watch my red faced shame. I’ll never go again,

On a dating show.

a slap on the wrist for being so keen

strict female teacher with book pointing at scribbled blackboard
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So much enthusiasm, pouring from teachers

Who wish that those students could be shaped

And bent like willow boughs. But branches break

And so we’re told to bind them straight,

Never veering from the PowerPoints that clog

The servers, written back in 1992.

I wish that I could change the words to fit

My love that shines through light blue slides.

I’d do much better; they would too,

If we were to bend the rules a bit.

Now, I do want to start this post by saying that my mentor at my new school is brilliant. He is really helpful, and I just love his slightly jaded attitude towards teaching. He has done it for so long that he seems to love it and hate it in equal measures; he can’t live with it and he can’t live without it.

However, today I did my first online lesson today and one of the feedback points that I got was that my timing wasn’t great. I needed to focus more on teaching the structure of the story when I spent more time teaching the historical and social context.

He was right, and I did focus on the wrong thing, but it was the thing that I felt was more important. I love the history behind stories and thinking about why the writer wrote what he did. It lights a fire in my mind and it really does shine through.

I don’t think that teachers should have the freedom to teach whatever they want because kids could end up with a really wonky education if they did. But, I think that sometimes a bit of enthusiasm is more important than ticking a box.

I wish I could have spent the whole double lesson teaching them about the things that were happening back in the 1800’s but I only got twenty minutes and I got a slap on the wrist for that. In my humble opinion (and it is very humble as I have only been teaching for a grand total of 15 weeks), the curriculum really does suck.

Much Love

Rachel xx

it’s a sad, sad time

auditorium benches chairs class
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The room’s in gentle darkened peace,

Sitting by the sole computer, buzzing

Loudly in a corner, when it should be

Drowned by teenage breaking voices,

Hurling dirty words and phrases, laughing

And learning how to be a human life.

They’re not here though,

And so that eerie silent quilt

Is thrown across the room, floating

Gently to a world we do not want.

I went into work today and it was the first time I’ve been in since last Monday when we still thought that there would be a small amount of normalcy. Now that we know that’s not going to happen, it all feels very different.

I sat in a room that was quiet and dark. The chairs that would normally be filled with students and voices that I once would have wanted to be quiet, they were empty.

As I sat at my computer in the eerie silence, I felt really sad for all of those students. I know that some of them must be having a terrible time and the place that they should be, is school. They need that sense of community and the support and encouragement of teachers.

But I also felt sorry for those very teachers. They didn’t sign up for this and yet they are all soldiering on. I know it’s nothing compared to what the wonderful NHS staff are putting up with, but it’s still lonely and sad. The best bits of teaching are those crazy interactions that make you laugh or cry or feel immense pride.

I looked across that classroom and my heart broke a little bit. I hope that things do get back to normal soon. We all need and it, and I don’t think anybody realised it until our world came crashing down.

Much Love

Rachel xx