QUICK PICS: You can’t pour from an empty cup.

My friend and I went to a beautiful spa on Thursday. It was our Christmas present to each other for the second year running.

Post-thirty, we both realised that what we needed more than household objects, sweet treats and fleecy blankets, was some quality time together (while being massaged with hot stones into a state of Nirvana.) We’re both so busy that moments like these have become so rare over the years, but this only makes us treasure them more.

As we were sat chatting, pre-hot tub, my friend – who runs her own business and is one of the most hardworking people I know – turned to me and said,

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” 

At this time of year, a lot of us feel like our cups are empty. The dark, icy mornings; the constant sniffles; the pressure to be a social butterfly; the headache of finding perfect gifts for picky family members without going bankrupt…

Sometimes, we just need some moments to ourselves. To recharge. To be selfish. To be silent. To be.

Sometimes, we just need time to re-fill our cups.

Even though I haven’t done it justice, I couldn’t resist throwing in some pictures from ‘My Little Farm Spa’ – http://www.mylittlefarmspa.co.uk – a working farm as well as a spa, the hygge/mindfulness factor is through the roof! 

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QUICK READ: 5 Teaching strategies to benefit the shy and socially anxious

When I was at school, I was a massive ‘swot’. I wasn’t overly intelligent, but I worked incredibly hard. I’ve always loved to learn new things and I took a great deal of pride in producing work that reflected effort and creativity.

Yet, I hated school. I was just so unbearably shy – so socially anxious – that any area of the curriculum or school life that required confidence/social interaction/public speaking, caused dread, misery and upset. I saw everyone else as being super relaxed and confident – I was a pathetic freak because I couldn’t cope with normal life situations. As time went on, I was able to drop the ‘out-there’ subjects like Drama and PE and throw myself into academic subjects which tested my essay-writing skills, while allowing me to hide my inner-freak. I left school with awesome results, but my self-esteem was in the toilet. I’d had some fantastic teachers who had pushed me academically, but other than annual comments on my report that ‘she needs to put her hand up more,’ my lack of confidence was never tackled. Teaching ‘soft skills’ like confident public speaking, just wasn’t part of the educational dialogue at that time. Everyone was just expected to get on with it.

Nearly twenty years later with the roles reversed, I am driven by the need to make things better for the students I teach. More than anything, I want them to challenge themselves socially and grow their confidence and self-esteem, just as they would work towards targets in their academic subjects. It’s my hope that by opening up discussion of nerves and anxiety, we might just save our students from future years of avoidance, missed opportunities and feelings of worthlessness.

Here are 5 teaching strategies that I’ve found really effective in encouraging confident speaking and discussion: 

  1. Always give ‘thinking time’ in class discussion. When I ask a question in class, I usually ask three times, while wandering around the room. I change the expression in my voice, the emphasis and sometimes the pace of the question. I wait ten seconds or more before choosing someone to answer/taking hands up etc. All students, but particularly nervous speakers or low ability pupils, need time to prepare an answer.
  2. Allow them to prepare feedback in pairs. Whether you want them to consider a question, respond to some stimulus or solve a problem, ask them to discuss this in pairs before answering in front of the class. For younger children, you can make this really structured by giving them set amounts of time each to speak, asking them to speak in turns or giving them speaking sentence openers. For SEND students that struggle to remember what they’ve discussed, they can write notes on a mini-whiteboard to help them answer. I tell my class that as I’m giving them time to prepare, I expect everyone to be ready to answer – then I’ll choose a name, use a name generator or pick out a lollipop stick with a pupils’ name on.
  3. Open up dialogue about nerves, anxiety, social anxiety, fear of public speaking. I found it particularly useful to spend ten minutes going over the physical symptoms of ‘fight, flight or freeze’ and why our bodies react this way. We talked about everything from dry mouth and palpitations to the need to have a nervous wee! We also delved into why the body is designed this way – how it expels fluids so that you can run away more quickly; why your heart beats faster to ensure blood is circulating to your major organs; that when you feel like time has stopped, it’s because your senses are heightening, ready to act. Not only did this allow students to realise that these reactions were normal, but also put a positive spin on them.
  4. Before a presentation, ask your students to write a ‘recipe for success’ and a ‘recipe for disaster.’ I love this task so much! It really pushes students to think about what they need to do to perform an effective, confident and calm presentation, and contrast how they would prepare if they wanted to do a terrible job and let nerves take over. When I was really struggling with public speaking myself, I found it incredibly useful (and amusing) to write my recipe for disaster. It was a big turning point for me, because I realised that I’d spent my entire life up to that point following the wrong recipe!
  5. Notice – listen – understand – but still challenge. When I come across a child who is too afraid to speak in class, I set them a challenge of putting their hand up once a half-term/fortnight/week/lesson. I usually tell them to get this out of the way at the beginning of the lesson, so they’re not worrying about it. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found this really successful with some students. You can see the mixture of relief and pride cross their face once they’ve ‘done the deed’, and wonder what they were so worried about. Even better, once this becomes a regular pattern, you can see them build up positive momentum. After a while you can’t shut them up!

 

Have I missed anything? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

QUICK READ: Top 5 confidence hacks for students

Confidence isn’t something that has ever come naturally to me. It’s something that I’ve had to, and continue, to work on daily and as such, I’ve absorbed a scary amount of self-help material. Because of this, I’ve gained a really useful tool-set when working with students who struggle with the same issues. The methods below have really worked for me personally, and they’ve always been well-received with my students too!

Here are 5 top tips to gain instant confidence:

  1. Tony Robbins tells you to imagine that you’re wearing an invisible cape – like a superhero. Seriously. If I’m ever feeling low, I put my cape on and turn around to see it flapping in the wind. Your body language changes entirely. What can I say? I’ve always fancied myself in a bat-suit.
  2. Tell yourself – it’s not nerves, it’s excitement. In nerve-wracking situations that used to terrify me (job interviews, public speaking etc.) I would practise deep breathing and tell myself I was calm. My brain just didn’t buy it – what my body was feeling was the opposite of calm. As the symptoms of excitement and anxiety are the same, it’s much easier to just repeat in your head, ‘I’m so excited!’
  3. Step into the moment. If you’re having a wobble, distract yourself by noticing your surroundings – really noticing… like you’re a new born baby or an alien. Stare at the sofa/carpet/sandwhich as if you’ve never seen anything like it. Examine the way it looks, smells, feels, sounds, tastes – just be warned that if you taste the sofa, people may start to worry about your sanity.
  4. When you’re full of self-doubt/paranoia/fear and anxiety, think about what you would say to a friend in this situation, and say it to yourself. A lot of us find it easy to motivate and inspire our friends when they’re down, but don’t extend the same kindness, patience or sympathy to ourselves. Treat yourself like you’re a good pal, apply reason and show yourself some self-love.
  5. Recite a mantra in your head. For years, I was super skeptical about mantras. I likened them to incantations and pictured myself talking to the mirror like Bruce Willis in Friends: “I am a neat guy!” Then, a couple of years ago, I listened to the audio-book of Susan Jeffers, ‘Feel the Fear and Do it anyway.’ When I heard her happy, confident mantra, “I’ll handle it,” on my way to school, I realised that if I really believed that I could handle any situation – any presentation, difference of opinion with colleagues, argumentative colleague, last-minute deadline – then although the actual tasks would still be there, their negative emotional pull on me wouldn’t be. Whenever I start to feel like it’s too much and I can’t cope, I force a smile and tell myself, “I’ll handle it.”

Here’s what has worked for me, but everyone is different. If you’ve found success with any of the methods above, or have an alternative tip to share, comment below!

Supporting mental illness and anxiety in the classroom

I was browsing through BBC news a few days ago, when I came across the story of 16 year old George Hodgson. Despite suffering from extreme anxiety, OCD, panic attacks and even suicidal thoughts, like so many other children, George was placed on a waiting list to get the help needed, but was told that there was a 40-week wait for his treatment. He wasn’t contacted until two years later, just before the cut-off for adolescent care, as he was about to turn 18.

For many children and their families, George’s story is all too familiar.  Desperate and helpless children, parents, teaching/support staff and health care professionals, faced with a total lack of support when they need it most. 

And it’s getting worse. Childline released figures this month, showing that the number of children having therapy for anxiety has risen by 60% in two years. Alongside this, their figures show 13,746 sessions in 2016/17 for children suffering from anxiety, including more than 3,304 suffering panic attacks. 

Clearly, there is a great deal of work to be done. Only yesterday, the UK government announced a new vision for Mental Health research, which certainly promises steps in the right direction. Will it be enough though? With less than 6% of overall health funding going into mental health research, this will be no easy task. It won’t be quick either.

As teachers, we care deeply for our students. It can be heartbreaking to meet distraught parents who tell you what they’re going through day after day; who see their child’s anxieties worsening, watch them withdrawing as their self-esteem falls, worry constantly of what might happen next. While we’re not social workers or psychologists, we are on the front-line working with children suffering from a range of mental health issues. 

As our students are placed on a waiting line to get help and their parents turn to us for guidance, is there anything we can do?

I think there is. 

We can talk about mindset, thoughts, body language and actions. We can teach students about mental health. We can set daily activities whereby children look for positives in their lives, themselves and others. We can create an ethos of kindness, acceptance and honesty within our classroom. We can encourage daily mindfulness. We can ask students to weigh up actual evidence to prove or disprove negative thoughts. We can promote the benefits of eating wholesome food and exercising. We can give out useful resources that parents might not have access to. We can build solid relationships with families, becoming a united front. We can listen. We can try. 

Unsure you know how to help? Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS is one of many brilliant sites that you can use to familiarise yourself with a young person’s condition and what they may be going through. They have self-help leaflets covering a range of issues. For primary age children, I’ve printed copies for children to use with support staff or myself in school, and another copy for parents so that they can better support at home. My go-to resource for secondary students suffering with anxiety, has been this amazing Moodjuice anxiety workbook which you can discreetly print, enclose in an envelope and slip to them in class for them to work through at home. Depending on what pastoral provision your school has, and how willing the particular student is to talk, you may be able to arrange a more direct intervention in school.

Essentially, what I’m saying is that if you’d like to help your students but don’t know enough about the topic yourself, you can find a wealth of useful information by googling terms like ‘NHS Anxiety.’ As someone who has myself experienced anxiety and undergone cognitive behaviour therapy, I can attest to the quality of booklets like the ones above. The same information, ideas and activities really helped me to change my thoughts, beliefs and actions, resulting in a much happier person. 

Again – we’re not trained health care professionals and I’m not naive enough to think that we can cure severe mental illness by asking students to write down positive thoughts. But for children who are perhaps beginning to show signs of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, whose only alternative is a waiting list, the interventions I’ve described above might just be the difference in a student worsening or getting better.

Luckily, for 18 year old George, his story had a happy ending despite the lack of support. Having made a full recovery, he now runs his own fashion brand which raises awareness of mental health issues. It’s a brilliant, inspirational story. It’s also rare.

As ‘Young Minds’ report as many as 1 in 6 young people experiencing anxiety at some point, this problem isn’t going anywhere. Alongside this, we live in an age of funding cuts – not only for schools, but also those same mental health services that the government have promised to ‘transform.’

Basically, we’re really up against it. All the more reason to put our creativity, resourcefulness and caring natures to good use.

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher Wellbeing: My top ten TED talks

I’ll admit it: I’m a geek. While other people lie in on Saturday mornings, I wake up early and complete household chores as I watch and listen to TED talks. I love it – I’m getting things done, but I’m learning at the same time. When you work in this profession, you spend most of your time working out how to motivate and inspire others. Sometimes we forget that we need this too.

Here are ten of my favourite talks that always give me a boost:

1. Amy Cuddy will teach you to tweak your body language and ‘fake it until you become it.’ Moving and brilliant. I highly recommend hiding in the toilet to perform the ‘Wonder Woman’ for 2 minutes before staff presentations. And yes, we get the irony.

2. Michelle Poler’s inspirational talk is the end product of 100 days ‘without fear’, a project in which she faces 100 different fears, ranging from uncomfortable to mess-your-pants terrifying. You’ll be facing off with the spider in the shed before you know it and maybe even encouraging your students to do the same.

3. If you’re a self-confessed loner; if you’d rather have a night in with the cats than go out and see your favourite band; you’ll love Susan’s Cains’ talk about why it’s friggin’ awesome to be an introvert.

4. Having one of those days where you feel like you’ll never be confident enough to face that class/speak at INSET/join the ‘Thriller’ flashmob at Tesco next Saturday? Watch Dr. Ivan’s Joseph’s talk and remind yourself that confidence is a skill to practise and grow, rather than something you either have or don’t. Growth Mindset isn’t just for the kids.

5. Caroline Casey’s talk is so moving and so inspirational. No spoilers – I’ll just say it’s all about perception baby!

6. When we grow up, we want to be Dr. Pam Peeke. Her insights and research into sugar addiction are just fascinating, and she looks (and talks) like she could star in ‘Dallas.’

7. Who doesn’t love a bit of profanity with their housework? Sarah Knight doesn’t disappoint.

8. Andy Puddicombe (the voice of the Headspace app) has such a soothing tone; if he can’t convince you to meditate for ten minutes a day, then you may as well give up now – you’re a lost cause.

9. If like us you’re prone to a little (or lot) of self-destruction now and again,  you’ll appreciate Mel Robbins’ candour, humour and tips to get things done.

10. If you take away even just one thing from Caroline Myss’s talk, you will be a better person for it. This is one to watch again and again.

 

Brave new world: Act II (a plan is formed)

Since September, I’ve been earning my money through supply teaching in local primary schools. While I was nervous at first, I quickly realised that this was actually a fantastic opportunity for me to continue enjoying the best bits of teaching while dropping the worst. Teaching spontaneously like this – keeping students that I’ve only just met happy and engaged, well behaved, learning – has definitely allowed me to add to my own skill-set. Every day when I enter the classroom, I set myself the secret challenge of being the best supply teacher the children have ever seen. I make it my mission to make these children feel good about themselves. This doesn’t always work – supply teaching isn’t without it’s challenges – but like we tell the children, when we reach for the moon, we land among stars even if we miss.

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One upsetting aspect of leaving your job is that you can no longer use ‘marking books’ as a legitimate reason to avoid the gym.

I had thought that I might have a problem with traipsing to different schools where I didn’t know anyone, but actually I’ve found it fascinating to visit schools that are vastly different in the makeup of their students, staff and approaches. When you have a permanent job in school, you can become very insular and set in your ways. Yet, we can learn so much from seeing the way things are handled in other schools.

Even where schools appear to be very different, they often have much in common. Right from the bustling, multi-cultural inner-city academies, to the leafy lane one-form entry religious schools; teachers gripe about Ofsted, excessive workload, student behaviour, learning and attitudes. Across the board, many staff feel that they have to cram in curriculum content in a series of fast-paced, prescriptive lessons, without any real time to focus on other things that should matter just as much.

As a passionate facilitator of skill-based learning, I recognise that children everywhere are being pushed academically by some fantastic teachers and support staff; but that their life-skills have been mostly forgotten. At best, words like collaboration, communication and confidence are mentioned at a shallow level. At worst, they are unheard of within the school dialogue. Even the truly brilliant members of teaching staff and leadership are often just too busy trying to keep up with ‘aspiration data targets’ to truly consider how best to instil an ethos of independent learning and resilience throughout their class or school.

In the current educational climate, anything that isn’t measurable in the form of a data spreadsheet or written exam, just isn’t a priority. So this is where I plan to come in.

Though I have often been prone to bouts of insecurity, I have never wavered on my decision to leave my job and ‘go it alone.’ Even more so, I am certain that I can use my own knowledge and skills more effectively under my own banner, and pass these on to a much broader community of students and staff. For this reason,  this month I officially registered ‘Skills with Frills Education Ltd.’ I plan to launch in January, 2018, offering my teaching services to schools within Yorkshire, promoting my newly-created ‘Fishing Net’ skills.

What we need to consider as educators is that not only do we have a duty to develop the whole-child alongside their academic abilities; but also that if we were to inspire qualities such as resilience, independence and communication within our students, then they would no doubt reap academic benefits alongside an abundance of others.

 

Brave new world: Act I (leaving my job)

After a huge amount of care and consideration, this week I made the monumental decision to see my Head teacher to announce that I would be resigning from my role at the end of this school year.

To many, including my former, more sensible self, this might seem like utter madness. As a head of department at 33, I’m earning more than I thought I would at this age, I have a solid position and status in school and as I’m repeatedly reminded by my non-teaching friends and acquaintances – I have 12 weeks holiday a year. I also love many parts of my job, mainly my daily interactions with incredible kids and colleagues.

I suppose that I fit nicely in with society’s picture of what success looks like.

So why am I leaving?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the urge to be out on my own; to be my own boss; to have creative freedom; to make my own decisions. And the plan always was to step into this, either through writing my blog, completing additional courses or taking on extra jobs, while teaching at the same time. Lately, I’ve come to the realisation that this would never happen while I was in full time teaching. Though I’ve found maintaining work-life balance easier in my role within a secondary school, it’s still an exhausting job that eats up not only time but also your energy. If I want to put my heart and soul into a new project, I know I can’t do it from this position.

Let me be clear – I still love teaching.

I love the children I teach (even the ones I encounter briefly) like they were my own family. I love delivering lessons; the look on a child’s face when they’ve understood something, gained a new skill, pushed themselves, taken pride in their work, received praise. I love planning lessons and creating resources, challenging myself to think creatively about how I can make the unknown known; the dull colourful and the disengaged inspired. From the meek, nervous student-teacher I was less than a decade ago, I have become a classroom director, thriving upon the daily performance of my actors.

I have fallen out of love though, with the idea of teaching within an institution. Again, I find myself in a position where I’m spending more time on data and targets, new Ofsted-friendly initiatives and pointless paperwork, all of which require a lot of effort but have no real impact on children’s learning (in fact they’re even detrimental in some cases). When I drive to work in a morning or sit down to work on an evening, I can’t shake the sense that I don’t believe in what I’m doing anymore.

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Obviously I couldn’t resist capturing my complex emotions in an #Iquitselfie

From August, I will be out on my own. I’m scared… yes, but I’m also more excited than I can ever remember being. I don’t know what the future will look like yet, but the possibilities are endless. More than anything, I feel like if I’m going to work with children, then I’m a better judge of how to do this than the government, or Ofsted, or schools. I want to be my best in order to give the best to the children in my care.

I have never thought of myself as brave – quite the opposite – but I have realised that I’m not afraid to fail. What I am afraid of is continuing to do something that I know just isn’t really working for me anymore; to repeatedly crawl forward when every fibre of my being is pulling me away in another direction.

And at a time when life seems so uncertain, I can cling on to my own advise that I often give the kids at school: people regret not trying something a whole lot more than they ever regret trying.

A simple and effective way to learn from our mistakes

For many of the children I teach, particularly the lower ability/special needs pupils, mistakes are something to be feared; something that seems to prove your stupidity and confirm to everyone that you’ll never amount to anything. It’s Learned Helplessness 101.

I did it wrong. I must be thick.

I’ve lost count of the number of children over the years (mostly boys I’ll note) whose immediate response to a tiny mistake is to rip their work into shreds and ‘down tools.’

And I know I’m not alone. This is a problem throughout primary and secondary schools, and there’s a lot of fantastic work going on in both sectors to combat this ‘destructive perfectionism’, linked to ‘Growth Mindset’ approaches. Educators are talking about failure, and mistakes, considering how we frame this in the classroom so that children see it as a necessary and beneficial part of the learning progress, rather than something negative.

For many children though, we need more than words to really ‘hit home’ with the message. I’ve tried something this week with my special needs Maths group – something that I’d done years ago with bottom set year 6 Maths and forgotten about. Basically, I set them a test but I’ve already filled in all of the answers incorrectly.

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At this stage, I know my students and I’m aware of the kind of mistakes that they’re likely to make…so I purposely make the same mistakes, so that they’re immediately forced to think about why this is wrong and find an alternative solution. test-3

 

 

As they work, we talk about how great it is that we’re learning from mistakes and gaining high-level thinking skills in being able to explain why certain questions are wrong.

This kind of activity is easy to put together and highly valuable for all groups of learners, in any subject, at any age. And it’s another reminder for our students that we learn so much more from failure than from success.

Teacher Wellbeing: Does your morning set you up for rock-star teaching?

What is your morning routine? Do you even have one? I suppose it’s quite an American concept – something that most of my rather sarcastic British friends would feel was quiet ridiculous and even self-indulgent.

What? You don’t just roll out of bed, throw on your clothes, chug down a coffee and race off to work?!

And this is exactly what I used to do, in the years BT (Before Teaching). The idea of course, was to maximise sleep and therefore feel more refreshed and rested for the next day. Only I’m not sure this ever really worked.

When I began to feel overwhelmed with work in my first teaching position, and every minute of the day seemed to be occupied with thoughts of the to do list, I decided it was time to experiment with my morning routine and take back a little time, just for me, before I went out there to face the world.

What I quickly realised was that I didn’t feel any more crappy if I missed 30 minutes extra sleep; in fact, I felt a lot more emotionally prepared to face school, and my workload, because I’d had that time for me.

Just like an actor prepares to go on set or a rock star performs a number of rituals before they go on stage, many teachers might just find that they benefit from cultivating a morning routine.

My own individual morning routine has changed again and again; with my job, my mood, my exercise routine or the latest book I read. At one point, I was staring at a focus board while incense burned, then I would read through positive quotes about life and set an intention for the day. Yes, seriously. It was nice and I found myself surrounded by unfamiliar silence (in my mind too) but I didn’t feel particularly energetic, and my hair smelt like burnt lavender.

So I changed my routine – I stayed later in school on an evening, setting up my lessons, and went swimming at the local baths in the morning. It was a bit of a race time-wise (I really worked ‘drowned-rat chic’) but I felt amazing. At the baths, I would mix up fast power-lengths with ‘meditative lengths’ (Yes, seriously!) in which I would focus on my breath, and use all of my senses of feel the soft blanket of water around me. Sometimes, I’d throw in some ‘gratitude lengths’ too and I’d force myself to think about everything I was so grateful for in my life. Even on the worst mornings, when the pool was jam-packed and there seemed to be a convoy of kamikaze granddads directed towards me at every turn, I would come away feeling energised, strong, calm and grateful. I’d arrive at school knowing that I’d already achieved something; something for me as a person, not as a teacher.

Sadly, when I moved jobs to a school further away, I couldn’t accommodate my morning swim. I switched to morning gym sessions and started hitting the treadmill at a gym on the way to school, getting ready in the changing rooms. It’s true that getting up at 5.40AM isn’t for everyone, but I can’t describe how energetic and empowering it is to arrive at school at 7.30AM, knowing that you’ve run 5KM. I felt unstoppable.

Last year, a broken leg abruptly ended my morning gym habit, so now it’s ten minutes of YouTube Yoga followed by Berocca and avocado-peanut butter toast (don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it.) Sometimes I review my gratitude diary too and have a sneaky peak at my monthly life goals (Yes, I really do this!) then off I go. Even in the car, I alternate between ‘mindfulness driving’, 80s power-ballads and podcasts/audio books. I regularly find myself wishing my drive home was longer because I want to hear more about the health benefits of Tumeric or because Harry Potter is about to go undercover in the Ministry of Magic (God love that Polyjuice potion!)

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Finding my zen… if only these leather trousers weren’t so itchy.

Being a teacher is a lot like being a rock star or an actor; sometimes you wake up feeling like a gloomy Monday morning, but you’ve still got a show to put on; people have bought tickets and they deserve a good performance. I was always told that the children should never see a difference between your worst day and your best. There’s nothing worse than a teacher who inflicts a bad mood on their students.

I really encourage you to think about what you could change or add into your morning routine.

You might find that not only do you teach better lessons, but that everything just feels a little easier; a little brighter; a little better. Surely, this is worth the loss of twenty minutes sleep?

Teacher Wellbeing: Never put your happiness on hold.

This weekend I came across one of my favourite poems: ‘Days’ by Philip Larkin. I love the simplicity of this poem and the message, at least as I see it, to live in the moment and enjoy each and every day.

When I was previously unhappy in my job, or indeed in my life, I’d put off happiness constantly. I’d tell myself ‘I’ll be happy when I get these last ten pounds off,’ or ‘I’ll be happy when I’ve bought my own house,’ and certainly, as a teacher, it was a case of ‘I’ll be happy when it’s my next school holiday.’ In reality, no item on this tick list ever made me ‘happy.’ Even the granddaddy of school holidays, Summer, never lived up to this kind of street cred and I often found myself just as unhappy, only in a different situation.

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She was eternally grateful for that one ‘good hair day’

I realised a couple of years ago that the old cliché is true and that happiness truly does come from within. It’s about the things you choose to notice and choose to ignore; it’s about what you’re consciously grateful for every day; it’s about how you choose to eat, move, interact, challenge yourself and others, and most importantly, think.

Nowadays, I still look forward to holidays just like I used to, but there’s less desperate urgency about it. I focus more on the small-wins of every day life: a gorgeous class to teach, a new idea to try with a tricky pupil, a lesson plan that gets the creative juices flowing, a free period, a homemade soup for lunch, a post-school Netflix binge!

I’d like to point out that my natural disposition is to be cynical, sarcastic, anxious and negative (and that’s on a good day!) so thinking this was hasn’t come naturally – I’ve had to force it. Cultivating this kind of attitude has taken years of effort and still continues to challenge me – it’s not like I don’t have bad days, or hormones… but it’s incredibly powerful to know that the feeling that you’re looking for is available to you right now, if you only open your eyes (changing your body language massively helps too!)

So please – enjoy your day and take notice of everything good around you. I’ll leave you with this awesome poem:

Days

What are days for?

Days are where we live.   

They come, they wake us   

Time and time over.

They are to be happy in:   

Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question

Brings the priest and the doctor   

In their long coats

Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin