Inspiration Where the Daily Mail Says There’s None

In my last blog, I said I would share some inspirational writing from 12 year olds that I teach. 

Under the new English National Curriculum, introduced this year, a new rather vague requirement is that children should be taught to ‘Write for Pleasure’. Now one has to question the concept that it is possible to teach somebody to write for pleasure. Sure, I can teach them grammar and spelling and extend their vocabulary. Sure, I can introduce them to inspiring authors. Sure, I can give them the space (in a curriculum that doesn’t really lend itself to space!?!?) to give them the time to write. Surely however, it is impossible to teach a child to write for pleasure.

In my attempt to investigate whether this was possible, I set as an experiment a writing task for my middle ability Year 8 students (aged 12 – 13). I told them they could write about anything, in any style, in any format and there were no length restrictions (i.e. it couldn’t be too long or short). I was a little dubious as to what I would receive.

Lesson One then for me is to never underestimate my students. They may still be children but they think deeply. They may still be children but they often crave an outlet for their thoughts; a safe environment where they can say what they like and know they won’t be criticised. Of course, some saw it as a great excuse for scribbling down a few hasty, unthought through lines, knowing full well there was nothing I could do or say to them about it. Most, on the other hand, put all they had into it. The results were heart-warming, heart-breaking, thought provoking, intelligent, wise.

Lesson Two therefore – just because somebody is young – part of the ‘barbaric horde’ (if you believe the Daily Mail) – this doesn’t mean they have nothing to say that is worthwhile listening to. Perhaps if we listened more to young people and less to the jaded politicians or the drama queens of tabloid newspapers, we would realise that young people are a stand up bunch of citizens that should not be tarred with the sam20140719-095038-35438347.jpge brush just because some decide to do stupid things. Would you call me a yob just because somebody 200 miles away (of a similar age) broke into a house? No, so why should we do that to young people.

The poem below was written by a lovely young woman about her difficult relationship with her father who she doesn’t see very often. You could question why these would be on my blog but my blog seems to have become a source of inspiration for many and a source of motivation. The piece of work below and of the student I will publish next week – do just that. For me, they put many of my worries and concerns into perspective. They help me to realise that while things can be difficult, I am lucky to have my wonderful supportive family. I am lucky that I never have to question whether I have their trust and love.

What’s Bothering Me?

Last night I got a text from my dad,

Not often does he text so I knew it was bad.

It contained the harshest thing I had ever seen.

I am cancelling when I am supposed to see you.’

See his children, not too keen,

I cried and I cried,

To all the goodbyes.

Never before had I witnessed this.

He is like an evil snake with a charming kiss.

I saw him last a year ago

Since then we have gone from friend to foe.

For some reason I can’t get over the fact

That his family orientated skills have lacked.

Dealing with this is not easy

Sometimes I just want to be free like a bee.

I carry on reading, reading, reading.

If I was bleeding, if I was needing,

I don’t think he would care.

Some of you may think, aw no

But don’t worry, it’s not rare.

I still wonder why.

But till now all I can do is cry, cry and cry.

Lesson Three Her poem is a reminder to me that in my day to day job, I can provide students such as this with a sense of security and continuity. No matter what happens at home, staff in school / rules in school / behaviour in school will be consistent. I can provide the confidence that no matter how difficult a child might make it for me, I will not back down. I will not refuse to give them my support and my care. In reality of course, no matter what it sometimes seems, no child is deliberately difficult – life has been made difficult for them and they react as they have been shown how to best.

Although not a parent, if I was – I hope this poem would remind me that no matter how difficult things get for me; no matter how challenging my relationship with my child or those in their life get – walking away from my child is probably the wrong thing to do. A child needs to feel love – that is really all they want – they just want to be loved unconditionally. Children can survive abandonment and mistreatment but few survive without battle scars that stay with them the rest of their life.

M.E. patients rightly cry out to their friends and family not to abandon them – young people have a need that is no different.

It would be wonderful to know what you thought of this poem. It would be amazing if the author (a 12 year old girl) could know what you think. How does it make you feel? What does it make you reflect on? What might it make you want to change in your life? 

Please also share this blog. Can you imagine how she will feel if she knows people thought her poem was worthy of being shared by others!??

Officially, I Am Back to Work Full-Time!

As of today, I am no longer on sick leave. I am officially 100% back to work!

While it is a relief to know that I can fall of my bike and break a leg and still get sick pay for the few weeks it takes to be able to drive again, it is more a relief to know that surely today signals not the end of my illness but certainly an auspicious moment on my road to recovery.

It is hard to believe that it was only November 2013 when I was struck down by an illness that was initially and perhaps ultimately unexplainable. Suddenly, all that I knew – all that defined me was gone! A little dramatic perhaps but certainly true.

The discovery last August that my greatest problem appeared to be my breathing and not M.E. (as previously thought) was understandably a massive relief. My rapid improvement from that day forward has been exhilarating. To do the things I used to do and to discover new things that I can now do is life fulfilling. I can now say that I can walk 11 miles (with 2 pub stops on route), I can Husky Mush (beginner style), I can do Kinesis and I am learning Yoga; this is fantastic.

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All of life’s experiences are perhaps not worthless but certainly less rewarding if you can’t say that you have learnt from them. So what, pray tell, have I learnt over the last 18 months:

  1. I was extremely lucky: lucky that I didn’t have M.E.; lucky I had a friend who made medical recommendations; lucky I had a specialist who was willing to question the accepted ‘truth’ that I had M.E.; lucky that I won’t be sick for the rest of my life. I am simply lucky.
  2. I am more determined and stronger than I ever imagined I could be.
  3. Being determined to do something, sometimes largely consists of admitting you need help.
  4. If I could deal with this illness, I can deal with anything my future throws me.
  5. Life is for living and not for passing through.
  6. Doing ordinary everyday things should be seen with as much joy and excitement as more unusual things are.
  7. Friendships and family are crucial to my emotional and ultimately my physical health.
  8. I have an incredibly powerful friendship and family support network.
  9. You are not brave when you are ill; you are simply getting on with it because what other choice do you have?
  10. It is very easy to over-estimate what you are capable of on the road to recovery but it is equally easy to allow your fear of doing too much allow you to under-estimate your abilities.
  11. Work is important to my self-worth but it no longer needs to define it.
  12. Work-life balance is too often ignored: it is vital to continuing my renewed health.
  13. There are those out there being wronged by their families and friends and sadly the medical profession. Those who really suffer from M.E. are, more often than not, not given the respect and access to treatment they not only require but also deserve.

I hope I will also remember those M.E. patients who offered me such unconditional support. I hope I will not forget what they continue to suffer day to day. I hope I can continue to inspire those around me to be open to people’s illnesses and not to question people when they say they are suffering: to accept and offer unconditional support in return.

If I can remember half of these lessons, then I will emerge from this illness when I eventually completely recover (hopefully in the next 12 – 18 months) as a better person: a more fulfilled person.

This is not my final blog: I hope far from it. I will however have two guest bloggers over the next few weeks. Two students from school who wrote so personally and so inspiringly I wanted to share their words with my readers. If a 12 year old can inspire us, surely we can all do whatever we want in life, nothing can stop us.