Friday, December 30, 2011

JDS Insights: November 2011

Catching up slowly but surely!

November had a four memorable areas: 1) school, 2) chocolate and exercise, 3) closure and clarity and 4) alcohol.*

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1) School
Building on the book I read in October:



I had some interesting feedback in November. My Sixth Form Pupils said comments like:
"The lessons are much better because we actually do something."
"I remember more."
"We haven't had a normal lesson for ages."

My Year Tens were saying:
"The lessons are a lot more fun."
"I feel like we always learn something."

However my Year Elevens were saying:
"I don't learn anything like this. I learn more when I copy off the board."
"Oh no not group work - I don't learn anything like this."

There are a few more nuts to crack. But because of this book, I'm taking more risks, I feel more enlivened (even when my Year Eleven get to me) and I'm remembering why I became a teacher.

2) Chocolate and Exercise
Through the month of November, not one piece of chocolate passed my lips.

No joke.

This is a significant achievement given my history with the stuff. (It gets mentioned in my blogpost 'Reflections' from Jan 2010). It's true that a have a sweet tooth and I really enjoy chocolate (particular favourites being Lindor and Reese's Cups).

The ostensible reason for stopping eating chocolate was because one of my work colleagues called me fat (and so did one of the pupils at school). They may have worded it slightly differently, but what I chose to hear in my head was that. So I started refusing chocolate.

As well as that, since August's Ankle Incident, I hadn't been exercising regularly and I'd piled on the pounds - shown when I weighed myself on returning from holiday.

So, during November I returned to Urban Krav Maga on a Wednesday night (or 'keep fit' as my mum calls it - because she can never remember what it's called). I was very nervous about starting again as I'd hurt myself. Through November though, I regained my confidence and enthusiasm.

My wife and brother-in-law also started coming along too - and enjoyed it - which validated my experience.

Apart from this, I'd also read this book (recommended by someone at Urban Krav)


I actually read this in the summer but completed the Basic level workout by the beginning of November - and actually enjoyed it because it was all based in the house! I don't like the gym because I find it intimidating and it reminds and highlights my own inadequacy. This book is written by someone who used to train US Special Operations personnel - the hardcore nutters - and the workouts are all based around using your own bodyweight.

He covers the basics of nutrition - it's all pretty sound - but nothing that's not been mentioned in other places (which perhaps says a lot about what various experts says). He does make the useful (and important) point that exercise accounts for about 1/3 of your body shape - the 2/3 is0 nutrition (something I keep re-discovering and re-reading over the years).

The real value of this book though is the index of bodyweight exercises and the workouts he's created. Pictures are included - mainly of him - doing the exercises but they can be customised and you can create your own because he explains the thought behind the workouts.

Me being the particular kind of weirdo that reads books - and then acts on what the book says - started doing the workouts. I found the Basic Level a challenge and it was cool getting to use all the stuff around the house: doors, surfaces, chairs, tables etc. Level One is even tougher...onwards and upwards...

3) Closure and Clarity
There are people in my life where I've not said anything and let stuff lie and then it becomes a maggot that eats away at my brain. I've done enough stuff and read enough material over the years to know that sorting out things like this can positively impact the quality of one's life dramatically.

Knowing it doesn't always mean I'll act on it though.

And I've only given up when I stop taking action - any moment I can re-start the action - so any moment becomes a chance to pick myself up and carry on.

There were two different people I managed to clear the space with. The impact of one was felt significantly in December. The other brought a smile to my face and made me feel warm inside - and less like a total nutjob.

I think that's why I wrote a lot about having a clear head in November.

4) Alcohol
Now I've never said I'm a non-drinker. I call myself someone who drinks alcohol very rarely. Until 19th November 2011, I hadn't had any alcohol since Boxing Day 2009. But on the 19th, we had a Birthday Party - at our house - which meant I wasn't driving and didn't need to be sober. My wife and sister were particularly vocal in their encouragement of me to partake in sampling some of the alcoholic beverages on offer. Of course when drinking games were played, it became obvious that I was being 'stitched-up'.

The cocktails tasted great and included: Pina Coladas, Caribbean Breezes and Strawberry Daquiris - and I have to say that Jaeger Bombs taste very nice - my sweet-tooth means they go down very nicely.

And yes, I was most definitely drunk - but not any wilder than usual...just more brazen and blunt.
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So this month's insights are a reflection of this mish-mash of incidents. Make of them what you will.**

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Nov 01: There's a balance to be struck between effort and flow.

Nov 02: There's a time for keeping going no matter what, and a time for going with the flow.

Nov 03: Surrendering to the flow of life and fighting to go in a particular direction are the same except for my perspective.

Nov 04: Life always takes me where I want to go. Knowing where I want to end up is the trick.

Nov 05: Masters continually reinvent themselves.

Nov 06: You're not the same person you were five years ago.

Nov 07: There are always enough hours in the day.

Nov 08: Thinking takes energy - even about the smallest things.

Nov 09: Save energy by finishing the thinking about stuff.

Nov 10: Any big accomplishment can be achieved with lots and lots of small, simple steps.

Nov 11: Just because there is no instant response doesn't mean someone isn't thinking.

Nov 12: We have the gift (or curse) of being able to think about what we're thinking about. Use it wisely.

Nov 13: Willingness opens. Listening guides. Understanding creates.

Nov 14: Take the easy way and achieve little.

Nov 15: Take the hard way and be a martyr.

Nov 16: Truth lives in the space between (the easy way and the hard way).

Nov 17: I have my strategies for getting what I want: drama queen, control freak and angry boy. Not always effective.

Nov 18: My struggle is not your struggle. Stop trying to make it so.

Nov 19: Unsolicited help is just patronising.

Nov 20: Imposing my help on someone else's issues causes upset.

Nov 21: We have all the answers we need.

Nov 22: An empty head allows for things to be remembered.

Nov 23: Create loads of ideas. Lots will be bad. One or two will be gems.

Nov 24: One thing happening can change everything.

Nov 25: Sometimes it takes big things to realise humility.

Nov 26: I can choose whether I hold on to something or not.

Nov 27: I can let go, or hold on, at any point.

Nov 28: Individuals make up institutions. One person can affect the whole.

Nov 29: Working together multiplies individual effort.

Nov 30: We are all part of something much larger than we can articulate.

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*No this is not a typo
**All mine

Saturday, December 24, 2011

JDS Insights: October 2011

I'm aware that it's Christmas Eve...and I'm posting about stuff that happened months ago.

But a lot has happened in those months.

Re-reading the insights for October and I'm instantly transported to my state of mind back then.

The big thing was my birthday. This year on October 3rd I turned 35 years old.

At this age I have become more contemplative about the future; I'm more aware of how *old* I am and I suppose my own mortality. But I don't *feel* 35 - I'm not sure how 35 is supposed to feel (that shows how reliable feelings are for understanding reality).

We also had a nice holiday in October which included more opportunities to feel self-conscious about my body on a beach but really consisted of doing very little - a brilliant chance to switch off.

I also read some.

The main book for this month was something that's helped my teaching.

As teachers we're meant to be 'reflective practitioners'. That means we're constantly evaluating and reviewing our lessons and teaching practices so we can improve. More so than most jobs, I think it's essential to maintaining sanity in a world of constantly changing goal-posts but also getting a handle on the actual process of teaching.

So I read this book:



And then I laughed a lot, thought a lot and resolved to do some of the stuff suggested in the book in my classes. The full title of the book is actually 'How to Teach: The ultimate (and ultimately irreverent) look at what you should be doing in your classroom if you want to be the best teacher you can possibly be'. It really is ultimately irreverent and that's what makes it such a great read. It manages to balance profound truth with hilarity. This can only be found in classrooms across the country as teachers pull their hair out every day.

Now, a lot (actually, pretty much all) of the time, teachers adhere strongly to the old phrase 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Me being the particular kind of weirdo that reads books and does what the books say took a baby and some bath water and well...

Apart from that - the author's humanity is in this book. He really gives his whole self and I feel enriched as a teacher because of it. He is a Jolly Nice Chap - his twitter is HERE and his website is HERE!

There will be more on this in November's post.

That was October.*

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Oct 01: State of mind affects the ageing process more than we like to admit.

Oct 02: Age only brings wisdom when knowledge is acted on.

Oct 03: Age does not guarantee wisdom.

Oct 04: Age brings physical maturity but not necessarily any other.

Oct 05: Ageing sees growth, maturity and decline. At least we have a choice about gracefully going through each.

Oct 06: Step back, calm down and the way forward reveals itself.

Oct 07: Somewhere inside I have all the answers I need. Discovering them is the challenge.

Oct 08: Nature cannot be separated from our experience.

Oct 09: Spending time with nature reaffirms who we really are.

Oct 10: We don't need any more reason other than: just because we say so.

Oct 11: Growth happens at the limits of what you can do.

Oct 12: Your destiny gives you direction.

Oct 13: I never know what the response will be unless I do something different.

Oct 14: My body allows me to get stuff done. Why not take extremely good care of it?

Oct 15: Plan something and you can relax.

Oct 16: Everything starts as a creation in someone's head.

Oct 17: Holidays allow for contemplation that would not normally happen.

Oct 18: Contemplation gives space for creation.

Oct 19: A result is the meaning we add to specific things that happen.

Oct 20: Things are happening all the time. Whether we like it or not is up to us.

Oct 21: Old habits are hard to break. New ones are easy to create.

Oct 22: Just because I have been doing something regularly for a year still means it can be forgotten.

Oct 23: Just because I have been doing something regularly for ten years, still means it can be forgotten.

Oct 24: Just because it looks clean doesn't mean it is clean.

Oct 25: Truth can be found everywhere.

Oct 26: The space around me for new stuff to show up is always filling up.

Oct 27: Clear out old stuff to make way for new. Now apply that idea to your headspace.

Oct 28: An empty space will get filled.

Oct 29: I am always creating. Until it gets comfortable. Then it's repetition.

Oct 30: Being comfortable requires no focus.

Oct 31: Achieving comfort at one level allows creation at another. But only if I commit to grow.
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*All my shit.