Archives for the month of: July, 2012

Kings Cross Station

If I imagine my perfect day it would probably involve sunshine, a pub garden, cold beer and lots of talking. A languid afternoon drinking, moving gently from sober to drunk, distracted by discussion and laughter. Sometimes I don’t enjoy being sober and other times it’s not fun being drunk, but the process of moving from sober to drunk is one of life’s great pleasures.

Can we apply the pleasure of this transition to other things? To take time to appreciate the journey rather than simply the arrival at the destination. Once, I travelled to Edinburgh, a long journey from Beloved Brighton. Only stayed there for a night, travelled for the journey. We wanted to go somewhere, not necessarily to be somewhere.

I am constantly trying to plan and control what happens next. When I recently visited the UK for a month I spent ages planning things to do, who to see, where to go. When my plans came to fruition it wasn’t as I expected, the time seemed to rush past, too busy thinking about where next, who next. I had spent too much time planning what I would do instead of enjoying my last few weeks in Brazil. And of course, in the end, the best parts of the trip home were the unplanned parts.

I flew back to Brazil, feeling wretched about leaving, feeling as though I didn’t belong in either place, desperate to get back to my Brazilian home and sad to leave my Brighton one. There was turbulence, we were buffeted around in the sky; it’s always a bit scary when that happens. I repeat to myself; it’s just warm air meeting cold, it’s just the movement from one place to another. Just another part of the journey, knew that the turbulence was buffeting me back to Brazil and back to more adventures. I didn’t need to be scared but it was all right to be afraid.

The latest piece of double speak from the government on education is that schools will be able to employ unqualified teachers. I worry for people joining the profession thrown in to a system that is so results driven, destination driven, with no appreciation for the journey. I have no snobbery about who should or shouldn’t be a teacher but I know that it’s tough at the start. I have worked with many new teachers and I believe you need time to reflect, experiment, fail, succeed, cry, laugh and share as you learn to teach. You need to take a journey. It cannot just be about the destination, teach.

And for my pupils in the UK, trapped on their hideous assembly line, purely focused on the destination, the C grade station. Where is the celebration of the journey? Why don’t they get to drink cava whist watching the beautiful English countryside rushing past the window, talking too loudly in the quiet carriage and getting kicked out. Sorry drifted back to my Edinburgh trip…

I’m not endorsing underage drinking. Plus for my pupils the journey would more likely be drinking cheap cider whilst getting the bus to town, but they will progress to train drunk eventually. They need to enjoy their learning journey, take pleasure in the questions, confusions, answers, inspirations and knowledge. Instead they are taught with a single focused destination, exam grade central.

I read a great piece from a new teacher quoting from a book on climbing. In order to become an excellent climber you have to move away from only finding satisfaction in reaching the peak. The real joy is in the climb itself. We all love to reach the peak, love the feeling of achievement and satisfaction of completing something difficult or challenging. But in chasing only the end point glory we can miss the beauty of the difficult journey. There are women whose work I read on twitter who have had a rockier climb than most. Without fail these two women celebrate the moment, share the frustration, never give up, they are incredible fighters. I have utter respect and admiration for them. They also without fail give love, support and kindness to anyone who might be struggling too. They might not always know where they are going but they will work hard to help you get to where you want to be.

Where do some of the most beautiful moments in life come from? The moments on the journey when you falter and someone grabs your hand, when they point out something to make you laugh, share a sunset, look out the window. We stumble and fall together, staggering along our routes, tripping up, getting tired, laughing, creating our stories. This is when we live, this is life.

Transitions can be so painful, my coach pulled out of Brighton and I felt the wrench, the leg wax rip of leaving my beautiful city, my friends and family behind. The plane bumped through the turbulence and brought me across the ocean to my other life, and with each mile of the journey the pain of the transition got softer. Each movement was part of a longer journey I was taking. I had to stop thinking, where I am I going? Where should I live? What should I do next? What about this, how do I solve that, what should I do? The endless questions which distract you from the view. This morning, as I wake up in my perfect little castle in the sky above Sao Paulo and the sun is shining and I am here and I see the view and realise it doesn’t matter. I am just ready to enjoy the next part of my journey.

 

Brighton

I look down at the list of restaurants, what do I want? I have been craving ‘English’ food but now it is in front of me, what do I want? The abundance of choices, the plethora of possibilities. What is it that I really want?

How do we know what we want, what we like, where to go, who to be? How to tune in to that base desire, what do I really want?

This question has been spinning around my brain since my return visit to the UK. After months of dreaming of fish and chips, cheddar cheese, pints of beer and spicy curries I can’t decide what to have. Ever.

After months of longing to see friends and family, I can’t work out who to see and when. What do I want? Am I making a new life in another place or am I waiting to come back?

How to find that core part of ourselves? How do we work out what we want? Layers of expectations, social niceties, obligations and responsibilities can obscure that internal primal desire.

I consider myself a selfish person; I’m single and childless. In the main, I do what I like, I’m inconsiderate and unreliable, I rarely have to question, what do they want? Another person’s choices don’t usually have to affect mine. But still I struggle to know what I really really want (thanks Spice Girls!).

Is choice ever imposed from outside? People can crumble under the pressure of expectations, make a bad decision, make the wrong choice. or are we always in control of our choices? Are we sometimes afraid to admit what we really want? I try not to judge the choices, be whomever you choose; a parent, a husband, an artist, a lazy fat TV addict, be whatever you like, just be happy. Or sometimes, are people doing what they want but hide under the pretence of obligation? Why shouldn’t you do what makes you happy? Celebrate it when you know what you want, enjoy it!

Do we have too much choice? I have been trying to work out why my pupils in Brazil value education so much more highly than my UK pupils. At first I thought it might be because they pay for it but I don’t think these rich Brazilian children are totally aware of how much it costs.  Also the staff and pupils in the rural free school I visited, value it as highly, if not higher. Despite my absolute belief in a free and equitable education system I can’t help but feel that, in Brazil, education is valued as it is so hard come by. For my pupils in England education was such an intrinsic given right it had ceased to be valued.

As an aside I also think that the relentlessly negative statements about teachers, teaching and education by politicians and the media are also systematically destroying the value we place on our system. The rest of the world values the UK education system; I can see the fantastic grounding it has given me as I share my knowledge in Brazil. Why is it so difficult for us to appreciate what is on our own doorstep?

Now that I am back amongst the familiar, all those things I thought I wanted don’t taste the same. It was the comfort and safety of the known that I chased. The flavours of home have served to remind me that I moved on for a reason. Maybe I had already eaten too much cheddar cheese in my life; maybe it was time for something new?

Do we have too much choice? Do we ever know what we really want? The tyranny of choice can leave us unable to really choose. Constantly dissatisfied, frustrated, looking over our shoulders at what ‘they’ have got instead of trying to get what we want. The bindings of expectations confuse us as to our real desires.

And me, what do I want? I don’t suppose I will ever really know for certain. Instead I will make the journey to discover what I want and take pleasure from the adventures on the way.

Today, I want a roast dinner.

 

 

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