Archives for category: Creative education

You can read all the posts about Brazil in one place. I have edited them in to a small book. Available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Saved-City-Lucinda-Willis/dp/149433495X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1386657746&sr=8-2&keywords=saved+by+the+city

Graffiti outside Pablo Neruda's house in Santiago. A man who would not be told what to do.

Graffiti outside Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago. A man who would not be told what to do.

One of my more annoying traits is my childlike response to being told what to do. When advised not to do something my immediate response is to do the opposite. Nothing is more likely to bring out the teenager in me than well meaning advice. My usual reply would be “Don’t tell me what to do!” possibly with the addition of a sexual swearword…

As you can imagine this policy is not always the most productive. Well meaning advice is given for a reason, it is well meant and it is often thoughtful, kind and considerate. So to have a blanket refusal to act upon friends gently offered and sensible suggestions has often resulted in poor choices.

However, this does mean I can empathise with 14-year-old boys who refuse to remove their hooded tops in class. Although being an (almost) 40-year-old woman myself perhaps it’s time to grow up and stop rebelling? Strangely, despite my refusal to listen to others, I spend much of my working day telling people what to do and trying to sound like I am not telling them what to do. It is a fine line and one that I sometimes fall off.

This morning I was talking to a friend in England about a meal I had had and as I recounted the dishes a memory returned to me. Before I moved to Brazil I never travelled. I only listened to others stories of their travels and the food they tasted. I had one holiday in 10 years, a singles holiday to Crete; I don’t want to tell you what to do but NEVER GO ON A SINGLES HOLIDAY TO CRETE. It was not fun. There is an underlying air of sadness on singles holidays, which permeates everything. In particular, I remember looking over at the group of singles, as I downed vodka on my balcony to block out the experience. They were looking wistfully at the pool whilst drinking afternoon tea (provided free as part of the single’s package!). In the pool was a beautiful young Greek couple cavorting madly. The expression on the singles faces was doglike, that expression a dog has when you are eating and the dog looks mournfully at your plate like it’s starving. I had to quickly drink more vodka before I threw myself in the pool and attempted to drown myself under the lovemaking couple‘s contortions.

Whenever friends went away, which they seemed to do far more frequently than me I would ask them in detail about their travels and about the food they had. I loved to hear about it but I only lived vicariously through their experiences. I am sure than many of them told me what to do ‘You should go on holiday Luci.’ Or ‘Stop spending all your money on stupid crap you don’t need and go on holiday Luci’ or ‘Stop asking me questions about my holiday Luci I have been talking about it for 3 HOURS!’ I ignored them, because I won’t be told what to do and I continued to holiday in my own flat, avoid singles holidays and ask friends endless questions about what they ate. Till finally I realised that some of the advice was useful, that perhaps spending all my money on crap and never leaving Hove wasn’t the best life plan and I came to Brazil.

Even as I planned to leave, more advice ‘You’ll hate living in a big city’ or ‘You can’t runaway from your problems’ or ‘You’ll need to learn Spanish’ most of this advice was wrong. I love the big city, my problems are far more manageable with 5000 miles between us and I needed to learn Portuguese anyway.

This week, I have been working with another teacher watching his lessons and planning together. We have a tricky group, it is hard or them to follow instructions. As I watched his lesson I could see that the giving of instructions, telling the children what to do was at the heart of everything that could make the lesson work. If they didn’t know what to do they wouldn’t learn, they could feel stupid, they would lose interest and the lesson would be wasted. The art of giving of instructions, of telling someone what to do, has to be clear, make sense and be delivered without being patronising or demanding. Once we know what to do we can be so much more successful.

So, back to me, yes we had been off that very important topic for at least a paragraph. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do and even if I listen to instructions or let people tell me what to do I am still not convinced about the right course. I have an innate mistrust of what people say. Above all else I find it hard to trust my own instincts and judgements. I make mistakes; I have made errors many times. But to come back to a reoccurring theme, errors and mistake can lead you to new adventures and new beauty. I love mistakes in language; they create wonderful perfect descriptive phrases. I need to celebrate mistakes in my choices too.

So, we listen for instructive advice, ignore it, worry over it and dismiss it or follow it. Today it feels like a set of instructions to follow or ignore would give me a clearer idea of what to next, knowing what not to do can be as helpful as knowing what to do.

Please, dear friends, continue to instruct and advise me and I will try to ignore the teenage wail, which erupts at the thought of being told what to do and listen to my inner adult. Or I will ignore you, stamp my foot, make some bad decisions, laugh, cry, avoid singles holidays and see where I end up.

Learning English

The unfamiliar can so quickly become familiar, a stranger becomes a friend. How soon a change becomes a life. Is there a compulsion to create stability for ourselves, to settle in to routine? I think I have become addicted to change and challenge. I dragged myself out of my familiar world, 12 years of teaching and living in the UK. I have been energised by the move to Brazil, I have found new interests, been more proactive, made changes which would have been harder to make in my Brighton life. But I am a selfish being and it’s not enough. I can feel the creeping hand of boredom starting to descend. I’m ready for something else. I crave that delight I had in the absolute newness of my arrival. Like the first hit of a junkie, constantly trying to get back that first time feeling, looking again for that celebration I felt in the first few months. I’m here, I made it, I can do this.

Now I just, live in Brazil, I don’t feel the same excited gurgle in the back of my throat as I say it out loud. I plan travels and talk as though it is normal to discuss Patagonia versus Guatemala. Twelve months ago I struggled to travel from Hove to Brighton for a night out.  I want to appreciate the moment, I want to stand still and look around me at the privilege of this existence. But I still find myself wanting to peek around the corner, what’s next, what else?

I travel with the students from school once a week to Parasiopolis, a favela in Sao Paulo. When I am there supporting our students I am focused on them and what they are doing, they teach English to the children. It is difficult and they do an amazing job. One day as I walked around the school, I managed to take a second to think. I am here, in a school, in a favela in Brazil, and it feels normal, how the hell did I get here! I want to fight complacence, keeping stopping to see where I am. I want those new eyes that I took back to Brighton in July to stay with me here too. I made a photo album for my Brazilian friends ‘ Brighton for Estrangerios’ (Brighton for Strangers). I wanted to see my beloved city as they would see it, though fresh eyes.

I try to take on new challenges, this year I am teaching History and I can see how it is improving my teaching. It’s like going back to the start of my career. I have to think about each lesson, plan carefully but take risks. Some lessons work better than others, but I’m enjoying it. I am addicted to challenge and change, but I am also rooted in the familiar. As I look around this home I have created in Brazil from nothing, I wonder is it just the same as the homes I had in Brighton? As I cook familiar dishes, watch TV from England. I wonder how much challenge have I really taken on?

And so to the classroom and the students we teach. They too need a mixture of challenge and comfort. They need to be encouraged to take another look, a risk, to step outside of the familiar. We have a responsibility to keep our classroom safe, familiar but also challenging. I need to be bored; it stops me from spending my life under a duvet watching reality TV shows. Boredom is good, I don’t want to stop getting bored.

The Sao Paulo Metro

I have no sense of direction. If I needed to go right guaranteed I would go left. Despite instructions, or directions I often end going the wrong way. I have been saved many times by the GPS on my iPhone. But slowly, I am starting to find my way. The longer I live in the complex city of Sao Paulo I can feel the map in my mind start to gradually piece together. Streets building on streets, not so lost, finding ways to link the parts of the city together. I have never really known where I was going. Too busy looking around me, too busy talking or thinking to take notice of my surroundings. I relied on friends to take me where I needed to go.

This is true for more than just travel. I have never really known where I was going, and even when I looked at a map, made a plan I would make a wrong turn and end up somewhere else. I envy people with a good sense of direction, the ones who know where they are going the ones that travel the straight line. Someone gave us advice on managing in Brazil. They said ‘There are no straight lines in Brazil’ to manage here you have to be prepared to change routes, go in a different direction, try another way.

Is it important to know where you are going? In teaching we are told to always share the learning objectives. This means sharing with our pupils at the start of the lesson what we will be doing and what they will be learning during the lesson. This is one of the things you have to do to get an  ‘excellent’ from the teaching gods, OFSTED. And yet this constant sharing of what is going to happen and checking if it has happened can be stale and boring. Where is the mystery? Where is the adventure? A friend is an early years teacher and she told me about ‘stunning starts’, how at the start of a unit they would try and generate interest and enthusiasm in the pupils. For example; they hid a letter from the big bad wolf in the sand pit, the pupils found it and this led them to excitedly exploring the story of the three little pigs. I tried to this with my own pupils. I was planning a unit on the supernatural, looking at fiction and non-fiction texts, we started with a Halloween party, apple bobbing, games, sweets and fun. These were disaffected pupils I had to hook them in or they would be lost, disengaged from the topic.

I was arguing with a teacher the other day, he was advocating never sharing learning objectives but he’s a music teacher, a rebel who never wants to do as he’s told. I disagreed with him. Despite my own lack of direction I can see the benefit of showing the students that I knew where I was taking them. I need to create a balance between mystery and surprise and the sense of security that comes from knowing where you are going and why. The issue I have with any of these teaching strategies is the wholesale application of them with no sense of the individuals or the long-term processes that happen in classrooms. OFSTED are concerned with a snap shot, a single glimpse in to a lifetimes work. The direction I have led my students down in the past, I know they haven’t seen the route until they are far along it, finally realising after they’ve passed through the classroom the direction they are taking.

As I get older I watch the people around me, some of whom had a certainty about the direction they were going, who had looked at the map, planned their route with precision. Then all of a sudden they came upon unexpected roads, dead ends or sheer drops. I watch them come to terms with the different direction their lives have taken. Having a good sense of direction might not always take you where you want to go, in fact it could led you off course, make you miss something beautiful. We have to try to take risky decisions, a path through the forest, a different corner, a U-turn in the road. I jumped out of my life in the UK, in teaching, in my career, to this unknown entity of Brazil, and what riches I have found. My lack of sense of direction, my right turn instead of left led me here. I still don’t have a map but I can’t wait to see where I go next.

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.

 

 

It is a mistake to buy a can of beer and wine mix…

I´m fighting failure but I don´t doubt error. I have made mistakes. I have made many mistakes. Some I regret, some gave me gifts, some took me on journeys and some made me cry.

When you are a teacher you quickly realize children are afraid of mistakes. This seems to be an international truth. The children I teach in Brazil are as afraid of making mistakes as English kids. They want to know how to be right, how to be correct, they want the answer. I rarely feel like I have the right answer. It feels like I am doing them a disservice if I allow them to believe that if they try hard enough they will always be able find out what is right. The right path, the right partner, house, car, weight, decisions. How many of us can say we truly know how to make the right decisions? That we are never wrong, we always have the answer? Just as we should not fear the arbitrary criteria of success and failure, we should strive to accept the inevitability of mistakes.

In my last post I made a mistake. The word explore was autocorrected to explode; ´I wanted to explode the city’ I noticed my mistake but I liked it better. I did want to explode the city and examine the pieces. Through this error my writing was improved. When teaching writing to children who struggle with literacy, the children for whom most linguistic rules are mysterious and confusing, their mistakes create moments of utter joy. They are not constrained by the rules, they don´t understand the rules, this allows them to use language in creative and innovative ways. And now the multi-lingual pupils I work with, swapping effortlessly between 2 or 3 different languages, misapplying rules but generating new and interesting uses of vocabulary.  In language, mistakes can create beauty.

I was working with a Maths teacher this week (numbers baffle me most of the time). He showed me how he was working on using questions without a correct answer to elicit understanding of processes and to break down the hierarchy of ´correctness´. In Maths, there is no longer an assumption that simply finding a correct answer is a demonstration of true understanding. I´m starting to like Maths teachers more. I´m realizing true Mathematicians are philosophers at heart, existing in a numerical daydream through which they explore or (explode) the world.

It was mistakes and poor decisions which led me to Brazil. In my errors I have found a wonderful new life which grows better by the day. I am forever grateful to my fantastic friends, who over time have demonstrated true love and forgiveness of my mistakes. Who in gently propping me up, encouraging and supporting and forgiving me, gave me the strength to let the errors carry me here. Part of friendship and love is forgiveness and understanding. We are fallible human beings, usually striving to do our best in a confusing world. Mistakes happen, we don´t always have the right answer.

Life isn´t black and white with clearly defined parameters of right and wrong. When I told my mother I was coming home for Christmas her first question was’ Is it terrible? Do you hate it?’ in her polarized world, things were terrible or fantastic. She and I are learning together that things can be simultaneously both good and bad. That I can love my life in Brazil and also miss home.

So I will continue to make mistakes; using form instead of from, buying something I can´t afford, kissing a frog instead of a prince. But each kiss, new coat and spelling mistake will led me to new things. I´m not perfect and I have no desire to be, my imperfections make me human and I intend to celebrate them.

Storm rolls in over the train cemetery in Bolivia

I have admired and inspired, been admired or been inspired many times. For me, inspiration is always mixed up with a wish to do it myself, to jump up on stage, to kick the ball, shoot the film, write the book. I have a naive arrogance which has led me out of my depth on many occasions. Part of me thinks I can do anything. If I want to do it, I’ll usually give it a try. I am happy to share what I love with others, perhaps to inspire someone to try it themselves.

However, as a teacher I have struggled with the sense of myself a role model. There has been debate in the UK about teacher´s private lives. A moral judgement made about the impact of a couple of jokes on twitter, or a sideline as a part time male stripper, on the children in the class. In order to teach in the UK we go through a rigorous vetting process called a CRB check. This is to ensure we are not a risk to the children in our care, or at least there is no record of us having been previously convicted. This process is fallible and there have been some awful situations with totally inappropriate people employed by schools. I have been trained in child protection and safeguarding procedures and I know there are gaps in the system but it is taken seriously in the UK and every possible step is taken to protect children in schools.

This is not what I mean; I am talking about the idea that a teacher should match some moral criteria which is imposed on their entire existence. I can sign passport applications as I am seen as an upstanding member of the community because of my teaching degree. At the same time being vilified by the press and government, solely to blame for the dysfunctional unemployed youth, roaming the streets, illiterate and aggressive.

Do I sell myself as a role model for society? Would I advocate my pupils to follow my lifestyle as an aspiration? Would I suggest that they view the choices I made, as ones to copy to be a successful adult?

Good God no! Possibly I could show them what NOT to do. I have made many bad decisions and would be happy to share my advice. The key advice I would share as a role model:

  • Never cut your own fringe
  • Just one more is never just one more.
  • If he tells you he´s a bastard, he really is a bastard and you won´t be able to change him no matter how much you love him.
  • Your probably won´t stay in touch with your best friend from school. They will more  likely end up posting racist comments on face book and you will have to block them.
  • Don´t worry about choosing your career at 14, your life will take you down many different and interesting paths if you let it.

As I work with young people in school, what do I want them to see, what do I want to inspire? I want to share with them my love of language, of narratives, of learning, of sharing. I want them to see that everyone has something to offer, some new ideas or information. I want them to see that it´s OK not to know something as long as you care about finding out. I want them to see the world of opportunity available to them. Not to be stuck or trapped by restricting expectations. To be imaginative, naively arrogantly reaching for the stars.

When I explained to my pupils in Brighton that I was leaving to move to Brazil it generated some fantastic conversations. Their incredulous faces, ´You´re going where!?`We talked- do you want to stay in Brighton your whole life? There is a whole world out there to explore!  And  we looked together at my new city, new apartment, new school on Google earth and they saw the world outside of their narrow expectations. I liked that inspiration and their world opened up a little more through my journey.

My colleagues and friends also celebrated with me. My move gave them a reminder that we are not stuck, we can move, change, master our own destiny. And when I returned at Christmas, evangelical about how this move had changed my life, changed me. I knew they could see it too.

Despite my occasional lapses in to arrogance or ego I would never advocate anyone using me as a role model. Inside my demon brain I am fully  aware of the bad decisions, home cut fringes, terrible boyfriends, fears, regrets, frustrations and confusion.  I don´t want to be a role model to anyone, I hardly know how to function as a human being some days.

But to occasionally inspire and be inspired this seems a possible aspiration. To continually strive to change, to fight the battle against the negative forces within your nature and to support and celebrate as others do the same.

This I can do. This can be an inspiration.

I flew in to a rainstorm over Sao Paulo. I was returning home after 5 weeks of travelling. I was retuning home, it was starting to feel like home. The plane was dark, we´d been delayed in Uruguay, the plane was small and it lurched in the sky. We were inside a cloud and I couldn´t see the lights of my new home, the seascape of skyscrapers I had looked at everyday for 5 months, but I was coming home and I was happy.

I flew in to 2012 too, New Years Eve tucked under a blanket over the Atlantic. I´m learning to fly but I´m not a traveller, I never have been. These moments of movement in my life are an aberration from my usual slothful existence. In the last 9 months I’ve flown 7 times, I will take 4 more flights before my first year in Brazil is over. In the 10 years before coming here, I flew once.

I flew back to the UK for Christmas, across the Atlantic Ocean. From sunny Brazil to crispy, cold Brighton. There was some turbulence. The plane was bouncing around in the sky just as I bounced my way back to my old life, excited and apprehensive. I was nervous on that journey, the seatbelt sign beeps and I tighten the mechanism around my waist and I remember the simple explanation a friend had given me for the turbulence, ´It’s nothing to worry about, it´s just warm air meeting cold´.

I repeated this mantra to myself on that and on other journeys, as I explored some of South America, in a Bolivian aircraft, juddering across the continent, ´Just warm air meeting cold´. The meeting of two opposites, two opposing forces sometimes causes turbulence. This isn´t necessarily a harbinger of doom, a warning for the faint hearted of impending death and destruction, the beginning of the end, the prediction of a crash, it´s just warm air meeting cold.

And as I reviewed the turbulence of the previous few months, the cold air of my English existence meeting the intoxicating heat of Brazil, that turbulence was also an indicator of a journey to a new horizon, a new place, a fresh chance. Turbulence, doesn’t need to be feared, in bringing chaos and uncertainty to our lives it gives stability to the solidity.

In the classroom I am learning to embrace turbulence too, to allow the warm and cold to clash, to let go of some control, to let the pupils experience their own version of hot air meeting cold. This week we have been working in groups on a film project and it has been a turbulent experience. We´ve had tears, tantrums, arguments, lost work, broken cameras, IT problems and a lot of frustration.

The bossy show off in me wants to wade in, take control, organise them, sort them out, solve the problems, make it work. They seek this from me too, comfortable in letting the adult deal with the disruptions, disagreements and disinterest. They seek from me solutions and sympathy. I had to step back, let the turbulence play out; let them bounce around the project towards a new destination.

I am 39 next month and as I creep closer to my 40s I seek a different kind of turbulence to the distractions of my 20s. I am learning to enjoy the journeys these disruptions take me on; to take pleasure in the changes. The turbulent path can be painful, dark and frightening. I keep remembering that it is just warm air meeting cold and that it is just a part of the flight to my next destination.

The joy of writing comes, for me, mainly from the pleasure of exploring my thoughts. As I write my ideas and opinions solidify and harden in to fully formed passionate beliefs. Sometimes, I am not aware how strongly I felt about things until I write them down and share them.

As I have been writing these posts a pattern in my thinking is emerging. In making this move away from my safe and familiar environment it has made me question the construction of my identity. It has not only been this move to Brazil that has allowed me to consider the building blocks of my personality but also the presentation of my self which I share on the internet. The mediums I now use, to connect and communicate with home, offer insights in to how I construct the truth of my identity.

Of course, we all present many selves, a subtle shifting of our representation depending on our audience. I wrote previously about the melding of together of mine. Some of you reading this know me by many names, some by only one. As I continue to feel less afraid to share, and less compartmentalised, I am more wiling to open up each separate drawer in my mind and let you see inside. I didn´t know, when I stepped in to this shiny new life in grubby grimy Sao Paulo, I would find a stronger identity and more than that, a sense of relief and acceptance of who I was. Perhaps it is getting older, as I edge to the farthest corner of my 30s my confidence in who I am grows. Is it the fresh start created by coming here to Brazil? By moving have I managed to shrug off some of the layers of negativity and confusion which draped over me in Brighton?

As you move away from something you become more connected to it. By leaving behind my beloved Brighton, the UK, my home. By discarding my possessions I was able to make a stronger simpler connection to the things, people that really mattered. More surprisingly a connection to new people, people I have never met.

Before I left I used social networking a bit, I was just starting to see it´s potential. Here, in my displaced state the internet has been my biggest support. It has been the way I am able to keep hold of who I am, where I am from and where I am now. It has placed me.

Who is online Luci? This presentation of myself which I share with old and new friends. I often don´t recognise the online perception compared to the frightened little girl huddled in her 19th floor apartment confused and homesick. Despite wanting to share a true representation online we can´t help but tidy up the edges or neaten the hemlines of our personality, turn up the colours, adjust the brightness. I am guilty of googling information to make myself look more knowledgeable or checking song lyrics before replying to people. I select the best photos to share, the most interesting aspects of my life. Why wouldn´t I? Who wants to hear about me drinking tea or brushing my teeth? Or see a photo of me watching TV or writing on the laptop?

I have become close to some of my new online friends, like my Brazilian friends they have no back-story, only the internet front they have been reading. We have got to know each other through writing 140 character posts. One of these friendships has extended past the confines of the internet, so much so he wrote my ´real name´ the other day without realising. I liked this, it showed I had become more than this selected self, he had penetrated the Luci below. I had become rounded out. Perhaps some of the sheen had gone from my shiny online persona but in its place was a real human being to connect with.

What does this mean for my classroom? For my students? For me it is the recognition of the million little pieces which make up the students in my class. To remember we present all these different selves but underneath, the truthful core is always there. Look beyond the behaviour, the possible puffed up presentations protecting those frightened forming identities. Read the message in the presentations of self we share, for they are more than likely masking fear, insecurity or pain. I need to encourage, support, nurture and empower my pupils to seek the truth of their identities, to connect and to be real.

I am essentially a lazy being. I am genetically designed for lying round eating and absorbing the dregs of popular culture. I am more than capable of spending hours in my own company doing very little. Somehow I have managed to get a life. I have a good job, which I love, I have friends who I also love and I have, moved to a new country, which I have also loved. So how do I motivate myself to do these things when my default setting would be lazy?

I have been considering my motivations, what are the things which push me to change, to work, to get out of bed? Sometimes I have been motived by a darker part of me; fear, shame, confusion, sadness. Does it matter what brings you here as long as you make the journey? I came to Brazil, left my settled life, motivated by a number of things, some of them came from a darker place inside me, some were positive. My life was stale,  I was travelling down a road I didn’t like,  my destination was not what I wanted for myself. I needed something different, a new challenge to wake up my tired brain, heart and soul.

I am sometimes motivated by anger, a desire to show the world what I was worth and what I was capable of. I have been motivated by sadness, frustration and loss. By the need to escape and leave those feelings as far behind me as I can.

I have been motivated by ego by wanting adoration, adulation and acclaim. I have been motivated by a genuine desire to do the right thing, to do good, to make a difference, to help to support others. Sometimes my motivation is selfless, sometimes not always.

There is another motivation, one that a single childless selfish being like me struggles with. That is the morivation just to do something just because it would make someone else happy. I generally do what ever pleases me but I am learning and trying to be motivated by a true and valuable desire to bring joy to someone else.

But I am selective and that is what I am concerned with. When I am motivated I can get things done. I can find reserves of energy, I can be reliable, smart and organised. How to motivate yourself for a task you don’t want to do? How to motivate others to be part of something they aren’t really interested in? How to motivate children to value their education, to forget the exciting world of a 15 year old and concentrate on the periodic table?

I have seen teachers become angry that their pupils aren’t motivated, that they are ungrateful for this great gift of education we share with them. Motivation isn’t a given, it can’t be imposed from outside; it comes from your heart and mind being connected together.

Some people are motivated by fear of others judgements, they seek approval. Maybe this will motivate our pupils to work too. What kind of result does this motivation bring? I don’t believe it is genuine, it’s lacks solidity. You have to believe.

I’ve been on many diets, motivated for a time to lose weight, to follow a plan. I remember one of the diet gurus saying ‘If you were offered a million pounds to lose 3 stone, you’d probably do it. So you have the capacity to lose the weight you just need to find the right motivation.’ My motives to lose weight were always about the judgement of the world so I never succeeded. I don’t diet now, I never did lose weight but I’m a hell of a lot happier!

So what are the key elements to be motivated? A truthful and genuine desire for change? One that comes from deep inside and is not imposed or surface? Something which is inside you and not designed to meet another’s unrealistic expectations?

The pupils I worked with in England, entrenched in their dysfunctional, fractured lives, were not motivated by fairy tales of ‘good GCSE results’ or a better job. The only thing that motivated these boys was the true and sincere pleasure of success. I was their cheerleader spurring them on; celebrating each unique achievement undeterred by government imposed arbitrary levels, grades or criteria.

So how do I find a way for my pupils to be motivated? We have to understand our core purpose and work for it. My change, my motivation, for moving away was confused and mixed up, but as the English fog in my mind has cleared and the sun shines on my new vibrant life, my motivation becomes clearer.

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