Educational Waywardness

I think that there is a sort of expectation that everyone has some misdeeds or the like from their past. Stories of amusement, foolhardiness and sometimes outright stupidity. I have some of these types of stories, I guess its a way of acknowledging how far we have come when we look back. Only my whole life has been peppered with these tales, so for me, they act as punctuation, rather than backstory. Sometimes I speak to people who don’t seem to have any of these stories. Part of me wonders why they never pushed boundaries and remained so level-headed throughout, and part of me admires that. They clearly never needed to see where their limits were, they already knew. However, it is much less exciting in terms of storytelling!

After writing my letter to Vivienne, I thought a lot about my time spent in education. Many memories immediately came to mind, most of which involved alcohol. I remember when I was Greenwich University, between the Friday morning lecture and seminar, me and a friend could get to the nearest pub (The Bird’s Nest – I can’t remember the name of the friend but the pub name sings out in my mind!), consume one drink, two games of pool and three songs on the jukebox before having to head back. I was kinda decent at pool back then, sadly not so much now. That was also when everyone could still smoke in pubs (and pretty much everywhere else) and most people seemed to take full advantage of this, myself included. I remember a magical evening spent on a field trip in the New Forrest where another friend pointed out the names of the constellations in the sky (whilst walking home from the pub, I had discovered something known only as ‘White Lightning’, I was eighteen, and this is my only excuse), opening up a literal whole new world and on yet another field trip to a marine research center on the island of Millport (everyone should utterly go there.. I cycled around the whole island in under an hour) I paddled in the sea (post-pub once more) opposite some sort of nuclear plant. This was also the same trip where my friend’s boyfriend danced around in my nightie. Some memories may never leave me.

My mid-twenties university experience had much fewer field trips. In fact, it contained no residential trips whatsoever. Which is disappointing, on so many levels. If anyone ever reading this is in a position to write a university course, put in some field trips, they always make for epic memories. But this time around I did live in student accommodation, which did make for its own level of excitement. I have watched people surf staircases using their duvets as boards, been offered a bite of someone’s banana (utterly no euphemism) as they wandered into my room when I was mid-essay writing, listened to radio shows with a friend into the small hours and another friend wandering into my room in the morning to find him curled up on the end of my bed like a puppy (perhaps I should have locked my door more often). And Vivienne coming home from a night out to find the remainder of her housemates far more inebriated than she was, and mostly lying under the table in the kitchen.

I could go on, and likely will at some point; these stories never cease to make me smile. The memories made under intense situations seem more poignant and I regret none of them. Whilst in conversation recently it occurred to me how as a parent and tutor, I give advice to those in my care, but there is a tendency to whitewash where it has come from. And perhaps this is an oversight, pretending to be perfect serves no one. And I retract my first statement, I think that we all have mad stories.

Map Point. Where am I pretending?

 

Inflexible enough to qualify as stone

Today I went to another session of mother and daughter yoga. I am easily the least flexible person in every class I attend, and I have attended a few. I sort of take pride in my unofficial status of ‘person most likely made of stone’. But this is of little consequence, as I really enjoy going!

I can’t touch my toes in any known yoga position. Except sitting crosslegged, but think that ‘might’ count as cheating. I don’t fold over very well. I can’t twist. I cant put my hands flat down on the mat and hold any pose (I go with either fists or ‘splayed out fingers raised just enough to give the semblance, if not the actuality, of a flexible wrist joint’. It now occurs to me that I must have super strong fingers – fingers of steel! (But I know this something of a misnomer as I still can’t bar a chord on my guitar) But on a positive, I maintained ‘downward dog’ position for longer than I usually can, so for me, that was a big win.

Me and my daughter are monster funny when doing yoga too. Other mother and daughter ensembles are pictures of grace and elegance and we are sitting on the mat, mostly laughing with somewhat incredulous looks on our faces. My daughter is hypermobile, and as such finds some of the poses painful. I was told by my physio that I likely was too, and now my body compares to an elastic band that has been overstretched, which accounts for my lack of bendy. I don’t know what would make a person more bendy, and am not altogether sure that I would want to find out.

I play guitar, I swim, I dance, I game, I read, I paint. My hobby pursuits are varied and I have varying levels of success (much variance, oh so much, never play shooter type games with me, I will definitely not kill anything, unless it is on my side..). But yoga is different. I am genuinely terrible at it, but I still pursue it. Several thoughts occur to me as to why. Being bendier is a long-term aspiration, I want to be a springy elastic band, not a sad saggy one. But other than this class, I have not prioritised my journey into an undulating twisty twirly thing. I love this class for the glorious time I am there with my daughter. Experiencing the funnies, the violent massages (my young one is not always a gentle little flower, I think that she believes my body to be a piece of wood that has been very bad. And must be punished by a brutal chopping motion) and when I attempt to massage her, it tickles so much she crumples into someone six times as flexible as myself and occasionally we experience the success at mastering a pose.

Reflecting on this session it occurs to me that I show my daughter a woman, who despite failing multiple times, is still prepared to turn up, do her best, and feel immensely proud of her achievements. I show her that I am prepared to take risks (some poses really feel that way!) and whatever the outcome, I leave the studio in an upbeat, relaxed and happy mood. And maybe this is more important.

Map Point. How do I define achievement?

 

I have a three drawer freezer

Some days are just hard. This morning I encountered someone who I had not seen for several years. Now sometimes this sort of thing is all hugs and tears and recounting of stories involving Galliano and a bath towel. But this was not one of those times. The last time I encountered this person they were speaking to me, in a somewhat raised tone, telling me all the things that I should be doing, in a place where there were many other people. It was shaming. What made it worse was that they were utterly in the wrong, on almost every level, but I did not have power to engage in confrontation, even to prove myself right. There is a strong possibility that I would still back down if the situation reoccurred. It was a memory that instantly took me back to feeling hurt and many other things. The day slipped into a downhill mode until I saw a friend at lunchtime, and then things became much sunnier. But I am left with a most oppressive feeling. It is now almost 1am, and there isn’t any ice cream in the freezer for me to inhale.

I use the word ‘inhale’ quite loosely, I can make a tub of Ben and Jerry most glorious vegan ice cream (cookies and peanut butter… oh yes..) last two sittings. And yes, I do likely regard this legendary feat of Atlas like strength as something of an achievement. ‘You didn’t eat the whole tub in a single sitting, in under an hour?’ Sweet and hairy Moses woman, you are restraint incarnate!’. It occurs to me, that for me to guarantee having ice cream in the house, when I am feeling somewhat below par, I would need to have around five tubs in the house at any one given time. And I only have a three drawer freezer.

At this point, I started to ponder if I could make room for said imaginary five tubs of B&J’s most delectably delectable cream of froziness (like ‘cosiness’ in a chilly variant) in my freezer. Short answer, if I set my mind to a task I can achieve anything! Long answer, this would involve throwing out, or at least removing the following:

  1. The plethora of frozen bananas that I am never going to turn into banana cake.
  2. The ice pops from last summer that are all the colours that are not blue or red (thus will only provide ‘decorative’ pazazz to a somewhat blandly coloured bottom drawer.
  3. The eight ‘cold packs’ that I have in my freezer, despite almost never using them for their intended purpose. If ever injury necessitates the use of one, then it is maybe it is acceptable to have a couple on standby, but if ever it gets up to needing all eight, there is a fair chance that I should be phoning for an ambulance. And not rummaging about in my freezer.
  4. Various things in bags. No one knows what they are. No one ever should.
  5. Fruit that was lovingly prepared, individually frozen, then transferred into bags, possibly around three years ago (The freezer itself is coming up to five, so there is a couple of years leeway on this), with the intention of healthy fresh smoothies, sumptuous pies and most amazingly crumbly crumbles. It is now all so badly freezer burned that the imagined acidity could likely prove medicinal. In waking the dead.

In short, my freezer needs a clearout.

I love how in one moment, I am fixating on an event long past that is making me feel sad and then, when I challenge it with a little narrative, I feel pleased that I have identified, a quite clearly, long overdue job. Which makes me smile.

What would, of course, have made me smile sooner, was B&J’s vegan ice cream.

Map Point. Why am I fixating on things that remind me of pain?

There is something stuck to my sock

Only it isn’t a random something, it is a piece of Marmite flavoured rice cake, which I sometimes have something of a weakness for. I tried agitating said crumb away from said sock, but it seems attached. So until I decide to move, it can likely stay there. It occurs to me that a lot of things in my life are like said crumb, I don’t do anything about something until I can cease the inertia.

I guess it isn’t always inertia, sometimes I am really busy and simply don’t have time to contend with everything. Even the stuff that is aggravating. Sometimes, especially the stuff that is aggravating, I think about the times when I have been upset or cross with someone, and rather than dealing with it there and then, I have ignored it, and hoped that it would go away of its own volition. Self-removing problems. Something knows it has been aggravating, so simply ceases to be in my presence.  Win! This sounds marvellous on one hand, and utterly disempowering on the other.

Choosing to remain in low key frustration to avoid any sort of confrontation is something that I am really good at. Almost a CV worthy sort of skill. I have laughed and joked with people that have made my skin itch. And the thing is, me feeling frustrated is nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me. If I choose not to deal with things, then that is utterly on me. I can’t blame the crumb for attaching itself my foot. But it is now my choice as to what I do next.

Map Point. Are my pockets full of crumbs?

 

 

There are fish in the sea… and octopuses

No one sees the same world. I recently read something about how everyone perceives each person differently, creating their own image. And even you see yourself in different ways, trying to reach an authentic sense of self. And sometimes wondering if such a feat is possible.

After my ASD diagnosis last year, I read a good deal about autism. One of the key things that stuck in my mind was the rate of diagnosis between men and women (around a four to one ratio). So as such I signed up with universities that were conducting ASD research, as clearly more is needed! This week I got to wear a funky little cap whilst watching my brain waves appear on a screen. (I recommend this in its entirety.. I got to watch what my brain does when I blink!), but what struck me more through this process was how I regard others, and then conversely, how others regard me.

In this instance, I was person number 130 and the other person was a person completing her PhD. She regards me as a conduit to continuing her work, and I regard her as providing me with an excellent morning’s entertainment, complete with a hair washing interlude, EEG’s are messy!

But then we started talking, she was very concerned about a possible cancer scare and we started talking about waiting times and healthcare. Then I spoke about the delights of the place I live, as it is also her favourite place in the area. It is too easy to see people in fixed roles. That person in my doctor, that person is my mechanic.. It goes on. It seems too easy, however, to only see them as this singularly dimensional being, and if I want people to see me as complete and multifaceted, then perhaps it is time for me to extend that same courtesy to others as well.

We are never just one thing.

Map Point. Do I fear authenticity?

Pebble on the beach

Today was an average sort of day. I woke up feeling less tired than I have been this week, but not so fully energised that I woke up before my alarm. I engaged in my usual domesticity and went to work. On my way home I could feel my eyes welling up with tears, and I had no idea why.

They were not ‘almost tears of happy’. These I get quite a lot. A line in a play, a sentence in a book, the way the sun hits the glass and the rainbows and reflections that it makes. Some kind words from a friend. The world can be an awe happy place. But not this afternoon. This afternoon I was tumbling fast, whilst sitting in a cafe, eating cake that likely (definitely) had dairy in it (this sometimes poisons me a little) and drinking a cup of ginger and lemon infused tea.

It is a feeling that I recognise easily, logically I know that it will pass, but whilst it is present, this maelstrom engulfs every smallest piece of me. This would be the time where I could crack my head into a wall until I turn the wall to dust. But I don’t, I just feel terror after terror wash over me. I feel like an errant stone, laying ambiguously on a beach, waiting to be reclaimed by the waves.

I can talk, chat and smile whilst I feel this way, I may laugh and gesture easily, seeming softly at ease in my surroundings which I am. My surroundings are my familiar, reminding me that it is me who is changed and not them. I phone people up and have somewhat inane conversations just to keep holding on, to know that I do have connection. And then this first crash passes, and I slip into non.

From non comes tiredness, and a strong desire to sleep. I know that this too will pass. And then comes hunger, really big, hugely exciting hunger. I eat quickly to start (knowing that my brain will not register how full my stomach is for the first fifteen minutes) and then I pace myself until satiation arrives. And then I return.

Now I have energy, genuine light in my world, and I wonder what triggers these mad hours, these hours where I feel so incredibly distant from myself. I prod possible causes, have I eaten enough, slept well enough, am I putting myself under too much stress, is this an asd meltdown? Many questions all with easy answers, but as a cumulative whole? I don’t think that is so easy for me to understand. When do things get too much that suddenly all things become a problem? It would be incredibly useful to have an app on my body, reminding me that I need to recharge before I need a reboot. But until such technology exists I will continue to be secure in the knowledge, that whatever my mental state, I have many good people in my life. I am loved.

Map Point. Do I know when I should ask for help?

 

 

 

My favourite maths games

I sometimes work as a tutor. So I guess that this post is a sort of a start of a manifesto for how I feel about education, and where I feel I fit in. And also and introduction to my favourite (two) maths games!

In my (most humble) estimation, schools seem to be playing a really slow game of catch up. The skills they are offering young people are not necessarily the skills that are wanted by the current job market. My other issue is that with school’s under increasing demands to meet government criteria and standards, there seems to be a tendency for the grades becoming apparently more important than the children being taught. This isn’t to say that there aren’t amazing people in education, going above, beyond and then more above and then more beyond for their vocation, but the external pressures are ever increasingly there. And this does have a knock on effect.

I have taught many different young people over the years, some with many additional needs and others who appear naturally gifted. And what many of them fear to do? Ask their teachers questions. Many do not want to appear stupid, or simply don’t have the confidence to speak up. As an adult, if ever I do not understand something, I make a point of asking. Sometimes this has led to somewhat awkward situations, where the person saying something, cannot explain what they have said. Then we all feel at a bit of a loss. But mostly this has been all good. I have learnt something. Working on a one to one allows young people a voice to ask, and hopefully, this skill will transfer.

But anyways, my favourite maths games! Logic underpins so much of maths, and possibly more than that. If I can learn to think rationally, learn to take small steps and see them as part of the bigger picture, then when I am presented with something that looks complicated and initially unfathomable, I can break it down. This is what the first game is about.

Chocolate Fix is about my most favourite game ever. Only I really dislike the name, as to me, they look like little cakes. So ‘Cake Fix’ is about my most favourite game ever. It involves placing the ‘little cakes’ in a grid using a series of visual clues. It starts out easy, lulling you into a false sense of security. The first time I played, I made a cup of tea, sat down and zipped through the first ten to fifteen of these little puzzles without a care in the world. Then it got a little trickier. Soon the kettle was boiling for a third time and the cake was no longer innocent.. it was there to be defeated! To be tamed, to be harnessed! I don’t think I have ever got through all of the forty puzzles.. but one day.. at some point in the future, victory will be mine!! (said in a very dramatic voice, whilst shaking my hand with menace at the ceiling) (I don’t think that the ceiling was overly impressed). This game teaches both logic and spatial awareness.

The second game is amazing for increasing speed with number bonds, and also a great way to show some competitive spirit! It is me versus the box!!

Shut the Box isn’t about my most favourite game, it is my most favourite game. It is brutal. It involves a box, with the numbers from two to twelve displayed at the top, into which you happily throw two dice, in an attempt to put down all the numbers. You then add up the dice and put down the corresponding amount at the top, in either one or two numbers. So if you roll a six and a three, you add them up to make nine, you can then put down a five and a four. Which makes it sound really complicated. It really isn’t. It is harsh, and although there is strategy involved based on probability, you have to be really lucky to shut the actual box. I have seen many children’s phenomenal victory dances upon completion of this epic feat. More scarily, many children have seen my victory dance too. And I am generally somewhat more excitable than the children. Hours has this game taken from me, I will celebrate every victory with zest!

Map Point. When have I felt afraid to ask?

 

Yoga is my happy place

Initially, I started going to mother and daughter yoga for the bit pertaining to the mother and daughter. It is nice to know there is a fixed time where we can relax without the usual humdrum interfering. But am beginning to also go for the yoga variable too.

I am not a naturally bendy sort of person. Touching my toes would be something of a miracle, as to date, it has never happened. I sort of kinda hang, and the tippy tips of my fingers come to about the level of my knees. On a good day. I took my daughter to yoga when she was small, as I understand the massive yoga benefits. I just never thought of it as something for me.

Yoga always seems to make me laugh. Tears streaming down my face, don’t look at anyone because it will just make it worse, face aching sort of laughter. I think that this comes from the teacher. She is utterly okay that for around half of the moves, I will have a go, but I mostly just sit on my mat, looking at my daughter, and we laugh together (she is hyper mobile, meaning every so often she needs a little rest!). In the last session, the laughter started when we were attempting a ‘laying down crow’ (even writing about this is making me laugh.. With tears too!). For anyone unfamiliar with this, it involves laying on your back holding your feet together with your hands. In essence, creating an ‘O’ with your legs which you can look through. And I did, locking eyes with my yoga teacher who was doing the same. She then made a comment about it not being very dignified, at which point my face engaged in wetness.

It also really challenges me, and I am amazing myself. When we got to regular crow (hands on floor, attempting to balance knees on elbows, with feet in the air.. much more dignified, and at least a hundred times more difficult than rolling about laughing on the afore mentioned mat), I suddenly felt really motivated. My hands really hurt as they were attempting to take the weight of mind, body and soul. But I kept trying (didn’t succeed this time around… but next time for the win!). This move involves strength, but most importantly, incredibly good balance. I was becoming sort of worried that my hands may never function in their fully working capacity again. But as I left the studio; my hands were fine. This really shocked me, as it turns out, I am stronger than I know.

As we walked back to the car, I felt really light, really clear. I didn’t feel like I could conquer the world, but I was utterly sure of my place in it. I may attempt to find a class just for me at some point, with one definite in mind. The teacher absolutely must make me laugh.

Map Point. When have I surprised myself?

Additional thank you to the teacher of epic’s epic daughter too! Every session she takes photos which are then mailed out. Being a parent of the single variety there are very few photos of me and my daughter together, so these photos are really special to me. Massive amount of gratitude to you both! xx

Badger for five points

I have this game that I play when I am on long car journeys with other people. I guess its a kind of like poker, but instead of cards, it involves animals that have met their untimely demise whilst investigating all that tarmac has to offer. Usually a more two-dimensional experience. But to break up the miles, and to alleviate the horror of so many ickle, smooshed-up fuzzies, the rules are as follows.

  • One point for unidentifiable roadkill, the completely flattened variable of animal squoosh.
  • Two points if the mess is recognisable as a bird
  • Three points for a mammal
  • Five points for a badger

The first person to reach six points is crowned the temporary winner. It is a somewhat hollow victory as I don’t think that being able to identify carcasses on the roadside is necessarily a skill that I would add to my CV, but it does serve as a temporary distraction. As a small addendum, if anything bigger than a badger is ever spotted, then its game over for that day. I once saw a horse in a lay-by. It did not make for the happy.

I am not sure why the badger became the holy grail of roadkill poker. I find badgers entirely majestic creatures. Once when travelling home late at night, one galloped (no word of a lie) across the road in front of me. I did not hit it, but I muchly enjoyed its apparent nonchalance. The badger could quite frankly have been terrified life for its life, but to my generalised perception, if I had to personify said badger, it was the king of all animal existence. It sauntered, smoked a cigarette (possibly whilst wearing a tiara) and gave me the eyeball as it crossed my path. Badgers are truly exceptional. I have also heard that hitting a badger can entirely write off a car. I would not be surprised if this were true.

I think that finding a way to come to terms with the random destruction in my environment has been really hard for me. So many things are so utterly beyond my control and that thought is almost as painful as the actuality. Sometimes I look at my friends and know that whatever words I have, however hard I listen, it just doesn’t feel like enough. Some stuff is so big. I can never truly know what anyone else is going through. And then I wondered why I felt I needed to take on the pain of others. Maybe just being present is enough.

But back to the badgers. The honey badger is my favourite animal. They can take down lions.

Map Point. What is important for me to acknowledge?