Miss Jekyll and Miss Hyde

I really enjoy learning. I love the idea of being an eternal student, reading, listening to lectures, discussing issues with others..I’m sure you get the picture.

On the other hand I can be a very lazy student! I don’t think I’m any different to anyone else who learns or studies- sometimes I resist and rebel. And at the moment I seem to be resisting A LOT!  I feel very lazy and I feel I lost my motivation too, despite really enjoying my course! There’s something in exams and assignments that basically makes me freeze. But I’ve noticed that this feeling appears mainly when I study something relating to my profession,something that really matters to me – suddenly everything becomes difficult, unclear, problematic and I lose my confidence faster than in any other life situations.  It’s like there are two different personas in me: one, the main character, who can just stand in front of the class, confident, engaging, encouraging , funny yet strict. And then there is the other one: this backstage person, who runs around like a headless chicken, panicking, sweating (sorry, gently glowing- after all I’m a lady 😉 ), panting, crying, cringing and not believing in own  skills and abilities. Where the hell did she come from?! How on earth something that makes me become alive tends to first suck the life out of me?!

Once one of my fellow teachers (and a dear friend of mine) told me that he had prepared himself to see a total disaster and me having a meltdown in front of students after having seen me trying to prepare lesson plan and materials for my observed lesson…and then he had a shock of his life when he saw pretty much a different person, who just seemed to have borrowed my body, to conduct one of the best classes to date!

So here I am, just pretty much hours before my draft assignment is due, totally frozen, yet with lots of ideas and projects in my head that I could focus on and…nothing is happening! There’s something in me that I feel almost physically drags me away from the starting point, that brings up panic and anxiety , that wakes up this perfectionist (or is it my Inner Critic ?) who, I believe,  I’m  never going to satisfy…. I can tell you one thing- it’s not fricking funny to be in this situation right now (*sigh*).

But then I know that it will pass and I’ll come up with something and it’s gonna be ok. And I also know that once I stand again in front of my class, it’s gonna be more than just ok. If anyone ever judged how good teacher I am based on my backstage performance, I’d probably be screwed! But if they observed the real deal they might never believe it’s the same person. Oh well, that’s just me 🙂

I’m almost fascinated by this juxtaposition I carry in me: why is there, what is it trying to teach me, where did it come from ? I bet there’s a reason for all of this. It’s just I’d rather leave the backstage now and take the main stage with confidence and artistry that I have in me.

 

 

From a teacher’s heart

I’ve been following the developments in America after the shooting at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,Florida.

I’ve watched Emma Gonzalez’ powerful speech , I’ve watched other students speeches, listening to them asking straightforward questions, and starting to take action. I cringed when I heard some politicians patronising those young people (and teachers) throwing those prepared empty phrases on them, offering words of comfort – maybe even sincere ones-  yet sounding everything but… Or maybe it’s just my cynicism talking now…

My own experience of being caught up in a mass shooting situation in Ft Lauderdale (!) in January 2017 really hit home and permanently imprinted in me that guns kill. And I was just a tourist, staying in the States  for several days, visiting my family; no one who, like those young people, have had to go through drills at school to prepare themselves for a potential mass shooting scenario. That tiny (?), yet powerful experience I had was enough for me to understand how dangerous guns can be , especially in hands of a mentally disturbed person! .

Parkland tragedy really scared me that my best friends’ children and my little nephew who live in America, are potentially at risk of another mindless, horrid school shooting- unless something is done. And fast! I was glad to see that after another tragedy, people in the US started talking about gun control issues. And now I believe that after those young people from Parkland took the matters into their own hands, when they said ‘enough is enough’, when they pledged to be the change they want to see, I feel truly hopeful. I hope that because of them, politicians and lawmakers will look at gun control issues and they will, perhaps slowly (maybe too slowly ?) start changing the law to ensure that people, and especially young people at school, feel safe and protected. 

Anyway, it’s not really what I want to focus on today- I want to focus on impact those young people’s actions have had on me.  Frankly, listening to them  made me feel really proud to be a teacher. And it’s not that I wasn’t happy with my profession- far from that!  However watching those young people talking so fearlessly, so confidently and so passionately about their basic right to be safe at school, something that some adults seemed to have failed them to feel, made me feel extra proud and really hopeful for the future. I felt that my contributions to lives of any young people matter. It  hit me harder than ever that I help shaping future generations of people who will take the baton from us and carry it forward.  It made me feel good reflecting on my own practice and my efforts to be focused not just on young people’s education, but their emotional well-being and on bringing out what’s best in them, even if they often don’t believe in themselves. Those young people from Parkland are walking examples of how much strength,confidence and courage lie within human beings and I, as a teacher, want to continue to help my students dig deep -sometimes very deep- and find and foster those important qualities. I think it’s sometimes very easy to forget that behind all those bureaucratic processes and procedures that teachers must deal with there are young people, their needs, dreams and hopes. It’s easy sometimes to forget that behind standardisations, statistics and box ticking exercises there are strong, passionate individuals, full of potential that no one may know about until we provide them with an opportunity to flourish.

I want to thank you, brave and courageous young people from Parkland for inspiring me to reflect on my journey as a teacher. I am so incredibly proud of you all 🙂 Good luck on March 24th and although I don’t even live in the USA, I’ll be there with you in my thoughts, proudly wearing my March For Our Lives T-shirt 😀 I believe that thanks to you and your efforts there will come the time when no one will ever walk into a school – or any public space- with a gun and take lives.

 

Veganuary

Today is the last of VeganuaryIt’s the first time I’ve tried it, mostly out of curiosity. I’ve never considered going vegan as, I admit, I’m not a fan of some of vegan staple food/ingredients, such as soy milk or, even worse- coconut and coconut based products, yuck….. However, as I don’t eat meat and fish/seafood anyway and cut down on dairy products few months ago for health reasons, I got more and more curious about trying out vegan diet.

This is how it went….

  • whoever said that vegan food is boring, has never tried these dishes:
Falafels in homemade roasted vegetables sauce, served with spelt,vermicelli and sun-dried tomatoes with lemon millet with cashew nuts. Yum 🙂
Vegan sausages and veggies breakfast ciabatta
One of the best dishes I’ve ever cooked and tasted: red lentils and lemon soup- double yum 😀
Some simple veggie stir-fry
  • Or those puds:
Vegan chocolate mousse – went down really well with my non-desert eating friends 😀
Chocolate Banana Cake in a Mug 🙂
Bakewell Tart in a Mug– yum!
  • I’m glad I tried vegan cheese, but I won’t be buying it again I think, although I thought it was better than I’d expected. I didn’t miss cheese too much, I have to say
  • Soy based fruit yoghurts are really nice- plain ones, not so much as they’re too sweet for my liking. But if anyone knows a brand that produces plain, savoury yoghurt, please let me know!
  • Soy latte and cappuccino, again, are better than I’d thought, although I prefer coffee with some cow milk. However, I’m not giving up yet and going to experiment with rice milk
  • Talking about plant-based ‘milk’- I like one brand of soy milk, I enjoy rice one (although I mix it with soy as it’s a bit too sweet), I like hemp milk. Oat, not to mention coconut, don’t agree with me so much
  • I’m getting more and more fascinated with  vegan cooking  and vegan baking. I would’ve never thought that vegan baking can be so easy and fun!
  • I feel I’ve helped the planet, especially animals,  even more by going vegan for a month
  • I’ve learnt to pay more attention to food labels. However, I had a little accident once… When I cooked my red lentils and lemon soup, I added some vegetable stock. I never looked at the label, because I’d have never thought that veggie stock contains milk! At least this brand did. But why a veggie stock requires milk, I have no idea! So yes, I had one, unintentional slip up during Veganuary, nevertheless I think I’ve done really well 😀
  • I’ve learnt to eat dark chocolate
  • I’ve lost some weight without even trying and despite feeling more snacky than usually!

There are, however, still issues that I don’t fully understand- some not necessarily strictly related to vegan diet.  For example, I’m not entirely sure why some vegetarian/vegan products are called ‘milk’, ‘cheese’, ‘chicken’ and so on…The only reason that this happens is perhaps trying to make some kind of links to products and tastes that people are used to. My vegan housemate seems to agree with me. Are there any other reasons?

Another thought I’d had during this month was what about veganism in other parts of the world, i.e. would it be possible to go vegan in those areas of the planet where it’s difficult to grow crops, fruits and veg? Or countries where people don’t overuse natural resources or kill animals to over-indulge, like , well, most of Western countries do, but to survive? How about nomadic tribes? I have lots of questions, but not a lot of answers yet…. However, I’d like to continue to learn more about philosophy behind the movement, which I’m pleased to say, seems to be catching on. I’m not rushing into gorging on cheese and other milk products as off tomorrow. But I am curious to see how my taste buds changed… So, although at the moment I’m not committing myself to be a 100% vegan to the rest of my life, I’ll carry on my Veganuary adventure as long as I can. And I’ll definitely be trying more vegan recipes 🙂

To my brother

I always wanted to have a brother. I don’t know why but I did. So when I was 5 (and a bit) years old  and my little brother made his appearance into this world, I was absolutely thrilled! Soon after I realised though that actually I’d wanted an older brother, but even at such young age I understood I wasn’t going to happen, so I settled for what life threw at me.

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My brother on his Christening Day a looooong time ago…

I don’t remember having any major fights with my brother- somehow we always got on, were able to communicate , negotiate and play together. I think that actually me wanting him in my life was a key to our relationship being amicable and friendly since the very beginning. He would play with my dolls with me ( he’d pretend to be a girl too to get into a mood of whatever we were playing – sorry, Brother, secret is out now 😀 ), we would play with cars and building blocks… He was a bit of a copycat, this one was, but it wasn’t anything unusual I guess for a little boy wanting to copy his older and much wiser sister 😉

It was snowing here the other day…That snowy weather brought up memories of one winter holidays my brother and I had spent at our grandparents’ place in the countryside. When I was little I loved horses- I dreamt of having my own horses and stables, however that wasn’t possible when one is only in a primary school. So that winter I decided to build my own (snow) horse. Of course my brother wanted one too, so we built two horses standing next to each other. And , of course, mine was bigger- after all I was older! Our grandmother gave us thick plastic sheets, mats, blankets and what have you , so we could actually sit on our horses and gallop through the world 🙂 I showed my brother how to put a saddle on his horse, how to get on it, how to hold reins and how to clean the horse, making sure his snowy hooves were spotless.

The only bigger spat I remember I’d had with my brother was probably when I was 10 or 11 and we decided to cook breakfast for our parents. I’m not entirely sure, but I think I wanted to make pancakes, well, anyway, I needed a frying pan, which somehow my brother wanted to use as well and I wasn’t happy about it. One thing led to another and I ended up hitting my brother on the head with the frying pan! Well, although I was quite annoyed with him and wanted to hit him really hard, I didn’t as knew he’d be really in pain, so a frying pan bang on the head was more symbolic than an actual injury-causing one. Yet he went and grassed on me! I don’t remember if I’ve actually forgiven him…

There are plenty of anecdotes about my brother that I could tell , but it’d make it a really long post (plus we need to have some secrets left in the family! ) ,so I’ll just list three ‘classics’ :

  • he melted a plastic pot on the hob when he wanted to ‘cook’
  • he pushed a bit of mandarine peel up his nose at his birthday party (he might have been 4 or 5?) that he ended up at A&E
  • he used a recorder (luckily his!) as a plunger when a toilet got blocked.

Our childhood together was actually quite cool. Things changed some years later, when our family circumstances changed too, and we ended up living together and took responsibility not just for ourselves ( school, studies, work) , but also for running the house, looking after our dog, running important errands for one of our parent… During some challenges times we went through, we managed to build a really stable, well-run home for ourselves and we worked and lived very well together. I don’t think that even in my adult life I managed to achieve such a level of work-study-life balance with anyone else as I did with my brother. That was also the time when he would become a bit more outspoken and questioned and challenged me, yet still we could just work things out peacefully. For me those years of living together as young adults and dealing with whatever life had thrown at us were the most formative years of our relationship. That was the time when I felt most connected to him and felt this strong bond that no one can ever break.

Life went on, things inevitably changed… I left and started my life in another country. My brother suddenly grew up, finished studies, started working, met a girl, got married… Although we live on two different continents, miles apart, lead different lives, have  different political, social and religious views, I still claim that he’s the closest family member I have in my life. Despite differences, we are still able to talk, question, try to listen to each other…

When I look at my brother now, I’m in awe. I’m so proud of this young (cough cough) man who has grown into this wonderful, loving and caring person, a rock for his wife and his little son. It’s wonderful to see how he came out of his shell, embraced his life and basically how happy he has been 🙂

There is nothing more left to say now but:

      HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the best brother in the world!  I’m very proud of you and I wish you nothing but happiness now and for years to come 🙂 

 

( P.S. I might consider forgiving you for grassing on me, if you play your cards right 😉 )

 

 

 

 

 

Morning pages

I’ve come across ‘morning pages’ term a few times in my life, however I’ve never looked into it. Recently, however, a friend of mine asked me whether I’d ever tried them. She explained what they were and said she she’s been doing them with a bunch of other friends. I felt that it is something I’d like to have a go at.

What are ‘morning pages’? 

‘Morning pages’ is a kind of writing exercise, created by a poet, filmmaker, writer and creativity guru, Julia Cameron.

She explains:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

So I had a go.

Few days ago I started writing my morning pages and I really like them! It’s been an interesting and powerful experience so far. My morning pages have taken me through a labyrinth of feelings and myriad of emotions, which I never knew were still buried deep inside me. Well, I didn’t know the extend of it.IMG_7431.jpgI’ve cried, I’ve felt sorrow, pain and sadness. I’ve felt anger and fear. I’ve felt guilt. I’ve felt relief and that I belong. But most importantly, I’ve started feeling connected with myself within. I miss this feeling of connectedness. It’s something I haven’t felt for a while now, but the one I’ve been longing for most. I believe it’ll happen more often over time, with some patience, gentle perseverance, silence, stillness, non-judgement and meditation. At the moment I feel I’ve been learning acceptance of all those feelings and thoughts that have been arising. Those I’m not a big fan of have seemed to be best teachers: I’ve been learning to accept my humanity. My plan now is to continue to write my morning pages and observe what arises.

Have you ever tried ‘morning pages’? Has it been a useful experience for you?