Winding down after exams…with Keats

I am mindful that my blog has been neglected I have had reason to rant…but I confess I too have been winding down after exam invigilating, supporting students through the exam period and being a mature student. Though I still have an exam to do!! However, I have not been lazing around and have enjoyed a few cultural experiences alongside the usual challenges of my counselling and freelance work.

Last weekend I attended an event organised by the Redbourn Museum where we were fortunate to be visited by Professor Nicholas Roe from St Andrews University a historian and writer specialising in Keats one of the greats.  We were treated to a great talk and I managed to purchase and have signed his latest book on John Keats. This followed an interesting evening of poetry and wine in the museum gardens where various poetry lovers read from their favourite books; I chose Rupert Brookes, a few Haiku gems and one or too old favourites.

I had forgotten just how much poetry had featured in my own life and reflected on happy memories of reading from my mother’s poetry books as a small child. Writing poetry, indeed any writing is always therapeutic and it can be fun don’t forget even if you just write it for your own private reasons. However, don’t be shy try and get it published you may surprise yourself.

Normal daily blogging will resume now and for those students awaiting exam results try not to get too stressed enjoy your break you have earned it and I wish you all well with your results and chosen career paths. I will be writing about how choices change in the forthcoming weeks…and sometimes unexpectedly for the better.

 

Team work…invigilating

Yesterday I enjoyed after-work drinks with a group of lovely ladies all from within the educational sector. The group included: fellow exam invigilators, teachers, wives of teachers and pastoral support and most of which were parents too.

We had a healthy open forum about our views of many aspects of the educational system and our own parenting experiences. I think I can safely say we all agreed how stressful the exam period is for our students/children and adapting to the various on-going changes of exam structures and grading.

I think many of us also agreed that a percentage of stress that students experience is often applied maybe inadvertantly by parents and I know I shared how even with various professional skills it is hard, at times, to support our own children through their personal journeys. Again, I slipped in the subject of encouraging boys to open up and talk.

To on-lookers invigilating may appear boring but when you work as part of an efficient caring team you soon realise just how important the role is. Every shift is different and one must be prepared for the unexpected and quickly offer support to help ease a stressful situation for a student already in a stressful situation! I always come away feeling I have done something useful and this is confirmed by the appreciation shown by the great school I have the privilege to work within.

Through our eventual ‘wine goggles’ our conversation moved onto the importance of demonstrating kindness and being grateful and how events in our own life sometimes remind us to ‘live a day at a time’ (one of my own mantras).

Many of the group have other roles often working in isolation and it really is good to feel a sense of belonging to a team however small and for however long. If any of the team are reading my blog today we must do that again and soon. I for one will make more of an effort to keep in contact before we meet for the exams in 2019.

Keeping positive

Keeping positive all the time can, for many, be an up-hill struggle and my NLP coaching of clients confirms this on a regular basis. Even the most successful people have certain areas of their life where they feel they have lost control and feel bewildered to say the least.

In life, at times, we are all guilty of being just too hard on ourselves and focus on the negative elements of our lives (often out of our control anyway) rather than celebrate the positives. In my experience sometimes we need to remember how valued we are by those that know and love us. Again I like to say how it is important that we tell those we love that we do so and appreciate who they are and their positive contribution to our lives.

Without fear of contradiction many people we know within our immediate circles may be struggling but not telling us, so, sometimes we need to ask the question and give that person the opportunity to share. It is no secret that talking helps

Yesterday I made a passing positive compliment to a young student who beamed and said that they had been having a bad day…and I just made it better!  Engaging with people who cross our daily paths can be fruitful..the kindness of strangers.

Keep positive and keep caring.

Something to offer

In my time of working with students of all ages and counselling I am constantly reminded that we are of course all different but we all have something good to offer. As students are put under pressure not just by their schools but often parents too I try to re-adjust the balance whenever I get an opportunity to say that we cannot all be academics or A* students but please do not write us off!

Similarly a fellow life coach and I acknowledge on a regular basis that anyone who is dyslexic is not ‘stupid’ as previously labelled as this challenge is in no way an indication of a person’s level of intelligence.  Personally speaking I really enjoy the challenge of helping those who are considered ‘different’ by society and often unkindly judged and misunderstood.

I was encourged as a child to ‘not mock the afflicted’ that may be considered now as non pc but the message behind came from my mentor and one who accepted and saw the good in everyone. If you look for the good in somebody you will find it…some hide it better than others of course. Remember what some perceive as being naughty is infact somebody with a brilliant mind who may be bored and/or has a personal challenge they may be in fear of revealing.

If you come across say somebody with a speech issue such as stammering, be patient, be kind and try to avoid finishing their sentences or words it just makes them more anxious. Bear in mind they may be recovering from a stroke and re-learning to speak all over again.

Let’s celebrate who we are and be more accepting of others around us.

Exam stress

It is that time of year when students all over the country are revising for their exams and true to form the weather is hot, the pollen count is up just as they need to focus.

As ever, I remind those that are busy cramming to have regular screen breaks, exercise, keep hydrated and enjoy a break away and an ice cream or chocolate bar or two too!

Seriously, keeping up the exercise is vital as it releases all the positive endorphins, reduces stress, clears the head and re-energises to help keep the momentum going. For those so inclined I have always recommended yoga classes and most gym clubs now have yoga lessons available. So pick up your mat and join a class. Relaxation and meditation work wonders I promise.  Keep calm…you know your subjects…you are almost there!

I will be doing my bit in starting invigilating next week and sign off wishing all students the best of luck for the coming weeks.

Getting ready…for exams

When I started my psychology course in the Autumn I chatted with my tutor saying how I had been putting off  beginning my course for one reason or another. After sharing for a while I soon realised that this was not the case as my work and life experiences had been preparing me to a certain degree to be in the right frame of mind, and, be better equipped to respond to what would be required of me.

I had great momentum going throughout the course returning each lesson promptly and starting reading and research for the next whilst my tutors marked my latest offerings. Then…suddenly the past few months when I should have been starting my exam I seem to have been distracted and whilst there is no time restraint (aside of those I impose) I feel I am starting it later than I intended.

The sunshine of the past few days and the welcoming blue sky brings us all out of the winter blues which I know a lot of my colleagues have found to be never-ending this year. I am now sitting in the garden re-visiting one of my reflective reading books and ready to resume my studies and face my exam. Maybe it is partly down to the fact that I will be invigilating exams the coming months and the student in me is coming back.

I am mindful that as I write my blog students all over the country are also starting to revise for exams. I will of course start to post blogs about exam stress…or should I say how to avoid it very shortly but for now here are a few quotes from ‘The things you can see only when you slow down’ by Haemin Sumin.

‘Wear confidence, It is the height of fashion’

and

‘Love, not righteous words, can change people’s lives’

 

 

 

Student wellbeing -The RVC

Our Prime Minister spoke this morning in support of awareness and assistance in terms of mental wellbeing within education. The move to train teachers to spot signs of mental health may be seen as a step in the right direction -however what we actually need is more funding within schools to employ more trained counsellors/pastoral staff to deal with the growing stress factors that face today’s students.

I sadly often hear how schools fail children in respect of not adhering to the anti-bullying processes they are meant to follow and/or taking individual cases as seriously as they should – much to the distress and frustration of both students and parents.

However, I must take this opportunity to congratulate The Royal Veterinary College who do take the wellbeing of their students seriously. This starts from day one aiding students considerately in preparation of their interview for a place. During a recent visit to the RVC’s Hawkshead Campus it was also good to see their new sports centre named as ‘The Sport and Wellbeing Centre’ which is free to all students.  I think this speaks volumes of how valued their students are and how the RVC recognise both education and preventing student stress need focus and investment.

Here’s hoping some of the stress can be reduced if our government address and implement some of the financial improvements being muted for students persuing a university education.

Supporting students

I am mindful that this week is mental awareness week for children and these events give us all a platform to encourage our children to open up, if they are able. Over the past few weeks I have had several discussions with colleagues working within education and one common theme is recognising how stressful it is for today’s students.

Thankfully proactive schools consider positive intervention which can take many shapes. I write often about the value of mindfulness and, of course, taking regular exercise and considering yoga both are great ways for staying relaxed and fit. The various breathing and calming exercises that take just a few minutes can really make a difference in quickly regaining a position of tranquility and calm.

As parents we must ensure that communication between our children during exam time is kept open without appearing to be nagging but encouraging and offering support.  Providing a base that is quiet when needed and positive social inter-action to stop them from suffering cabin fever by isolated studying!

As I discussed with a mother recently – at times we feel we are going through the exams with them! Good luck to both students and parents this coming year, stay focused, positive and be proud of your achievements.

 

What’s under the surface?

A lot of my friends and colleagues have ventured into pastoral type roles the past few years and recognise the importance of the support they give more often than not as a vocation to our struggling teens.

Modern life is a stressful path for our students aside of the stress of exams they have a lot of what many may see as self-imposed pressure via modern media. However, the emotional pain runs deep for many who suffer with various forms of peer pressure, cyber bullying and body conscious issues.

I am reminded today how we cannot always notice the signs as it is difficult to help somebody who is doing everything they can to hide their feelings. The following simple example explains a lot!

Think of a flower and its roots: The flower is things you can see happening  – what people say and do.  The roots are things you can’t see  – what people feel and think!

Delve deeper, ask the questions and give your children the platform to share they are our most precious gift.

To those in education holding the purse strings invest in our youth they are the future! We need more funding in pastoral departments not staff cutbacks.

Support for eating disorders

Recently watched the Panorama programme dedicated to eating disorders in men and boys presented by Nigel Owens the Rugby referee. Worrying stats were revealed of young men being affected by eating disorders with 42% increase in referrals over the last two years.

As with most mental illnesses intervention early really does aid success for recovery. Sadly youngsters wait far too long for referrals for support help and often are turned down because of shortage of staff and a variety of other factors.

We all keep hearing how the government are investing billions into this area with aims to see children within four weeks, one week for real emergencies! In reality this will be impossible to achieve meanwhile a lot of male youngsters suffer in silence.

The documentary covered various cases demonstrating the devestating affects on the body and mind with 13 -17 most at high risk. It revealed facts from support agencies; Beat charity receive 20,000 calls a year. Often eating disorders are viewed as ‘female illnesses’ when this is clearly no longer the case – even so this ‘assumption’ can make it harder for parents and GP’s to recognise/diagnose.

As ever modern media plays its part in making youngsters concerned about their visual appearance and so it starts. Often eating disorders are associated with boys who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality too.

Nigel closed the episode by saying it is a strength to admit one has a problem not a weakness, and advising viewers not to be like him still suffering some 27 years on. Get help and stay one step a head and have a chance of recovering.