School – Halcyon Days?


I stumbled across a Facebook post about my old secondary school. Photographs of the empty shell as it was being dismantled. Corridors desolate, rooms empty yet all awash with numerous memories. Genuine goosebumps ensued as I was transported back to a tumultuous time in my personal life that shaped who I became. Ghosts of events, people, lessons and feelings flooded back. I know I am guilty of remembering the good and forgetting the bad and often dire times school brings, but in general that place was my womb; it served as my safe place when all around me caved in and collapsed.  

Having gone into the teaching profession myself, I know what it is like to have the potential to impact on young lives. I vowed to make a difference, to listen and support. Looking back, you remember the teachers who took the time to care, to treat us with respect. Mr Willsher, Mr Mantin, Mr Hyde, Mr Finn, Mrs Reynolds et al…you all made an impact on me.  I was amused and touched to learn I was mentioned by an ex-pupil in his head boy’s leaving speech back in July. I don’t think it was for bad reasons (phew!).  Happiness was always what I strived for in my classroom. Regardless of age, problems are problems, however petty or major. These worries do have correlation in the classroom, in their attitudes, in their positivity and outcome.  A lot has been written about teaching happiness in schools as part of the curriculum. I do feel that our education system is outdated in its approach to how it treats pupils. It is the herd mentality, rather than looking at what suits the individual.  Differentiation is not just for the page, it is for the whole being. With the emphasis clearly on tables and results these days, schools need to think about why children are not meeting their full potential? What is going on in their world that is having a monumental earthquake which makes school work so much more of a challenge? It is time to change our approach. The world is evolving, but not for the better. Schools can take the initiative. Listen, learn and lead. Lead to a better place. The crusade continues….

Changing your mindset can change your life!
Dream Big, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY



At last! Finally! It happened – we had a hot day in our summer… woop!

It depended on how your day panned out as to how much you enjoyed the day. I spent the day trying to keep small people cool, watered and entertained; not as easy as you think when they are out in the sun all morning for a school event. A previously delayed by rain event.

The joy of the sun took its toll on us all in the afternoon. The children were happy to be quietly busy inside, tired after the morning’s exertion under the beautiful clear blue sky. I could have done with a siesta!

I know that if I had rung my mother this evening I would have been given the standard response to a hot day; she hates them, her legs swell, her joints ache, it is all too much! But hey, life would be boring if we were all the same. What provides the source of happiness for some is the antithesis of smiles for others.

That ball of plasma in the sky is an ever-changing mass of awe. It is the ultimate life-giver. We bask in the rays, we yearn for the longer evenings of summer, we race to be outside lapping up the vitamin d. It is almost like the sun powers our happiness switch – unless you happen to be my mother of course! What cares we have are forgotten for that walk barefoot on lush green, freshly-mown grass, or toes dipped into water, all under the comforting glare of the sun.

There was less provenance given to creaming up when I was young. Sunburn was a common occurrence. I am glad that we now understand the beauty and the beast that is the sun. We have evolved through its millennia and it will continue to lay claim to moments of happiness long after we are just dust in its wake. The next time you decide that the sun is too hot, or that it has given you a headache, stop and think. Think how mind-blowingly fantastic it is that this ball of extreme nature is the our life force. Stop and appreciate and be thankful for what it brings, and in homage to the late Caroline Aherne, think, “ooo scorchio!” and smile.

“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” Wilma Rudolph
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY



Heads out of Sand


And so the dust has settled on the turmoil that was the referendum. My immense shock at the outcome has alleviated, but the concern for the future remains – or indeed didn’t remain! My future is unclear. The impact of the result will shape my up and coming choices and ultimately my career. The almost childlike behaviour from some of our politicians reminds of what I witness in the playground and does not fill me with any form of hope or confidence that there will emerge a sound leader to steady this ship. I hope I am proved wrong on every level.

So without stability in the outside world, this brings me back almost full circle to this time last year.  There was a void to fill, one which was an inherent need to assist those around me with achieving their ability to find the core of their own happiness. It is a word that gets bandied about freely, but to really have the mindset that allows someone not to panic, to find who they truly are without the hassle of the world clouding their judgments and decision, is not so easy. Our natural instinct is to bury our heads in the sand, any sand and say, “I’m ok!”. Maybe this unease in our nation will promote a chance to reprogram, a chance to think about who we are at our base level. For those who can, it really is a change for the better and for those who cannot, then help is available.  Time to heal? Time to find your happiness?

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Here Comes The Sun…


How to spot a Brit in a crowd of people? Either inappropriately dressed for the weather or…talking about said weather. If there was an Olympic medal in weather chat, we would be reigning champions since time immemorial.
At last, we have seen a return to the higher temperatures of June, as opposed to the freezing, rain-choked days of last week – of course, it was half term! There is something magical that occurs when the sun adorns the ground with its rays of warmth; hope sets in, stress levels drop and the supermarket shelves are devoid of anything related to salad, bbq food and alcohol deals!
Migrations of people flock to the coastal towns, including my own. The population almost doubles. But, everyone is in good spirits – the sunshine really does stimulate endorphins. The sun has given me the kickstart to sort out the many hours of weeding and planting that was required in my back garden. Now with aching neck and knees, I can admire a job well done. Whilst sitting on the bench earlier, I closed my eyes and tried to engage with all of my senses. The chirping of the birds, the fluttering of the pear tree leaves, the gentle breeze on my face were welcome distractions from the usual frenetic pace of life. Walking barefoot on the soft, cool grass is a lovely feeling and helps me connect back to Mother Nature. The shrill laughter of children playing outside alongside the whir of the lawn-mower are all wonderful sounds to behold on a sunny summer Sunday.
Transfixed to the weather forecast, the next question is, will it last? It is as if our happiness depends on it. Rain equates misery, sunshine gives us something to bask in, a feel-good factor where we can tackle our daily rituals and make sense of our problems with more of a positive attitude. Being British means an inherent acceptance of cold, wet and damp. A wrapped-up approach to facing the world. Our smallest chance of a glimpse of summer sees us shed our clothing (not always a good thing!) and shed our inhibitions (same applies!).
Happiness for many, is as fleeting as the weather. Happiness for me is my core, enriched by the fleeting moments where the seasons stimulate my being and I appreciate my surroundings twofold.
“Sometimes you have to create your own sunshine.” You can do it!

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


Back in the carefree days of my later teenage years, I recall a conversation with an elder member of society that caused me concern, but subsequently dismissed the notion with the bravado of youth. I was told that when you are older that you could count your true friends on one hand! WHAT? How ridiculous thought I, with a core of wonderful friends and a fantastic social life.

Who knew – they were indeed correct. Happiness is….my friends.
My friends have been my family through some major life events over the past few years. There are a few key players in my life who will always be with me until we end our days. These friends are the ones that you may not see daily or even weekly, but you know they have your back and will be there like a shot if needed. These are the friends who can pick up exactly where you left off when you next meet up – no questions asked. These are your soulmate friendships. For me, the most important relationships I will ever have in my lifetime.
There are the transient friends, who come into life for a reason, at a certain time, who provide support and guidance for that period in your life when it is relevant, but may drift away at a later date. Never underestimate the power of a transient friend.
There are also friendships of the opposite sex. I do not agree with the old adage that you can never just be mates with someone, that there must be some form of sexual frisson. One of my longest-serving mates is a chap. Met when I was 18 and he hasn’t been able to get rid of me since. We have survived him travelling the world, working together and he is now in Africa for two years, but the bond remains. There are times when the viewpoint of a male is most welcome, there can be less rivalry and more stupidity. But… when it comes to confidentiality and opening up the real me…it has to be the ladies. I am ambivalent about being born a female, but I do thank my stars and the babymaking dynamics of my parents that I am me! The ability to be open about life’s issues, talk through events that cause angst; all these things allow me the freedom to have learnt who I am and not let things eat away inside of me.
As we get older, making new friends can become increasingly harder. Job changes and common interests herald one or two key additions. The power of social media can also have an impact. The shared joy of Twitter and love of my football team fostered one new friendship (yep…you!). So, back to the young me, panicked at the thought of a small clique of support, I would say – it will happen. What you don’t realise is the power, nurturing and unconditional love and support that those handful of friends give and receive is worth far more than the masses of air-kissing disingenuous.
“ Friends should be like books, few, but hand-selected.” C.J Langenhoven
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Teachers – A Breed Apart



Life events heralded the momentous decision to leave the secure, closeted world of full-time teaching and venture onto new pathways. I always knew, however that teaching would still be a backup plan.  I think I always knew that the lure of the small people would keep me attached to a profession that cannot be learnt; you are either a natural teacher or you are not.

Thinking back to the huge amount of children who have had the misfortune to have passed through my care, and it really was care… I wonder how many of them, the eldest in their later 20’s would remember anything from our time together.  It is true what they say – you recall the best and worst teachers you encounter. I have never had a wish to be the bland middle-ground.

My love of teaching and my philosophy stemmed from the sheer hatred of my own experiences at infant school. Nothing was nurtured, in fact the one time I was really happy, there was an obvious influx of children mid-year and I was bright, booted out of my contented world to the top year where I stayed for a year and a half, with the most horrid of individuals.  So when my vocation called, I was adamant that any child would enjoy their time with me, not be afraid to be who they were, learn to love learning and above all, laugh! Unfortunately for most, unequivocal and shameless indoctrination into the ways of Brighton and Hove Albion was the ultimate price for a year of me!  

Any fellow teachers reading this will understand what I mean when I say that there were year groups you said goodbye to in July and felt tears of sadness. Other times, the champagne corked was popped as soon as the bell for end of year rang and you gave a supportive slap on the back to the next poor soul who now inherited that cohort!

Working with the sponge-age children gave me such pleasure. The joy and positivity that emanates from the most bizarre thing created such happiness. I loved seeing the class ignore all the monetary toys and be enthralled by a large cardboard box! Hours spent getting in it, under it and climbing over it, making it into a den and letting their imaginations run free with exuberance. Or allowing small people to garden…watching ants or digging a hole to Australia was such fun (very Mirandaesque).  

Alongside the learning was the very important social responsibility. You were their ‘day mummy’ and boy, that could often be a huge burden. Regardless of their own feelings about the individual, teachers have the underrated skill of making everyone feel equally wanted, cared for and championed. It probably is the ultimate acting. A classroom lovey.

As a supply, not having your own class to develop has a plus side. You can walk away, you can sleep at night without worry, but it also detaches you from the best moments in the profession – those where you make a difference. Never underestimate the power of a compliment, of a light-bulb moment, of listening.

Teachers are a breed apart. No one goes into teaching for a) the money or b) an easy ride.  We probably laugh the most and share such happiness in asides and snapshots of our classes.  Working with children does keep you young, it gives you bonkers moments and can wipe away all the stresses of the adult world.

And the thing we all treasure the most? I am sure I am not alone in having a memory box of cards. It is those who trouble to write their thanks. That is what makes the whole job worthwhile.


“They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.” Carl Buechner

(very true Mrs Weatherly, Year 2, Flora McDonald Junior School)
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Unity in the Beautiful Game


Human nature, particularly the southern-residing Brit’s nature, is to avoid talking to strangers, to avoid eye contact with anyone who looks like they may possibly want to engage you in conversation, to pretend to be in a highbrow discussion on one’s mobile…all to be allowed to get on with life unhindered.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday I spoke with many people whom I had never met and would be unlikely to do so again. It was a day of unity, a day of family, the Brighton and Hove Albion football family.   I immersed myself amongst the 6000 people who watched the most momentous monetary match ( love a bit of alliteration!) in our history at the gorgeous AMEX stadium.  People talked, had the classic ‘banter’ and togetherness that only something special can bring. I saw no nastiness, I witnessed no harsh words towards the fellow fan. It was the collective consciousness at play – the wartime spirit, the united front.

Post-match, deflated and in need of food, I stopped off at a local supermarket, only to come across other adults in BHA tops. We rolled our eyes and shared a few words. Even a small child in his top saw mine and did a sad face, thumbs down.  I accosted a lady unloading her shopping into her car, a total stranger. We stood discussing the match and our respective history of Albion support five to ten minutes. Unity.  Today when I eventually venture out into the later afternoon sun, to walk along the beachfront, once the daytrippers have returned home, I will again speak to no one. Back to normal in a very unnormal time.  The private southerner in her private world. And as for the team and the fans…As a former manager always said, “Keep the faith!”  


Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY …. Win the PLAY OFFS!! SEAGULLS!

Anticipation and BHAFC!



I awoke with those pesky butterflies in my stomach this morning.  The causation wasn’t a dodgy curry; it was anticipation. Anticipation is the mother of all foreplay, alas, this kind of foreplay has more riding on it than a pleasant time with a partner. This partner has been with me for the past 33 years, through thick and thin, through births and deaths and still attaches itself to my psyche like a proverbial leech.  Today is one of two make or break days for my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion and their crusade to reach the promised Mecca of the Premiership. This afternoon I shall be in my church with 30,000 other fanatics, all wearing our collective blue and white, hoping amongst hope that today we can beat Derby County, giving us advantage against the BIG match Saturday against our promotion rivals, Middlesbrough.

My mantra is happiness, I preach about how important it is to stay in the zone of coherence, to allow yourself to be calm and controlled.  Mindfulness! I shall be completing three minutes of deep and rhythmic breathing before any build-up of tension kicks in.  I will try my damndest not to use expletives at any moment, due to children in my locality.  This control will not occur if we score! The collective consciousness and tribalism of the masses brings a huge wave of euphoria that takes you somewhere wonderful. The adrenalin rush, the endorphin boost blast any coherence out of the water. I dare not imagine my bp readings over the course of the match.

For 90 minutes, I will abandon my control to truly be in the moment. To experience all the wealth of emotion that is sent my way. I will embrace each and every change in my brain, thought-pattern, physiology and……once it is over, I shall return to coherence.  If we lose, my happiness will not desert me. I will be appreciative for all that we have achieved and try to breathe, breathe, breathe throughout the week to maintain the equilibrium until Saturday.  

And so the pre-match rituals begin (of course they will make all the difference!) for thousands. It is currently raining, but in our heads and hearts, anticipation is the winner.

We are Brighton and Hove Albion, we will..

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY




To test or not to test, that is the question!

It has already begun…the build up to the biggest pressure on a child in their early school years.  The pressure inflicted because the politicians believe it is the right thing to do, politicians who chop and change jobs with regularity and very few of whom have a background in education.

Yes, it is the joyous time leading to the dreaded month of May, the SATs!

There are no teachers who wish to inflict any extra stress upon any pupil, but sadly it is the result of the knock-on effect of what it being given to the staff, the school, the authority by the government. Who is at the very bottom of this food chain – the pupil.

I can see that there is sense in having something that allows a measure of ability, of what has been learnt by the individual. I wholeheartedly disagree that this should begin at Year Two, especially now as the anti has been upped and the rules and regulations are more on a par with GCSE! The children should be enjoying school, having a wealth of enriched experiences in all areas of the curriculum, not being given mocks and test papers galore aged 6/7. If ever there was a time to sow the seed of failure and self doubt, I feel that this year group is when it occurs. Children become more aware of where they fit within the ability in the class, of who can achieve and who cannot. Peer pressure is tough. Experiencing spelling tests etc have been built into school life from day one, so that the word ‘test’ is not a new concept, but a silent booklet of words and numbers is HUGE! Teachers will move heaven and Earth to try and create the best low-key atmosphere possible (or should do so) but for them, the results are vital as more performance-related pay indicators are used to denote their ‘worth’. Who wins? Good results, happy position in the tables – bad results and woh! Morale, self-esteem, negativity all kick in – and that is just the staff! I do not think that figures can really show the true nature of the school and  its demographic. There is not an even playing field. Let them be children.

Go compare – doesn’t work!

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


A Happiness Fund!


So the UAE, the happiest nation in the Arab world,  has a Charter for Happiness and Positivity.  Stemming from that their theme park has recognised that staff work better when they feel happy and positive about life and have set up a Happiness fund which will offer support for major life events of the staff. A downside maybe that it is to be funded by the employees themselves rather than handouts from those in power. Nevertheless, any initiative to promote well-being can only be a good thing.

With the UAE launching its Ministry of Happiness earlier this year I do wonder if any other countries will follow suit! I can’t see any of our current political stalwarts fronting such a chamber when the mere word ‘politics’ drums up other words which are far-removed from positivity!

Something needs to change.

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY