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You Were Never Meant to Pass This Test on Your Own

Test Answer Sheet

 

Test Answer Sheet

Image: nongpimmy / www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

We’ve all been there and done them – and, if you’re a teacher, you’ve even probably supervised them:

Tests.

Formal written tests are carried out under exam conditions, which includes silence and just getting in with it – on your own. I’ve never done a test where I could use someone else’s expertise – it’s always been a test of my own.

Do you ever feel that life is a test – and that, from time to time – sometimes even often – you’re failing?

 

Life does often feel like a test but, unlike a formal assessment, we were never meant to pass this test on our own.

As a parent, I have to advise, correct, guide and affirm my two kids. When intervention is called for, I intervene. Sometimes, I don’t even have to make the decision to intervene – I get asked for help. I don’t expect my children to manage everything on their own – and I am glad that I can be instrumental in their growth and development. They will – and do – fail at things but I expect them to have another go, to try again, to learn from their mistakes. Growing up was never meant to be a test: kids may often look to adults for affirmation and approval but they also rely on the bigger people for advice.

 

As an adult, I don’t claim to have perfected what we call ‘life’. I am still full of questions about how best to live my life. I experience doubt, uncertainty, fear and worry. I know that I can do better – I know that I want to do better and I know that I will do better. But I also know that I cannot do better without help. I rely on people around me – sometimes directly (by asking their advice), sometimes indirectly (by just watching and observing).

 

As a teacher,  I often remind children that it’s ok to make mistakes because they can learn their greatest lessons from the mistakes they make. However, even making mistakes is best done in the company of others that we feel we can trust. You no doubt feel more able to take risks and make mistakes when you are with people who accept you as you are and allow you to make – and learn from – mistakes.

My best friends are the people who allow me to be who I am, who let me get away with it and who like me in spite of it. That is liberating! And when I’m with people like that, I no longer feel that life is a test. Instead, it’s an adventure, it’s an opportunity to experiment, to take risks, to try out new things and not worry if they don’t work out.

When you live your life with people you love and who love you, it doesn’t matter if you fail because, as Clarence the angel said in that timeless film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘,

No man is a failure who has friends.

 

You were never meant to pass this test on you own – you were meant to, in the words of H. Jackson Brown, the author of ‘Life’s Little Instruction Book’,

…throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover…

 

Keep Calm and Keep Going

Keep Calm and Keep Going

Image created at www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

 

My son gave me a mug for Christmas.

One of those red mugs with the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ slogan that was designed as a motivational poster during the Second World War but never actually released for public consumption.

The ‘Keep Calm’ message has been adapted, used and abused endlessly over recent years – so much so that it has probably lost its original significance and has, instead, become a light-hearted emblem for any cause that wishes to adopt it.

My favourites include:

Keep Calm and Eat Cake (or Chocolate or…)

Keep Calm and Pretend it’s on the Lesson Plan (great one for teachers)

and

Keep Calm and Bin It (I have an actual bin printed with that message).

 

Recently, I created my own at www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk.

Keep Calm and Keep Going

 

Even if you don’t feel like it.

Even if nothing’s working out.

Even if people seem to have forgotten about you.

Even if you feel worthless.

Even if you just want to bail out.

Just keep going. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep looking up and looking forward. Even if you can’t see a thing.

 

A MOST MEMORABLE MARATHON

My favourite ‘Just Keep Going’ story is of the athlete, John Stephen Akhwari, who represented Tanzania at the 1968 Olympic Games:

While competing in the marathon in Mexico City, Akhwari fell approximately half-way through the race, badly wounding his knee. He continued running, however, finishing last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started). The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2:20:26. Akhwari finished in 3:25:27, when there were only a few thousand people left in the stadium and the sun had set.

As Akhwari crossed the finish line, a cheer came from the small crowd. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

Read more here: http://www.olympic.org/news/john-stephen-akhwari-marathon-men-athletics/209041

 

I’ve started things before which, to my shame, I have not finished. But my most proudest moments come when I finish what I started – especially when it comes at a cost.

 

Whatever it takes, just keep going – finish the race….

 

The Power of Just

Hot Air Balloon
Hot Air Balloon

Image: goldsaint / www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

I’M JUST DOING IT…!

If you have kids, you’ll almost certainly have heard them using the word ‘just’ in the above context – meaning, of course, ‘I’m about to do what you asked me to do <insert your own time period> minutes / hours ago.’

The word ‘just’ is so often used as an excuse – an almost throw-away word that we hope lets us off the hook – that gets us out of a scrape.

But, at the other extreme, it can be incredibly powerful.

 

THE POWER OF JUST

A well-known sportswear manufacturer use the words ‘Just Do It’ along with an affirmational logo that reinforces the motto.

We all know what we need or want to do. But we all also know how not to do it – how to put off doing the do-able.

Why?

What is the enemy of ‘DOING’?

Is it fear? Procrastination? Disbelief? Lack of confidence?

My mind often overflows with ideas of what I want to do and even how to do it – what it looks like. But there is an enemy and its name is ‘fear’. Fear can be paralysing. It invents scenarios that don’t exist in the present and which may never exist in the future. It clouds our vision and limits our perspective. It dents our confidence and squeezes our self-belief.

What if I could just brush aside fear and just do something? What if I just took the first step? What if I just did what I thought I couldn’t do…? What if I just…?

I really believe in ‘the Power of Just’.

Just do it.

And, yes, you will make mistakes – and learn valuable lessons from them. But you will also be wiser – and happier. Because you tried. Because you stepped out. Because you stepped forward.

The following anonymous truism carries a great deal of weight:

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.

 

NOTHING TO LOSE

What could possibly go wrong? Everything!

What is there to lose? Often – nothing!

If your life is only measured by material value, then you could potentially lose everything – but if what you value cannot be seen and is difficult to measure, then it will be very difficult to lose and is worth risking everything for.

So – what are you waiting for? Decide what you want or need to do and take the first step.

Just do it.

Now.

 

 

 

And then, when you’ve started out and scared yourself silly doing it, do it again and JUST KEEP GOING.

 

A friend of mine, Nicola Marshall, espouses the idea of ‘one word’ goals: building your intentions around a single word that encompasses your objectives.

Read her post here: http://www.bravehearteducation.co.uk/looking-forward-to-2015/

Peace is Possible

Waterfall
Waterfall

Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada

 

In her charming children’s picture book, Peace at Last, Jill Murphy tells the story of Mr Bear, who tries in vain to find somewhere to sleep in peace. It is packed full of humour and finishes with a surprising final twist. There is also an unofficial video version.

Although endearing to the young reader and quaintly resonant of a typical family household, the message has a serious underlying message about the importance of peace and quiet – of solitude and stillness.

And especially solitude of the mind.

However, for many people, especially children, this kind of inner peace is far removed from their day-to-day experience. Their lives are chaotic, unregulated, routine-less and unpredictable. Their search for peace is far more critical than Mr Bear’s.

For some children, school is their only haven of peace. There, they find the routine, the stability, the acceptance they crave. For such children, peace is more than just happiness – and it is more important than happiness.

It’s serenity.

Nicola Marshall, in her blog post on a similar theme, reminded me of ‘The Serenity Prayer‘:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can –
And wisdom to know the difference.

(attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892–1971)

Peace isn’t necessarily about outer calm in as much as happiness is not about wearing a smile on your face all the time. Rather, it’s the inner stillness that helps us manage our lives in the midst of chaos, trouble, unpredictability and situations that are out of our control. For children, this comes about through routine, stability, a safe environment and – most of all – acceptance.

Are we, whilst running our busy lives, helping the children in our care to achieve that inner stillness – that solitude of the mind?

And – for some of them – peace at last…?

I Won a Castle…!

I won a castle

Believe it or not, I’ve won a castle!

I won a castle

Veronica Pullen was reluctant to part with her home

 

A cardboard castle… but, hey, what an opportunity – read on…

At a conference last weekend, I put a bid in for a large cardboard castle being auctioned off for an autism charity. The castle was part of a display on an exhibition stand and it grabbed my attention because I’m always on the look out for assembly ideas that illustrate the concept of resilience. The castle represents strength, resistance, solidity – resilience. A community within a castle was kept safe by its thick, towering walls – protecting them from the onslaught of enemy weaponry and invasion. But it has a large gateway and drawbridge to let friendly visitors in, so it’s not closed to outsiders…

Resilient people are like a castle: they have inner strength which helps sustain them through the inevitable problems and challenges that are part of everyday life – and the occasional bigger attacks that appear from nowhere and threaten to destabilise us.

But it’s not just about the strength they possess: a castle represents a community – a group of people that share solidarity and up for each other. It’s very hard to be resilient on your own – you need people around you that you can trust, that believe in you, that accept you for who you are.

And neither is it about closing yourself off from the outside world: a castle has a huge gateway with a drawbridge. This would normally be left down and the gateway opened to allow people to travel in and out of the castle. Friendly visitors are welcome but, when threats loom, down comes the portcullis and up comes the drawbridge to stop the enemy from entering – to protect those inside the castle. Resilient people have resources at hand so that when life becomes threatening – when disaster looms large – they are able to withstand the onslaught of fear and anxiety that can assail them. This is only possible because of the courage and determination that is embedded within them – because of the resilience they have built up – like the castle walls.

But resilience doesn’t just happen. And castles don’t just happen. They have to be built over a long period of time – and by a lot of people helping. Resilience is built up over time as a person experiences acceptance by others, as they develop belief in themselves (with the encouragement of others) and as they build up courage and confidence. All of this is more likely to happen within a safe, healthy and happy community.

For a child, this should first be their family, but, for some, the family is an unhealthy community, so their class at school is often a safe haven for them. Having adults within a school who can identify the child whose ‘walls’ need building up is a life-saver for some children – they learn to build trusting relationships, they learn to believe in themselves and they learn to make wise lifestyle choices.

We’ve all come across children who need help building their castle walls – and all they really want to start with is acceptance – not judgement.

Talking of acceptance, I was very happy to be the winner of the castle and accepted it gratefully from Veronica Pullen (pictured). Now, I will use it in school assemblies to talk about resilience.

How strong are your castle walls…?