Tag Archives: Successes

Teaching is about caring …

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There are many caring and absolutely respected jobs in this world. One profession I utterly respect is that of Nurses and Support workers who in my opinion, are wonderful, wonderful people. I also genuinely think up there with those caring, great jobs, has to be teaching.

I honestly believe the vital quality, the very essence of a good or great teacher is that they genuinely care. About lots of things.

You have to care about your children as people and individuals, and not just how they’ll get the grades you want or need them to achieve by certain days or the end of the year. You have to care about them as young people, young learners who are learning so much about the world every minute. Let’s face it, we live in a busy, rapidly changing world which moves frantically forward in society, technologies, science as each single day passes. And god bless them, by the time of those teen years there’s a ton else going on in their lives which can mean school is their only safe or happy refuge. Or a very unhappy place. Or a disinterest. What a loss. To lose interest in learning.

You have to care about helping them to learn, to help them learn to learn and to learn about themselves too. You have to care about understanding where they  are coming from sometimes and what’s happening in their lives, perhaps difficult circumstances at home which might be influencing them. Even down to kindergarteners, never mind teenagers or pre teens. If one of my student’s parents is away for work often or just on certain days/ periods of time, I need to support that child. If they have a new brother or sister, there’s careful consideration there necessary from the eyes of the teacher to help them with that. Children and young learners need nuturing  and we, the teachers, who students spend half of their day with and are constant figures in their path to adulthood should nurture them. Help them in the professional and caring way we need to be to help them strive to be the best they can be.

Loving Learning! Grade 6 - Issan, Thailand, 2009

Loving Learning! Grade 6 – Issan, Thailand, 2009

You should care that you inspire your students. That they’re preparing for the tough world of work and adulthood which ultimately comes at the end of the whole timely process. whichever age you teach. Kindergarteners are just starting to learn how to make sense of a seemingly and often complex busy world in a beautifully innocent naivety that very young children have. First, second, third graders, all of them upwards are learning really complex stuff as well as facing and feeling an increasingly heavy pressure to progress, achieve and succeed – honest I’ve seen some of their work in class and it’s amazing what they’re learning and doing. They’re only like 7 or 8. Achieving wonderful things. All in a complex community of learners, involving a huge myriad of people and learning situations with;  peers, elders, youngers, teachers, family, people they meet from other schools, learners they learn from and engage with on the internet, television, the media -in fact everywhere. The work produced by middle/ high school students should be applauded.

I went to the Grade 5 exhibition a while back and was stunned at this whole array of personal projects these students had worked so hard at and done such a great job with. And each passionately following their own questions and interests to create a personal project and such amazing art, drama and musical representations to support their work. Amazing. I wondered what I had been doing in Grade 5 back in my past life  when I saw their work, and I don’t recall anything of such complexity and maturity. How much education changes, all the time, (even in my short life so far) and how a good curriculum ( I love the IB inquiry method) and good teachers can make those sometimes relentless changes to be positive ones. To be part of that evolution of teaching and learning, how amazing. From students being an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge as was such in the not so distant past, to be inspiring them to create their own path of learning and follow their own rigour and hard work in doing so, following a path that interests them. To be a learner helping a learner. Not a teacher helping a learner. Isn’t that how we should be helping our students learn in both their school work and also their understanding of learning itself, how they best learn, what they want to learn about, so they can be inspired and engaged in meaningful learning,  relevant to them, their studies and life in an intrinsically curious way?

Happy classes

Happy classes

We all experience and learn every day. In addition to caring, every good teacher should be humble. Accept that they are in fact still themselves a learner and can and will make mistakes. It’s definitely okay to make mistakes but a hundred percent better if we accept and learn from them, especially when that knowledge and growth stops us making it a second or third time in the future? In fact if we admitted to our students more often that we’ve made or do make mistakes, they’d feel much more comfortable with making mistakes themselves. Being open to the process of learning.

Who ever got long division the first time?! Seriously? Some of us still struggle with it or other concepts like percentages now as an adult. Who can remember Pythagoras Therorum clearly now all these years later? (unless you’re a maths teacher!) How many things have we had to learn in our own lives, and more importantly, just how much more do we have to learn, and will learn in our future. Embrace it, I think, for a much more open and less complex life. A healthier life.

 

I make mistakes all the time with my kids, and I feel lucky that in Kindergarten, it’s easy to accept it and let my students know a) I’ve done so and b)  know it’s okay to be wrong because ‘Miss Kielly’s just made a very silly mistake!!’ … cue a gaggle of loud giggling children, potentially actually rolling on the floor with silly laughter! But it’s important to do it wherever you work in a school and with every student. To feel safe in fact is in the knowing of safely of being able to make a mistake/s and know it’s okay, nothing bad is going to happen. School should be a safe place. Let’s encourage it more. Who wants students to be so scared of being wrong that they necessarily limit themselves. How sad.

Helping each other - Grade 5 students Issan, Thailand, 2009

Helping each other – Grade 5 students Issan, Thailand, 2009

Collaboration - Grade 5 Students, Issan - Thailand. 2009

Collaboration – Grade 5 Students, Issan – Thailand. 2009

Don’t limit yourself just because you’re an adult and supposedly know everything! Accept mistakes when you make them,  acknowledge them,  grow from them, and show your students your own personal learning curve.

Teaching is a great profession. Enjoy it! Help your students enjoy it! Listen, think, reflect, act, reflect and learn. Remember to care.

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What I’ve learnt as a teacher … so far.

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Okay, so I haven’t been a teacher for very long, this is my second year and it’s safe I haven’t gone the traditional route, heading straight overseas after graduating to an International school in the Philippines ( and quickly resigning after realising it didn’t count as a well maintained building, never mind a school) However I was fortunate enough to land in a great job here in Indonesia and I feel like I’ve traveled a long way as a teacher already ..

So here are some of my insights ..

1.  I can make mistakes and it’s okay! It’s not the end of the world, and providing I learn from them, they enrich the teaching experience both for the students and myself. What a realisation after the numerous stressful observations in my placements at uni. I can say to my students, ‘You know what, that didn’t work but let’s try it this way’ or ‘Oh dear, Ms. Kielly totally forgot about that, oops’ and they just giggle! It helps them in their understanding that everybody is a learner, and all I expect from them is that they try their best. No more. And they do! They think ‘If Miss Kielly can make mistakes, so can I! ‘Or at least that’s what I imagine they tell themselves. If I think about it, it’s probably more like ‘giggle … ‘Miss Kielly is soooooo silly!’

2. Encouragement is key, my 4 year olds want to please their teacher more than anything. I give the the positive praise they need to try even in things they find difficult like learning letter formation, or blending sounds, or even writing their name. I’ve learnt that creating a positive, encouraging environment where my students feel safe and happy, one in which they love coming to everyday is more important than anything because if they don’t feel this, their experiences at school are altered totally. I think I’ve been successful this year. My students are happy, confident learners who tell me how much they love school everyday. They give me hugs and blow me kisses from the playground. They shower me with flowers they’ve ripped off a bush. ( I have tried telling them I prefer to see the flowers on the bush, living, but when I see how excited they are to give me such a gift, I just shrug and think, let them have their little pleasures.) Bless them and their sweet nature. When they’ve been off sick, their parents tell me how desperate they were to come back to school. When I helped them mark on the calendar our 3 day holiday for Chinese New Year, most of them moaned with drawn out sighs at the thought of no school. LOL! Those who didn’t were so genuinely excited, I was excited for them. Especially when I know how valuable holidays are to a teacher and how much we love them and look forward to them too!

3. Early years teaching is so much fun and something I love to do. When I first began, I wasn’t sure. I thought it wasn’t totally for me. Then I was lucky enough to be able to attend a great PD in Bali all about play based inquiry learning in the Early Years. Boy did that change my perspective. I remember feeling so conflicted in myself at the course initially. Then it just seemed to change, about the end of the second day. I came back inspired, motivated, excited. And that’s continued in my practice ever since. I love the early years and genuinely appreciate the students total intrinsic enthusiasm, curiosity and love for learning.

4 The hard work is totally worth it. Seeing my students excitement in their success, their joy in grasping a new concept, a new skill. Seeing them proudly dragging their parents over to the writing table at the end of the day to show their mum that they can now write their name is priceless. Seeing their amazed faces watching an Imovie of themselves I’ve slaved over for hours at home makes it worth it. Seeing them accomplish something new and knowing how far they’ve come in their journey over the year is just the best feeling ever. I am so proud of each of them. They’ve all achieved so much.

5. Getting parents on board is vital. Having their support is amazing. It’s totally worth all the effort. I’m not a parent, but I can appreciate the worry in getting a new teacher, wanting their child to be happy and successful and as a teacher to 4 year olds, I can only imagine how hard it is to leave your child at school at that age. I feel an overwhelming responsibility to look after and nurture these tiny human beings as much as I can. I want to share with their parents, as much as possible, the successes and achievements of their child, of the whole class so they can be as involved as possible. The long road to getting them on board is also valuable say when I need their support, say for example in sending in photos of their family from home … this year I got photos from every child, without fail within a week and only one reminder email! 😀 One parent told me she and tons of the other mum’s and dad’s  want me to be their child’s teacher next year. What an awesome feeling knowing they trust and support me so much! I’ve also helped some parents in their journey in understanding of an inquiry play based curriculum and why it’s so appropriate and right for early childhood students through workshops I’ve helped plan and deliver, articles and links I’ve sent them and conversations with them. We are all learners.

6. I’ve learnt what does work and what doesn’t in my learning space. Having a table half hidden around a corner does not work and not only encourages children to get up to naughtiness but is actually a blatant symbol for doing so to a 4 year old! Replacing it with the computers which are independent and fuss free (except for the odd complaint of someone not sharing) was a much better idea. Leaving all the resources on shelves does not work if I expect students to be able to select resources themselves as well as tidy them all up. A selection is better. Having a Box House as a ‘dark room ‘ to explore night and day for our UOI was ridiculously fun for the children but descended into chaos and every possible resource being dragged into it and left in a mess which often meant 10 whole minutes of tidying up from the children.

7. Creating Essential agreements with my class was not as hard as I imagined. 4 year children are totally capable of understanding this concept, if approached in the right way and have fantastic ideas. They know what is expected of them, and thinking of them themselves gave them ownership of the classroom and was much, much more effective than ‘Teacher Rules.’ Revising them with the children after two months made them even better, asking the children to think about what we had agreed and what we might want to change now we were 2 months into class. Laboriously talking about them everyday and referring to them …. all the time in the first few months was essential and continuing to refer to them to help remind children of them has helped keep them fresh and important in their minds. My students work together in a very collaborative fashion and I can see they follow common agreements and shared understandings, evident in the way they interact with each other and their teachers. They have a social gel which is wonderful to see. Putting in the hard work and effort (including waiting … forever to print out coloured photos, and walking back to the printer numerous times to see if they had arrived virtually) to create a large display of the essential agreements, displayed prominently on our board right in front of our carpet area, with photos of the children helped enormously. These students can’t read yet, so visual cues are vital and they just LOVE to see themselves in photos, anytime, anywhere. Total excitement.

8. Offering and giving responsibility to my students works remarkably well in helping them to be responsible students and makes my job a thousand times easier as a result. Tidying up time is blissful (well that might be an exaggeration but it is a thousand times easier than last year, I don’t even need a tidy up song anymore! Success!) . I virtually do nothing other than help direct children to an area which needs cleaning .. and they run to do it! They almost fight over who gets a sponge to help clean tables or mess from the floor. They get excited when I show them new cleaning equipment such as a dustpan and brush and can’t wait for an opportunity to use it. Today, walking my class to the library was the best feeling of accomplishment! Bear in mind, our classroom is FAR from the library. At the beginning of the year, I used to dread the walk to the library. 14 small children running along the path, or off the path. Loudly screaming in excitement. Running straight into people who might also be trying to use the path, heaven forbid at the same time. Often these people stopped, unsure what to do with the sight of 14 tiny children running towards them on a race to the library, wildly swinging yellow bags with sharp cornered books in the air. Through months and months of constant reminders, praise and reinforcement, my children walk to the library as the smartest children in school (Well, I am biased!) … I have talked them through the whole practice of walking together and waiting at certain spots, such as doors, the pond, the maps which dot our route every time we walk out of our classroom to go anywhere. That we need to stick together, as a group, meaning we don’t race to be there first, before I’ve even got past Topeng building. That we need to move to one side when we see other people on the path. That we won’t swing our bags wildly all over the place. Well, yesterday, I practically strolled in leisure, chatting to excited children who wanted to share their stories with me, as I watched the children walking ahead, stopping at every ‘waiting spot’. They patiently waited, excitedly finding where they were on the map or stood searching for fish or frogs in the pond whilst we all caught up. They stood at the door, blocking it, like Policemen, waving their arms or folding them like a bouncer saying to the other children approaching  “Stop! Wait! Teachers open the door’. They did not run up the stairs, nor did they run across the all too exciting bridge to the elementary library. They were amazing! Of course, we totally had a praise overload, in the hope that our next visit and walk next week will be as peaceful and successful. What little superstars!

9. Working with colleagues is harder than the students. No need to elaborate. Students are easy. Adults are much, much harder.

10. Becoming more organised in approaching mega tasks or deadlines such as reports. Start as early as possible. Think ahead. Work smart. Recognizing my weaknesses such as keeping a classroom tidy. I swear, it’s part of working in the early years. Well, I would say that but … having 28 tiny hands moving things, having to multi task managing the classroom as I am being given letters/ forms/ things  means I invariably put them down on any surface. Covering my desk with all manner of things, most of which I don’t need there. ( I can actually think of a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar sitting my my desk, right at this minute that I brought in once for a salad I made for lunch in like October, yes… really… ) I make an attempt to tidy when I walk into my classroom and look at it in disgust, when I can’t find something I need because it could literally be anywhere. At the end of last year, we had to empty our classrooms. This was my first emptying of a classroom I had inhabited ever. That’s when I realised what a total pig I was. Keisha and Mel will tell you exactly how messy it was because I bet ( actually, I KNOW) they remember it vividly. Behind every corner, every piece of furniture, on every shelf was something … it could have been anything …  something I was sure I would use again, would need, but obviously could never ever find when I remembered I had it. Finding pieces of jigsaws or games in dusty, never seen before spaces. Being ridiculously frustrated at the whole task. That’s when I realised I could never again let my classroom be that disorganised. And I have made a conscientious effort this year to try harder. I’ve come to accept nobody else will ever clean my cupboard .. or my desk, or the empty (initially) tantalizing flat tops of shelves which invite me to place things on them …  no matter how much I wish somebody would! If I want to be able to find something, I need to actually be able to walk in my cupboard. I need to take resources back to the library regularly instead of the library being empty because I have them all! I say this, and I know I am better this year. To be fair. anything would be an improvement. I have a box in my cupboard for random things I find, which I know are part of something, so at the end of the year, I can put them all back in the right boxes/ games. (Hmm, reading that sentence, I’m not sure how tidy that sounds really!) But I do know how busy I am and how little time I have to do these things. I tidied my cupboard yesterday after feeling sick of not being able to walk in it without tripping over something (often a random bag of junk collected for junk modelling or large resources such as a basketball hoop (which thinking of, I should just return to wherever it came from, I’ll remember where if I think hard enough about it) ) .. I emptied my desk a little. I can only try. And at least, by about May, I’ll know about the end of year clean out and make a huge effort to clean and organise in preparation. Never again will I repeat last year. Ever.

11. Realizing that my ideas are as valid as other peoples and I have a lot to contribute to discussions and planning/ ideas. Realizing we are all learning, no matter where we are on our journey as a teacher and learner.

12. Choosing which battles to fight, when to bite my tongue, which if you know me, you will know this has taken a long time to learn and which I am still learning to do. Accepting to let things go, knowing which ones I should fight for. Not going into meetings like a raging bull in a China shop. Learning patience. Learning how to work with people and how to come across as reasonable, even if I feel furious. Knowing when not to reply to emails, if I know it will be laced with sarcasm or bitterness. Giving myself time to calm down and come back to something. Know if I can’t be loving, to be kind. If I can’t be kind, be polite. Never less.

13. Realizing I am actually good at this. Seeing the progress my students make and knowing how I have helped in that respect. Seeing how far I have come in my journey. Accepting there are lots of things to learn, being excited about this and appreciating the successes so far. Allowing myself to give myself credit for what I have done instead of being too hard on myself in moments of worry or stress. Enjoying the moment, the experience. Excited for the future 😀

The Serenity of Krakatoa

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I did it! Moment of pure exhilaration …

This photo, I think for me, epitomizes the exhilaration I felt at the top of Anak Krakatoa. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but being there, in the silent calm actually brought tears to my eyes. I was there, alone, staring at the beauty of Mother Nature, marvelling at her enormous power, and feeling quite simply on top of the world. It was a moment for me where I realised that all that has happened in my life is irrelevant now, that I made it, to here, to now and just feeling how wonderful that feeling is. It was so still up there, as soon as we stepped foot on the island, I felt the awe inside me staring at this volcano, the product of such devastation caused by a tremendous explosion in 1883. Anak Krakatoa means ‘Child of Krakatoa’ which is what was created from the collapse of Krakatoa 44 years after the enormous explosion in 1883.

How the islands changed after the enormous eruption in 1883

Wiki describes the event as follows;

”The best known eruption of Krakatoa culminated in a series of massive explosions on August 26–27, 1883, which was among the most violent volcanic events in modern and recorded history. With a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6,  the eruption was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT (840 PJ) – about 13,000 times the nuclear yield of the Little boy bomb (13 to 16 kt) that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II and four times the yield of the Tsar Bomb (50 Mt), the largest ever detonated.nuclear device. The 1883 eruption ejected approximately 21 km3 (5.0 cu mi) of rock, ash, and pumice. The cataclysmic explosion was faintly heard as far away as Perth in Western Australia, about 1,930 miles (3,110 km) away, and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, about 3,000 miles (5,000 km) away. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 21,007 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly from the tsunamis that followed the explosion. The eruption destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa. Eruptions at the volcano since 1927 have built a new island in the same location, named Anak Krakatau (which is Indonesian for “Child of Krakatoa“). This island currently has a radius of roughly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) and a high point around 324 metres (1,063 ft) above sea level,  growing 5 metres (16 ft) each year.‘ 

See this website for more information about Krakatoa and its infamous eruption in 1883.

First glimpse of Krakatoa from the boat
First glimpse of Krakatoa from the boat

Saturday morning, at a very early hour, we headed to Carita with some good friends, Sinead, Kim and Chuck. Sinead had scared me half to death with tales of her last stay there where she said there were literally about 20 cockroaches in her room, scuttling all over the place. I was determined we would find somewhere much nicer where I wouldn’t spend the night in terror! After arriving in Carita, we drove in search of a hotel and the first one we stopped at was so eerie, it reminded us of ‘The Shining’. It freaked us out and I was starting to think maybe the cockroaches were inevitable …  We kept looking. Linz was about to turn around after travelling the long coastal road when Kim spotted a place just a little further and thank goodness she did, it was wonderful! A real gem. Gorgeous little chalets, 2  lovely swimming pools and nice, helpful staff. We got a 3 bedroom room for one million between all of us! Total bargain! We had already decided since it was 11am we would head to Krakatoa the next day so we chilled out at the pool, napped (it had been an early start and a long day of driving) and played poker in the evening which was tremendous fun. Without poker chips, we had nothing to bet with so we collected rocks from the path and each of us had 20 rocks as ‘betting chips!’. The Indonesian people in the chalets nearby must have thought we were mad, collecting the rocks from outside! Still it worked and it was so fun. I haven’t played poker in a long time and I really love the game.

The next morning we set off to the boat excited for the day ahead. I had forgotten with it being rainy season that the boat ride might be choppy. Heck, it turned out to be an enduring ride… At first it was okay, but as the time went on, I got whiter and whiter in the face and all I could think about was getting onto dry land. Chuck also felt the same which comforted me, I wasn’t being a total wimp. Sinead loved the boat ride telling us she loved the sea. As you can see from this picture, she was feeling slightly brighter than me!

Sinead looking gorgeous … X

A prize of 5 rocks was decided for the person who saw Krakatoa first. Linz won that one. Pointing out the smoke plumes, we stared at the distant scene. As we got closer, we could see the magnitude of the islands. Vegetation was growing all over one of them, a testament to the wonder of Mother Nature after such a natural disaster which must have destroyed everything that was there with hot, fiery power. We were getting closer and closer to Anak Krakatoa and the water was azure blue. We finally arrived at the beach and we all got off. The sand was black and velvety smooth. Pumice lay all over the sand. There was a calm serenity to the place which we all felt. The only sounds as we walked through the jungle to the trodden path up the volcano was that of nature. It’s something I never hear in my urban life. Calm, quiet peace, buzzing insects, the wind blowing through the green luscious trees.

Disembarking from the boat
First steps on Anak Krakatoa

We explored the landscape of sandy, layered formations with huge rocks which must have been thrown from the caldera. It was so interesting to see how the very land we were standing on had been created.

The rivulets cut into the sand by water on the island

Then we started the long, steep climb up the bottom half of the steaming volcano. Boy was it dusty! Flip flops are probably not the best shoes to wear to climb this, be warned. To be fair, we weren’t actually going to go on the island due to the 3 KM exclusion zone set by Indonesian Law due to the Volcano’s recent volatility. However, we risked it after deciding it was a chance of a lifetime. I’m so glad we did. The climb up seemed to go on forever, and eventually some of the group decided to head back down. Kim was striding ahead to the top and I was following, wondering what I would see at the top.

Sinead on the climb up .. striking a pose!
Climbing up the dusty path ..

I finally reached the top, as far as we could go and it was spectacular … The view of the surrounding islands beneath us was breathtaking, the sulphur lay in crystallised patches over the dry foreboding land. There were rocks lying shattered following their crash landing after being spat out from the burning caldera.

Bomb blasts .. shattered rocks … the power of nature …

Having made it to the top, Kim and I took the chance to reflect. I waited for Kim to start her trek back down so I could just sit by myself (and a guide who I wished would do the same instead of pacing loudly over the crunchy gravel whilst he waited) to appreciate the silence and the moment. It was beautiful. The guide finally sat down and I was able to sit in wonder. How wonderful it was. I felt so lucky to be there, right then in that moment. To feel alive in such a breath taking place.

Quiet reflection …

Foreboding and ominous ...

Kim and I celebrating reaching the top 😀

Finally I set back down the mountain which was considerable quicker than going up. We found Sinead, Chuck and Linz at the bottom and off we set for the next adventure, snorkelling in the azure blue waters surrounding the islands.

Kim and I heading to the snorkelling spot ..
Smiles all round!

The snorkelling was lovely! We had saved some of the very dry and tasteless bread from breakfast to feed the fish and it’s safe to say they liked it a lot more than we did. There were so many fish swimming around us, diving forward to snatch a bite before retreating to savour it in safety. The reef was healthy and beautiful. Kim spotted a cuttlefish, one of my favourite things to see and we all watched as it hovered below us. We saw trumpet fish and one very sad looking black spotted pufferfish with its morose black eyes. We also spotted some weird jelly blobs which we worked out must be jellyfish. Guess who ended up stung on the lip by one?

Angelina Jolie Impersonation!

 With lunch finished (which was surprisingly tasty) we headed home on a slightly calmer sea which both Chuck and I felt thankful for. We waved goodbye to Krakatoa grateful for such a wonderful and thankfully safe day on an active volcano!

All aboard!

One final swim in the hotel swimming pool and it was time to head home. Huge Kudos to Linz for navigating the way home, especially over roads which were potholed to the extreme. There could be a whole TV show, perhaps called ‘EXTREME POTHOLES” filmed on these kinds of roads in Indonesia. At times, it appeared that the road had simply disintegrated! Passing trucks belching with black fumes, we were happy to finally hit a real road on the Tollway from Merak to Jakarta.

Potholes the size of ….
Eco friendly trucks …

What an amazing trip. I am so glad we went and it was a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Amazing friends, good company, beautiful sights and adventures. If you have the chance to go, do! I’ve been inspired to explore more in Indonesia. No more sitting around on the weekends …

Last Woman Standing

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I actually got called to interview for this BBC programme. I didn’t get onto the show itself but I did make it to the last 50 from hundreds of applicants. I was reminded of this after catching the programme on TV this evening and every time I see it, I think, ‘Wow, what an amazing opportunity that would have been.’ If you haven’t seen it, it was a show described by the BBC as a ‘Series which follows five British athletes from different sporting backgrounds as they take on the challenge of a lifetime – travelling the world competing with women from remote tribes and cultures’. The girls who competed took part in amazing adventures and sports you could only dream of trying. They were as diverse as Water Buffalo Racing in Sumbawa, Indonesia and Bamboo Raft Racing in Coron, the Philippines to my favourite kind of sport, fighting! This wasn’t just any kind of fighting, there was Kali Stick fighting in the Philippines as well as Huka Huka Wrestling in Brazil. Wow. How amazing would that have been?!

Last Woman Standing Image from BBC

Competitor Anna Kali Fighting in LWS

I’ve actually trained in Kali sticks .. although not in such an intense environment .. re- watching LWS this evening brought back painful memories of just how much it hurts when you get struck by one of this sticks. I was lucky enough to be able to train in Kali Sticks in the Philippines with Norma, my Teaching assistant who luckily liked Martial Arts as much as me. How amazing is that, to have trained in the very country where the sport originated! It’s actually a very technical sport and I tell you this much, someone coming at you thrashing a very hard stick is enough to terrify you. Luckily when I trained, nobody was that vicious. People tend to have this assumption that martial arts are very aggressive sports. I’d beg to differ. You’re trained, you’re skilled and you’re using technique and a high level of skill and endurance in a controlled fight. You’re using controlled aggression (and a huge bag of nerves) to fight. If I wasn’t nervous before a fight, I know something would be wrong. Being nervous shows you care and you want to win. My Kickboxing instructor always told me ‘Go into a fight with the attitude ‘I will win’. You go in there thinking you might lose and you probably will.

Practising Technique - Kali Sticks, Philippines 2010

I’d describe myself as hugely competitive. I put this down mainly to a dreadful PE teacher at high school who quite literally hated me (although thinking back, she was probably justified – I was a pretty irritating student, one of those ones who constantly talked back, chatted throughout lessons but whenever asked a question such as ‘Kielly, what did I just say?’ I always knew the answer. I had an ability to hear and talk at the same time. As a teacher now, I understand how irritating this must have been. One of my physics teachers actually wrote on one of my reports ‘Kielly and the whole class would do better if she stopped talking so much.’) Anyway, I was desperate to be on a sports team, to be involved. I liked sport. I loved hockey although I thought netball was pretty pointless if I couldn’t move once I got the ball. My PE teacher never once put me onto a team and it frustrated the hell out of me. Eventually she put me on the Cross Country team because I could vaguely run from a selection of girls who could definitely not. I hated running but being so desperate to be on a team, I pushed myself every race to do my best despite throwing up from the exertion and pain everytime I ran in the cones to the final line. When I left school, I threw myself into Martial arts, determined to prove that I could be good at sport. And I was. Luckily I found an amazing team, Team BSBB and I enjoyed every minute of being there, despite the pain. My Kickboxing instructor, Rick Burns also said ‘Never try to be better than anybody else, Try to be better than yourself’. Training in a club environment and being competitive, I found that so hard to get but once I got it, I found myself improving much more than simply trying to be better than somebody else.

Team BSBB, one of my favourite places to be!

My first fight was horrendous. I lost all my nerve and after that it took me over a year to get back into a competition to fight. My instructor pushed me and told me ‘Kielly, you’re good. Stop working yourself up about it.’ So I got back in the ring, fought and won a silver medal which gave me back the confidence in myself, my ability and skills. After that I fought again in the next competition . I remember saying to my friend, Michelle before getting up for my fight ‘Oh my goodness, If I win, I have to fight again …’ I did and I fought again and I won again! I was in such a daze, I couldn’t believe it. I remember Rick looking at me and saying ‘Kielly, you did it, you won!’ and I just mumbled ‘Uh huh’. That gold medal gave me a place in the English title fight and I trained so hard in preparation. On the day, I was ridiculously nervous and had to watch other younger fighters, some were really young, like 8 years old and I told myself ‘If they can get up in that ring, you have to Kielly!’ I remember going out there and climbing into the ring just thinking ‘You can win this. You will win this.’ And I did! Honestly, one of my favourite memories ever.

Being announced the winner - Pure exhilaration and adrenaline

However, no matter how well you do in competitions, your medals are only worth as much as the people you fight. There’s always somebody out there just as good as you, many of them better than you. Mental attitude plays a huge part in it. How you approach the fight matters. A few months later, I fought in an International competition and lost totally and utterly to an amazing Italian fighter. I concentrated solely on using my legs and this was not the strategy I should have used. She was very responsive and I couldn’t seem to land a single kick. Looking back, I was totally predictable in my approach. Nevermind, after that I worked hard in class to improve my punching technique having relied heavily for so long on my quick and accurate leg kicks. I wouldn’t go as far as to say, my punches are amazing but I can definitely say I improved hugely. I had finally realised just how imbalanced I was a fighter only relying on my leg work and kicks. If you never come up against anybody who makes you realise those kinds of things, you’re never going to improve.

Thinking back to my opportunity to be on Last Woman Standing, as amazing as it would have been, would it have been as good as I imagined? Is any opportunity that we missed out on as attractive as we think or do we think so because we wish we had done it, had the opportunity? Being on TV would have presented huge challenges in my life. I would have had my personality splashed all over a TV show without any control over the editing and how I was to be presented. I would have moaned intensely when faced with the endurance running challenges! I hate running! I would have had to explain to the whole nation why I have scars all over my arm.

Would my life have changed? Yes. Would I want it now any other way? No. If I had been successful in getting on the show, I doubt very much I would be where I am in my life now. Things happen for a reason and our life follows unpredictable paths. 3 years ago, would I have imagined I would be living in Indonesia working as a Kindergarten teacher in a job I love, facing new challenges all the time and learning and evolving as a person as I am now? I really struggled in my teenage years with my identity and seeing where I am now makes me proud of the journey I have been on and how I have come to where I am now. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am who I am now because of the events I have been through, the journey of life which has taught me strength, courage, endurance and will power. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but boy am I glad I got here. Never would I want to go back to the things I have lived though but I love my life now and I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to grow as a person. I have accepted who I am and am finally proud of being ‘Kielly’.

I’ll leave you with a video of one of my proudest moments .. doing my Kata (A Kata is a series of moves, designed as if you are fighting an imaginary competitor. It’s an opportunity to show off your skills and technique) in the English Title. I actually created this Kata myself ti show off my best moves (my kicks!) In the end, I didn’t win but so what?! Watching this again reminds me of all the things I should be proud of.

Am I achieving a little more happiness?

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Okay … so it’s been about a week since I posted about the Happiness Project, a book I found truly inspirational. I think I read it just at that time in my life when I needed to. I guess I haven’t been totally dedicated to making the changes in my life immediately but I have made some changes which are going well. I know I can’t possibly achieve all I want to achieve in a week so here’s to appreciating what I have achieved (No. 17 of my goals) …

Well I can definitely say I’ve worked hard on No. 14 Be more aware of the food I eat. Try to ensure I eat at least 3 of my 5 a day. Which I fail miserably to do so now.’ and No. 4 Make my house here in Indonesia more inviting. i.e. BUY furniture. My house is ‘minimalistic’ (or empty). My sister is going to visit in March so that’s another good reason to get goin gon this .. PLUS I can go shopping!which is wonderful!

I went on a big shopping spree and bought a gas stove and rice cooker as well as bits and bobs for the house. It feels great to feel like my house is finally getting sorted. I’m pretty lax in getting things organised (obviously since I’ve lived in Indonesia for over a year now and I’ve just got this sorted but I think this means I can say I’m also working towards goal No. 7 Don’t put off tasks … persist with nagging ones‘. It also means I’ve been working really hard to cook healthier food (which also means I don’t have to eat the pretty gross food in the school canteen -a total plus). I’ve sorted out fruit salads for snack time and pasta/ vegetables for lunch. I already am feeling the benefit. I feel healthier, I feel better about my eating habits. I feel happy knowing I’m making these changes and I’m motivated to keep going with it.

I was actually talking to two work colleagues today who agreed with me that buying and cooking good food makes them feel like a real adult. LOL. I guess I’ve felt I should for a long time and have known I should be eating better and looking after myself more. Now I am and I really feel good about it. I also went for an amazing massage this afternoon with my friend, Kim and it was so relaxing. After sitting on tiny chairs made for children all day and hunched over my computer doing work most evenings, a massage is good for my body and I’m definitely going to keep having them more regularly.

I’ve also been working hard on No. 9 ‘ Strengthen friendships both back home and here. I’ve been a little lazy in replying to people and keeping in touch from home and overseas. NO MORE! And I got so tired last term, I ended up not doing a lot so I’m trying to cultivate and strengthen my new friendships in Jakarta. ‘ and again it’s been great to do so. I’ve been out with Sinead, a wonderful friend who works at a Singaporean International school here and is just an amazing woman. I’ve caught up with Kerry and Darryl who are wonderful, wonderful people and also Kim, a really nice colleague and also a good friend 😀 It’s so easy to get caught up in work and just do not much after school, but I have really felt the benefit of maintaining and strengthening these friendships. This is a goal I need to definitely keep up with and it’s also one I am again motivated to do so because I know the benefit is worth it.

No. 6 ‘Exercise more regularly. Increase my stamina. Get back to Muay Thai. Gym it. ‘ is going well. I’ve been gyming it with Mel and it’s really fun going with her .. I’m easily bored and going to the gym by myself is honestly depressing. I find it hard enough to pound the treadmill anyway but with no conversation, no music, only the sound of my bored feet working furiously to keep up a pace, I’m beyond it. Nope, you definitely need a friend to gym with. I’m so impressed with Mel’s motivation. She goes rain or shine and she really helps keep me motivated. Sometimes, I’m exhausted but then I get a text from Mel and I think, ‘Go on then!’. I’ve also reorganised my Indonesian lesson so I can get back to Muay Thai with Rick. Looking forward to it. Watching my video of my fight really made me remember just how much I love Martial Arts and ow much I enjoyed Muay Thai when I was going last term.

I haven’t really gotten much more sleep and it’s affecting me already. Being tired in the morning and having to rev up the energy and enthusiasm working with 4 year olds is hard. Its not good. I know this is a goal I need to keep trying to improve on. I just find it hard to wind down in the evenings. I am at school so early in the morning and it’s a very long day and I definitely feel the need for some serious chill out time in the evenings. Still, having gone through my goals in My Personal Happiness Project reminds me of the successes I’ve had already and has helped remind me of things I still need to work on. Having set the goals has already helped me resolve to make changes.

Am I a little happier? I guess that’s hard to judge. It was a long week back last week and I’ve had to cover members of my team which meant even harder days. I didn’t do much at the weekend which I always find frustrating. But, having reflected on what I have achieved, I can honestly say the changes I’ve made are impacting on my life … in positive ways. Having reflected has given me strength and resolve to keep up the good work I’m doing and make changes in my life that I haven’t yet really done but want to do.

I can definitely say my kids in class bring a smile to my face every day and remind me of the simple pleasures and discoveries which as adults we forget about in the stress of being a grown up. Seeing their excitement in observing (and touching sneakily!) the snails I brought in made me appreciate the wonder of life for them and that just because we are adults, we shouldn’t forget these things. Seeing their enjoyment in reading the ‘secret password’ each day and the pure excitement in realising there’s a new word to read when they arrive at school makes me grateful to work with such curious and genuinely interested learners. Seeing them running towards me and hugging me reminds me of unconditional love that I am lucky to receive.

Just before I go, I want to mention how happy my sister’s achievements in the past few weeks has made me. Carla is an amazing woman, such a lovely person and unfortunately I think the grind of life has worn her down a bit of late. However, she has really motivated herself to work hard on her goals including applying for Nursing and her driving test as well as booking flights to come see me and more of the amazing world we live in. I am so very proud of what she is doing. I love you Carla!

What makes you happy guys? What changes could you make in your life? Would you make any?

Till next time … Kiels x