Friday, 14 June 2019

The value of listening

Readying myself to go and pick up my friend from Bexleyheath and take her to a private doctor's appointment,  I was reminded of an occurrence many years ago.
A student in one of the year 10 classes (this makes her about 15 years old) was in her favourite lesson, English literature. She had been a late developer and I had worked with her as a tutor for many years, bringing her from an inability to read at aged 8, to one of a book worm by the time she reached Secondary school.
She loved to read everything from Enid Blyton (I know, not PC but superb quality English) to Bronte. She adored discussing  the work and was becoming a very skilled analyst of plot lines, character study and the like. It seemed obvious therefore, she'd excel at English Literature.
But she wasn't.
In fact, her English, which had been heading for the top grades was plummeting to the lowest. Her mother and I were worried. That old disaffection was creeping in.
I asked her what was the problem and after a good half hour of, I hate the teacher, she's always picking on me, I don't like school anyway, we started to get to the real issue.
"She gives us work sheets," she said staring down at her bed, " and we're supposed to sit in silence and go through the questions."
"Ok, a bit boring, but go on." I looked at her, knowing how she hated this style of learning but hoped she give me a clue as to what it really was deep down in her brain.
"Well, I just sit there. No point in me doing it. I just don't see it, " a pet phrase of hers came out which she'd not used for some time.
"What do you mean? I don't get it, what don't you see?" I looked on hopefully.
She swirled at the bed cover, it drove me mad, she was avoiding again.
"Come on, it's me remember, you wont get shouted at. What is it you just don't see?"
"I, I can't read it?" She stammered, "I tell her I can't see it and she doesn't understand....." she dissolved in tears, " I hate school!" She exclaimed with all the anguish of a teenage girl.
I wanted to laugh with relief but didn't, that would have been cruel and she was so distressed.
"I hate that style of learning anyway and she uses stupid type, I just cant read it! Why can't she use the type you do? I hate her!"
I stopped her going on, she was working herself up into school-refusing again.
We checked she was happy everywhere else, she was, we worked out if she could skip English she'd be fine. Mm. I came to the conclusion I'd cross that bridge later.
We finished our session with some serious discussion on the characterisation of the Inspector out of An Inspector Calls I wrapped up the session.
Chatting with mum on the phone later, I explained the problem. She took her daughter to the opticians and diagnosed coloured glasses for reading. They looked fabulous on her and she loved them.
Sometimes just real listening makes all the difference, and in this case, averted an escalation of something small into something major.
So what was the point of this recollection? The friend I was taking to see a private doctor had not been listened to either, but by the NHS sadly and her problems had gone on undetected for years.
She came out at the end of her appointment and half smiled, half grimaced; she had some answers. Finally, she had been listened to and finally she was given the referral she needed to see the specialist she required, and yes it was serious and potentially life threatening.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Being listened to; not a fraud

With age and a very physically active life, comes the pains and broken bits of all that's built up over the years. For me, gardening, DIY, horse riding, motor bikes, swimming, gym and all the rest has worked my spine to a partial standstill. Overwork and accidents have damaged areas, strained others and caused deterioration in the rest.
So, when I attended the doctors for support, advice and suggestions, the answer has been one of pain killers, phrases such as, "well, it comes with getting older" and, "is there anything else I can help you with?"
Not quite the supportive NHS I would hope for. Instead of being listened to I felt rushed (only got 10 minutes at most), a statistic and just a number in a long line which needed processing so as to tick the performance targets of the day.
I gave up!
Harassed, in pain and cajoled by friends, I gave in and booked a private doctor's appointment.
The best thing I ever did! I see her, I have 30 minutes, she gives me her un-divided attention, she listens, asks questions and examines me. A first! Amazing!
She agrees I have a degree of scoliosis forming; she can feel there are other issues developing; she gets me a neurosurgeon's appointment for two days later!
Wow!
In thirty minutes, I have an idea of what the problem is, I have a referral to the neurosurgeon and I have an appointment. That is more progress in those precious thirty minutes than I've had in 35 years!!
Long live private doctors! Once I've seen the consultant I can then work out, do I take this as fait accompli to my NHS doctor and go on a waiting list, or do I bite the bullet and pay?
Watch this space.......

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Aches, pains and pulled muscles

Yuk. After a night of careful turning, fluffing up the pillow and awful pains in my neck, shoulders and head, I came to the conclusion cutting sections of the tree down at the bottom of the garden weren't such a good idea after all.
As I gingerly lifted the kettle to make a cup of tea and wincing at the pain, I suddenly remembered all the other lifting jobs I'd done recently;
- carrying 10 bags of compost to the car, from the car and then up the garden.
- double digging a bed 4m x 3m to clear out Japanese balsam.
- weeding and pruning of the rest of the garden...... doing the tree.....and the list went on.
As I sat down I rued the day that mare ditched me across a cross country jump and broke my back and cracking my neck. Yes, I'd pushed things too far and am now facing the consequences.
We do feel a sense of in-vulnerability when we are younger, and brush off accidents we have as something we'll get over.
Do we? Or do we just store up trouble for later? Broken bones heal over time, but in comes the chances of arthritis, rheumatism, brittle bone disease and other nasties at the site of the original break.
I wish I'd been more sensible at the time. I wish I hadn't broken in a youngster so soon after the accident. I wish the youngster hadn't decked me as many times as he did during those crucial, first few years of healing.
Yes, hindsight is a marvellous thing, and as I sit here, wincing at the pain and taking more pain killers, I do still manage to grin at everything I have done up until now.
Tee hee, it's been great fun, but ooh, am I paying for it now.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Put the phone down mummy

A family came into the cafe where I was ensconced with coffee and cake.
The dad went off to order food whilst mum sat down and the little girl got herself onto the chair opposite.
She was well turned out, quiet and it was obvious, had been out to eat at a cafe many times before.
Mum sat herself opposite taking little notice of her daughter, and, pulling out her phone, proceeded to scroll through posts.
It was clear from the way her daughter started chattering, that she wanted to engage her mother in a chat, but there was no response at all. In fact, mother didn't even register her daughter.
Dad sat down. He nudged his partner and told her what he'd ordered. Without breaking visual communication with her screen, she muttered something then carried on scrolling.
Dad looked at daughter and told her to sit still. All this time, the little girl of 3 or 4 had been sitting patiently attempting to get mummy to talk with her. She began to play with the salt and pepper pots. Mother looked up, told her off, then looked at her screen once more.
Even whilst eating, mother's prime focus was her screen....as was dads.
And the child? Their child? Who talked with her? Who educated her? And what message was being given the child? She sat, eating alone in the silent, isolated world she found herself in. She appeared shunned by technology, pushed into an insular world where those closest to you, teach you the modern day life lessons, phone control and failed physical interaction.
I finished my coffee and left, saddened by what I had seen.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Are opinions limiting?

For many years I was taught to express a non-partisan perspective on life towards my clients, the students, and to be as non-political as was possible whilst towing the ethos of the school beliefs and values.
Basically I was taught to leave my true opinions at the door and to withhold my own ideas in favour of the group identity. It shaped most of my working days and even into the business I set up after leaving the classroom.
Remaining neutral took a great deal of emotional energy but it left me watching the news and people's conversations in a different way.
One example I can remember was a statement read out in the House of Commons.
I listened to the words which were used to construct the sentences, and the impression it gave to the house. It was an interesting statement, so it stayed with me.
Imagine my surprise when I heard the newscaster placing a slant on it which was not there in the original prose. Imagine my inner annoyance when the newspapers took the words and twisted them about in such a way as to make the original sentences sound completely opposite.
I was shocked by this falsified reporting, which really it was, and was even more surprised at the interview which followed where the minister was tackled about what had been reported not what he had read out.
It was then I realised the efficacy of holding the school's values and listening hard to what was said by the student themselves, not what was retold to me by his/her friends.

Finding a new routine; but old ones keep getting in the way

Seems strange to be disciplining myself to doing something on a regular basis after being controlled by the bell and buzzer for the majority of my working life. Making a commitment to writing something like this is one I don't take lightly and have already put it into the diary on my phone for a Sunday afternoon activity. That aspect of working hasn't left and even though I have been working for myself these past ten years, the old habits kick in and run the process once more.
What about the comment; "you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher." So very true.
A few months ago I was staying in an hotel and heard the sound of a bleeping bell, which sounded remarkably like the bell we had at change of lesson. Before I knew it I was up, dressed, cleaning my teeth and wondering what it was I should be teaching first lesson. Automatic responses had kicked in and I was pumped ready for the classroom.
Panic then set in as I realised I couldn't think what it was I was teaching, any more than I could remember who I was teaching! As the panic rose, I tried as hard as I could to reason with myself, I wasn't going completely mad. What school was I at and where did I have to drive? Was I supplying somewhere? What was the address.......
Slowly, as the panic rose to pains in the chest, a glimmer of a thought came into my mind, am I still teaching? I looked around and the hotel came into vision. I looked at my phone, I checked the diary, it said I was in Glastonbury for three days break and today was a visit to Wells Cathedral.
As the scales of panic left my eyes I realised what had happened and laughed. It was 6:30am and the couple next to me were moving around getting ready to move on. I was dressed so there was little or no point in going back to bed, so put the kettle on and settled down with some early morning news and a cuppa.
Wells Cathedral was wonderful but my chest hurt for hours.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Hi, my name's Jo, nice to meet you.......

Who am I?
Oh just a woman heading into her 63rd year and loving every minute of it.
People who know me would be scoffing at this point and uttering a comment to the effect, "just a woman, pah, I just wish I had half your energy and joy!" which is nice really and makes me smile rather broadly.

So what can I say about myself? Well I'm fanatical about travelling be it in this country or abroad. I walk as often as I can and now I don't have horses, I visit RSPB or Woodland Trust sites, marshes, seashores and the like.
I am a happy painter, both house and on paper, and want to improve constantly.
Love my own company but also love the company of others.
And I love studying! A total bookworm!
Sounds boring. I know but honestly those who know me would never say that.
So welcome to Life After Sixty; let's see where this goes shall we?