Friday, 16 September 2011

Telling histories

What would you choose to research the history of if you had the opportunity?

Before the days of computers and for my teaching course in the 1970's I decided to research my primary school. I imagine I could get most of what I needed on the internet now but it was such an exciting thing to do to seek out all the primary sources. The school had been built as a Board School in 1874 in response to the Education Act 1870 and was located in the middle of a common in Surrey. I found the old punishment book with its records of worrying sheep on the common - four strokes on the hand, or "dirty habits" or "prevarication". The school log played an important role in recording the changing curriculum, health issues, the changes during war time - digging for victory etc. I interviewed a retired caretaker who had been in post since the 1920s. I found the original map denoting the land to be used. Heady times!

map of land
timetable 1915
It was a very dilapidated building and we had a new one built which was ready for my final year at primary school. I once said to my Mum that the hamster had got out and that the teacher had said it had probably been eaten by the rats! The loos froze over every winter and were definitely to be avoided if at all possible at all times. But how compelling those memories are - memories of those rooms and the playgrounds - boys and girls - still abide. Sad that it was demolished and never used as a living building again but even though there is not a brick left of it on the common its 100 years of history is still very evident in the memories of people, in the archives and in the foundations it laid for current educational practice...and if I concentrate I can just see myself holding a skipping rope in that playground beyond the gate...
the school in the 1960s

Saturday, 3 September 2011

A worry wart's solution

blue box for work worries
All my life I have been an agoniser. Trying to see things from every viewpoint. Not only does it create indecisiveness it also means lots of worry - night and day. Of course I have tried meditative exercises, focussing on breathing, all that palava. At night I have counted sheep, taken imaginary walks, recreated journeys - anything to keep unwanted thought from rising to the surface and swamping every waking - and sleeping -  moment.

basket for worries
red box
I should have realised sooner how helpful a visualising technique I was shown 20 years ago from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) would be. Then I was trying to deal with cat allergy. I believe that  imagining a cage and putting, in my mind, a cat in it and closing the cage door has helped and I haven't had a problem since. I have started to apply that principle to three different worries recently. I have created imaginary boxes and baskets to put worries in. Take work. How easy it is to go over and over things in your precious non working time, nothing productive and the present passes you by while you are engrossed. For this I have a blue box. I imagine putting the worry in and shutting down the lid. I don't have to get as far as locking the box now and it has triggered me back to the present! Then onto worries about family. So many ways to get this broken record of thoughts taking over enjoyment of living the present...I have a basket for this - it seemed appropriate.This is a picnic hamper as it needs to be large and comes from memories of Andy Pandy of children's TV when I was a child. I have a third set of unwanted well trod thoughts...and this is a red box...getting crowded!! I have a friend who uses boxes too but he says they are so brim full there is no room left! For me they are bottomless so I will be alright.

There is one problem. In the middle of the night it is not quite so effective. The brain doesn't seem to respond to these triggers quite so well and things that at night make sense are complete gibberish when you examine them in the light of day. Still I am working on it. Ideas on a postcard...