Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Best Foot Forward!

If you're like me, you probably don't think much about it. Walking. Putting one foot in front of the other. Which is a pity, really, as there's so much more to it than that. 

Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara has called it "our hidden superpower" and a new book by Yamuna Zake (author of The Ultimate Body Rolling Workout) published this week and called The Foot Fix encourages us to give it the respect a superpower deserves.  

Healthy feet are fundamental to our health and wellbeing and The Foot Fix offers a simple 4 week program of quick and easy exercises to help get them back into shape. An initial walking test allows you to assess functionality in the four areas of your feet (heel, arch, ball and toes) and this is followed by exercises to help restore posture by aligning your feet correctly and strengthening your arches, all of which can help prevent problems later in life. Because Yamuna’s philosophy is "prevention". Most people wait until they’re in pain before they pay attention to their feet, but since you only get one pair and they’re meant to carry you through life, why not start taking care of them now? Just 15 minutes a day for four weeks can get your feet fully functional, says the author. And that means you're far less likely to develop foot or other associated problems such as back or hip pain and poor posture later on. 

Monday, 4 January 2021

School's Out! But learning isn't.

So, here we are again. School may be out (again). But learning isn't. 

Yes, it's daunting, challenging, and frightening; true, it's undoubtedly a disadvantage for some. But, as I said back in April when we did all this before, you're not alone. And it might be worth having a look at that post if you're in need of somewhere to start. Here's the link: Kids At Home? You're Not Alone!

Since then I've also come across a really great free resource that's well worth a serious look: Oak National Academy. Their online classroom contains nearly 10,000 video lessons, resources and activities, covering most subjects, from Reception to Year 11. It really is an amazing resource and well worth spending some time familiarising yourself with, although extremely easy to use. Indeed, it seems to be intended for pupils to be able to work through themselves:

And if you're looking for something fun and educational, but not necessarily school-based, The Scouts - so long advocates of the Great Outdoors - are now promoting "some inspired indoor activity ideas (if we do say so ourselves) to keep kids entertained while schools are closed due to coronavirus. Keep your kids learning new skills and having fun (and avoid hearing ‘I’m bored’ every 30 seconds) all in #TheGreatIndoors."

So, as before, it's unusual, undesirable of course, but ultimately, necessary. You are not alone. Schooling, while vitality important, isn't the same as learning. Kids will continue to learn (it's what they're genetically programmed to do) with support from you. It doesn't have to be like a classroom, or timetabled. You don't have to ring a bell. Just support them in their own curiosity, have some resources on hand to help them find the answers to their questions and have an oversight of what they're doing each day, and be gently encouraging. 

It's hard for them, too! 


As a result of this post I've been asked to contribute to a couple of items on BBC Radio Lincolnshire over the past fortnight, the latest of which is still on Sounds should you want to listen (I'm on approx. i hour 39 mins in): 

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Learning isn't (just) schooling

 Two blogs in (almost) as many days? Ambassador, you're spoiling us... 

Well, maybe not but I thought I'd check in briefly just to state the obvious, just to point out to someone who ought to know a lot better but who, of course, is paid to spout the government's line in clap-trap, that learning isn't synonymous with schooling, that children will continue to learn very well thank you without attending school and that schooling (which is not the same thing, though of course it achieves some of the same results) can continue perfectly well online, perfectly well given that the alternative (mass return to school) is an undoubted and dangerous risk, a price (I'd say) that is too high to pay for saving lives. 

If schools close, kids won't stop learning. And with remote lessons, most children can continue with their schooling. Yes, it's not the same as face-to-face, in-class lessons; no, it's not ideal; but it's just about the best we can manage given the circumstances. And the circumstances are a massively increased risk from a new variant of a virus that has already brought the NHS to its knees. 

What's happening in London and the south east will happen, and will happen sooner, and will happen more severely, across the country unless we stay at home and save lives. It's that simple. 

I know there are those for whom home will never be either a safe place or a place to learn: we must make provision for those children. But we shouldn't, mustn't, daren't risk the lives of teachers, parents, grandparents, carers and others by blindly insisting that learning = everyone in school. It doesn't. Schooling does. In the grand scheme of things, falling behind a little, maybe being unprepared to take exams at the time considered 'normal', perhaps having to defer a college/uni place for a year and delaying entry to the rat-race won't destroy pupils' life-chances.

And it won't stop children learning.   

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Goodbye, 2020!

We'll not be sorry to see the back of it, even though (at one dark time) there was a moment when I thought I might not live to see the end of it, a time when I would lie awake in the small hours imagining a lonely death isolated from everyone in a sealed ward somewhere, a time when I started to write farewell letters to my wife and children, when I was terrified that the return to school in September would be a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode in a catastrophic and devastating infection. 

I'm in slightly better place now, partly having survived (thus far) and partly having realised, as more became known about the virus and its devastating effects, that the very anti-inflammatory substance I self-inject fortnightly and which suppresses my immune system (part of the reason I was sent a shielding letter last April) and which I stopped taking for a while with the crazy notion that a fully-functioning immune system might be more protection, might actually help in the event of contracting Covid. It emerged that the very drug I had temporarily stopped using was actually being given to some Covid patients in the hope it might help reduce the catastrophic inflammation that they were suffering. So much for shielding!

My (slightly) more upbeat mood is partly kismet, partly hope based on the vaccine and part admiration at serious measures schools (woefully under-supported) have been taking to reduce the spread of infection, in spite of being such "safe" places, according to a Prime Minister who went to a boarding school where the risk of inter-mingling households (let alone bus loads) was a termly, rather than a daily phenomenon. Of course schools are safe, when there's no-one in them. Of course it's the inevitable mixing of households when kids come together on the journey to school, in the classrooms, on the way home and then all over again the next day after rubbing shoulders and sharing towels with parents and siblings who have themselves been in contact with, well... suffice to say that the tendrils spreading the virus are as extensive as the underground mycelium of mushrooms, and as busy as a motorway.

Still, it's nice to know we're all in the safe hands of a serial adulterer and liar, a man whose father and brother clearly diverge considerably from his own views of Britain's place in Europe. Or do they? I wouldn't be surprised if, one day, a repentant Johnson admits what's been pretty obvious all along, and that the whole thing was just a crazy stunt to further his own interests and career. At the stroke of eleven tonight, when the rest of us are finally cut adrift from forty-plus years of economic and political security, Johnson senior's application for French citizenship will be well underway and of course Boris's green card-earning US birth will no doubt be an asset when the rats finally leave the ship as it sinks, slowly, into the inevitability of second-rate status.

Meanwhile, schools have now to add covid-testing (and, probably, vaccination) to an ever-growing list of responsibilities that includes childcare, social work, intervention in political and religious extremism, quasi-parenting, potty-training, social integration, ensuring adequate nutrition, even accommodation in some extreme cases, as well as, of course... teaching. But that's ok, because as we all know, teachers get long holidays. Which is why there's such a shortage of them. And why they're lumbered with such a lumbering lump as Gavin Williamson as their politico-in-chief.

So, as the clock ticks down the hours and minutes to the end of a year few people will want to remember, we can at least console ourselves with the thought that things can only get better. 

Can't we?

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