Monday, 20 October 2014

Currently in October

Where has the time gone? I could have sworn I did a currently post for September but apparently not! I feel like I haven't spent enough time on this little blog but I'm so crazy busy I never seem to find a moment spare for anything let alone blogging. When people say that the PGCE year will be the busiest (and most stressful) year of your life they really weren't exaggerating, it's far worse than A Levels or third year. I've never had so much to do and so little time to do it in before. However, it is so fulfilling at the same time and I've really enjoyed it so far. We started our school placements a couple of weeks ago, just 2 days a week so far, and being with the children makes it all worth it. That all said, here is what I have been doing when I do find the time...


A book which at times feels rather uncomfortable, particularly now that I'm at school, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. It is a challenging topic and can be very disturbing at times but Nabokov writes so subtly and humorously that it is almost possible to miss the unsettling evidence of what is truly taking place in the story. He constructs the character of Humbert so carefully and cleverly that it is impossible not to see some of society in him, it raises a number of interesting issues with the sexualisation of children and the uncomfortable attitude society has towards teenage girls. I have almost finished reading it and I think my next novel choice will have to be a little lighter in subject!

Listening to...

James Vincent McMorrow's album Post Tropical which is great to work to with its calming tones and its gentle melodies. I find his voice has a haunting quality and I can sit and listen to him sing for hours.


Now that the Great British Bake Off has come to an end I feel a little lost when it comes to watching TV. It's quite possibly my favourite programme of the entire year and I miss it already (no this is not hyperbole). I'm very much enjoying Educating the East End on Channel 4 and I have high hopes that it will help change and improve people's views on teachers, even if only of secondary teachers. It goes a long way towards illustrating just how hard (good) teachers work and how challenging the profession actually is.


My cycle to school in the morning. Cycling home always feels much faster - who knows why journeys back seem to go by quicker? Often it can be a bit of a drag to have to get on the bike early in the morning to head to work but I have such a pretty cycle route for the most part that I really enjoy it. I'm trying to make the most of it while it is still light enough to go that way because, as there are no street lights for a large chunk of it, when the clocks go back I will have to resort to going via the main roads.

Dreaming of...

Christmas. I am not even ashamed to admit it. As soon as it begins to get dark quicker in the evenings and the temperature increasingly starts to drop I cannot help but start to dream of Christmas and all of its wonders. It is probably what gets me through the chilly month of November and from the 1st of December I allow myself endless indulgence in all things Christmassy, especially carols!

What have you been up to in the month of October? Are you feeling as insanely busy as I do right now? There must be others who start to think about Christmas wistfully this early too, right?

Monday, 6 October 2014

October Goals

This is a few days late, I meant to have it up on the first of the month but time just seems to have gotten away from me so here it is anyway. For someone who has become accustomed to only having about six hours of prescribed, structured time it is a bit of a shock to the system to be out of the house from 8.10am to 5.40pm every week day. I've always had a lot of work to do but I could structure my days in whatever way suits me, now I have to try to fit what feels like a million and one chores and readings into a few hours each evening. So this month I'm trying to give myself more achievable goals, we'll see how that pans out...


// Read two new novels
This I didn't quite manage unfortunately, apparently even two novels was a tall order! I did succeed in reading the majority of Donna Tartt's The Secret History (I technically started it in August) which I absolutely adored. It is such a gripping tale of secrets and betrayal and it is beautifully written. I would fully recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading, it's on the lengthier side but it doesn't feel a page too long and it's bound to keep you captivated. I've recently started reading Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita but I'm not ready to give a verdict just yet as I'm only about 50 pages in.

// Bake something different
Having a new kitchen is always quite exciting even if it is only a little galley kitchen with very little surface area. However I did manage to bake some raspberry muffins this week which I kind of improvised from a vague recipe as I couldn't find anything that worked well with the ingredients we had. They were actually pretty tasty considering how basic they were.

// Workout properly twice a week

I feel like workout goals are quite often what I shove to the side, not because I don't think they're important but because they don't really have deadlines as such. Although I haven't managed to completely call this goal a success I have been working out a lot more than I was previously. My course is so full on that I'm pretty tired when I get home in the evening and after having made tomorrow's lunch and cooking and eating dinner I don't have the energy for a full workout session. Instead in the week I've been doing a small circuit of squats, modified push-ups and crunches each evening and then working out properly at least once on the weekend.

// Visit new places in Norwich

Definitely achieved this one! I've visited the Cathedral, I've eaten at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Loch Fyne, and I've checked out a bit of a Norwich institution: Biddy's Tea Room. I have plans to discover many more fun spots around the city.


// Take 5 minutes to stretch everyday
Now that I'm in school several days a week (so exciting, more on this soon) I'm finding that I'm getting quite stiff, possibly from spending a lot of my time crouching down or sitting in tiny chairs. In order to try to combat this I want to try a few simple stretches in the evening.

// Revise for and pass my audits!
As part of my teacher training this year I have to pass a Science audit and a Maths audit, both are roughly to GCSE level so I have the ability to pass but there is just so much I've forgotten. We do get a second chance to pass them next term but I really want to get them over and done with at the end of the month.

// Expand my teaching outfit collection
This goal does sound a little bit like an excuse to go shopping and I think my bank account is already groaning at me but I genuinely have a shortage of clothes which are classroom appropriate so I'm trying to build up a teaching wardrobe bit by bit.

// Build up my confidence to stand up at the front of the room
I've never lacked confidence with children, what freaks a lot of people out just seems to come naturally to me. What does make me nervous is the idea of having to stand up at the front of a classroom with the class teacher, two other teaching assistants and another student all watching. It makes me really nervous. So I've got to try and spend the month building up my confidence with this and learn to not mind being observed.

There you have it, they may be rather basic but that's all I have time for on top of everything this course involves, it's crazy how busy we all are! Wish me luck!

Do you give yourself monthly goals? What are yours?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Pensthorpe Natural Park Adventures

Although the PGCE course is undeniably exhausting (and it really really is) it does still have its lighter moments. Take last Thursday for example: we flipped through the timetable to find that we had the day marked off as 'Educational Visit'. What this essentially means is that we got to have a day off our usual 9 to 5 of lectures and seminars to go off on a day trip! My lovely housemates and I ended up visiting Pensthorpe Natural Park and having a really fantastic day.
The park is a mix of nature trails and walks through the lakes, woodland and gardens. There are so many little details to captivate children on their way and it was inspiring to see the potential it has for school trips. After all, who didn't love going on school trips?
I definitely loved making friends with all of the lovely ducks they have swimming and walking around the lakes.

One of my favourite aspects of the park is the collection of beautiful sculptures they have along the bug trails. Each sculpture has a colourful plaque nearby with fun facts about the critter and sometimes the bugs can be hard to spot, even when they're rather large!

Please excuse the somewhat manic grin, it was rather sunny despite the wind, if you get lucky with the weather like we did it really is beautiful there.

There is a little red squirrel conservation area in the park and they really are adorable to watch running around. Although it's a shame you have to see them in captivity it is a lovely opportunity for children to get to see them as they are unlikely to be able to see them in the wild.
Possibly the best bit? The play area! If there are no actual children around this play area is one the best I've ever seen and I'm sure most grown-up children wouldn't be able to resist a zip wire and a very tall slide...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Learning to Teach

Most people have probably come across the saying 'those who can, do and those who can't, teach' but I personally prefer this one: 'Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.'

I have just completed my first week and a half of training to become a primary school teacher (which hopefully explains my silence on the blog recently) and I have never felt so inspired by something I've chosen to do. I come away from every single seminar so enthused and excited to get stuck in. That being said I have an absolutely enormous pile of work to be getting on with and with full days at university - leaving the house at 8.15am and getting home at 5.30pm - I am already feeling the tiredness beginning to creep in.

My life currently looks a little like this:

I have to admit, it's really fun to be looking back at the subjects I studied as a child and where I didn't always like certain subjects now I'm loving all of them. Even geography inspires me! (Sorry to any geography lovers.)
English and drama have been the best so far, it almost made me emotional to see the books I read as a child, anyone remember Each Peach Pear Plum? Or Kipper? Or Elmer?

I have no doubt it will be a crazy year but I know that it is also going to be one of the most fulfilling experiences I ever have and I cannot wait to get into a school.

Hope your September is going well so far and if you've started anything new that you're enjoying it as much as I am. I promise I will be blogging more regularly again now!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Out of Africa - Down to the River

Stage three of my travels in Zimbabwe involved a long drive to Msuna Island on the Zambezi river where we stayed for several nights in an adorable self-catered lodge by the water's edge. Ready to spend a few days relaxing on a pontoon we arrived in time to see the beautiful sunset over the river.

The Zambezi river is a huge body of water and the resort at Msuna gives you a wonderful outlook over the water across to Zambia. The banks of the river are full of colour and life, plants thrive and it appears so different from large parts of the country which are pretty dry.

It was truly my idea of a haven away from the bustle of normal life. Each morning we would wake up and have a hearty breakfast before setting out on the boat. I would take my book and sit in the sunshine enjoying the gentle movement of the boat whilst J would fish till lunchtime. At the hottest part of the day we would lounge about inside or else go for walks in the shade of the trees on the island. 

J did manage to persuade me to try my hand at fishing and I would say that I was fairly successful! It definitely isn't that easy but it was very satisfying to actually catch something by myself.

I think my favourite thing about Zimbabwe is without a doubt the wildlife there, it is so rich in plant and animal life. Not too far from the river is a spot with a giant baobab tree which J took me to see, it is truly a majestic sight - it was enormous. I look tiny in comparison to the trunk and you can't even appreciate how tall it actually was in this photo. If you are a fan of wildlife and get the opportunity to travel to anywhere in Africa then you are in for a real treat!
I'd love to visit elsewhere in Africa, has anyone been to any countries they fell in love with?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

September Goals

Back in my first year of university, when I was battling with chronic fatigue, I used to set myself a handful of goals each month. Not enormous resolutions, but tasks and goals which gave me something positive and productive to work to every month.With my teacher training starting in 6 days I want to set myself up for the month ahead with some positive thinking. My advice for setting goals is to have high hopes but realistic expectations: that way you get lots done but you don't beat yourself up about what you didn't do!

August 2014 has been a pretty busy month but all in all a positive one too. I worked for the first two weeks so I'm more than prepared to deal with the world of children. Being in a room with 35 children, aged 5 to 11 for almost 8 hours a day gets you rather ready. I had a fantastic weekend away in Northern Ireland with J which mainly involved lots of beautiful sights, rambles, photography, and great food. As well as all that I've been very industrious, ploughing through mountains of prep work for uni, organising all of my stuff for my new house, and just generally getting ready for my big move.

I have no doubt that September is going to be even more hectic but I'm really excited for what is to come!

September Goals

// Read two new novels.
I will have a lot of reading to do for my course this month but I don't want to stop reading novels so I'm setting myself the goal to read at least two new novels this month, on top of everything else. I was going to go for three but I think with everything being so new I might not manage three whole books.

// Bake something different.
Sounds a little silly to have this as a goal but with the Great British Bake Off being on at the moment I've got the baking bug and I have always found baking so fun and therapeutic (which I think I may need this month). I have countless recipes bookmarked to try so this is something I will definitely look forward to.

// Workout properly twice a week.
I used to be a bit of a fitness freak, then I got hit with a dodgy back and chronic fatigue and since then I have to admit my exercise is pretty sporadic. I'd love to get back into a proper routine so I'm going to start building up to exercising much more regularly by just beginning slowly and gradually adding days. I feel so much better when I'm working out properly so this is a really positive goal.

// Visit new places in Norwich.
There is definitely a 'newness' theme to these goals but it's a new place and a fresh start for me here so it's all so exciting. I've not actually spent very much time in Norwich at all, in fact I've only been there three times before so there is so much to see and do. I love the city already and I know it will be a great year.

So these are my goals for this month, hopefully when I write my October goals up I'll have lots of success to tell you about.

Do you set yourself regular goals? What are your aims for September?

Monday, 1 September 2014

Out of Africa - Lake Kyle

In planning our travels to Zimbabwe the one thing I really couldn't wait to experience was being on safari. The idea of being in a National Park surrounded by incredible animals and wildlife has been a dream for so long that when the day arrived I couldn't quite believe it. Our first safari trip was to Lake Kyle National Park where we stayed for one night in the lodges in the park.

The scenery at Lake Kyle is amazing; the backdrop of mountains, the grasses, the lake - it's a world away from home. Driving along the roads into the park I was so excited to finally be on a safari trip. Game drives are unpredictable and there is never any guarantee that you will see any wildlife so I didn't want to make my expectations too high, I was happy at the thought of seeing anything at all...

Along the first few winding roads we saw very little as the rainy season had been really good and the grass was really tall but as we turned the corner into a more open area we were greeted by this majestic creature! He was eating from the trees in the background but he soon got curious and came to see us a little closer up. It was truly amazing to have a giraffe so close and to be able to appreciate the size of them.

If seeing Mr Giraffe so close wasn't enough a few minutes later a little one came to pay us a visit too. I (along with most of the world) have a soft spot for baby animals so I was absolutely thrilled to see this little guy! I felt so lucky to be there, having such a special experience.

That wasn't all I was going to see that day though, far from it. J had told me that Lake Kyle is a great park for seeing white rhino but that they were still pretty elusive so not to expect to see any. Although I excepted this I was still pretty hopeful so when I strained my eyes towards the lake and caught sight of some grey boulder shaped things I was so hoping they were what I thought they were. I was right - several white rhino! We also saw plenty of zebras (on the right above) and wildebeest.

In total we saw five white rhinos that day and I feel so grateful that I was able to see some of those amazing creatures. Black rhinos are endangered and white rhino are also at risk as their horns are so valuable so it was a brilliant opportunity to see them in the wild, especially as there may come a time when they are no longer found there.

We stayed the night at the camp and woke up in the darkness of early morning in order to catch the sun rising and the animals waking. I'm told it can be the best time to spot a leopard as they prefer to walk on the dry roads than the dewy grass (unfortunately we didn't spot any). But the sunrise itself alone is enough reason to be up so early: it is sensational. Watching it appear beyond the mist and the mountains felt incredibly serene and peaceful. There is nothing quite like it.

Spot the baby kudu! 

We saw plenty of game in the morning; kudu, reedbuck and bushbuck (far too quick and nimble to photograph), warthogs, and rockdassies which were too far to photograph but are absolutely adorable. 
Having had a dream come true I can safely say my first safari trip definitely did not disappoint. I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to see so much of Africa's amazing wildlife. Lake Kyle National Park was fantastic and I'd definitely recommend a trip there if you travel to Zimbabwe and you want to see rhino!
Next instalment: the Zambezi River!