The gap effect

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

Post contributed by Dan Bowie

Just thought I’d update you on my latest exciting news! Today I found out I got the QUEST Scholarship – sponsored by VINCI.  It’s an amazing opportunity not many get to experience and to say I’m pleased is an understatement. Sheffield University seems to be a bit of a hot spot for successful candidates so – as I’m sure you can imagine – a few celebratory drinks will be had!
There is a teacher in everyone

There is a teacher in everyone

I want to take the opportunity to say thanks, the experience I gained in Thailand is without a doubt the reason I got in – especially when I look at the high standard of unsuccessful applicants. Accepting me into the Gap Programme was a stepping stone that has (and will continue to) lead to so many amazing opportunities. So thanks to all who supported me at the school.
Trekking in the north of Thailand

Trekking in the north of Thailand

Uni life is very good, the course is fairly intense and I’ve already handed in coursework and completed online tests that count towards my 1st year grade, which is a little surreal.  The social side is definitely a change from Thailand, but a change I am very much liking. I have joined the hockey team and this of course means socials (and some hockey!).  I will keep you posted.

If you liked this post then read more about gap year experiences here.
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Children and Diet

 Contributed by Dr Simon Crouch: @srcrouch

Facilitating Debate

Facilitating Debate

While this blog makes for a halcyon picture of reminiscence it highlights the struggle we face to ensure that children are both provided with healthy diets and the necessary signposts to teach them healthy eating habits.

In the UK it is recommended that all children aged 11 years and over should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Recent data suggest that British kids aren’t even getting close. Data collected over four years from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey indicates that only 10% of boys and 7% of girls are meeting that target.

Internationally we see a similar picture. In Australia the recommendations are even more stringent – four portions of vegetables and a further three portions of fruit per day for children aged 12-18 years. Similar to their British cousins Australian children are also falling woefully short with only 5% meeting the target.

Childhood obesity is becoming an increasing issue in developed countries. Child health is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes and obesity is one of the biggest threats to population health in an ever developing world. While physical activity is important for overall health it is a healthy diet that plays the most significant role in maintaining a healthy weight.

heart

There are many factors that impact on healthy behaviours, including family circumstances and the community in which individuals live, but with children spending such a large proportion of their informative years in school it is important that the school environment is promoting healthy diets.

Fish, chips and mushy peas topped off with jam sponge and custard may be a delight to tastebuds harking back to a bygone era but this meal arguably contains only one serve of fruit or vegetable (I am not even sure if the mushy peas count). In no way does it achieve the national standards which stipulate that every school meal must contain at least two serves of fruit or veg.

Jamie Oliver may not be loved by everyone but he has played a role in highlighting this issue and helped pushed governments to begin the slow process of cultural change. But students and parents alike need to continue to strive for healthier diets in all contexts, particularly where government standards do apply.

Education in schools is not confined to the classroom and should not be put on hiatus when the kids go for lunch. The school canteen is the perfect place to teach our children how to lead healthy lives, and perhaps the best way to their brains is through their tummies.

Project Nepal – a personal service learning initiative

Post contributed by Manoj Chapagain

Service Learning

Service Learning

Whilst I was at secondary school in Thailand I always wanted to do something that would help my village community in Nepal. During my last year of my high school, I asked some of my friends and teachers to help me raise money to buy computers for my village school where I studied during my childhood. We called this project “Project Nepal.”  This started August of 2013.

 

Joyce centre, Manoj far right

Joyce centre, Manoj far right

My friend Joyce and some other friends encouraged me and were willing to support me fully. We started doing fund raising events such as a dodge ball tournament, a computer game tournament and many other events at the school. In addition my friend Joyce who helped me enormously to raise money by asking her friends back in Taiwan to donate money to the project. She has contributed the most to this project.  All together we raised $3400. Furthermore, Mr. Alex (a friend of Peter Dalglish’s in Bangkok and my friend too) contributed approximately $500 to the project, totaling up to 364250 NPR.

The Project Nepal team

The Project Nepal team

The school already had a room that needed painting, carpeting, a fan and many other things.  When I got back to Nepal in the summer I went to the village and started overseeing this. Now the room has 7 computers from Project Nepal and another five computers which were donated to the school by a cement factory. The installation for internet is still in the process.

P Nepal7

Five students and two teachers visited the school for a week to see the school and set up the computer lab. They stayed in my village in my home for two nights and it was amazing to see my friends in my village and for them to experience a little bit of the village life. Everyday we used to walk to the school where my friends played games, interact and teach English to the school kids.

P Nepal

It was fantastic for me to see students from my school interacting with kids in my village. It felt great because I was part of the village school during my childhood and then I also became a part of my new school’s family. It almost felt like joining two families together.

 

P Nepal1

This is the first Project Nepal “PROJECT” and it was successful. I was really pleased with our work and of course the credit goes to everyone. When I go back to Nepal I will check how much progress they have made and if any change has come to the school for the students.  I also hope to do many other projects in Nepal with and for the Nepalese people.

To read more posts about Manoj please click here.

Good Old School Dinners

Fish 'n' Chips

Fish ‘n’ Chips

It has now been over 2 weeks since we arrived in the UK and I have now been in my new job for a full week and only just found time to reflect and put some words into a short post for the website.  Of course I have plenty of things to write about but I want to keep this one simple and about being back ‘home’ in the UK and the initial process of reconnecting with the UK education system – something I fully intend to take maximum advantage of and to feedback on over time.

Jam Sponge and Custard

Jam Sponge and Custard

It has been a very frenetic week meeting many new people and trying to puzzle together where and how they all fit within the complexities of a school organisation.  It is very tempting to dive straight in and to commit or give input to every request or idea that comes your way as you meet people and want to give a positive first impression.  You have to be realistic though and take a step back – observe and listen and build up as accurate a big picture as possible of how you and your role can be most effective and successful in the short and longer term without making too many mistakes.

A Friday smile

A Friday smile

It is times like this in your life and career that you look for constants, things that you are sure about and that reassure you however small they may be.  They guide you through the unknown and they are there for you to anchor your trust and confidence onto to. Today, when I walked into the school canteen for lunch (the food has been great all week by the way and making the need for exercise more urgent!) my senses detected that familiar smell of fish and chips, proper English fish and chips served on a Friday and with mushy peas.  I loaded up my tray and walked down the serving station thinking this could not get any better – but it could, there it was steaming hot jam sponge and custard staring right up at me, taking me all the way back to my secondary school days.  I said a heartfelt thanks to Sharon the chef at the same time expressing my delight for this nostalgic treat and she in return gave me the biggest end of the week smile, as if to say well done – you deserve it.  I hope I did.

One Man and a Piano

Expressing the artist in you

Expressing the artist in you

I was at the airport again today and had the pleasure to listen to a young man playing one of those ‘play me’ pianos in the public waiting area.  We had sat down to eat our packed lunch and placed ourselves next to the piano and talented pianist to enjoy the music whilst we ate.

Play me

Play me

Zoe immediately took her sandwich over to the piano and had a good look at what the man was doing.  She even started to move to the hypnotic tones of the jazz tunes being played.  I watched and wondered who first thought of this idea of placing pianos in public places for anyone to play?  The more I thought about it the more I loved the concept and continued watching to see what impact our pianist would have on other strangers in the waiting hall.

 

An American admirer

An American admirer

As I watched and also monitored Zoe, making sure that her busy fingers didn’t add any unwanted notes to a potential masterpiece, an American lady sidled up to the pianist and introduced herself.  She was quite animated and confident in her approach, immediately acknowledging the skills and passion of our pianist.  They struck up a common theme and chatted for a while, name cards were even swapped.  Meanwhile my oldest son had joined Zoe and the two of them had commandeered the piano as the two strangers were making plans.  I continued watching them talk at the same time cringing at the dreadful din being bashed out on the piano by Zoe and Jonah thinking I must intervene soon and save everyone from the terrible noise. Luckily the American lady suddenly shot off and the pianist re-focused his attention on the piano and set about on my two.

Twinkle Twinkle number

Twinkle Twinkle number

He asked them if they could play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and to my surprise Jonah started to play the favourite nursery rhyme. The pianist motioned Jonah to play a few octaves higher and then started to accompany him with a funky jazz bass version.  Suddenly my son was playing a Twinkle Twinkle duet with a random stranger and making heads turn in one of the busiest airport terminals in the world.

Patrick and a piano

Patrick and a piano

Isn’t it amazing how music and artistic expression and enthusiasm connects people. We only planned to be in the airport for a short while and never imagined meeting someone like Patrick – how do you plan for something like that – you don’t (but always look out for the opportunities).  I asked Patrick where he was going and what time his flight was.  He told me he wasn’t going anywhere, so I asked him if he was on his work break and if he did this everyday when he had the chance.  He said no, and that he had just seen his Japanese friend off and decided to hang around and the play piano for a couple hours.  We said a big thank you and good bye to Patrick and wished him all the best with his future plans (he is starting a film business).  We walked out of Heathrow Airport for the second time in one week but this time refreshed from the positiveness of personal connectivity and social interaction and privileged that we had met Patrick, the piano player.

The Rice Challenge – An American Perspective

Contributed by Sara Menges

Proactive and Innovative

Proactive and Innovative

Thank you Paul Crouch for nominating me to do the rice challenge! And thank you to Robyn Fox for this wonderful idea of donating rice to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in place of the ice bucket challenge. Since water is such a precious commodity and Los Angeles is facing a drought right now, I was especially pleased to be able to contribute to the ALS movement in this way.

With the Thanksgiving holidays coming up, I decided to donate my bag of rice to the Union Station Homeless Services (Union Station) organization. Committed to ending homelessness in the community, Union Station helps homeless men, women, and children rebuild their lives. Every year they also host a Thanksgiving Dinner-in-the-Park community event that provides holiday meals for homeless individuals, seniors, very low-income families, and those with no place to go during the holidays.

2013 Thanksgiving Dinner-in-the-Park Credit: SOSA PHOTO, www.pasadenanow.com

2013 Thanksgiving Dinner-in-the-Park
Credit: SOSA PHOTO, http://www.pasadenanow.com

I decided to call and ask if a big bag of rice would be useful for their kitchen staff and in preparing for the festivities. The response was very positive! The lady I chatted with on the phone loved the rice challenge idea and thanked me for thinking of Union Station. With this go ahead, I loaded my 50 pound bag of rice into a suitcase and rolled on down to the Adult Center I was advised to drop it off at. The staff at the center looked a little confused at first but laughter and smiles quickly proceeded after I explained the challenge.

Donating my bag of rice!

Donating my bag of rice!

This challenge was a joy to complete for the impact it would have on the center and for the impact it had on me. It never ceases to amaze me how therapeutic a random act of kindness can be. For the rest of the day, after the donation, I felt like I was walking on air! I also noticed a significant shift in the conversation I was having with my friend who accompanied me. Rather than listing all the problems he had to deal with that week, he was instead talking about the different things he could implement to tackle them more easily. It’s as if the whole experience allowed us both to reduce the stress levels in our body and flood it with more positivity instead. I guess Booker T. Washington had a point when he said “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

To spread the message and joy that comes with this challenge, I am now nominating Cassie Pais, Elizabeth Williams, and Marissa Merrill. How will you donate your rice? Who will you choose to uplift? Can’t wait to see!

If I do not see you again, hello

Take time to say hello - S. Bruce-Lockhart

Take time to say hello – S. Bruce-Lockhart

We hear it all the time, the world is changing rapidly and we have to be prepared to adapt to that change.  Education is (should be) all about preparing our future leaders for change and to be able to not only cope with change but to be the change-makers themselves by having the relevant life skills and confidence to use them.  You can never be 100% sure what is going to happen and therefore that temptation into a comfort zone is potentially a dangerous place to be found in for too long.  Many people have asked us why we are leaving Thailand; leaving our home, leaving jobs that we both loved, leaving ‘paradise’?  Of course it was a big and courageous decision to make but one that we have never regretted since making it back in late 2013.  We knew it was the right time for a change and we were prepared to take on the unknown factors that this change would throw our way and to learn from them.  Deep down we always knew the hardest factor would be saying goodbye, something I have never really been particularly good at.  I like to think I will always see people again and continue where we left off but maybe that is just dodging the truth and taking the easy way out of a hard goodbye.  I follow the blog of a well respected and experienced headmaster of a Round Square school in Canada, Mr. Simon Bruce-Lockhart, and really enjoyed reading one of his posts in particular regarding saying goodbye – the post is titled: Take Time to Say Goodbye.  

People handle goodbyes in many different ways and approach it with different attitudes, sometime gifts are exchanged as a sentimental representation of time spent together or as a message to take with you into your next adventure.

A sentimental suitcase

A sentimental suitcase

When I left the UK in August 1999 I was given a brand new suitcase by my friends with whom I had played local village cricket with for many years.  It was a complete surprise to me that these ‘lads’ had put some thought into a gift which I had never expected from them.  15 years ago it was a top of the range suitcase and perfect for packing my few possessions to take with me to Thailand for the next two years.  The sentimental feelings are just as strong as I pack it full of family possessions for our return trip to the UK tomorrow.  It has served me well and I am pleased it is coming home with us.

Not in the UK!

Not in the UK!

I have found it interesting how attached I have become to some of the material things that we have owned.  Part of this transition process has meant selling our cars and of course leaving our family home.  I am not really a car person but have had a couple of (brief) sentimental moments when finally handing both cars over to their new owners and realising that there will be no more family adventures in them.  Thousands of kilometers of nursery rhyme CDs, playing eye spy, making up awful jokes, tantrums, arguments, tears and laughter all confined in a metallic cube – gone!  It’s not like I am ever going to own a pick-up in the UK – and let the kids ride in the back is it?

The power of a stone (next to our zebra - which we are leaving behind!)

The power of a stone (next to our zebra – which we are leaving behind!)

As a teacher I always tell my students (when they ask me) that I don’t have favourites – but if I did have a favourite class then the class I taught Geography through Year 7 to Year 11 would have to be one of them.  I also taught many of these students ICT (well they actually taught me!) as well in Year 5 and Year 6. When it came to their graduation and leaving the school they presented me with a rock, knowing that I like rocks and talked about them quite often in my classes with a certain amount of passion. Each student had signed the rock and they were very pleased with themselves when they presented it to me and told me to take good care of it.  It was an effective way to say goodbye and to acknowledge what we had learnt and been through together – it had real meaning.  I have of course kept the rock ever since in my office at home and just realised the other day that it did not make the packing with the 91 boxes of shipping.  For a split second I though this cannot go to the UK, it is just a rock, but the emotional attachment and meaning soon came bursting out of me and I placed it in a suitcase ready to be packed.

One of the students in that Geography class sent me a poem the other day as part of her Global Citizenship reflection.  Her father saw it when visiting Japan and had sent her the translation.  Even though I have not seen this student since she left school over six years ago, we still say ‘hello’ to each other whenever we can and share our thoughts and ideas about the world.  I thought it was very poignant to receive this poem at a time of big transition and occasionally stress and anxiety for me and my family.  The hardest thing about change is the unknown and saying goodbye to the familiar.  Tomorrow is a the biggest day for our family so far and I am sure it will be a roller coaster ride of emotions but I also know it is going to be the best day.  If I do not see you again, ‘hello.’

Each day is the best day

Whether it rains
Whether it shines
Each day is the best day
Whether I cry
Whether I laugh
Today is the very best day
Because it is a precious day out of my life

-Mitsuo Aida