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2016: My reflections

This blog looks at the highs and lows of 2016.

2016 has been a very interesting year, possibly the most exciting and fulfilling year for a very long time. At the beginning of the year I was extremely unhappy whilst working at the school I had been at for 4 years. The people were great (except for one) but I just felt like i’d hit a point where I needed to move on. I felt unfulfilled in my role and although I had passed my post graduate certification in education, I had no intention of becoming a teacher. The pressure to do something with myself was growing bigger and bigger, I had the opportunity to do my Newly Qualified Teacher’s year but I refused because I didn’t want to be a teacher. It didn’t help that I had Toni breathing down my neck about wanting to get married before she was 25 (Jan 2017) and she made it clear she weren’t here to play around. She wanted a ring or she’d leave is pretty much how she might as well have said it. As if.

An unqualified teacher earning no more than a £1,200 a month wasn’t going to pay for the expensive engagement ring I know I needed to keep Toni happy. As a result, I decided to make the decision of applying for new positions in other schools. There were two job positions in particular that I applied for and really wanted. Plus the money was great. It was £30-35k in comparison to the 21k I was earning. One of them called me back to tell me I didn’t get the position for whatever reason. The other school however called me back and offered me an interview. I got to the final stages of the interview and it was down to just myself and two other candidates. I went home that day with the school informing me that I would get a response by the end of the day, letting me know If I got the job or not.

I remember feeling sick in my stomach because

1. I had skipped work that day to go to this interview 

2. It was the last week of December in 2015 so If I was offered the job, it meant I had to hand in a very short notice notice to my school, stating that I wouldn’t be returning in January when school resumed.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that this would be a terrible way to leave the school considering I had made some very good friends. More importantly,  my head had done so much for me since I joined  in 2011 and I felt like leaving so abruptly would be a kick in the teeth for her. It would have been a bitter sweet feeling if I was offered the job at this new school…but I wasn’t offered the job. They said it came down to myself and another candidate and the only reason the other candidate was chosen instead of me was because he/she had more experience dealing with behaviour problems. Gutted.

I found it harder than I thought to come to terms with the rejection. Not because I can’t deal with rejection (I can’t to be honest 😶) but mainly because I had imagined myself moving into my new office, hi-fiving my new receptionist on the way in and I was already thinking about what i’d do with the money i’d be getting from my new salary. All this was going on in my head during the interview process. Plus the school was nice, the people were great and the money would have been amazing. However,It was bitter sweet.  If I had left my school that December, it would have been the worst way to leave and I would have ruined all those relationships I had made during my time there.

When I came back to school the following January, I struggled to be motivated at work and this showed in my demeanour but I couldn’t shake it off. I seriously disliked my line manager and I couldn’t find it within myself to be the Christian I should be and love her regardless of her annoying and condescending self. God challenged me. He told me I needed to have faith and believe in him. I started meditating on two scriptures.

The first was:

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

The second was:

Jeremiah 29:11For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope ".

These two scriptures became my everything. I would meditate on these scriptures in my car on the way to work, at work in my classroom and at night as I was struggling to sleep. It consumed me, but I didn’t just say it to say it. Well I did in the beginning - but I actually started to believe it. Like yes, this is what God’s word says. He has a plan for me, plans for my welfare , to give me future and a hope. I believe it!

As I was managing my mindset and emotions with these scriptures, God then spoke to me through some men of God at a fellowship meeting. A few young men at church had organised to meet up once a week for some bible study and chill time. One of our Pastor’s at the time Steve McEwen facilitated the whole thing and during one meeting the topic was about paying tithes. Tithes was something I understood, it was something I knew I should do but it wasn’t something I necessarily did and I can only imagine this was because I didn’t believe it was that important/necessary. I could think of all the excuses why not to pay tithes but the easiest one for me was simply ‘I don’t have enough money, God understands, he knows my situation, I’ll give what I can. Too risky to pay a whole tenth of my low salary anyways’.

In this meeting, the guys shared their viewpoint on paying tithes and just like any good pastor, Steve McEwen referred back to the bible and read what the scripture said. This was probably a scripture i’ve heard many times before when it’s time for tithes and offering at church so it wasn’t a revelation to me.  In fact, it was the testimonies of some of the guys about their experiences since they’ve paid their tithes that caught my attention.  Many of them were either in a similar situation to me and were not necessarily earning a great deal of money or at some point were struggling financially.

However, they shared as much passion about the scripture’s instruction to give a tenth back to the church as they did about any other word from God and why wouldn’t they? I mean as a Christian, who says he believes in God’s word and promises, why do I think I can pick and chose what it is that I want to be obedient in? Furthermore, I had just started operating in a new level of faith so what good was it saying ‘ Trust in the lord with all my heart’ on my way to work but not trusting him to ensure my welfare if I gave just a tenth back to the church once a month. This scripture that was shared in the meeting summed it all up for me

Luke 12: 24  “Consider the Ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds”.

From that day in February, I started paying my tithes. Yes, as an act of obedience but God showed me later on in the year that it was also a test of my faith. The toughest but best decision I may have made that year.

During the next couple months, I found myself in a strange place. I still wasn’t happy with my situation in my current school but I made the decision to kill my line manager with kindness when we crossed paths in the corridor. Spiritually, I felt at one with myself. I had peace that came with a new sense of faith. I didn’t know what my purpose was in life, I didn’t even know what i’d be doing in the next 5/6 months but I knew no matter what, wholeheartedly,  God was in control. Ironically, God used people from my work place to confirm something I already knew about myself. I’m brilliant with young people who have behaviour problems. They knew this because of my track record and relationship with the difficult pupils in the school since I started there. However, if they knew my behaviour log and lack of attainment from the age 0f 4-18 , they could have understood a bit better why this was the case.

I related to the unruly because.... I was one myself. 

In the staffroom one day, during a conversation,  my colleague said ‘ you’d be great in a special school with challenging kids, that’s exactly what they need there. Someone like you’.

I processed it for the next few days and thought to myself, "I don’t want to be a teacher but I still want to work with young people in some capacity". The next step from where i’m at is to just do my NQT year. Why not do my NQT year in a specialist behaviour school/Pupil referral unit and get the year over and done with.Once my NQT year is done, i’ll be a qualified teacher, I would have the experience working with pupils who have behaviour problems and I could apply for another role in education and BAM! I may finally do something that’s fulfilling and pay me well enough to secure my impatient girlfriend before she leaves me.

One day, I literally emailed every PRU or behaviour school I could find in London and expressed my interest at the prospect of doing my NQT year in their school. Out of all the schools/units only one school got back to me. The head of the primary department emailed back and said it would be lovely for me to come and visit, so that’s what I did. I went there and I loved it. Not because the school  aesthetically looked great or because the children seemed so lovely, because they weren’t. In fact, as i walked into the building, the first thing I saw was a secondary pupil being restrained by the head of Secondary whilst shouting out to me “Don’t come here! He’s a paedophile!”

The head teacher flashed a tired grin at me and I did my best to not bring any more attention to the situation by walking down the corridor - smiling to myself. Like I said already, I loved it. The children were in the classroom trying their best to focus but seemed to be distracted by literally everything. I heard all kinds of profanities coming out of the mouths 9 year olds that I had never heard before.

A pupil got out of their seat threatening another from across the room and the teacher in the most gentle way asked him to take a seat and he did. I mean he was still staring at the pupil he was threatening, but he sat down. The whole time I thought to myself “I love it here. This is the kind of place for someone like me”.

Shortly after my visit, the head emailed me back and asked me how I found my visit and informally offered me a job position to start there as soon as possible. I told her about my situation at work and informed her that I would have to give my employers at least a couple week’s notice. She replied back saying they would be willing to hold the place for me until June if I could get permission from my school to let me start in June. I was nervous to ask at first but when I did, as usual,  my head understood my decision to move on and gave me permission to leave in June and start my new journey at my new school.

That same month, an U11s team was created and added to my football academy,I proposed to Toni and she said yes,Obviously. And a few weeks later my best mate Aaron proposed to his girlfriend too. In July I bought a brand new car and the following month I went out to Cyprus and witnessed  the most amazing wedding where my good friend tied the knot with his fiancé. In September, I officially started my role as a Newly Qualified Teacher at my current school and witnessed another good friend of mine tie the knot to his long term girlfriend. In December my application for a diverse leadership programme was successful and i’ll be starting that in January 2017. As the end of the year came to a close, it was evident for me to see that I had truly been blessed in 2016. This year, more than any other year, I felt I had matured as a man, asking my girlfriend of 6 years to one day be my wife. I’d grown closer to God, found a sense of purpose with my life and I could count the personal achievements that had been made. I don’t tend to reflect in this manner but it’s something I intend to do in the future.

Two things I learnt last year :

1.Be thankful, even in the most difficult times. It encourages positivity but actually happiness is something no one has mastered. it’s never-ending, and you should appreciate the small accomplishments you have made, or what you DO have in comparison to others or maybe what you may have had before. Plus, remember someone else is going through something worse somewhere else.It’s hard to think of that in the moment I know, but just always be thankful.

2. Don’t be afraid to fail. Every failure is a lesson and in every lesson there’s a blessing. Having a growth mindset approach towards things in your life is essential. I used to run from a challenge but actually every time I tested myself against something difficult, I came out of it stronger. Depressed and a little traumatised but nevertheless I learnt, I grew and pushed on with confidence.

Being thankful when it’s going great is easy, giving thanks when it’s not going so great is a lot harder but it’s a habit that’s pulled me through the year amongst other things. I hope 2017 is as prosperous for myself and my loved ones as 2016 has been for me.

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