The Bashing of Morph written by Guest Blogger Camilla Densmore

Thank you Camilla for submitting this extremely thought provoking post! I’m delighted that you wanted to Guest Blog for me. Camilla is a highly experienced and knowledgable Deputy Headteacher and mother to 2 lovely little boys. Here she explores the issue of self-esteem in the school environment and beyond…

The Bashing of Morph.

The Headteacher interview process was into its second day. As the candidate sat down for her panel interview, she pulled out a model of Morph, from the famous 80s animation. It wasn’t quite as good but it was clear who he was. She explained that Morph represents a pupil in a school.

“Not now Morph, I’m busy with another pupil.”
The candidate pushed Morph’s plasticine shoulder down with her thumb so he stood awkwardly, his arm sticking out at an odd angle.
“Yes that’s good Morph, but you didn’t write the digits on the line.”
The other shoulder slumped, head lolling to one side.
“I know you worked hard on that project but you studied the wrong type of plant!”
Morph’s leg buckled and he looks almost bent in two.
“Why did you flick that pencil? Why? Would you do that at home? No!”
Bent double, limbs all over the place.
“It doesn’t matter if you weren’t picked for the team, there’ll be plenty more opportunities”

Morph was a pile of brown plasticine in an unrecognisable lump, eyes squashed and no features to speak of.

The candidate looked up at the panel, and paused before saying, “And I see it as my job, as Headteacher, to ensure as far as I can, that that doesn’t happen in my school.”

This was a story shared at the Headteacher training conference I attended a few years ago. It was pertinent to me then, as a Deputy Headteacher who spent much time observing classroom practice, delivering staff training and also dealing with pupils on a one on one or small group basis, often sorting disagreements. Those statements that I’ve heard, both from my own mouth and that of others, are all too common. As a teacher, you know you should maintain the positive approach, rewarding the good behaviour, not punishing the bad. But it’s hard. The children have been in all lunchtime due to the rain and have unspent energy, you’ve a staff meeting after school and you’ve a pile of maths books waiting for you to mark them before tomorrow’s next maths lesson, which is first thing. All too quickly, out slips the odd comment, that look at the child who just knows how to push your buttons, not quite enough time to explain that maths method, and just not as much patience as you should have.

As a full time mum of two small boys now, I have the same struggles. The food’s been thrown on the clean floor for the nth time today, the baby’s crying again, the tantrum because you presented the same food that he liked yesterday, you’re tired, it’s raining… I try to imagine my 2 year old as Morph and I wonder how many times a day I knock him and squash him. It’s more than I’d like to admit to, probably.

Self esteem is an abstract noun, meaning it doesn’t have a physical presence. True. But we can see low self esteem, in a variety of ways. It’s the result of a steady stream of knock downs from peers, parents, family, friends, teachers, coaches… your Morph may not be a pupil or child. But we all do it don’t we? We also all encounter little people at some point, and what we say and how we say it – and what we don’t say – can make a huge difference. When you encounter that Morph, you don’t know how many knocks have come before and how close to being an unrecognisable pile he is. And there is no magical ability to change into a ball, or cylinder to get away from it.

And with Morph standing tall, neither should there need be.

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If the self-esteem of your children or those you teach is a matter close to your heart, check out:

https://britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/index.php/book/index/WormSlugMaggotandLeech

And maybe even place an order! I am hopeful that this story might be used as a tool to explore issues related to self-esteem with children. And you might just get me to my target this week!

Thank you for reading.

Polly x

Once upon a time….

Three weeks in and I have 184 pre-orders for ‘Worm, Slug, Maggot & Leech and their Troublesome Transformation’. I’m absolutely over the moon!

Naturally I’ve been thinking back to where this journey began, leading
me last weekend to a little sketchbook hidden in the depths of my arty crafIMG_20140422_0002ty ‘Useful Box’ in the garage: a hoard of wrapping paper tubes, beads and buttons,crayons, empty cartons and paintbrushes, all stored for a chicken pox outbreak or a rainy day. The concept of the ‘Useful Box’ was inherited from my Grandparents. My Grandfather in particular hoarded, composted, reused and recycled decades before it was either trendy or a necessity for us to do so – something I paid tribute to in an illustration produced during my teens entitled “Grandpa’s Garage Shelves’…

Despite my husband’s pleas to clear the garage of my ever expanding Useful Box, I have big plans for summer holiday junk modelling activities in the garden, which I’m desperately trying to preserve whilst ignoring the fact that said junk modelling activities may well nudge my children through their own troublesome transformation into wild, frustrated whirling dervishes tangled in masking tape brandishing glue sticks like spears. Hmmm.

As well as exploring the delights of my Grandparent’s Useful Box and garage shelves, as a child I was never without a book, pen or paper. I could often be found tapping away at an old fashioned typewriter too – one of my early memories was typing lines of random letters and trying to find short 1 or 2 letter words hidden in the jumbled nonsense. Later I used the clunky contraption to produce various tales, often winning competitions for my creations including a personal tour around a lifeboat! Throughout university I wrote occasionally for the student magazine and over the years have had the odd item published here and there in local newsletters, papers and so on.

Illustrating, painting, arts and crafts are also a huge passion. As well as producing artworks for enjoyment, for friends and to sell, I have carried out art workshops with young offenders and led art-based activities at a young people’s summer camp. I am a true believer in the therapeutic side of art – on infinite levels.

For me illustrating and writing go hand in hand – it’s an obvious union, which I took great pleasure in utilising when producing my book.

I digress! Inside the little sketchbook I discovered my earliest ‘doodlings’ produced during a post workplace mediation train commute, originally of Worm, Slug and Maggot, joined later by their dear friend the Leech. I have no recollection of how or why the three became four, nor why Leech was initially absent. Maybe that could be a subject for a sequel?!

Without further ado, here is the real life transformation of Worm, Slug, Maggot and Leech, from a train journey daydream to ‘almost published’.

Thank you again for reading.

 Polly

You can pre-order ‘Worm, Slug, Maggot & Leech and their Troublesome Transformation’ at:

 https://britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/index.php/book/index/WormSlugMaggotandLeech

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B-logging off for Easter…

It’s all very well preaching about issues effecting the children of today… but the issue facing my children today (and their Daddy!) is that their Mummy is permanently stuck to some electronic device updating her blog, Twitter feed, or emailing somebody in an influential circle with hope they may support her book campaign… IMG_3943

So, I’m logging off for Easter to spend with my family. Have a wonderful choccie filled weekend, wherever you are or whatever you’re doing! Back blogging next week.

ps… If you have a spare moment over the weekend and you are attached to an electronic device, you can pre-order ‘Worm, Slug, Maggot & Leech and Their Troublesome Transformation’ at:

https://britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/index.php/book/index/WormSlugMaggotandLeech

Thank you again for reading and for your ongoing support! x

 

Holding self-esteem in high esteem

This week I’ve had one of those ‘ground open up and swallow me’ moments that was very much related to my book. Meaning well but obviously wanting to challenge me a little I was asked (by a supporter I must add):

‘Was it difficult to write a story about self esteem when you’re not exactly ugly?’

‘But do you reeeeally understand the challenges being faced by children and young people who are struggling with these issues?’

Quite a bit of awkward ‘ummming’ and ‘aaaahing’ followed and then some squirming and since then a general feeling of being quite uncomfortable has hung over me a little. So I’ve decided to tackle these questions head on. I guess if one person is bold enough to ask, others must be wondering.

Anyone can suffer from the demons of low self-esteem whether they are the most minted billionaire, the most beautifully stunningly attractive model type or the most loved celeb. (Surely we’ve learnt that much from Heat magazine?!) Self-esteem isn’t about how a person looks, it’s about the way they feel about themselves and their abilities. However pleasing one is to the eye, if they have a negative view of themselves, if they feel ugly, have little belief in their abilities or feel stupid it’s pretty certain to say that they are going to lack confidence and self-esteem. The challenges of life will be much harder for them and they are more likely to find life’s lows a source of deep anxiety.

Self-esteem can change too. A major life event – a new school, a bereavement, a redundancy, a change in family circumstance can lower the self-esteem of even the most upbeat, resilient and positive character. Equally, you don’t need to search far to find a self help checklist/ guide / article or website devoted to overcoming the inner demon so flipping the negative on it’s head is a possibility too, at least temporarily. However, the patterns of self-esteem start young and as with most things, are harder to overcome in adulthood. A child with low self-esteem is more likely to experience depression, anxiety and other obstacles related to mental health including self-harm and eating disorders. They may find it difficult to make and maintain friendships and will find new experiences difficult – to the point of avoiding them. Not a good place to be and not a sturdy foundation on which to build a fulfilling life.

So in answer to the first question, when writing my book I was probably faced with similar quandaries as any other author, days when I was ‘stuck’, others when I really wasn’t motivated, and many more when I really didn’t think it was any good so what was the point, and none of them have anything to do with the way I look. And whilst my book isn’t explicitly about self-esteem I do hope it could be a useful mechanism in introducing and exploring issues of self-esteem with children, particularly those who may be struggling with the way they look, their abilities or aspects of their personality.

I was quite a fretful youngster, doubtful of myself and my abilities, heavily critical of myself, permanently apologetic. I clearly remember some of the anxieties I carried as a child and a teen, I remember being sick before school because I was so worried about having hairy arms and being told yet again that I looked like a gorilla, I remember the feeling of being followed from the school bus like it was yesterday, my neighbourhood peers shouting ‘eeeuuuugh’ at me like I was a piece of sh*it on their shoe… and I also remember my attempts at shifting this power balance and being pretty bloomin’ nasty to a couple of my fellow school mates too – getting me nowhere other than making us all feel rotten. Of course I also worried incessantly about my Mum, a bright, lively woman weakened in all aspects of her being by Multiple Sclerosis. In the grand scheme of things my upbringing was privileged in comparison to the horrors that some youngsters live through but it was all very real then and ghastly at times, and I do remember the feeling of vulnerability I sometimes felt as a child extremely vividly.

I may not fully understand the challenges faced by the children of today’s society for I was not a child growing up in this image obsessed world striving for perfection on every level at every turn. But I do see the pressures of society on a different level: I’m an adult, a mother, a wife, a professional, a woman with a circle of extremely driven and successful friends… it takes a great deal of self discipline at times to remind myself and accept that I can’t tick every box and on some days I’ll be lucky to tick one or two. Transport my childhood scenario to a child today who has yet to learn to be kind to themselves, throw into the mix social media, the modern day pressures to be permanently-perfectly-amazing, and the other factors facing a vast percentage of the population – family breakdown, illness, poverty and more… and you have the perfect breeding ground for a low self-esteem. That much I do understand.

iStock_000032035428SmallTaking time to talk and to listen to our children about their emotional wellbeing can help them feel heard, feel important, valued and loved. What better way to contribute to the development of a positive, blossoming self-esteem? And what better starting point for that discussion than a book?

You can pre-order ‘Worm, Slug, Maggot & Leech and their Troublesome Transformation’ at www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk.

I promise a little more cheer in my next blog so please stick with me! Thank you again for reading.

x

Inclusion, diversity and pink specs…

I’m absolutely forcing myself to sit and update my blog this evening. After what has been quite frankly a bonkers first week of my campaign I suddenly have writer’s block, stage fright … call it what you will but the way I feel about writing this blog is basically a bit scared. So I have booze in hand (you’ll know why if I become a little more ‘rambly’ than usual! – look I’m already making words up!) Here goes.

When my tale about a worm, a slug, a maggot and a leech was first accepted by ‘Britain’s Next Bestseller’ I was over the moon but slightly bewildered, wondering why? Is it a scam?! This week I have been utterly gob smacked at the level of backing and encouragement I’ve received and as well as WOW! I’ve also been anxiously wondering why? Is it a scam?! And overall: what happens if I reach my pre-order target, I get my book published and THEY ALL HATE IT!

That’s my over-active-analytical-self doing it’s usual thing there but thankfully I have come to the firm conclusion that wherever opinions may fall about my book, I am (without a shadow of doubt) surrounded by a bunch of unbelievably supportive friends and family but fundamentally fellow human beings who are keen to instill some pretty decent values in our young. Whilst we all hope to nurture a well-rounded future generation, with my many references to self-esteem, inclusion etc I must stress that I’m not talking about creating a generation of exaggerated political correctness but respectful, thoughtful and confident little people who are able to make well-informed decisions about themselves and those they share the word with and that they will kindly assist others through their journey in life – whoever they may be.

iStock_000019717637SmallRose tinted spectacles? Maybe. But I’ll try and remain optimistic and continue to do my little bit.

With my over-active-analytical-hat firmly planted on my head this week I’ve also been questioning a little more than usual why inclusion and diversity are so important to me. Throughout my SEN teaching it was not uncommon to experience kids arriving at school with a can of Irn Bru for breakfast cussing and swearing and then throwing up in the art-room sink because they were so stoned (all before 9:20 am). Entertaining as it may sound, in most cases their hugely disadvantaged backgrounds led to grim classroom discussions, the incident at their ‘yard’ the night before, the stabbings, the drugs, drunkenness, aggression and violence was the tip of the iceberg. The traumatised kids who had come from war-torn countries seeking asylum in London with extended family because they had left their parents – where? barely spoke… school was a sanctuary for them; a place of safety and consistency with a team of staff who were undeviating in their approaches, their commitment to inclusion and their dedication to improving their life chances, to keeping these kids out of prison (or worse) was constant.

Ultimately I chose a different career path – yet even now as a mediator I iStock_000004146333Smallencounter conflict situations where young children are surrounded by such devastating bitterness and hatred that in many cases their own families are possibly squandering their life chances before puberty is a blip on the horizon.

Either way, each of these children, these young people, will most probably be sharing a world as adults with MY children and I want to do what I can to ensure that if ever their paths crossed, they would all do the right thing by one another. In addition, I am passionate about encouraging inclusion and celebrating diversity because for me this means celebrating and respecting our differences, which in turn educates us, it helps us understand one another by overcoming ignorance and prejudice, and eventually unites us on some level.

Rose tinted spectacles? Maybe. But I’ve got a mighty fine worm, slug, maggot and leech on my team so I’ll remain hopeful!

You can pre-order my children’s book ‘Worm, Slug, Maggot & Leech and their Troublesome Transformation’ at http://www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk.

Thank you for reading x