When I left full time education, I had qualified as a Teacher. I had always wanted to be a teacher. My school reports were never those of the glowing, will do well variety. But that was probably because most of the things we seemed to do at school really didn’t interest me. I was indeed a quiet child, preferring to watch and listen. People thought I was lazy. Looking back, I would disagree with that label. I think ‘laid back’ or inquisitive may have been a truer description! Because I’m the sort of person who likes to watch and listen in a situation to see what is going on, to get the feeling of the room, if you like.
But people thought I was lazy and shy. Their interpretation!
As a child I loved nature. I would walk for miles up into the hills and sit for hours just watching nature and wildlife. Thinking, reading, writing. My childhood days were very different than those of today. We did enjoy more freedom. Perhaps not because the world was actually a safer place, but maybe it was in those days. Our parents didn’t seem to have the worries parents have today and consequently we were given more freedom, more independence.
You would often find me rescuing small animals. I made a home for some frogs once when they had been injured in our garden. I rescued a blackbird, whilst I had been riding my bike along a quiet country lane. It had bounced off a car windscreen as It passed me and landed in the road. I know now that I should perhaps have left it as It had probably only been stunned. But I didn’t. I took it home and made a nest for it.
I loved reading.
I loved helping on the family farm. Animals, nature, it was a way of life.
I loved learning.
But I didn’t like school!
I only did the minimum in order not to get into trouble and to get by.
Yet I still wanted to be a teacher! I will never know why…..
But that was the path I chose, and I loved it.
However, after some years on my chosen path, I encountered the first ‘Puddle’ on a nasty bend, when the government decided that teachers had to be more accountable and they completely overhauled the teaching system, subsequently introducing a shambles of a system, that eventually became the National Curriculum.
Until then, my strengths had been in providing ‘Topic Based Learning’ to primary school children. I loved this ‘across the board’ approach, that encompassed lots of Life Skills and interesting things for children to learn about. It included lots of creative aspects, drama, role play, school trips and visits and many other ‘hands on’ experiences that children thrive on.
But things changed drastically, seemingly overnight and the joy of what I had once loved seemed to dim.
I splashed around in the new style education system ‘Puddle’, where we had to do Literacy and Numeracy in a more regimented fashion, putting children into a hierarchy, where the more able children were supposed to fly, whilst the less able seemed only to flounder, marking them as either succeeding or not quite making the grade! The grade according to who exactly?? Those who excelled at drama may not have been great at spelling or grammar. But there wasn’t a measurable outcome in the curriculum or a box to tick for their success or flair in role play! So it wasn’t recognised. But the poor spelling and grammar was.
The puddle seemed to be getting deeper.
The red tape was choking teachers. Classes were becoming larger and larger. There were more and more children with Special Needs and no extra budget to support them. I felt for the first time ever, that I wasn’t able to spend enough time with 34 children in my class, 16 of whom were registered as having additional needs. I had to spend so much time out of the classroom, in meetings, planning, marking, scoring and accounting for what I did. When it came to be writing my reports, I struggled to ‘know’ the children well enough to write a really honest review of each one.
This puddle on this path was now too large and I didn’t want to drown.
I waded out of it and changed to a different path, hoping for one without puddles.
First, I took some time out. I volunteered at a local dog rescue kennels for a few months after I left teaching, which fuelled my already huge love of dogs. I really enjoyed it and I have ended up giving a home to rescue dogs ever since. Loads of them! All Border Collies.
I feel so inspired by them, their loyalty, their willingness and their intelligence.
But I had to earn an income too.
I re-trained and ran my own business. I loved it for a while, but I soon began to realise that I was trying to help people, who didn’t want to be helped!
I was running a nutrition and weight-loss business. I was, though I say it myself, good at what I did. But the problem was, everyone wanted to lose weight, but they actually didn’t want to do what it took to achieve that. I’m sure they would have loved me to do it for them but come on! That’s not humanly possible! If you want it enough then it’s up to you to do the work! It is so easy to let ourselves off the hook isn’t it? To give ourselves excuses. To want the result, but not the effort.
So, for me, this path had its puddle too and there were thorns and stinging nettles by the side of the path too. I really wasn’t happy to continue along this way.
I needed to be making a difference to peoples lives. And I didn’t feel that I was.
Then I stumbled across Fostering. I couldn’t believe it! Just what I wanted. Being a Foster Parent I could work from home, be with my dogs, and also help children! I have always loved children. I had two grown up daughters who had left home, so we had the space and it seemed like such a great and worthwhile thing to do. I took the path and re-trained.
Fostering has become such a rewarding career. The puddles are there, dotted all along the way, in ‘challenging children’, I have had oh so many! But the walk along the dry parts of the path were so beautiful, that it didn’t seem to matter!
I came across one really big puddle when a child made an allegation against me. That was hard, but the allegation was not founded so I walked through the puddle and emerged the other side only a little damp around the edges. But that soon disappeared.
There have been lots of puddles where I had to wade through the mire, trying to get help for emotionally damaged children, when no outside help or support was available. Did it even exist I often wondered? Those puddles were much harder to navigate.
But if the destination is worth the effort, then sometimes, when we come across a puddle in the path, we just have to walk through it.
But the puddles I needed to help children cross, emotionally, with no help or support or knowledge, were the turning point for me. The path I was on seemed to stretch for miles, with these muddy puddles dotted everywhere. I didn’t want to leave the path as this was the path I had chosen, and I love being a foster parent. Though it was occasionally a lonely walk. But I worried for the children. So I carried on.
Eventually, there was a slight fork in the path to the right, with another path running to the side. I couldn’t really see what it this path looked like, but it seemed really promising, without any puddles. I decided to trust my instincts.
This Path was ‘Emotional Wellbeing’. It was lined with beautiful wildflowers, the sweet smell of herbs, the sound of birdsong and the feeling of calm warm air brushing gently across my face. The people already on this path were very friendly, caring, wanting to help and support each other and share their wisdom and understanding – as well as their beautiful path. They were like-minded. I felt as if I belonged.
Because this path was running closely alongside my chosen path, I took it and I trained to become an Ollie Emotional Wellbeing Coach.
And quite quickly, somewhere along the line, the two paths almost seemed to merge, meaning I could actually walk them both at the same time, on the same journey, avoiding the puddles, bringing the children with me, whilst taking in everything this new path had to offer and teach us.
After a while I graduated. A fully qualified Ollie Coach. The path stretched out for miles in front of me.
And before I knew it there seemed to be hundreds of paths with families and children popping out of the woods. Asking me for directions and coming with me on my path for a short while until I was able to help them find the own way back onto their chosen paths, with or without puddles, sharing what I had learned with them, enabling them to help their children and families along their way too.
And each and every one of them left with a new direction and a lighter load to bear on the journey to their own destination.
Each one has left me with a feeling of new understanding and learning that they brought to me. Each one waves good-bye leaving me with a sense of humility and pride.
There will be puddles on every path we take in life. We can’t avoid them. Some we can wade through. Many are small enough to walk round. Larger ones may even make us change our course but in doing so what we may find may be even better. What we achieve will make us even stronger. What will learn will amaze us. What the journey can give us will be so enriching.
Every Path has its Puddle.
Progress is rarely without difficulty.
But it is progress, on a journey towards a destination.
And progress is positive.