I could be dreaming

At the end of a holiday and on Sunday nights, I will often have anxiety dreams about the subsequent return to work. They may involve forgetting a crucial item, inadequate preparation, or another similarly important failure, but their reasoning is the same; the stress of the following day is playing on my mind.

Outside of work, I also suffer from these dreams if I pressure myself to perform, typically in the build-up to a race. I have lost count of the number of times I have turned up to the start of a marathon, realised I have forgotten my shoes/race number/vest/lucky socks*, but carried on regardless, and then woken up. Tony Audenshaw (of Marathon Talk’sTony’s trials) suggests this is a good thing as it ensures extra preparation – and those mishaps will not occur during the event itself. However, it is true that I have never** turned up to a race without any of those aforementioned items.

I had a similar dream this week. I had just met the people joining me on my next challenge and we were discussing our preparations. I was talking through some of the things I had brought with me and realised I had forgotten my camera. While I acknowledge this isn’t the greatest of catastrophes, it was obviously playing on my mind.

Further into the dream, it also transpired that I had forgotten any electrical cables, so I wouldn’t be able to charge other electronic devices. This upset me further as I could not figure out how to use my phone to make calls and take photos, as there was no way that the battery would last the duration. Wanting to give no indication of any weakness, I kept all signs of panic to myself.

That was until someone pulled out a map of the route.

For the most part, the route largely looked as I had anticipated. However, further scrutiny indicated a shear drop the other side of the track I would be running along. I would have to spend the duration of the event contending with the fear that one wrong step would result in me plunging to my imminent death***. I couldn’t understand how I had made such a significant oversight.

It was soon after this that my alarm woke me up.

I know exactly why I had this dream, and can analyse every single aspect. It is the natural pressure that I put on myself and the subsequent anxiety that I hope to perform. Nerves are normal and a good thing in that they demonstrate a comprehension of the magnitude of the task in hand. From conversations with other people (well, runners and teachers), I know that I am not alone in these kinds of dreams. However, this dream was different to any other that I have ever had for a single fact that frustrates me.

It is one year until the event is due to take place. Am I seriously going to have to contend with these dreams throughout 2013?

*I don’t even have any lucky socks
** to date
*** the waiver I have to sign states “falling off the trail could cause severe injury or death”, but nothing about shear drops greater than 1000m, as implied by my dream

Running up that hill

Those of you who followed my run from Paris to London from its conception until its completion will be aware that I used it as a focus during a difficult period. Ever since, I have been thinking about how I could find a new challenge, selecting something that would be sufficiently extraordinary to motivate me to a similar level.

Well, that selection has now been made…

In the meantime, if anyone is looking to join me on a mountain marathon as preparation, please let me know. Jungfrau, OMM and Saunders are possible additions to those I have already entered. All options will be considered.

A new home

Originally posted 2nd November 2012

It has been a while since I last blogged, but not been without reason; earlier this year, I started teaching myself how to design websites (having previously dabbled with html).

Writing prose was replaced with writing code and this website (www.simon-levy.co.uk) is the latest stage of that. This also means the blog has moved from its former web address.

The site has been written from scratch. By me. In notepad*. Everything contained within it is my own, and is currently a ‘work in progress’. There are some aspects that I like and others that I don’t like. I have uploaded some bits to establish if I like them, and others to demonstrate that I don’t like them. Have a look around and let me know what you think**. Test things to see if they work, or try to ‘break’ them and demonstrate that they don’t.

Some features include:

  • Contact form (hopefully with spam filters)
  • Customised error pages (e.g. for going to a wrong page)
  • Different experience based on the device or screen/window size you are using (e.g. mobile/tablet)
  • Race time predictor and mile split calculator (particularly for runners)
  • Galleries (with scrolling and navigation features)
  • Blog integration (although I hope to improve this so that the styling closer fits that of the remainder of the site)

The site currently utilises css, html, javascript, jQuery and php (although I have also been learning python). It needs to be tested on a wider range of browsers and requires javascript support to be fully functional (but should still work in a limited fashion without).

At present, the site doesn’t ‘do anything’ in particular. This may change as it develops. I hope you like it.

*Everything except for the WordPress installation of the new blog pages
**It would be appreciated if you can let me know if you like what you see and/or how you think it could be improved

Quitting is forever

I had always hoped that Lance Armstrong was innocent. He has successfully fought numerous forms of cancer, undergone brain surgery and chemotherapy and subsequently gone on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles.

His quote epitomises his battles:

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

His feats are monstrous and his story is akin to that of fairytales; too good to be true.

L’equipe, the French newspaper, and USADA, the US anti-doping authority, have taken this literally and continually tried to find him guilty of drug taking during a period in which the sport was plagued by such corruption.

Lance has protested his innocence throughout, and been supported by the UCI (International Cycling Union) and USA Cycling, while USADA have broken their own rules and have arguably acted corruptly themselves (see here and here for some detail). However, he was given until 0600 this morning to decide whether or not to continue fighting USADA’s charges, and he declined. His statement (here) details the reasons – referring to “the toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our [cancer fighting] foundation”.

Following this announcement, the UCI and WADA* (the World anti-doping authority) are to monitor the situation. This is the same WADA whom the BOA (British Olympic authority) had to conform to in order to allow Dwain Chambers, David Millar and Carls Myerscough among other convicted drugs cheats to partake in future Olympic Games. The fact that the USADA can inflict a lifetime ban, yet the BOA cannot bemuses me.

I maintain that I hope that Lance is innocent. Drugs cause corruption throughout sport and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to keep sport entirely clean. His achievements are still enormous, regardless of the ‘truth’ – he still suffered seriously from cancer and, in the aftermath, cycled faster than anybody else in seven consecutive tours; these are facts.

All of this leaves me with one thing playing on my mind. That is why has he decided “enough is enough”? Referring back to his own quote, above, this is quitting. He will have to endure this pain forever, leaving me to assume one thing: that he must be guilty. I hope to be proved wrong.

Right angled triangles

This is my second attempt at creating a ‘prezi’ presentation. It is currently ‘in progress’ and I am still not certain of the best way to ‘store it’ for future access, so have placed a link here for the time being.

With this particular prezi, I haven’t yet decided if I want it to include trigonometry, or if I want this to be separate.

Solar System

These are a few resources regarding the solar system, for reference, in case I wish to find them in future.

All known planets to scale via xkcd:
http://xkcd.com/1071/
Interactive solar system:
http://www.sunaeon.com/#/solarsystem/ or http://www.sunaeon.com/
The universe to scale:
http://www.space.com/10900-solar-system-planets-scale-infographic.html or http://dailyinfographic.com/…jpeg

Questionnaire design

This is my first attempt at creating a ‘prezi’ presentation. I am not yet certain of the best way to ‘store it’ for future access, so have placed a link here for the time being.

The questionnaire to which it refers is below, or viewable here.

For those of you who are reading the questions and are perturbed by their nature, they are intended to be ‘thought provoking’.

Real Relay

On 7th July, I will be bringing the EnduranceLife Real Relay into Norfolk on its leg from Long Sutton to Clenchwarton.

Show your support, see the Real Relay baton, or join me for some of the run, as it follows the entire route of the Olympic Torch around the British Isles. All help and support is hugely appreciated.

The official Olympic Torch passes through during work hours when people will be at work or school; this is your chance to experience the relay. Stage 487 is approximately 10.5 miles, and is currently due to depart Long Sutton at 21.25*.

For further information visit http://www.endurancelife.com/realrelay/

*precise times are to be confirmed as the relay is ‘in progress’

Zero point

Today, I completed my 2013 marathon race entry.

At the end of the process, I was offered the chance to purchase the product indicated, below [take a moment to read as much, or as little, of the detail as you would like].
I understand why people who run may be interested in using products which are marketed as burning fat. I also understand why people who run may be interested using products with a small number of calories (i.e. zero).

However, during marathon running, the body burns the fat in order to fuel itself. This, in turn, is topped up by any calories it can find. Therefore, taking a product which “burns more fat during exercise” and has “zero calorie intake” would reduce the fat available to the body and give it no energy.

It is arguable that this product could be of use during training – in order to help the body acclimatise, but I would suggest there are better methods of doing this.

This product does appear to also provide a source of magnesium. Endurance athletes can suffer from a lack of magnesium which is lost through sweating (or otherwise), but is widely available in green veg and whole grains among other foods. Furthermore consuming too much magnesium can also have negative effects*.

So, can anyone suggest any reason why a marathon runner ought to consider this product?

*we all know what happens if we eat too much green veg/whole grains… (and if you don’t, I am sure you can look it up on google)

Time for a change*

I don’t usually copy posts verbatim, but I wanted this one*, from Mark Clarkson, for future reference:

I seriously considered leaving education today. And if I had a viable exit strategy I might have taken it further.

Did I have a bad lesson? Was a pupil abusive, violent or threatening towards me? Not at all. I had the pleasure of my delightful Y7s, made a breakthrough with my Y8s, managed some productive revision and even had a pleasant time on a cover lesson.

What made me think about leaving was the agenda for Monday’s full staff meeting. Item 1? OFSTED. And pinned up next to it, the minutes of a recent Heads of Faculty meeting.

  • In recent years we’ve been told our lessons have to be pacey.
  • They have to help the students demonstrate independent learning.
  • We have to give the students time to explore concepts and ideas.
  • We have to demonstrate progress. From every student. Every 15 minutes.
  • We have to make sure we build literacy explicitly into every lesson.
  • We have to show an awareness of which pupils are FSM, EAL, EM, GAT, SEN, SA, SA+.
  • We have to show how we make learning activities available to kinaesthetic learners, visual learners and audio learners.
  • We have to differentiate our work for multiple intelligences.
  • We have to aim for a 70:30 classroom.
  • We have to assess every student every 6 weeks (that is, after every 6 hours – imagine having to assess every employee at work at the end of every day).
  • When OFSTED show up I have to have a full suite of policies to show them
  • When OFSTED show up I have to have detailed exam analysis to show them
  • When OFSTED show up I have to have a detailed, evidence based SEF to show them
  • When OFSTED show up I have to have marking that demonstrates progress to show them
  • When OFSTED show up I have to have detailed lesson plans to show them
  • When OFSTED show up I have to have detailed ‘narrowing the gap’ data to show them
  • When OFSTED show up  I have to have seating plans to show them

Via the minutes of the meeting I was informed that in my gained time I also have to arrange for a collaborative observation program for my department. Every member of the department has to carry out observations and also has to be observed. Each observation must be written up, objectives set, observations repeated and the whole process evaluated. In addition to planning new schemes of work, updating resources, rewriting lesson plans using the new double sided lesson pro forma, preparing book scrutinies… oh, and at some point teaching all of the Y7, Y8, Y9, Y10 and Y12 students.

At the same time I am told that I will have to work for another 36 years. That I will receive less pension than I was promised (despite the fact that the TPS pot has been overpaid for many years). That tests are too easy. That my subject is not good enough. That I need to solve gaps in parenting. That I should receive performance related pay. That teachers are paid too much. That public sector workers in the north are paid too much. That teachers ‘cheat’ when the watchmen come. And today I’m told that ‘teachers don’t know what stress is‘.

Three local schools have had the dreaded ‘O’ visit them in the last 3 months. Two were graded Satisfactory (which will soon be officially less than satisfactory) and one was given notice to improve. SLT appear to be living in a climate of fear that is pervading every meeting, every document, every decision and every discussion. It appears that my job is becoming more and more about pleasing our overlords (Did I say overlords? I meant protectors – Jonathan Coulton) and less and less about educating and enthusing children.

I’m not leaving teaching today, because there are still too many moments that I enjoy. The XKCD comic at the top of the post perfectly sums up the reason I became a teacher. The idea that someone can leave the room knowing more than they did when they went in has always fascinated me, and that I have the ability to be a part of that is wonderful. The fact that my AS Computing class is taught almost exclusively out of schools hours – when neither I nor they are required to be there – fills me with hope. TEACHING is a great activity. Teaching, at the minute, doesn’t always feel like a great job.

*this post is stolen** entirely from Mark Clarkson. It struck a chord, so I am storing*** it here for my own future reference until he asks for it to removed.

**definition of theft: to dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

***I will happily remove it if requesed.