Monthly Archives: October 2010


Everything has a purpose.  A tree has a purpose and that is to eventually bear fruit.  The tree renews its blossom, leaves and fruit each year and like the tree, whatever endeavor we embark upon, whether it is a relationship or business, then we too should be aware of the process of renewal.

The renewal process is cyclic and we can compare it to the seasons.

In Spring we anticipate the infinite potential of new situations.

In a relationship, this can last from 3 months up to a year.

It is a period of rapid growth, exciting new ideas and dreaming. The energy and enthusiasm rise like eager sap to flow to all parts of the plant. Seeds are planted with the heady expectation of a fruitful harvest and early blossom is eagerly anticipated.

The days slip by into Summer and as the temperature rises or even becomes quite hot, there is a shift in tempo. It is still a period of growth, but not the rapid growth of Spring, and there is a sense of being comfortable as one is entangled in the routines of steady work. There is work to be done; if starting a business or even moving to the next stage in a relationship, systems need to be put in place to sustain us in later seasons.  There is steady toil, every so often a reliance on another, much like the climbing plants need support or entrainment as they reach for the sunlight. This season or time in a relationship may take up to 3 years to pass and it is crucial to tend to the crops here, as if they are not watered, they will wither and die.

Eventually, Autumn eases in.The days shorten imperceptibly and the mornings become crisper and cooler.  New relationships will see the birth of children and older relationships which are moving through a new cycle will see the children leave.

There is the withering of leaves and now and then a relationship will also wither as couples no longer have anything to tend and grow together.

But for many this is a time of bountiful harvest and the fruits of earlier labours become clear. It is a time of gathering together and preparing for the following season.

And finally, the season turns to Winter where thoughts turn inward and a period of rest and hibernation begins. In some cases death.                           Generally it is a time for reflection and can be used as a hiatus from a busy life. There may be significant challenges experienced in this period and one can stay in it for a long period of time. It can also be one of the most exciting times of your life. For women it often is marked by the stages of fertility. The biological clock is ticking near midnight or the woman has entered into menopause, there may be a lack of intimacy and the relationship finally withers in the frosty wasteland of an untilled life. For either partner it can also signal the mid life crisis, where the poignant question is asked, “Is that all there is?”

And so the cycle is complete and ready to start again. The quality of relationships and business that you build during these cycles are dependent on the quality time and materials that are put in at each age and stage.


The reality of a classroom is that it is often a most dysfunctional environment.

Consider the disparate personalities that are confined in a relatively small space for long periods of time combined with environmental triggers and topped off by utilitarian and uncomfortable furniture. All in all, a recipe for chaos and not an effective learning environment.

Take a moment to think about one of those bags of party balloons.

All shapes and sizes.

Ever tried to blow some of them up?

Some are easy to fill with air and others are particularly difficult.

No matter how hard you huff and puff, they will just not inflate until – just as you are about to give up – they start to stretch a little and …..finally…… when you are exhausted and give one more puff….they fill out to the most magnificent shaped balloon you have seen.

Just like a classroom of students – some are easy to fill with knowledge and are dependable shapes, whilst others present challenges in many ways. It is knowing how to persevere to get an end result that often astonishes all that observe.

Some balloons will resist even the most determined efforts to inflate and need to be put aside to enjoy the others in the packet.

Environmental triggers can also affect a learning environment.

Dust and mould are two common allergens found in most classrooms. School cleaning is often contracted out and a quick vacuum around the floor is often all that is done. Dust settles around the windows and window furnishings and on tops of cupboards and bookshelves.

Mould is a hidden problem and often will manifest with students and teachers having unexplained headaches or coughs in some rooms. It can be found under the floor, in the ceiling or wall cavities.

Another environmental concern is light. Too little natural light and too many fluorescent lights. The fluorescent lights contain mercury (a neurotoxin), and some lights are known to emit an odour which is quite unpleasant. Other odours contributing to a poor learning environment are the excessive use of deodorant sprays and then every so often there is the eye watering, choking SBDF (silent but deadly fart).

How the learning environment is heated or cooled is also important, both from the local and global perspective. Many of the older schools still have gas-fired heating, effective and affordable, but the gas flues need to be regularly checked. Other electrical devices such as computers and wi-fi which are a necessary part of the learning programs need regular safety checks. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that there may be long-term effects that we are not fully aware of with wi-fi networks.

What the students are eating is another environmental issue, particularly if the school has a canteen. Are they supplying healthy, nutritious food or selling high profit, high fat & sugar products? Is the waste from student lunches and snacks recycled? Students at one school I taught at, had very little regard for either their environment or the local environment and at the end of each day, the school yard looked like a garbage truck had emptied its contents outside the classrooms. Yet another school I have taught at, has a pro-active recycling program and even the food scraps are recycled for the worm farm and the chickens.

Finally, furniture for the learning environment. There are some schools that take this seriously, but most are confined by budgets and the necessity to have utilitarian and long-lasting furniture. The furniture is frequently very uncomfortable although some Primary schools will have a reading area furnished with a comfortable lounge chair or two.  Generally the seats are hard, the wrong size for rapidly growing bodies and ergonomically unsound. Would you tolerate the same in your workplace? Then there is the expectation that students will sit still in class, so little wonder that those students who are kinesthetic learners squirm and wriggle when having to sit for a long period of time.  How about those students who need movement to learn ? Teachers the world over have encountered the “chair tipper”. It may surprise you to discover that these chair tipping students are innately aware of their need to stimulate their vestibular system and the movement actually helps them to concentrate. More of that in another article or you can contact BrightLight Specialized Education for a list of school workshops for 2011.

7 tips to re-ignite the passion in your teaching

Can you remember a time when you really enjoyed teaching?

Before the mountains of marking and the pressures of report writing began to contribute to your feeling of overwhelm and stress?  Take a moment to imagine that time and recall when you were totally satisfied with your teaching career.

Stress is a symptom of the flight or fight response and manifests in different ways for each individual and rather than let the stress control you, here at BrightLight we have identified some strategies that will enable you to develop a greater resilience to the stress you may encounter in your teaching environment.

1. Listen to your body

You may suffer from headaches, low back pain and insomnia amongst other things. This is your body’s message to you that it is time to take stock of your lifestyle. Go through the checkbox below to see where you can make some improvements.

Tick the box if your answer is Yes
I get enough sleep
I drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
I eat a good breakfast
I never skip meals
I exercise at least 30 minutes a day
I have regular medical checkups
I have regular alcohol free days
I do not smoke
My weight is in the healthy range for my age and height
I have had a restful holiday in the last few months

If you have ticked Yes to all the answers, then congratulations! – give yourself 10/10, a pat on the back and a gold star! You are well on the path to sustainable teaching practices. If you have ticked 5 or less answers, then perhaps a review is in order.

2. Switch your mind off

This is easier said than done for most people.  Once you start thinking about “switching off” then what do you think about? If I asked you not to think of a pink elephant, you would have to first think of one in order to not think of one…… wouldn’t you?

Meditation is the ideal way to switch off. Giving the brain some time out with any form of meditation – it can be guided meditation or visualization, Zen practices, blue sky mind meditation, stillness meditation, Yoga mudra, even prayer is a form of meditation. The type of meditation, the location and the time you take is not important, what matters is that you do it. The paradox is that if you think you have no time “to do this stuff”, is that it creates space to do more and with more focus.

3. Work in real time

When you work in real time you are better able to prioritize.  You can then allocate yourself quality time for correction, report writing and preparation.

  • Schedule  all your commitments in your planner or diary on a regular basis. This includes your personal commitments, including attending to your health and wellbeing and family time.
  • Look at each day in isolation and focus on completing each task you have set yourself – every day.
  • Write a “to do list” and tick each item off as you complete the task.
  • Have a “Just for today “ mindset. Just for today, have no worries, do what you can with no recriminations.
  • Learn to say “No” or set a limit to events or situations that will over commit your valuable time and resources.

4. Talk

Choose a trusted person to talk to.

This could be friends or family, but there are occasions when you may want to run something past an independent listener. This could be a therapist, colleague or a mentor. You might even want to consider coaching. Whoever you choose, it is crucial that you have trust and rapport with them.  If there is no-one at all you feel you can turn to, then use a journal to write down your thoughts.

If you have a specific problem, you might find it useful to respond to the following:

  • Describe the situation that is worrying you.
  • What specifically do you fear might happen?
  • Rate the likelihood from 1 to 10 that it will happen. (10 being most likely)
  • What evidence supports your worry?
  • What evidence does not support your worry?
  • If it did happen, what action could you take?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen? (be as realistic as possible)
  • What is the best thing that could happen?
  • What is most likely to happen?
  • Are there any useful actions you can take now?
  • What would you tell a friend who was in your situation?
  • Re- rate the likelihood that your fears will be realized (from 1 to 10)

5. Live with purpose

The first and most obvious question here is why did you become a teacher? Are you living your dream or did you choose it because it is a “safe” place to be? Nothing wrong with safe in most circumstances, but if you are not living a life congruent with your values,  then eventually there will be conflict. Internal conflict can manifest in illness and this can range from minor niggles to serious and life threatening conditions.

Living your life with purpose also means modeling purposeful behaviours to your students and that includes purposeful activities.

Homework for homework’s sake or finishing off work that you expected to be finished in class, is not purposeful – it is busy work that stresses students – especially if they haven’t fully understood the concepts taught in class – often that is why they don’t finish what is set; it stresses their parents – who have to supervise the process and it ultimately stresses you – as you have to spend time marking the homework.

Before you set the next lot of homework, ask yourself the following question “What’s the point (or purpose) of this?”  If there is no purpose, then why are you doing it?

You can live your life purposefully if you set regular goals.

The best goals will aim to give you direction and have an end which will give you an outcome.  Making your goals simple and specific will enhance the process.  Whatever goal you choose, make it meaningful to you.

Apply your goals to all areas of your life and act as if you have already achieved them – you may be pleasantly surprised at what is happening!

A realistic goal is one that you will achieve easily and effortlessly. It’s not about having winning the Lotto as your goal, or losing those 10 extra kilos in only one month.  The secret to goal setting is to set a new one each time you have achieved the last.

Put a time frame on when you want to achieve your goal. Realistically, how long will it take you to shed those 10 extra kilos permanently? 10 weeks, 10 months? A series of timed, well formed goals, moving you forward to what you want is one of the most effective ways of living with purpose.

6. See opportunities not problems

Is your glass half full or half empty?

Let’s look at a scenario. It’s your busy day. Timetabled on to teach every lesson but one and yard duty at lunch time, a student comes to you with a pressing problem just as recess starts. Do you have a positive or negative reaction? Time to check in and see if you have the energy to work with the student in a positive manner or get them to return after you have re-charged with a break. It’s OK to say “no”, however you may consider the following:

  • This student doesn’t often ask for help and this is an opportunity to  give them some needed attention,
  • You can stay on track with your diet and avoid that cholesterol laden cake or snack in the staffroom at the morning tea
  • You have preparation time coming up after recess and you can spare the time as you have set yourself achievable goals for the day
  • Yard duty will get you outside, walking is exercise and you really could use the time productively with this student.

7. Look outward

We can spend a lot of time navel gazing if we choose.

If you are the centre of your universe, what is peripheral to you?

Are you spending a lot of time caught up in the daily “teacher stuff”?

If all the presentations you attend are all about teaching, then it is time to step outside your circle of certainty and take a look around.  I’m sure you will have heard the old saying “all work and no play makes Jack (Jill) a dull boy (girl)”.

How well balanced is your Wheel of Life?

A well balanced wheel may have numerous spokes, all contributing to the overall strength and helping to maintain equilibrium. Yoga, meditation and massage or Reiki are all excellent stress busters, but you might want to consider pursuing an intellectual passion as well.Participation in outside interests and workshops in non teaching related topics can only be beneficial to you and your teaching journey.

BrightLight Specialized Education offers personal and professional development programs that will enable you to live an extraordinary life.

Contact us to arrange your complimentary 30 minute session to discuss your needs.

Our programs and workshops can be tailored to the needs of your organization.

Call us to discuss how.

  • Short courses in Living an Extraordinary Life
  • Weekend and holiday workshops for teachers
  • Goal setting programs
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Reiki & Homeopathic Education
  • Meditation

…. and more………

23. A Simple Blessing

23 is a special number.

Today, you don’t have to do anything at all because today, I will just simply send you a blessing.
I might not know who you are,
And I might never meet you,
But I know that you come from the Creative Order,
And that YOU are endowed with EVERYTHING it takes
To be successful and HAPPY in this life.
I wish YOU from the very bottom of my heart,
And with all I have to give,
That your best dreams WILL come true for you;
That you WILL find that which you are seeking,
And that what life will bring for you,
Should be even better still than that,
and hold along the way, many wonderful surprises.
So shall it be!

Dr Silvia Hartmann