Tag: education

UIO Announces U Matter Campaign

With so many crises about, admittedly sometimes I feel like who I am and what I think doesn’t really matter much anymore.

Of course, some of our problems are eerily mysterious and seemingly beyond our control to find a permanent solution. Case in point: Covid 19. But even if it is not within our gift to eradicate it, effective governance of such a problem throws up questions about what matters most.

But this vlog is not about the management of Covid 19 or any other world crisis; we could debate such topics for hours, which many do.  So, I will refrain from that and rather focus on what really matters amid all the controversy, whatever the topic is.

The answer is ‘you’. That is why UIO is launching a new campaign, U Matter, with a new podcast series in early September.  Unfortunately, this will be our final podcast series as far as I know but more on that later.

What is key is that I continue to have a firm belief that teenage girls matter. Of course, all teenagers do but UIO has always been for and about teenage girls, tackling issues that disproportionately affect girls and women.

Thus, the U Matter campaign will feature four podcasts—Your Voice Matters with Cai Graham, Your Education Matters with Donna Morgan, Your Wellbeing Matters with Cat Williams, and Your Family Matters with Lisa Doodson.

I can tell you without a doubt that each podcast is packed with oodles of great information—all slated to rise to the top of the most listened to UIO podcasts. I say this because Voice, for example, is one of those topics that is always relevant, but some current trends tend to attempt to squash the voice of girls and women. And the fight for equal opportunity in Education continues throughout the world.

In addition, Wellbeing is a topic at the core of each of us. It is so important to remember that not only does physical wellbeing matter but emotional and mental health does, too.  So in this podcast, we focus on bullying.

And while it might feel clear at times that Family really matters, at others it does not.  Great societies are built on healthy families; there is plenty of research out there to back this up. But perhaps less research is available on the diversity and complexity of family structures nowadays.  Our podcast looks at the matter inside out.

Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming series. And rest assured that while the podcast aspect of UIO will wind down after this series, my commitment to teenage girls will step up.

It is my hope to work directly with as many girls as possible through organisations such as Compassion UK and schools, for example, throughout the world.  It is a matter of reallocating UIO’s resources to ensure that you the teenage girl continues to understand that: U Matter.

To this end, if you know of an issue that affects teenage girls and you think that UIO can help , contact me here.

Keeping Mentally Fit During the Worst of Times

Week two of doing a video blog. As the pressure continues to mount on countries and people around the world, UIO podcast continues, along side many others, to explore ways to keep safe and healthy. This week I look at keeping mentally fit. Of course, this a huge task for any of us, particularly those who have suffered loss and those who are directly suffering ill health. Still it is so important for all of us to join together and do what we can.

On that note, I am sending prayers and heartfelt hugs, even if they are virtual, to everyone everywhere, particularly our healthcare workers throughout the world. So pleased to join our neighbours throughout the country last night in applauding our NHS. Anyhow, watch my vlog on YouTube.

I Am a Sufferer of the Tired Teen Epidemic

This week I’m please to have Shannon Amos, The Untamed Optimist, share her blog on Students Overworking. It’s such a fitting subject for todays’s teens with exams galore and high participation in sports and all the rest and goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation, subject of one of our latest podcast.  Check out what Shannon has to say to students and parents alike about how to manage the overload.  And get more tips from UIO: On Sleep.

High school is the perfect time to get ahead in education before college and get an early start for your career; but it’s also proving to be a great time for students to overwork themselves to the point of exhaustion.

Students nationwide are being pressured by family, the school system, and themselves to do the best in school that they possibly can, yet many of them take this too far and overwork themselves, causing disruptions in sleep schedules leading to daytime sleepiness. This “tired teen epidemic” as I like to call it, is a way of acknowledging this unhealthy relationship with the idea of perfection and its association with high achievements in both the educational system and society. I myself have fallen victim to this a lot as of lately and completely understand the unhealthy situation these students have put themselves into to get ahead in school.

Colleges are seeming to get pickier and pickier with accepting their applicants and the pressure put on students to be the “best” in their grade or school is increasing as time goes on. Many students involve themselves in after school clubs, sports, and involve themselves in groups that not only engage them in their community more; but absorb most of their free time, making it difficult to relax and rest their bodies and minds while growing.

Lately, I have found myself coming straight home from school and eating before planting myself in the recliner or my bed and napping for what should only take 20 minutes but ends up being closer to an hour.

As an extrovert, I find socialising with people to be energising unlike many of my introverted friends that find school exhausting simply for all the social interactions they must make throughout the day. I find these interactions to be energising and often find myself feeling sluggish on days where I socialise less—which is strange because after a long day of conversing with friends I still find myself falling asleep as soon as I sit down!

Being expected to maintain good grades (whatever the standard may be) vs. actually following through with it are two separate battles that both take their tolls on me and a surprising amount of my peers, so I have no doubt that kids nationwide are struggling just as much.

The truth is, we live in a world where kids can relate to each other’s mental breakdowns more than they relate to their political views. Ask any kid their opinion on the amount of homework they are given and the expectations teachers and parents alike set for them and why they feel a certain way about the topic. Nearly every student my age has voiced a negative opinion on the expectations set for them and the affect it has had on their mental health, me included.

“The truth is, we live in a world where kids can relate to each other’s mental breakdowns more than they relate to their political views.”

The thing is, schoolwork is becoming more and more of a chore for kids like me, and it really starts to take its toll early on in the school year. Even just a few months in, I personally find the workload to be overwhelming and the stress caused by it amounts to much more mental fatigue.

Worrying about getting good grades, keeping them up, staying involved in clubs and sports, maintaining an active status in your community, and pulling all-nighters to finish that English paper that’s due tomorrow are all reasons why students today are losing sleep. But losing sleep is just half of the problem. The act of losing sleep leads to less energy to put toward learning which often leads to less excitement about involvement in the first place.

Sadly, this tiredness tends to come out as just that—falling asleep in class, sleeping in late, and my guilty pleasure: napping immediately after getting home. This is often seen as laziness by adults that—while dealing with their own stressful responsibilities—don’t have to deal with this school related stress.

“Acknowledge that when you are trying so hard to do your best that you push yourself beyond your limits, you are no longer doing your best.”

One thing I have done lately is acknowledged that while I am perfectly capable of getting straight As and maintaining them, it is not necessary for me to get them to be considered a “good” student. Many high school students feel this immense pressure to be “perfect” academically and feel like failures when unable to keep up this excessive expectation.

To any students who are finding themselves beyond stressed out with school, work, and other responsibilities, know that it is completely valid for you to take a break. It is unreasonable to expect “perfect” grades or an extensive list of community involvements and it is 100% okay for you to take a step back to relax, even if it means putting off some of that extra work to do so.

Many students fail to acknowledge their past achievements, constantly feeling as though they have not done enough to deserve a break, leading to being overworked and burnt out. Acknowledge that when you are trying so hard to do your best that you push yourself beyond your limits, you are no longer doing your best.

To any parents of teenagers or students in general, give your kid a break. Students tend to overwork themselves trying to be the “best” they can be and fail to see how it is actually doing them more harm than good. Don’t create an avoidable barrier between you and your child because you don’t acknowledge their past achievements and make it clear to them that their best should be enough—even if it’s not “perfect”.

Everyone Is Responsible for Internet Safety

I can’t say enough about Internet Safety, but I am not the only one.  Our most recent podcast features Charlotte Aynsley, e-safety pioneer and expert, to shed some light on the topic. And just the other night I was at an inaugural lecture of a prestigious law professor at King’s College, London, who talked about the importance of Internet Regulation the world over.

But here is the thing, is the message really sinking in, particularly with our teenagers?

After all the Internet is the global hangout, full of wonderful opportunities. What could go wrong? Back in the summer this year, I actually heard a young boy say something to that nature—why would it be on the Internet if it is bad—and according to On Internet Safety guest Aynsley, this child is not the only one who thinks that way. There are many children growing up believing that everything on the Internet is true and right.

Though this might sound naïve, it makes a whole lot of sense to the young person whose internet experience is all positive until it isn’t. In the UK, the legal age for having a social media account is 13, though about 24% of children have accounts when they are 10 and twice as many when they turn 12.

A few years ago, a hysterical acquaintance shared that her underage daughter was asked to undress over the Internet.  But thankfully it was all curtailed before any damage was done. But what if it hadn’t been stopped.

Sadly, everyone’s story doesn’t have the same ending as my acquaintance’s daughter had, and mainly because few teenagers are aware of the emotional and mental impact that sharing sexually explicit images can have on them, their friends or others or that sexting, as it is called, is criminal if you are under the age of 18. 

Admittedly, this issue is not being policed as strictly as it could be, Aynsley points out, but all the same, consequences can lead to emotional and mental unrest and cause dire consequences for the future.

Another top issue that holds problems for teenagers online is body image, which impacts  girls disproportionately. The pressure on them to be perfect and happy all the time, as told to us by our two teen girls in On Being A Teen Girl Now, is magnified on social media.  Through polished selfies, this aim for perfection goes well beyond looks and enters how our teen girls are feeling about themselves.

Hence the rise in mental health issues amongst this age group. The key is education, Aynsley says and points out that transparency and honest and real life role models and experiences are of paramount importance.

And this honesty doesn’t just rest with the teenagers themselves, it has to live with parents and guardians, social media companies, the government, the police, everyone.

Staying safe on the internet, which can be a wonderful place, requires a joint effort to not only be aware of the problems stacked against us, particularly children and teenagers, but also be willing to tackle the issues.

The good news is that our podcast clears up the confusion around these tough topics and offers teenagers and their guardians practical tools and tips on the matters.  Listen to On Internet Safety on Apple podcasts and other platforms were podcasts are played.

Three Reasons To Celebrate

A weekend of celebrating my godson’s graduation from university this past weekend got me thinking about life after college, university.

More than thirty years ago my classmates and I left the world of academia for the real world. Like my godson’s graduation, the moment was marked with celebrations, amongst them the graduation ceremony.

What sort of advice did the commencement speakers offer? Who were they? What were their achievements and so on? Was something said or done that would serve as a guidepost for my career choice, a life decision? Honestly, I can’t say I can remember the specific answers to any of the questions, though Chas’s graduating class is at least likely to remember some of the notable speakers over the weekend including former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and celebrated author Chimamanda Adichie but will they remember any of the words of wisdom told to them?

I hope so but even if they don’t I feel certain that they will remember celebrating – the extravagant cap and gown they wore, the long walk to the podium to receive the degree, the sweet sound of hearing their name said with clarity and certainty, the roar of applause from friends and family and flashes of the moments after the ceremony, the liberating feeling of achievement.

Not quite as clear as yesterday for me, but the hallmarks of celebrating achievement – passing exams, leaving school, getting into college, graduating from university, getting a job, a promotion and so on – has in many ways provided some of the inspiration, the fuel, if you will, for growth and development over the years.

As a teen girl, I likely thought celebration was all about partying and having a bit of fun and so it is on some level, though I didn’t hail from a big party family. Thus our celebrations were short and sweet but in time I have learned that celebrations have long term benefits, too.

First, celebrating life, any success (surviving GCSEs) reiterates the importance of rewarding achievements. It can be as euphoric as completing a marathon and having a medal draped around your neck. The finishing time becomes irrelevant as you cross the line, feeling great about finishing. I should know. Only later, when the feeling wears off does time become relevant, which is a good segue to another reason to celebrate.

You will always have special memories of the celebration. Memories are in the making from the day that we are born to the day that we close are eyes. And when all is said and done, the memories are always with us, even if they become illusive over the years. When I graduated from graduate school, I, for reasons I can’t remember, decided not to participate in the ceremony, not to celebrate with my fellow classmates. A good friend counselled against my decision but I promised her that I knew what I was doing. Years later, though I have my master’s degree, I have no memories of the commencement, no selfies or the shared experiences or photos of what was surely a wonderful day. But I do cherish memories of high school and undergraduate school celebrations.

However, I do remember celebrating with family and friends, another good reason to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to be social, to bond with family and friends, perhaps see people that you haven’t seen in a very long time, have a good conversation with a relative that you otherwise might not have had. Best of all is the feel good factor of being at centre of a fete.

It is in these moments, even if it is a simple meal, a short talk with Auntie Sonja, the displays of encouragement, the offers of hope, the words of inspiration, the expressions of love that you realise that there is something about celebrating that is communal.

And it dawns on you that in all of is complexity, the world is a big community and as and when it doesn’t seem so, all you need to do is remember the benefits of celebrating. Congrats to each and every one of you teen girls for all of your achievements in academics, in sports, in life. Let’s celebrate.