Need a break? A holiday … or a music skill?

When the term relaxing is put to you, what is the first thing that comes naturally to mind? For some it may involve a weekend away to somewhere different, away from the stresses of daily life. A change in surroundings is good. It allows you to recharge your batteries so that you return back to work ready to take on the tasks ahead. That’s the theory anyway. For other individuals relaxing is a longer term project, which may involve a week away in the more exotic climates of Europe, such as traditional cities such as Spanish ones like Barcelona or Madrid.

If you are on of these lucky people then good for you! Some people actually go so long away for a holiday that in the middle of it they may sit up and decide that they have had enough time away and are ready to go back to work. They may just declare that the time away, while beneficial, has been too long and bordering on disruptive, that they are starting to disassociate with the essence of themselves. In other words, they are starting to lose links with work and family, and the routine is so drastically different that if they carried on with the holiday they would have to think of setting up a new life!

Which is what some people actually do. Some decide to put life on hold, traveling to different cities in a caravan or motorhome, paying their way by teaching, or more recently, blogging. Blogging is a digital job that has sprung up in recent years, but don’t be deluded – the majority of us can’t blog our way travelling through expensive cities like New York or London, so don’t get caught up in the hype, thinking you can make a living in the big city, traveling and enjoying life, while money for a mortgage plonks itself into your bank account!

But relaxing does not involve going on away – it may just mean taking up another pursuit as a sort of mental deflection from daily activities. Taking up a new skill such as computer programming, web design, a sport like football or a musical instrument like the piano can provide equal mental distraction and make you feel refreshed when you go back to routine. It gives you a jolt from stability. And developing the patience to improve one’s craft can also lead to the development of learning skills. For example, piano skills are not hereditary, but if you take it up, you will learn about how you yourself learn new things, strategies and techniques which you can apply to other situations.

So the next time you feel you need a break, and can’t go away – try a new hobby instead!

The Education Game

Every job is perceived differently in different societies. If you were a banker, you might be saluted in Switzerland, or bashed in Britain, although the latter really depends on the state of the economy and how much people think it is down to you! If you were a teacher, it is really also the same. Where you choose to practice your career may be heavily influenced by the viewer’s perception of your job. In other words, you are probably going to work in a country where you are respected for the job you do.

Studies have shown that the Far East is the area where teachers are respected most. In places such as Malaysia and China, the teaching profession is held in high regard. Why is this so? It may be because in these countries, education is seen as a highly prized route out of traditional labour jobs such as agricultural farming, or retail. Education gives people a chance away from menial work which not only does not pay well, but demands long hours under harsh conditions. Those that teach are those who hold knowledge and can disseminate it to others who will pounce on every nugget of information, studiously copying it down and making voluminous notes.

The composer Irving Berlin was – according to his teachers – a bit of a day dreamer, singing in class. Perhaps Berlin did not see how all this education would help him in his musical pursuits, but there’s a lesson to be learnt for teachers: a key skill to impart to your students would be to show them the relevance of what they are learning to their future vocation. Even if it may be knowledge that does not directly have influence in one’s chosen vocation, teachers need to be able to show students how something might be useful or have some bearing in their future life, or simply even as common knowledge. You may not be able to change the perception of the job in your country, but you are able to shape the perception of yourself in the eyes of your students!