An Interview with Mr Donaldson on Time | Conducted and Transcribed by Eeman

Backchat: Which is your favourite time period to teach and why?

Mr D: Easy! The making of Modern Britain from 1951 to 2007 because it’s really relevant to students’ lives and I like how they can relate to it and it also brings in politics and economics. Also, probably because it’s the story of my family; my dad, my mum, my grandad lived through this. I’ve found that when teaching history it’s important to relate it back to them because it’s such an abstract subject.

B: If you could talk to your past self for exactly one minute what would you say?

Mr D: Blimey! I think I would say you worry too much. People plan and they never work out how they’re supposed to, but that’s sort of how life works. If I went back to talk to myself as a teenager, I would say stop worrying about what might happen, what you need to do and to relax a little bit because you haven’t got a lot of control over things. As you get older you realise that it matters less what other people might think of you than you believe when you’re growing up. You’ve just got to be yourself!

B: If you could choose to be immortal and have all the time in the world, would you take it?

Mr D: No. Because… I think I’d get bored of it all eventually. This might sound quite dark, but I think one day I’d just like to sleep and leave it all behind. That’s gonna happen anyway at some point, but I just feel like life is so hard and tiring, although I’d like a good innings, at some point I would want it to stop. To avoid boredom as well is difficult, in some ways I’m accepting of the fact that this is temporary and you’re only here for a short time…and that’s fine.

B: What do you think has been the most significant change in the world?

Mr D: I guess today you would sort of say climate change, but in my lifetime the biggest change has been… technology. When I was at university, writing my dissertation, I did it on a typewriter! Computers were something that weren’t common back then, so I think the internet has been a massive change. As a teacher you notice it more, but life in general has become so hectic and busy. Perhaps that’s me saying it as an adult, whereas a child you have more time to daydream. I think lots of people would argue life is more complex now. I think the modern world has become a very busy place to work in.

B: Which period would you like to live in the most?

Mr D: I’m quite happy with now, because that’s where I am. You might get some history teachers that have favourite time periods they would love to visit, but I think I’m quite accepting of the fact that I’m around now. I would love to go to the future, but a bit of history I’d go back to… maybe just for a day.

B: If you could time travel would you choose to go into the past or the future?

Mr D: Future. That’s the great unknown isn’t it? I already know about the past, but the future I have no idea about so it would be quite interesting! Maybe about sort of 50 years ahead. I’d love to travel around space a bit, I think that would be really cool! It’s so gigantic and vast and we’re in such a tiny contained part of the universe, to see it in all its vastness… Because life is actually quite claustrophobic. So maybe a bit of space travel??

B: What do you think humans should aim to do at least once in their lifetime?

Mr D: I have tried skydiving, but I’m not sure it’s something you have to do in your lifetime. It’s such a vast question, but there’s obvious thing like everyone should fall in love. Mostly I think it’s the little things you do every day that everyone should experience, for example, saying hello to your neighbour or having a chat with your kids… It’s the little things like that, that I think add up to make a massive difference. The idea that if you can help someone just a little bit is… I mean if everybody did that the world would be a much nicer place.

B: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Mr D: Ten years’ time… Not teaching! I’m not one of those people who will have the energy or passion to do it anymore. So, I would probably be somewhere doing a bit of travelling… Back to New Zealand, which is fabulous! Or wandering around Scotland a little bit, exploring. Just spending time doing things I actually want to do! Once you get a job, it steals a lot of time from you and in ten years I will have done my bit in teaching and you lot will have had enough from me. I want to still be young enough to actually put effort into my travelling and have a proper go at it… not on a cruise with a pension and those group coaches. That’s not me!

B: If you had all the time to change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?

Mr D: I’m not sure what it is I would do…. But it would be along the lines of helping as many people as possible. Like reversing climate change, or curing cancer, or making sure coronavirus didn’t get out. Something that would make the most difference to the most amount of people as possible…. That is a massive question!

Is Time the Limiting Factor? | Naomi

Productivity Tips from a Procrastinator

We understand the value of resources based on availability. In economics price is always dependent on supply and demand whilst in entertainment a talent is highly valuable if it is rare. Two things have infinite demand and finite resources – time and energy. Balancing these two factors is the core focus of many global issues, most notably climate change. The clock is ticking as we approach a potential global energy crisis. The focus of this issue is sustainability. Often we neglect this principle of sustainability in other areas of our lives too. We talk about maximising our efficiency and productivity – getting as much done as possible or making the most money we can – but we must not neglect the importance of rest and self-care. Ultimately there is no point in being super efficient and successful if you don’t integrate built in systems to help you maintain your energy. Short term achievements are meaningless if they don’t result in sustainable futures.

“Forget Time Management. It’s About Energy Management” – Alan P. Brown (Productivity Coach)

In lockdown I am starting to realise that time is not the limiting factor in almost any area of progress or personal development. Things that I had previously ignored with the “I don’t have time” line of defence I have still pushed back in lockdown with no excuse to fall back on. I struggle really badly with procrastination and have done a lot of research into this topic as a result. Reflecting on this predicament I recalled learning about the concept of energy management (as opposed to time management). It dawned on me that this is crucial as without energy we will never have the motivation to stick to our beautifully colour coded schedule. There is no point in being ultra organised and efficient with time management if this will only last a couple of days before you crash and slump back onto the sofa to scroll through Netflix.

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.” – Tony Schwartz, CEO The Energy Project

In psychology this theory of energy management is most commonly used to help patients with ADHD. In those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder the difficulty with energy management is even more significant. According to the latest research this comes down to lower dopamine transporter density within the brain. This means that the brain does not have the proteins it needs to get dopamine – a neurotransmitter responsible for stimulation and reward. In a neurotypical individual (a person without a mental health disability) when an action is carried out that causes the individual to progress towards a goal or reach a desired outcome then the brain is rewarded with a dopamine spike. However this is not received as effectively in those with ADHD making it much harder to have motivation since they will not receive this internal reward from their brain chemistry. To combat this issue ADHD coaches can use energy management techniques to form habits and trick the brain into enjoying challenges.

“You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy!” – K. Kruse, Forbes

I believe we can all learn something from this technique since I’m sure many of us feel we could benefit from learning about how to sustain effort towards our goals without getting burnt out by stress. While reading the articles by Marla Cummins (ADHD Coach) and Alan P. Brown (Productivity Coach) I discovered the research into the 4 types of energy – Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. Each of these energy types can be boosted or depleted and all of them are critical to performance – if you are low in just one of these areas then you can experience exhaustion.

  • Physical energy is focused on diet and exercise. Getting what the body needs in terms of fuel and activity is critical. The benefits of these are well documented within medicine and psychology. However without the other types of energy management in place it is virtually impossible to find the motivation to maintain healthy habits.
  • Emotional energy is based on our social interactions and mental well-being. To improve emotional energy levels be kind to yourself and surround yourself with positive people who care about you. Perhaps have a digital detox if social media is something you struggle with and spend time focussing on things you enjoy. Having fun is the most important step towards improved emotional well-being.
  • Mental energy is what we tend to need the most for studies. To optimise mental energy have a mental declutter – dumping your thoughts onto paper or a notes app – then focus on each thing one at a time to avoid overwhelm. Taking regular breaks is critical to improve mental performance and maintain mental stimulation. Managing distractions where possible will also help to conserve mental energy by focussing on the task at hand.
  • Spiritual energy is very personal. I have a faith so Christianity is my spiritual fuel and I get energy from time spent with God. For others it is simply having a passion or a goal that you care deeply about. Some suggestions to help could be to try a gratitude practice – whether that is through prayer or simply as a mindfulness exercise that is up to you, or perhaps to find a charitable cause you care about and volunteer, fundraise or donate. The purpose of dedicating time to the spirit is to be more outward looking and to take time to reflect on your values.

Whatever you do remember to be kind to yourself and have fun! The best way to improve your energy levels is to do things you love more and try to enjoy even the mundane things as much as you can. This is a very difficult time and for many this may be a time of sadness, loneliness or difficulty so if you don’t feel that this advice will make you feel better then feel free to leave it alone. This article is for inspiration if you want it but I want you to know that just by staying safe and looking after yourself you are helping out and anything else is just an added bonus. Often the world pressures us to achieve or to improve and that is great but if you are not feeling up to it right now for whatever reason then know that you are enough just the way you are!

Time image: https://www.ionos.co.uk/digitalguide/fileadmin/DigitalGuide/Teaser/totp-t.jpg (07/01/21)

Cronus, the God of Time | By Georgia

Time is destructive; it’s an all-devouring force. Cronus was both of these things. He was the titan god of time and the son of Uranus, the ruler of the universe. This is Cronus’ story. Gaia, the mother of the earth, was angry. Her children had been taken from her – the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes, locked away in the underworld, Tartarus, unable to see the light or feel the sun on their skin, and for what? Because Uranus was disgusted? Afraid? Was the ruler of the universe really unable to bear the sight of his own children? As she felt the weight of the stone sickle that rested across her palms, the answer was clear to her, in all of its simple, violent glory. She called the titans to her – the twelve children Uranus had allowed her to keep. All of them, from Oceanus, the oldest, to Cronus, the youngest, agreed with their mother that the only way to release their brethren from Tartarus was to deal Uranus a great wound – he was a god, and unable to be killed, but the titans knew that if they were able to weaken Uranus, he could be overthrown. However, when Gaia raised her voice and asked her children which of them would perform the deed, all fell silent. No one wanted to be the one to risk angering their father; to risk the consequences that failure would bring. The silence blanketed the siblings in a smothering layer – until Cronus spoke up. He announced to his mother that he would be the one to wound Uranus, that he would be the one to end his tyrannical reign. Unbeknownst to the rest of the titans, Cronus envied his father’s power. He was secretly determined that once Uranus had been dispatched, he should be the one to take his place. And so, the day came. Cronus lay in wait for his father, holding the sickle given to him by Gaia. When Uranus appeared, Cronus leapt out and, catching him by surprise, wounded Uranus gravely. Uranus fled, dripping blood as he went. As each drop of blood fell to the earth, it created something new. The first created the Gigantes, the second the Erinyes and the third, the Meliae. The final drop of blood that fell from the wound landed in the ocean and created the white foam from which the goddess Aphrodite was born. Gaia and the titans rejoiced, happy for Uranus to be gone and for the freedom of the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes. Their joy, however, was short lived, as Cronus immediately took control. He once again incarcerated his youngest siblings, this time commanding the dragon Campe to guard them. He took his throne as king, and forced Rhea, the goddess of motherhood and fertility, to become his queen. Cronus and Rhea ruled all throughout the Golden Age. Cronus was happy – he had achieved his goals, and his subjects were loyal to him. He was the ultimate ruler of all. He feared nothing, other than the prophecy. The prophecy that decreed that Cronus would be overthrown by his son, just as Uranus had been. The idea of losing his throne was his weakness – his one fear. Because of this fear, every time his wife Rhea gave birth to a child, Cronus would swallow each one whole – they would not be killed, but they would not be able to harm him. In a desperate attempt to save her youngest son, Zeus, from Cronus, Rhea stole him from his cradle and gave him to the nymph Adamanthea to raise on Mount Ida, away from his dangerous father. To try and avoid suspicion, Rhea swaddled a large rock in cloth and placed that in the cradle in place of Zeus. Cronus, not realising anything was wrong, swallowed the rock and believed himself to be safe. And so Zeus was raised on the mountain, far away from his father. When he was a baby, Rhea convinced nymphs to play loud, beautiful music at the mouth of his cave to cover the sounds of his cries. As he grew, he got stronger and stronger, and the desire to save his siblings and drive away his tyrannical father grew within him. By the time he was fully grown, Zeus had a plan; but he couldn’t do it alone. So, for the first time since was a baby, he returned to Rhea. His mother was delighted to see him, and to see how well he had grown. When he told her his plan, Rhea agreed almost immediately. Seeing Zeus again had made her realise that the grief she felt for her lost children could be eased – she might be able to get them back. The plan was simple; Rhea would poison Cronus. Of course, he was immortal and therefore unable to be killed, just as his father was before him, but the poison was sure to make him so sick that he would be unable to stop himself from vomiting up Zeus’ brothers and sisters. The next day, Zeus hid as he watched his mother give Cronus the poison, disguised as a herbal concoction of strength. The effects were almost immediate, and Zeus’ siblings began to appear in front of him. At last, Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades and Poseidon joined Zeus on the earth, and turned against their father in fury. One look at their raging faces, and Cronus turned and ran. Cronus’ defeat is what started the 10-year war between the Olympians – Zeus and his siblings – and the remaining titans. After a decade of war and violence, the Olympians emerged triumphant, having defeated and imprisoned the titans in the deepest pits of Tartarus. The Olympians used their new power to finally release the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes from their prison. The Cyclopes were so grateful to them for ending their imprisonment that they crafted weapons and armour for Zeus, Hades and Poseidon – the gods of the heavens, sea and underworld. Zeus was given his thunderbolts, Hades his helmet and Poseidon his trident.

Image: https://www.thecollector.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/giulio-romano-olympian-gods-wall-painting-1.jpg (30/12/20)

Why do we age over time? | by Sarah

Recently, Hilda Clulow passed away at a great age of 111, she was the UK’s oldest person. She was born on 15th March 1908 and witnessed momentous events including the discovery of antibiotics, the moon landing and the release of the first iPhone. It is unlikely that many of us will live to this great age, as the average life expectancy in the UK is only 80 years old, which is 31years less than Mrs Clulow’s record age.

Why even with improvements in medicine, is this? This is one of the unanswered quest ions of modern science. We still do not have a conclusive reason why with the passage of time our bodies age. Scientists have come up with many theories why our bodies biologically age, however, the common theory is that it is a combination of factors and not linked to one single cause.

One theory states that over time as our cells divide mutations accumulate and this accumulation can cause problems for the human body. On average, a human cell will divide between 50-70 times before cell death. There are trillions in our body so it is likely that some cells will not replicate correctly leading to mutations in our cells. Mutations in cells can also be caused by mutagens, for example, ultraviolet radiation. Most of the time, the mutations are harmless and DNA repair mechanisms fix the damage, but errors can slip through as we age. Ageing has been linked to the deterioration of these DNA repair mechanisms. This deterioration allows for permanent errors to become more common as we grow older. If the cell with mutated DNA is not corrected then, they can pose a health risk, for example, tumour cells contain a mutation which affects the cell’s genes which control cell division causing them to divide uncontrollably. This risk increases as we age due to the deterioration of the DNA repair mechanisms.

If a cell’s DNA becomes too damaged it will enter apoptosis where the cell dies at a programmed rate or the cell will become senescent. Senescence is a process where the cells kill themselves or become nonreplicating and become dormant.

However, it has been suggested that an accumulation of these cells can speed up cell ageing by releasing inflammatory cytokines (small proteins that are important in cell signalling). This is thought to contribute to atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries, and other ageing-related diseases. This theory states that ageing is directly affected by the damage to cells over time during division.

Another theory was developed in the 1950s by Denham Harman. It is known as the free-radical theory of ageing and states that ageing is caused by the accumulation of damage inflicted by reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS is produced in all aerobic cells and is formed from products of oxygen. It can be beneficial to organisms as cell regulators, but in high doses, they become cytotoxic, often leading to cell death. Our cells’ levels of free radical damage increase with age and this has been linked to an increase of ROS over time. The free radical theory may also be used to explain many of the structural features that develop with ageing including DNA damage and a decline in mitochondrial function.

However, in the 1990s, scientists studying model organisms observed phenomena that contradicted the free radical theory. They showed that the enzymes that block the product ion of ROS didn’t extend the lifespan of mice. They found in worms, stressing the mitochondria at a certain stage of development actually increased life span. So we are still unsure whether this theory serves as an explanation to the main reason why we age or is just another factor of ageing.

A final theory states that ageing is due to an accumulation of our cells which lose the ability to replicate correctly. Our DNA strands become slightly shorter each time a chromosome replicates itself. Telomeres help prevent genes from being lost in this process but this means that as your chromosomes replicate, your telomeres shorten. An enzyme called telomerase helps prevent too much damage to your cells. This includes shortening of your telomeres. Telomerase does this by adding additional telomere sequences to the ends of your chromosomes. However, telomerase is only found in certain cells so most cell types in your body don’t have telomerase. This means that most of your telomeres continue to get shorter over time so the DNA polymerase cannot fully replicate the ends of chromosomes in most cells. If the telomeres shrink too much or are damaged, cells enter senescence. This slows the body’s ability to renew itself. Telomere damage has clear effects on ageing. Mice with short telomeres have diminished life spans and reduced stem-cell and organ function, while mice whose telomerase is enhanced in adulthood age more slowly. In humans, mutated telomerase is associated with disorders involving organ dysfunction and elevated cancer risk.

Yet even with all these theories we still have not got an answer exactly why these factors occur and how they function together. Maybe in the future, we will have conclusive proof of why, over time, our body ages, but will that take a couple of years or a couple of lifetimes to find. I guess we will have to wait and see what momentous events we will witness.