Teacher Training Diaries: Learning & Practice.

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Well I made it! I survived my first seven weeks as a trainee teacher. It was a long slog of training, learning and observing. I have had training sessions on Mathematics, Science, English and different types of assessment. I have started my first university module ‘Raising the Achievement of Children’ and had half the autumn term to get to know the children in my home school.

Now, the real work begins! It’s half term now but when I go back I will begin teaching a full class of 5 and 6 year old’s. Starting with six lessons a week, working up to fifteen by the fourth week, yikes! I feel like this part of my teacher training journey is ‘learning and practice.’ Taking everything I have learnt so far and putting it into practice.

I know you have to teach to become a teacher but the thought of teaching a full class, on my own, makes my palms sweat! I know that once I start doing it, teaching will become second nature to me but it’s the anticipation, the worry about what may go wrong that keeps me up at night. I’m not the only one that feels this way. There are twelve other people in my school direct cohort and they all have the same anxieties.

The teacher training course is going to step up a gear as I will have to juggle writing lesson plans, teaching lessons, keeping my files up to date, writing university assignments and pre-reading and tasks for training days. I’m trying to keep a work/life balance the best I can because if I am going to make it through this training year, I need to learn to take a break and have some time for myself.

When I go back after this break, I will be in my home school for four whole weeks and then I will be returning to the old routine of three days in school and two in university and training. Hopefully in my next post I will be more confident in my ability to teach and will have many stories to tell about the lessons I have taught. I will be reflecting on what went well and what I still need to work on, as that’s what being on this journey is all about, the ups and downs of what it takes to become a fully qualified primary school teacher.

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24 Life Lessons In 24 Years

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Life is full of lessons. Some of them we learn early on in our lives whilst others take a certain amount of time, a varied amount of experiences or many mistakes to accomplish. During my twenty-four years of life I have realised that there is still so much to learn about this crazy thing we call life. However, I can also confidently say I have already starting to create a long list of lessons that I have already learned and will continue to use throughout my life.

1. Life is too short to be unhappy.
If you are unhappy with something in your life, it doesn’t matter if it is a relationship, a job or even the place you live, change it. One day, you will look back on your life and realise you wasted a lot of time doing things that you don’t enjoy. Only create space in your life for the things that matter and the things that make you happy.

2. Travel if you can
Now I haven’t even started on my long list of places I want to travel to around the world but external circumstances have prevented me from doing so. Once I am able, I will travel to India, Thailand, Spain, France, Germany, Finland, Japan, New York and all of the other amazing places on my list. Despite the lack of funds in the last few years, I still managed to visit Dublin, Edinburgh and Vienna. I can’t wait to travel the world with the one I love and one day it will, I just know it.

3. Surround yourself with the right people
This is an important one. I have had many people leave my life as quick as they entered it because I didn’t want to be surrounded by negative people. It’s hard to push away family members or friends but if they don’t support, respect and love you in the way they should, you will be better off without them. Your happiness comes first. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, not tear you down.

4. Believe in the impossible
Remember when you were five and you believed that the moon was made of cheese and fairies really did live at the bottom of your garden? Who says you still can’t believe what you want to believe? When we grow up and become adults, we kill this part of our brains. We start to only believe what other people tell us to believe and we no longer have our own individual beliefs. I believe in mermaids, magic and aliens. Laugh at me all you want, say I’m acting like a child or that I need to grow up but it’s what I believe. I want to believe in a world where anything is possible, this mentality definitely helps me make decisions in my everyday life.

5. You only get one body, look after it
I sometimes reach for the doughnut instead of the apple and I really should go to more than one exercise class a week but I never give up on trying to live a healthier life. I want to be fit and healthy, not to look good but to really take care of my body. As the years pass and I get older, I’m starting to realise the importance of looking after myself physically. It may take me a while to reach my goal of eating healthy and exercising three times a week, but I’ll get there.

6. Don’t neglect your mental health
I have had many issues with my mental health in the past few years and I know how hard it is to accept the fact that you might need help. But your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing. I’m never going to get rid of my anxiety disorder, it’s part of me. I just have to hope that in time, I learn new ways to manage it. I now know the signs to look for when it’s time to seek help from others.

7. Learn to laugh
Life can feel pretty serious when you’re an adult. Bills, work, families and money. It’s an endless stream of stress and responsibility. It’s easy to get caught up in it but don’t forget to smile. Laugh until your stomach hurts. Pull funny faces. Learn to have fun and really enjoy yourself.

8. A good cup of tea can solve most things
Bad day at work? Cup of tea. Problems with your family? Cup of tea. Feeling a little unwell? Cup of tea. Now, I know there is no magic in a cup of tea but it somehow makes you feel better. It feels comforting to hold a hot mug of tea when you are tired, stressed or sad. Look for the smaller things in life that bring you comfort.

9. Find time in your life for peace
It’s a hectic life and sometimes we forget to be still and enjoy some real alone time. Meditating has been life-changing for me. Whenever everything starts to build up, a few moments of meditation can bring me back to earth, make me calm and in control again. You don’t have to meditate to find peace in your day, read a book, have a long bubble bath or do some yoga.

10. Set yourself goals and work hard everyday to reach them
It’s important to set yourself goals in life, it gives you something to focus on and work towards. I like to set myself big dreams that will take years of hard work to achieve but I also give myself mini goals every day. It could be something simple such as: exercise twice a week, eat three portions of fruit a day or read more books. Goals and dreams are the foundations of a good life. Never lose your ambition, you are never too old to dream a new dream or learn something new. Remember that failure is a big part of success and if you do fail, pick yourself up and start again.

11. Find the beauty in life
It’s easy to race through life without noticing the small and beautiful things that happen every single day. No matter how bad my day is, I try my best to take a moment to appreciate my beautiful surroundings. Enjoy the colour of the sky, the trees, flowers, sunrises and sunsets.

12. A negative attitude will give a negative life
I have struggled with a negative mindset for most of my life. It’s hard to think positive and see the good in every situation, it’s taken me years or practice and sometimes no matter how hard I try, negativity wins. I try to surround myself with positive people, positive messages and regularly watch inspiring videos and listen to inspiring speeches to lift me up when I’m feeling down.

13. Don’t compare yourself to others
One of the many negative ideas that social media presents us with is that other people lead perfect lives. People only share the good moments in their lives and when your newsfeed is bombarded with happy families, holiday snaps and promotions, it can make you feel bitter about the lack of stability or progression in your own life. I have experienced this many times but I am learning to focus on myself and ignore everything I see on Facebook.

14. Love is happiness
Love is the most beautiful thing in this life. When the perfect person walks into your life, cherish them and tell them you love them every single day. I met the love of my life and my best friend when I was just eight years old. Years later we started dating and we’ve been together even since. Every day we tell each other how much we love one another and I never take him for granted. There are so many forms of love in life: relationships, friendships, family. Grab every opportunity to love and to be loved.

15. Don’t live with regrets
You don’t want to reach the end of your life and look back at all of the things you wish you had done with your time. Regret nothing. Always do what you want to do. Ignore what other people think and embrace your authentic self. Life is far too short to be hesitant. Do whatever it takes to be happy and successful, your future self will thank you for it.

16. Always learn something new
Education doesn’t end when you take off your school uniform. Life is a classroom, never stop learning and always encourage yourself to try something new. Travel the world, learn new languages, learn to paint and draw, learn to play the trumpet or the guitar, buy some books and learn about Greek mythology or Astrology. You’ll never know whether you’ll like something until you try it.

17. Not everyone in life is going to like you and that’s okay
You can’t please everyone, no mater how hard you try. I have this uncontrollable need to please people and sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone in this life is going to like me and I have to accept that. Not everyone will have the same heart as me, I’ve come across many selfish and narcissistic people in my life that don’t see the world the same way that I do. We’re not all the same, that’s what makes life interesting. Just remind yourself that if people don’t like you, that’s their problem, not yours.

18. Plans don’t always work out
Life is unpredictable. I have learned to accept that things don’t always go my way. Unexpected things happen that I have no control over, the best thing to do when this happens is to deal with it and learn from the experience. Sometimes things happen for a reason and failure leads you to another path to success. I learnt that after years of rejection, that I was chasing the wrong dream, picking the wrong career for myself. This experience lead me to discover my passion for teaching.

19. Stand up for what you believe in
When we’re young, we think that our voice doesn’t matter and what we have to say is invalid because of our lack of life experience, this isn’t true. If you have a strong opinion about something, speak loud and proud. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t let anyone make you feel inferior. Be yourself and never let anyone negatively influence your faith, your opinions or your perspective on life.

20. Learn to forgive others and yourself
A lesson I have definitely learned in the last few years is that forgiveness never comes easy. Holding onto poisonous emotions such as hate, anger and resentment can send you spiralling down a road of unhappiness. As well as learning to forgive others for the way they have mistreated us, we must also learn in this life to forgive ourselves and be at peace with our past mistakes.

21. Enjoy the journey
It’s so easy to live in the past or focus on the future but if you don’t live in the moment, you miss all the wonderful things that are happening in your life. It’s good to focus on your big dreams and goals but don’t forget to enjoy the journey. I am learning that giving myself a few moments during the day to take a deep cleansing breath and allow myself to be in the present moment really helps me to focus on the journey, rather than the destination.

22. Believe in yourself, no matter what
If you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody will. People will treat you based on what you think about yourself. If you have no confidence in your abilities to succeed, then no one will give you the opportunity to reach your full potential. If you don’t believe that you are worthy of a good and happy life, then you will never achieve one.

23. Good things take time
I’ve learned in the last few years that good things take time and that patience really is a virtue. It’s frustrating when you life isn’t going the way you planned or the goals you want to achieve are still our of reach. However, timing is everything. Sometimes things happen for a reason and we are actually where we need to be, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I have to admit, it has taken me a long time to accept that the timeline of my life isn’t going to be how I imagined it. But I have to trust myself and know that if I want something badly enough, it will happen.

24. Gratitude is the key to happiness
When you don’t have a lot in life, it’s easy to feel bitter about it and shout from the rooftops that ‘life isn’t fair.’ However, there are a lot of things to be thankful for in your life; having a home, a wardrobe full of clothes, fresh food and clean water. If you think of a three things you are grateful for every day, it will enrich your life and bring you more happiness. The more you express your gratitude, the more things you will have to be grateful for. I believe in the law of attraction, that it is up to us what we choose to focus our attention on, think of the negatives and you will life a negative life. Choose positivity!

 

Teacher Training Diaries: Summer Preparation.

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I have decided to start a series of blog posts about my experience on my teacher training course, which begins in September. It will be submitted as evidence of my progress, a reflection of my pedagogy as a trainee teacher and a perspective of my journey from PGCE to NQT.

It is four weeks until my course begins. My summer preparations include: taking as much time as possible to relax before the craziness starts, reading up on the national curriculum and familiarising myself particularly with KS1 (as this is my main school placement), learning about phonics and all the jargon that goes alongside it and doing a short course online provided by the university to remind myself of the academic writing standards and referencing systems.

I am training to become a primary school teacher through the school direct route. What this means is that I learn all of the practical aspects of being a teacher in a chosen school and two days a week, I complete the academic side of the course, the PGCE, with a university.

I decided to do this route because I wanted the hands-on approach to learning. It’s been three years since I graduated university and I didn’t want to begin my training by returning to a lecture hall. I wanted to observe, be in the classroom environment and see every side to teaching, the good and the bad. I have one years experience as a Teaching Assistant, but I doubt it will prepare me fully for how difficult it is to be a teacher.

I feel a mixture of nervousness and excitement as September approaches. My biggest worries are my overall confidence in the classroom, managing behaviour and juggling the academic side with the practical aspect of the course. Luckily, I am one of those organised-obsessed-colour-coding-highlighting-everything kind of people, so I will have no problem with staying organised. I am good at managing my time and creating to-do lists is second nature to me. I also think the reflection part of the course will be naturally easier for me, as the basis of my Creative Writing degree was learning to reflect on yourself and your writing. The only difference is, I will be reflecting not on my writing, but my teaching practice.

The next blog post will probably be after my first week on the teacher training course. I can only guess that I will probably be exhausted, I will be running on caffeine and adrenaline and I’m sure I will be feeling overwhelmed but excited about the year ahead. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it!

365 Days Of Gratitude.

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For 365 days, I have been writing down three things I am grateful for each day and it has had some surprising results.

We all know the power gratitude can have. In the darkest times, if you can find at least one thing to be grateful for, even if it is something as simple as having running water, a warm home to live in or food in your fridge, it can change your perspective entirely. This is what happened to me.

I embarked on a journey of gratitude in 2016. It turns out, it was the perfect year to do it. I have had a difficult year. I won’t go into detail but it’s been really hard to stay positive most days. I downloaded the app Gratitude Journal on my phone on the 31st of December 2015. I wanted to see if writing down three things every day I am grateful for would actually impact my wellbeing and change my perspective when experiencing bad days.

It actually worked. Each night, I would write down three things I was grateful for that day. Sometimes they were very similar – my partner’s name, home and food. However, some days I managed to write down five or even six things I am grateful for. I didn’t feel like it changed anything at first. However, after a couple of months. It started to rewire my thoughts. Reflecting on my day each night with a list of things that made me feel grateful, happy and loved made me realise that life was about the smaller things.

Whenever I got caught up in a negative spiral of I hate my job, why does this always happen to me? and why am I not going anywhere?, I adjusted my thoughts. I  remembered my list. I am grateful for my friends, my partner and my home. It instantly reminded me to be grateful for what I have and not to focus on what I don’t have.

It had such an impact on my life that I’ve decided to carry on my gratitude list into 2017. It may not work for everyone but if you feel like you need to remind yourself every day of all the amazing things you have that make your life great, then start a gratitude list.

Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

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During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015

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So, I have decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo. After the success of winning NaNoWriMo in November last year, completing 50,000 words in thirty days for my first full length novel 1:58, I decided that it was time to do it again. Camp NaNoWriMo is the same as NaNoWriMo but there is more freedom, I can choose my own word count goal. However, I’m still sticking to 50,000 words. I can do it. I know I can.

I feel like I have lost a lot of motivation in the writing side of my life and the less I write, the more confidence I lose and I knew that it was time to transfer the novel that I have been planning for months in my head, down on paper. I have started to outline and plan a novel called The Last Letter. I have it planned up to chapter twelve and I am going to spend the last few days of June planning the rest to start the Camp NaNoWriMo on July the 1st.

I have planned many novels and many of them have never been written but this one, it just feels different. I can’t really explain why but this is the story that I really want to tell. Completing the challenge last year boosted my confidence enormously because I had never completed a longer piece of writing from start to finish. I had written poetry and short stories but never succeeded in writing an entire novel. Now I can say I have. And I am going to do it again.

I have so much time on my hands right now and I feel like I am wasting it. Day in and day out, I do nothing productive and it is only getting worse. I don’t want to be the writer that doesn’t write. I don’t want to be the woman who says she wants to be an author but never even tries to make the dream a reality. I want to write this novel.

The Last Letter is my chance to prove that I can write novels. It is easy for some writers to just write a 100,000 word novel from start to finish, start revising it, complete it and then send it to publishing houses. But what about the rest of us? The struggling writers that don’t always have the discipline to complete what we start? The writers that listen to the voice in their heads that says they are not good enough and believe it. The writers that know they can do it but have to convince themselves that they won’t fail.

I can manage 1,600 words a day. I have done it before. There are a few days in the month of July that I will be busy but I will have to work around my plans and make sure I get my daily word count. I know I can do this. I have done this before.

July has one extra day than November. I have thirty one days and 50,000 words to write and this time I am going to revise the novel and redraft it and get it ready to be published. No more messing around with ideas and wondering if I am good enough to be published. I need to start believing in myself. I can be an author, no, I will be an author and doing NaNoWriMo is just a stepping stone on my journey to achieving this dream.

Twenty Two

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Tomorrow is my 22nd birthday.

I was re-reading my post Twenty that I wrote two years ago today. I remember writing it like it was yesterday. I am still the same person that I was when I wrote that blog post, I still have the same dreams and I still believe that turning twenty was a defining moment in my life. Since then I have graduated from university, I have visited Dublin with my boyfriend, I have started an internship at VIVA magazine and I have started to make plans for my future.

Honestly, it has been a hard two years, there have been a lot of struggles but everything I go through is making me a stronger person. I’m trying to live my life day by day instead of year by year but my mind always wanders to the future. I’m a dreamer, I always have been and always will be.

Another birthday is passing by and I might not be where I want to be but I have to be patient, I have time. I have years to accomplish everything I want to do. I am enjoying my life right now. I might not have a job or enough money to buy the things I want to buy and go to places I really want to go to but I am surrounded by love. I have to believe that my future will be bright. I have to believe that things will get better and I have to believe in myself.

If there is one thing that changes every year on my birthday, it’s my perspective. Whenever my birthday approaches, I look at life in a different way. I look back on the year that has passed and what I have achieved in that time. Life is a journey and sometimes we don’t appreciate moments until they are memories. I’m going to start enjoying the present. I’m going to be patient and grateful, I am going to smile even when I feel like I can’t and I’m going to keep hoping and dreaming that I will make it to my next birthday and I will be one step closer to my dreams and one step closer to the person I want to be.

Waiting & Wishing

I’m always wishing for something or thinking about something I want. I know that I should appreciate what I already have but sometimes, I find myself stuck in an endless cycle of negativity and hopelessness. I’m tired of struggling. I just want everything to happen. Right now. I don’t want to wait any longer. I’m still waiting for the day that changes everything.

Why is it so difficult to see what is right in front of me? What is this selfish need that all humans have to always want more? I feel like I have fallen into the same trap that everybody else falls into. I have it imprinted in my mind that the only way I am ever going to live a happy life is to get everything I want. But I know deep down that none of it really matters.

I have a long mental list of things that I want to complete, I want to have lots of money and own expensive possessions, get my a dream job, be able to travel the world and possibly have a family of my own one day. But do I really want all of that? More importantly, do I really need all of that? Or is society’s influence so strong that I don’t know the difference between what I really want and who I want to be and what society expects of me?

Dreaming is an important part of living. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a better life and wishing for good things to happen but when they start to control your overall happiness, it becomes a big problem. And it’s starting to become a big problem for me. I’m only twenty one years old, why do I feel this pressure to achieve everything and have everything I want right now? I blame society. I blame social media. I blame the high expectations that are set by others. I also blame myself for succumbing to this toxic way of thinking. I don’t need to follow any guidelines, my life is not going to be the same as anyone else’s, I need to start believing this.

I try and switch off and embrace the day, live my life and stop worrying about the future but it’s hard. None of us know how much time we have and I think that urgency causes this need to want everything right now. I want so many things. Maybe I should start focusing on what I need? I already have everything I need. I have amazing friends, a family, a loving partner and a home. I am more privileged than most but I fail to see how lucky I am on a daily basis. I am surrounded by love, I experience happiness every day but I don’t realise it because it is clouded by the pressures of the future and everything I have yet to achieve and material possessions I have yet to own.

I need to stop thinking of happiness as a goal. Life is a journey and finding happiness is part of that journey. I’m not always going to be happy. I’m going to have days that I feel so bad about my life that I won’t want to get out of bed in the morning and that’s okay because there are plenty of days ahead of me that I will experience joy and contentment. I might not be where I want to be right now but I need to start enjoying the present and stop fretting about the future. I’m not perfect, I’m going to make lots of mistakes, I’m still young and I still have so much I need to learn about this crazy and perplexing thing we call life.

This Is Your Life. Make It Beautiful

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‘Wild’ Film Review

A inspirational montage of hallucinations, beauty and heart. Wild captures the struggle of addiction, grief and loneliness and still manages to uplift, reminding you that no matter what happens, you have to keep moving forward, one foot at a time.

Based on Cheryl Strayed’s best selling memoir Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found, Wild is a great comeback for talented actress Reese Witherspoon. Far away from the blonde bombshell of Legally Blonde, Witherspoon shows her vulnerable side and shows the world that she is anything but a one trick pony.

The film deals with sex, drugs, addiction, grief and learning from past mistakes but the dark themes are juxtaposed with inspiring moments of faith, freedom and enlightenment. Cheryl Strayed is a flawed character but that only makes her more relatable.

When the film begins, we learn about Cheryl and how her mother’s premature death has sent her into a downward spiral of self-destruction. Cheryl is determined to find herself again so she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, alone with her thoughts, she works through everything she was previously trying to forget.

The film incorporates Cheryl’s backstory by using hallucinatory memories, poetry and songs. The narrative is honest, the acting is superb and the message is crystal clear. Wild is a terrific film that brings to life the real story of one woman’s journey that helped her find herself again.

Rating – 5/5