Learning Stories

Learning has the power to change lives. Our growing collection of learning stories feature Bristol citizens who share how learning has made a difference to their lives and the many ways and places they have learnt - through friends, activities, formal education and work.


  1. Featured Learning Stories

  2. James's Learning Story
  3. Production Runner James Dean from Whitchurch talks about how he started out in the film and TV industry on an apprenticeship at Bristol's Bottle Yard Studios, and has since gone on to work on some of the biggest dramas made in the West of England...
  4. Keith's Learning Story
  5. My learning story began in January 2013 and with my bathroom scales telling me an uncomfortable truth! This wasn’t just about festive excess. In the preceding two years I’d gone from being an active, slender, fit man to a slovenly, overweight shadow of my former self, due to a litany of health issues, both physical and mental.
  6. I needed a New Year’s weight loss initiative and had always thought it would be nice to learn a martial art. I loved the Jean-Claude Van Damme films of my childhood. I decided upon karate simply because it was the only martial art that I had heard of, other than judo.
  7. Now that I had decided what I wanted to do, the next step was finding somewhere to do it. I remember googling ‘karate beginners lessons Bristol’ and looking through the top few results. Whilst reading through a few of the websites something caught my attention straight away – a short paragraph stating that none of the instructors get paid for teaching and volunteer their services for free. That, as I would come to discover in the coming years, defines what Zenshin Dojo is all about – people helping others to better themselves, simply because it’s the right thing to do. It sounds idealistic, but in a world too frequently dominated by selfish wants and needs, it’s refreshing to come across a community in which the ethos is about learning and helping others.
  8. I can still remember how nervous I felt, attempting to attend my first lesson. I say ‘attempting’, because I never actually made it there. I had difficulty finding the venue and arrived ten minutes late. This was followed by ten further minutes sitting in my car procrastinating about whether it was too late to turn up, before driving home. I was struggling terribly with anxiety and remember driving home convinced that my martial arts experience was over before it even began. The next day I received a short email from the founder of the club, enquiring as to why I hadn’t turned up. There was an inherent warmness to his tone that convinced me to give it another go.
  9. Imgur: The magic of the Internet
    Imgur: The magic of the Internet
  10. Sunday 20th January 2013 was my first ever karate lesson. I can remember the details more than any lesson I’ve attended since. As soon as I walked through the door, the instructor greeted me with a friendly warmth that immediately put me at ease. I was introduced to the group and taken away from the main group to learn the Fudo Dachi (stance) and Gedan Barai (block). Throughout the lesson I was made to feel welcome and that’s something that has stayed with me since. I will never forget the first time I put my Gi (uniform) on, though I wore a t-shirt underneath it due to my embarrassment at my weight. There’s something uniquely special about putting it on for the first time.
  11. Whilst I enjoyed learning karate, I also struggled tremendously with my mental health. I’ve battled with depression and anxiety, and at the time I was taking some quite powerful anti-depressants, which I’m sure contributed to my weight gain.
  12. As the weeks and months passed not only did I lose some weight, which was my primary goal, but I also began to feel less anxious. The depression began to lift and I slowly began to cut back on the anti-depressants. By the middle of 2014, I’d come off them completely.
  13. As someone who has always prided myself on my athletic ability, I feel like I’m back to the person I used to be. On a deeper level, I will always be grateful to karate, and the supportive environment at Zenshin Dojo, for helping me to overcome the worst of my mental health difficulties. I still have my bad days, but they are few and far between, and I no longer have to wear a t-shirt under my Gi!

  14. Learning Story for December - meet Lawayne!
  15. I started out as a parent governor when my son joined the sixth form at Redland Green School. He left many years ago now, but I have continued in my role.
  16. I have always been involved in education. My mother, aunts and uncles were teachers and headteachers, so it’s been part of my entire life, as have volunteering and social work. I have also taught and tutored all my adult life while working as a communications professional. Being a governor was part of this continuum.
  17. Being a school governor has brought me opportunities for personal and professional development in areas I may never have considered. It has provided opportunities to build networks and increase my awareness of the social and economic landscape, particularly in relation to education, so that I can broaden my volunteer work and support. I have also met an amazing set of people.
  18. Imgur: The magic of the Internet
    Imgur: The magic of the Internet
  19. I think through volunteering as a governor I have become increasingly altruistic: becoming a better human being. I find myself mentoring many young people I come across in daily life. I often feel I am every young person’s ‘auntie’. In fact, they often say I am like their auntie! Often young people will just approach me and start a conversation and before you know it it’s a whole confidence boosting, or career dreams support conversation. And they are so joyful at the end of the conversation.
  20. The sense of achievement and satisfaction from being a school governor and watching the school grow from strength to strength is astonishing – and since starting my role as a school governor, I have expanded my involvement to more Bristol schools and have supported more and more young people and fellow governors.
  21. By being a school governor I feel that I have been able to make a difference to my community and support and improve the quality of life of young people. It’s been a way to avoid boredom and tedium and enjoy a fuller and more satisfied and dynamic life.
  22. If you’re thinking of becoming a governor then I would certainly recommend seeking out as many training opportunities as possible. Take on new and different responsibilities to widen your areas of expertise and feed your curiosity by reading and research. Most of all always keep at the core the determination to do what is best for the children and young people.
  23. The Bristol Learning City partnership launched the ‘Be a Governor‘ campaign on 6 December 2017. People can register their interest for becoming a school governor or trustee on the Inspiring Governance website.