It’s the penultimate Sunday night before school starts again. It’s been a funny old summer and really has just felt like I’ve waited to go back to school. 6 weeks has flown by and this week is time to get back into work mode. There’s a few different things I need to do this week so I’ve come here to get it out of my brain and into one place.
Go into school and prepare resource packs for each child
Find missing chairs for the children
Plan the first few days PSHE – class culture, mental wellbeing and support etc.
Map out the first half term of English
Plan the first few English lessons
Map out the first half term of maths
Plan the first few maths lessons
Read up on the Ark Curriculum+ Year 6 units for background knowledge
Re-read the end of KS2 expectations
Read over the most recent DfE guidance for the return to school
Re-read KCSIE and the school Safeguarding policy
Go over notes for any SEND children and plan for their first few days
Create/find initial display resources and put up in classroom
Check school clothes and buy some more long sleeved dresses/tops (long sleeves hide the tattoos – Dangerous Minds)
Enter important dates etc. into TPTC planner
Buy laptop bag for new school laptop
Continue with ‘Reading Reconsidered’
Get 2020-21 appraisal docs from head and populate my parts
Sign contracts with school manager
Go over English subject development plan
Continue with ‘Teach Like a Champion’
Spend some time getting used to using the classroom desktop and Google Drive to access resources
Handover of class Twitter/Google Classroom etc.
Make contact with children via GC and signpost parents to back to school support
Email housing developers to arrange viewing of show home and look around the plastered 3 bed home we’ll be having in the winter
Update budget spreadsheet once paid and organise funds for the month
Get petrol ASAP
Make time to pick BSL course from lockdown back up
Make time also to read over any CPD notes taken from lockdown to refresh memory
Take a moment to look over upcoming birthdays and arrange cards/gifts/money
That’s probably not even everything! However, must remember to take it one day at a time! Tomorrow is Monday – wake up, go to the gym, come home, get changed, get petrol on the way to school, sort anything for the children tomorrow – that’s the priority.
I think I’ll browse the internet for KCSIE and the latest DfE guidance, that should induce sleep at least! (the DfE guidance, not KCSIE!)
I’d be surprised if you’re a regular Twitter user and haven’t heard of the #SpreadKindness campaign. Just in case you aren’t aware of what this movement entails, users post their Amazon wish lists for others to gift them whilst the idea is that you also do the same.
When I first saw this, I thought it was a great idea. I loved the sentiment behind it and thought it was a lovely way for people to try and make others feel happy during these uncertain times. There’s no denying that it definitely makes you feel good giving to others as well. I joined in and gifted several people, spending around £30 in total (or thereabouts). That would probably have been a weekend of pottering about with my boyfriend were I able to see him (we live apart) so it was money displaced. I received a few thanks, directly and indirectly as some gifts had come through anonymously. There are a couple that seem to have gone unacknowledged, but hey, that’s life. I, as of yet, haven’t received anything – which is fine. Whilst you do hope for the favour to be returned, that isn’t the point of the gesture. Life goes on.
Now, I understand that this has been met with some controversy from others on Twitter. I think it’s disgusting that individual users have been targeted with abusive messages and tweets. Regardless of your opinion on this (more on that next) I don’t believe that sending abuse is ever justified. However, I can understand the other point of view that has gotten some people riled up, albeit that doesn’t justify the behaviour that I have seen from some.
We are in the midst of a crisis that is seeing the most vulnerable of society suffer. Whether this vulnerability is measured by health, social status or income doesn’t matter. If you’re in any way vulnerable, times are tough right now. Many people appear to have taken issue with the #SpreadKindness movement as they see it as people from a well-paid profession gifting others in the same profession, when the money could be better spent. I’m not going to get into a teacher’s pay debate, but I don’t believe you can say that a teacher’s salary isn’t good. Whether it’s proportionate to the hours, stress and effort put into the role is a whole different discussion. Some have even suggested that this is merely a way to highlight our comfortable income and flaunt it in front of others. The article on TES that first brought this divide and different opinion to my attention did resonate with me, and I felt an instant pang of guilt and shame which resulted in me removing my wish list from Twitter. Now that I’ve had more time to reflect, I feel more shame for the people on both sides that are generating unkindness from something that was innocently, I believe, meant to be a good thing.
There’s a question mark over the ‘selfless good deed’. I do believe that many people intended to #SpreadKindness and genuinely weren’t motivated by getting back, some will have hoped to get something back and others, although hopefully very few, will have bought only to get back. I’ve read tweets about people who have allegedly posted their lists only to delete their account once gifts were received. I’ve also read comments from people nastily making fun of people who took part in the movement, it was these very comments that made me feel like an awful person and led to me withdrawing from the campaign.
Regardless of your beliefs and opinions surrounding the #SpreadKindness controversy, I don’t think that anyone should be made to feel like a bad person when all they had was good intentions. I get it, I see both sides, I understand the divide. I also believe that everyone is just trying to do their best. That goes for what is best for themselves and for other people as well. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has the right to make people feel bad when they’re trying to do something good. Nobody should have to feel targeted, abused or bad for just trying to do something that they think is kind and making a positive difference.
My stance now is to live and let live. I have chosen to direct any disposable income to charity, which I will tweet about as and when to try and encourage others to donate. If sharing your amazon wish list and gifting others is helping your mental health right now, crack on, I’m pleased you’re finding a way to cope. If your way through this is to focus on something else and the #SpreadKindness movement isn’t your thing, no problem, the main thing is that you have something to get you through these uncertain times.
The only way through this is together. We don’t know any more than what people share, that person who is sharing wish lists and gifting others might also be an NHS volunteer who is donating weekly to a local food bank. That person could have a monthly direct debit to a selection of charities and be doing their elderly neighbour’s shopping. That person could have a relative who works on the NHS front line and they spend their days worrying about them. That person could be isolating alone and social media is their only form of interaction. That person could be in a dark place and this is the only thing keeping them going. #SpreadKindness is exactly what is says it is. Whether you’re buying and receiving gifts or modestly helping those near to you. Just please, be kind and spread kindness.
Wellbeing is such a buzz word in education today. It was simmering just as I got into the profession 3-4 years ago and now it’s a hot topic. Everyone has a different opinion on what wellbeing should be, what it should look like, how it should feel. There are so many plasters available for the ‘wellbeing wound’. The majority of these seem to take the shape of compulsory activities planned by SLT which, sorry, isn’t wellbeing. We need to stop talking about wellbeing, as Kat Howard’s book instructs us, and address the deeper issues that are affecting it.
Well-being – noun – the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.
The etymology of ‘well’ explores words such as ‘satisfactory’, ‘agreeable’ and ‘in good health’. ‘Prosperous’ is also hanging around in there. The same research for ‘being’ throws up words such as ‘existence’, ‘state’ and ‘that which physically exists’. Therefore, I can unpick the the term ‘wellbeing’ to be concerned with the state of a living thing being satisfactory. Satisfactory being defined as ‘acceptable, though not outstanding or perfect’. This has given me a whole new perspective on wellbeing.
We can only be responsible for that which is in our control. I dip in and out of Stoic philosophy and find that I often deeply identify with many of the ideas put forth by historical figures such as Marcus Aurelius and Seneca. Something that I keep telling myself, in order to maintain some semblance of wellbeing at this time, is that I must accept that I am not in control. I am in control of how I react, but not of what happens to me or the world around me. This is a belief and practice which I will take with me back into the classroom, whenever that day finally arrives.
Life is a journey that is full of ups, downs and unexpected events. Our wellbeing will naturally blossom or wilt throughout our lives. We must accept that only a small proportion of what happens to us is within our control. So I invite you to ask yourself now, what is within your control today? What can you influence, stop or begin happening? Then go on to ask yourself what isn’t in your control. I will do the same:
I am in control of: the way that I speak to my friends and family, the amount of schoolwork I do, the social media and news that I consume, the food and drink that I choose to take in, the way that I react to the latest death toll and the daily briefing, the activities I partake in this evening (The Phantom of the Opera is the latest Andrew Lloyd-Webber to go live at 7pm tonight!) I am not in control of: the way that other people speak to or behave towards me, any work assignments or tasks I am sent on or asked to do, the things people choose to send me via social media or text/calls, the news the Government relays to the nation, the weather when I take my daily walk.
The above is just an example, and you could probably get really deep into this if you think about it – that’s why I stopped myself there! Now I need to think about how these things will affect my wellbeing. That is, will they make my state of existence satisfactory, agreeable even? What things are good for my wellbeing that I have identified as things within my control today? Well, interaction with friends and family is good for me. Finding a balance between school work and personal tasks/reading/blogging is good for me. Choosing to eat healthily or enjoying a glass of wine this evening is good for my wellbeing. There’s no question that watching a musical is good for my wellbeing!
I thought that it would be too easy to unleash a full assassination of teacher workload or the way that schools are being pressured to reopen. I could have written for hours about my mental health as a teacher right now, but I’ve touched on that in a couple of other recent posts. What I’ve tried to do here is look at wellbeing from a deeper and more analytical perspective. It’s so easy to become blinkered with wellbeing. An early finish here, a scrapped piece of paperwork there. For me, keeping it simple and asking myself – am I alright? – is key for wellbeing. Can I control what is happening, yes or no? If yes, is it good or bad for my wellbeing? If it is, great, if it isn’t – do something about it. If I’m not in control, what strategies can I use to help me react in a way that is more beneficial for my wellbeing?
I’d recommend visiting the link in the image credit as the author, Jonas Salzgeber, explains it rather well. This is just an example of how I use Stoic philosophy to support my wellbeing. Stoicism teaches us that we’re very much in charge of our own happiness and unhappiness, and this can be applied to our own wellbeing, or lack thereof. That is not to say that we don’t sometimes (or often) find ourselves in situations or environments that are out of our control and negatively affect out wellbeing. The thought I want to leave you with is: can you now consider your level of control over your own wellbeing and thus improve it?
I have dipped in and out of yoga for a number of years now. I always envied the girls in PE who could touch their toes without bending their knees and do the splits. Admittedly, I wasn’t interested in extra-curricular activities as a child. I didn’t do dance or gymnastics, and to be honest I was pretty lazy. That probably hasn’t helped my muscle development and flexibility.
After lockdown began and I started to experience some anxiety and stress about everything that was going on, I turned to yoga again. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I discovered ‘Yoga with Adriene’. I’m 4 days into a 30-day yoga programme called ‘Home’. I’m making sure I wake up and do it first thing every morning, I’ve been in a good routine so far, and it’s really helping me to cope. Practices such as the breathing and the idea of grounding yourself physically and emotionally can be easily transferred to real life. There’s been a few occasions now where I’ve taken a moment to breathe or to allow myself to become aware of the space I’m in and how my body feels. The flexibility comes slowly but I can already feel my body changing and growing to this practice. This is supporting my flexibility in other areas of my life.
I’m writing this post as I wait for the children to arrive for a day of child care. I have lots of fun activities planned which, although fun, took a bit more thought and effort than you would think. As a teacher, I’ve found it challenging to plan a full day that:
1. Caters for a wide age-range
2. Is enough for a small group – they get through things pretty fast
3. Is engaging for children who are probably just as anxious as me
4. Doesn’t have a WALT or specific objective, other than to occupy and entertain
5. Finds a balance between being ‘just child care’ but also uses my skills as an educator
Flexibility has been key here. Being able to take holidays at different times so that every member of staff gets some semblance of a ‘break’. Working in a school that seems to be stuck in an endless INSET day loop (that’s how the atmosphere strikes me anyway). Working remotely and utilising email and video chat more often and efficiently (I have a Zoom meeting with my new head today).
It is vital that we as educators remain flexible for the foreseeable. I have a sinking feeling in my gut that we are going to be operating in such a flexible manner for a long, long time. I have a feeling that the way society operates will be different after this, how can it not be? For that, we must be flexible.
I have found that practicing yoga daily is having a positive impact on my mental and physical health. For me, that trickles down into every aspect of my being, thus supporting my ability to be a flexible and accommodating educator during these unprecedented times.
These are just a few of the emotions that I have since Wednesday 18th March 2020 – the day that Gavin Williamson declared that schools would close to most pupils from Friday 20th March.
Tomorrow will be 4 weeks to that day, and what a rollercoaster I’ve been on since then! I am trying to pay more attention to emotions, by identifying, accepting and understanding them.
Naturally, I’ve always been a bit introverted. If I’m in a mood, leave me to get on with it, if I’m happy, I internalise it a lot and don’t push my happiness onto others – this can be both good and bad. I’ve never been brilliant at controlling my emotions. So may say I have a short temper, others may say I am very patient. The way that I express and control my emotions in my personal as opposed to my professional life is very different, and I find that an odd pattern in human behaviour.
You hurt the ones you love the most. This is a common phrase, and it rings true. I recall a Twilight on emotional regulation I attended that was delivered by Maria Collins-Donnelly, a psychologist. You can find out more about her here: https://www.collinsdonnelly.co.uk/about. She referred to this saying by shining a light on the way we speak to colleagues when we’re in a mood as opposed to the way that we speak to our loved ones. She highlighted that often, we will take our moods out on our loved ones more often than those in our professional life, and the reason is that we can get away with it. Family and friends forgive each other. I will hold my hands up to the fact that I can be a totally different person to my family, and to my friends, and to my colleagues. I wish I wasn’t though.
I’m trying to practice what I preach a little more, I work with my children and help them to recognise and regulate emotions. I explain how normal they are and suggest strategies that will support overwhelming or negative feelings. Yet, whilst I, as every other educator has, have been adjusting to a new way of working and living, I have allowed emotions to consume me and I haven’t been the person I’d like to be.
This is my pledge, to do better. I have a wonderful support network, for which I am extremely lucky. I owe it to my loved ones to regulate my emotions better, after all, we’re 4 weeks in now, I really should. I truly believe that being back in school on a rota system and having the #DailyWritingChallenge will enable me to cope with this uncertain, strange new world we are all living in. And so finally, to end on a positive note, here’s a song:
Our society is going through a troublesome time right now. Regardless of profession, religion, beliefs or social or financial status. Everyone is experiencing their own kind of difficulty. I have recently found solace in a daily writing challenge with some lovely educators and like-minded lovelies on Twitter, and I’d like to share something I’ve learned from the very woman who’s headed up the #DailyWritingChallenge.
After reading a host of inspirational and thought-provoking blogs on the topic of purpose today, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my own Ikigai and invite you to do the same.
What is your profession? Teaching & education. I am 3 years into my profession as a primary school teacher.
What is your vocation? I believe that my vocation is to help young people reflect on their development to help them grow and realise their aspirations.
What is your passion? I am passionate about mental health, English, reading, writing and creativity.
What is your mission? I am committed to guiding young people in their education by supporting their mental and social-emotional health.
What do you love? I love networking, reading a diverse range of genres, writing to unwind and being in a classroom.
What are you good at? I am good at being positive and helping others to do the same. I am good at remaining calm during stressful times and prioritising. I am good at believing that ‘this too shall pass’ and helping others to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What does the world need? I believe that the world needs compassion, love, optimism and happiness.
What can you bepaid for? Teaching, mentoring, curriculum design, CPD delivery.
Some of the above came very naturally while others I had to think about for a while. I think that’s totally normal. Especially when answering questions about what you’re good at. Had I been asked what I’m bad at, I think I could have written a whole post on that! Alas, this is not a time to be negative. I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my Ikigai and think this is something I’d love to share with colleagues in the future, and it’s definitely something that I’ll come back to when I need to refocus and remember my purpose.