Another month and a bit gone by…..and time for some reflections.
Back at the end of last year I came across the #teacher5aday wellbeing movement.
Reading what had been happening over the previous 12 months amongst teachers with a commitment to wellbeing inspired me and I wrote a blog. The whole piece can be found here:
At the end of it I made three vows….and once again it is time to reflect.
Vow 1. To myself. It is time I sorted this out once and for all. I love the Facebook ‘memories’ function where you can see where you were and what you were doing on this day in previous years. But I am concerned that I have been saying the same things about needing to slow down and look after better myself for 10 years. Now is the time. My family needs more of me and I need to accept that excuses won’t do any more. Only I can do this but but I am hoping for a bit of help from @Doctob’s book ‘Inner Story’ which fortuitously came into my possession recently….
I have had a hard month. I have been challenged personally and professionally and had my self-confidence knocked. There has been illness in the family and I had to choose between meetings and staying at home with my lovely flu-struck daughter. I sacrificed the meetings and am glad I did as the illness really knocked my girl for six and left her in need of a lot of TLC. I did not find it easy to tell people that I was putting family first and worried about the possibly implications in terms of their perception of my commitment. But we got through it.
I took a road trip to Glasgow with my son and watched the X Factor Tour show. It was pure unadulterated pleasure as he had the afternoon of his life and was privileged to be part of that.
I have not worked as much at weekends as I did and I have taken part in the #teacher5aday29dayswriting, #teacher5adayfitfeb and #teacher5adaymflmarch challenges. I am learning Spanish as my daughter is doing so at school and I want to be able to help her.
My long-suffering husband is not sure about these challenges as I think he feels that I am still taking on too much and being unnecessarily busy. But part of what I think that I have learnt about my brain is that it needs to be busy and that it is better to be busy with fun activities and non-work than with work and worry.
Two posts in particular relate to the issue of wellbeing and I am going to copy them here in attempt to join up the dots. The first was this, which shows, I think, that I have begun to find a way of controlling some of the worry that has tended to drive my behaviours and decisions in the past:
Waking, worrying and what to do
I usually sleep well but today I have woken at 5.15 and can’t sleep.
There is fierce raging activity in my head that consists of a series of worries.
1. Something happened at work last week and I am worried that, although I know that I did the right thing, others may not see it like that.
2. I have to run a working party today with a range of colleagues and I fear that they won’t like me and that they will realise I don’t know what I am talking about.
3. When the meeting is over I will have to write it up and produce notes and actions but I have not put any time in my diary to do this.
4. I have training to deliver on Monday and Thursday next week and feel as per 2 but also haven’t planned the training yet.
5. I have entered a singing competition in 3 weeks and do not know any of the songs yet.
6. My daughter is still unwell after flu and has stopped eating properly.
7. My husband may have to stop working which may leave me with sole financial responsibility. And my cleaner has left.
8. I have woken up too early and will be exhausted today but have arranged to take my kids to see a live stream Shakespeare for three hours tonight but am now worried that I will go beyond exhaustion because of it.
I could actually continue with more but 8 is probably enough.
What to do? Give up? Ring the doctor? On paper, these things may seem trivial, over dramatic, irrational. But they feel very real.
But I can manage them. Because I have before. A useful exercise that I discovered before Christmas is to write them down, name them as feelings/ worries and then force myself to counteract them with what I KNOW.
1. I have lots of evidence of what really happened and I need to hold to that.
2. It is not about them liking me. I have done huge research, I have a plan, agenda and a clear vision which is to work with the team to improve outcomes for children.
3. I will write detailed notes in the meeting.
4. I have PowerPoints I can adapt and experience and ideas. It is not about me but about what my audience needs.
5. I can record the songs and listen to them as I drive.
6. I can’t control her or her eating.
7. We only a have to get through 2 years and things will improve. I do need a new cleaner, though.
8. University days. Frequent nights of 4 hours sleep. Baby days- ditto. Did I die? Nope.
Our minds can be devious and feeling and worries play tricks. But by getting them out, ordering them and challenging them, we can get through them.
Solution focus; we have within us the skills and experience to solve problems and face challenges.
The second post connects to the idea of trying to cut down on the need to be busy and with my call, in my February update, to ‘Stop the Glorification of Busy’:
Zen, zero and the zone
In my twenties, I flirted with the idea of becoming a Buddhist. I had dabbled with and rejected Christianity (I simply didn’t believe in God) but wanted something to provide deeper meaning in my life. I bought and borrowed several books linked to the religion, both factual and popular, the latter including ‘Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance’.
In the end I decided that full-blown Buddhism was not for me…but several elements of Buddhist and Zen practice had and continue to have great appeal.
Meditation and mindfulness play a key part in my daily life and in my ongoing attempt to master my thoughts, feelings and anxieties. I struggle with static meditation but have practised yoga (four rounds of a sun salute) every morning without fail for almost thirty years. Some environments have been more conducive to this than others; a two-man tent in February in Norway was one of the most challenging.
Mindfulness practice has been a more recent development and one that I have found hugely helpful in providing focus during times when things have threatened to overwhelm me.
But I still have work to do. If I am honest, I rarely manage to clear my head during my sun salutes; they are more about me grounding myself physically and providing a ritual that takes me from night-time to day-time state.
The ability to empty my mind completely and to get into that zone where I can focus on zero is a skill that I still crave.
I am getting better at focusing but I have a way to go. I am not sure that the frantic business of Twitter and social media are a help or a hindrance. They provide constant distraction but for me, they also provide a life-line of connectedness with other like minds.
On my Facebook page, my background is the Anne Lamott quote ‘Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you’ and on here, I have the quote ‘Stop The Glorification of Busy’.
I think maybe a bit of meditation on those two phrases might be needed…..
I am doing better with my sun salutes and I am trying to spend less time on social media when in the presence of my family.
Vow 2: To education. I am doing the Scottish ‘Into Headship’ course this year and intend to learn all I can about how to be a Wellbeing-motivated educational leader.
Update: I passed my first assignment and am now onto the second part of the course which involves leading a strategic development. I am loving the opportunity to engage with literature and theory around leadership and this week attended the ‘Into Headship’ spring conference which provided inspiration beyond belief and confirmed my belief that values, relationships and moral compass must be at the heart of a Head Teacher’s role. But I am not one hundred per cent sure that I have it in me to be one.
I will write more about the ideas shared in the conference and my reflections on them in a separate post.
Vow 3: To Twitter. I will use this forum to engage in the debate about wellbeing and teacher ‘agency’ and to support and nurture like-minded souls. I will not beat myself up if I don’t manage to tweet or blog as often as other brilliant twitterati friends…..(as I have in the past) but I will use Twitter for all its potential….
Update: I am still finding writing and blogging therapeutic and have continued with them. I sometimes wonder whether it is all terribly self-indulgent but I have come to the conclusion that a) people don’t have to read what I write and that b) someone (possibly a younger version of myself) may find what I say useful or interesting.
Finally, I was inspired to read an article by Brent Davies (within my ‘Into Headship’ reading) that suggested that time to reflect and know oneself is a key part of being an effective leader. And so I continue and simply seek forgiveness if you find me self-indulgent….