I am on holiday at the moment so will only be blogging on staffroom in the next fortnight to keep up with #44 weeks of writing.
The first post is here:
The second is here: http://staffrm.io/@lenabellina/PpnFd3cgPf
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….
There have been lots of changes since March, all of which have had the potential to impact negatively on my wellbeing. On the whole, I feel that I have navigated them reasonably successfully and come out relatively unscathed.
I have had to stop running due to an arthritic hip. More on this here. The words of the physio were “you’re going to need a hip replacement sooner or later, so let’s try and make it later”. Running has always helped to keep me balanced and given me an opportunity to address my hyperactivity and excessive nervous energy, so hearing these words was a bit of a blow. I always used to say “I don’t know how I’d cope if I couldn’t run”. But coped I have. I have turned to cycling instead, both on the roads and on an exercise bike. And I have had to push myself less hard and stop at the point of pain instead of carrying on regardless. And guess what? The world has not stopped and I can still eat chocolate.
I have finished my secondment with the central education team and gone back to school. I wrote about the learning from my secondment here. On the whole, I have loved being back in school and know that I made the right choice. But it has been tough. I have had to prove myself as a teacher all over again. I have had to re-build relationships with colleagues. I have had to remember that after 16 months out of school, I am not the same, the pupils are not the same and colleagues are not the same as when I was there before. I have stepped on toes, made assumptions that I have had to reflect on and apologised. Apologised a lot.
And there have been some exceptional highs and positives: a fantastic Easter staycation full of family outings and down time; trips with my girl to see 5 Seconds of Summer and Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ in Glasgow and the most brilliant weekend spent with colleagues who have become very special friends.
As I write this on the first day of the summer break, I am exhausted and have the usual mix of low mood, anxiety and disjointedness that always comes with the prospect of six weeks without school. But I am ok with those feelings. Because I know that these are common to me and many other teachers at the start of the holidays. I have my coloured pens at the ready and will be writing my schedule later today. Not a rigid, restrictive plan but a structure that will help me with the anxiety that inevitably bubbles up when I go from having every minute structured to weeks of freedom stretching ahead. A plan that ensure that my brain knows what is coming up, that every day will have a balance of chores and fun and that there is an overview in terms of diet, exercise and expenditure.
For me, this helps with wellbeing.
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 have completed the second part of the course which involved leading a strategic development. This involved me leading a working party to refresh guidance for education settings in our authority on meeting the needs of looked after children. Yesterday I presented the final draft guidance to our Corporate Parenting Board and it met with overwhelming approval. The next and final stage of the course involves writing up and reflecting on the process.
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 have continued to write on a weekly basis, both on staffrm where I am now doing the #44week challenge and here on my blog. A while back, a mentor of mine raised the question of whether my honesty within my blogs may work against me in terms of one day securing a headship. He suggested that if potential employers read that I have a ‘tendency to overdo it’ and that I ‘push myself to exhaustion’, they may put my application onto the ‘no pile’ and look for someone who is less driven.
I have thought long and hard about this. I appreciate what my friend is saying and also still wonder whether there is a sense of solipsistic self-indulgence in my writing. But I am also committed to the idea that as teachers and leaders we have to be honest and self-aware and acknowledge that life has its challenges and ups and downs. If I were to write a blog with just the positives and perpetuate the myth that life is easy then I would buy into the deceit that I believe contributes to a cultural sense of unease and mental ill-health. There is more on this here and here.
The leaders I admire have acknowledged that leadership and success are hard-earned and that there is often rough with the smooth. Certainly the choice of speakers for the Scottish ‘Into Headship’ Spring Conference gave delegates the impression that Scotland is looking for educational leaders who are driven and passionate but also human, reflective and fallible.
And the words allegedly spoken by Tom Hanks are always a guiding force in my life: “The only way you can truly control how you are seen is being honest all the time.”
Don’t get me wrong. My blog is not all of me. There are things you don’t and won’t ever know about me if you read it. And that is as it should be.
But we need to understand ourselves and our motivations if we are to take on the hugely responsible job of teaching children and young people. And still more so if we are to take on positions of power and leadership.
We need to acknowledge that life is about both dark and light, yin and yang, positive and negative feelings. We are animals and have it within us to act with fear, anger, jealousy and hate. But the human in us means that we can consciously acknowledge those impulses and find ways to address them so that they do not cause destruction and harm. Honesty around this is the key to the wellbeing of our society. Perhaps if we had allowed more honest and open debate around the fears and doubts related to membership of the EU, we would have reduced the numbers of those who felt the need to grasp a stubby pencil in an anonymous polling booth and write an angry X in the wrong box. Maybe Boris and David need to reflect on this.
So for now, I will continue to be honest and human.
Because I don’t think I can be anything else.