Over the past few years on Twitter, frequently I have noticed the same hashtag cropping in connection to things seemingly completely unrelated to the world of Education. This hashtag, #Teacher5ADay, to be honest, confused me. People didn’t seem to be doing 5 things a day, I didn’t understand what the 5 were and I didn’t see the point. I ignored it.
This past year has seen dramatic changes in all our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic has ripped families and friends apart, forced us to learn new ways to communicate and teach at a rapid pace, and turned the mere possibility of going to the school building into a Health and Safety issue. Our well-being and mental health has collectively suffered.
For me, the first lockdown of March-June was both challenging and brilliant. I had been doing too much, taking on too many projects and not taking time to just be. The enforced shut down has helped me to re-evaluate what is important in terms of where I dedicate my time and energy. I had some wonderful times with my two small children; hard work, but also fun! It certainly enables us to finally sort a bedtime routine and gave us time to calmly to potty train my eldest. But being at home full time with a 2 year old toddler and an infant without any ‘village’ of support was the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, with perhaps the exception of IVF treatment. Not being able to meet another mum for a chat, take the kids to softplay or have grandparents or friends pop round to play with the kids for a bit was really demanding. I am fortunate I was not trying to work as well as I was on maternity leave; the challenges for those in that situation must have been extreme. My keyworker husband was working strange shifts and our whole lives were up-ended so abruptly I struggled with the changes and my own well-being suffered immensely.
I’m not a big one for ‘New Year Resolutions’ (partly because I’ve never managed to stick to one – no chocolate for a year?! No thanks!) but I do find it is helpful around this time of year to reflect on goals and aspirations for the coming months, as well as consider lessons from the past 12. As I saw on Twitter more and more posts connected with #Teacher5ADay I asked for clarity on what this means from the wonderful @mrsbrewtandcake. Her clear explanation encouraged me that this is something I wanted to engage with; in what is likely to be a challenging start to 2021, well-being support is needed more now than ever!
Having read through some of the blog posts, and in particular https://martynreah.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/week-1-teacher5aday/ I feel in a position now to make my #Teacher5ADay pledge.
Collaboration is something I am a huge believer in. Working with, and learning from others is the best way to efficiency, quality and improving practice. For me a big part of collaboration as a science teacher has always been the Association for Science Education (ASE). Our regional committee WhatsApp chat has been one of my lifelines over the pandemic. Exchanging book reviews, recipe ideas and having a good rant has been cathartic and I cannot fault the support and mutual trust and respect we have as a group. It has kept me going at many a low point. My involvement with the ASE Webinars and podcasts, and attendance at virtual meetings has enabled me to feel connected to the profession when on maternity leave and when trying to understand the changes this year has brought.
Likewise, my involvement with #ChatPhysics has been uplifting and supportive, and my ‘virtual friends’ have been instrumental in supporting my return to the classroom from September. In an exceptionally rare but brilliant situation, there is an attitude of complete trust and disagreements are not uncommon but are conducted respectfully, listening carefully is the norm and there is never a sense of judgement or a feeling of hostility. We are all in agreement on formula triangles.
There are many other single instances of connection and support, too many to name, but I will highlight @mtptproject, @malcpd and @MrsLFlower as particularly important professional connections from 2020.
Going into 2021, therefore, my #connect pledge is:
Continue to connect with other education professionals through the organisations I am part of, and the individual interactions I have over Twitter.
Specifically, I aim to comment more and respond to relevant material on Twitter in order to help improve my own practice and support others
Be active (#exercise)
2020 marked one of the least active years I’ve had in the past 5. In January of 2016 I was massive overweight and could barely walk up the stairs without becoming out of breath. After the encouragement of a good friend I began the couch to 5k programme and completed my 5k in April, a 10k in July and a half marathon in October, shedding 3 and a half stone and dropping from a size 16-18 to an 8-12 (depending on the shop 🙄). Over the course of 2020 my weight has crept slowly back up. My motivation to lose my ‘baby weight’ has been low and my jeans no longer fit…
In a fit of perhaps rage induced madness I decided to enter the 2021 Manchester Marathon which is due to take place on Sunday 10th October. This slightly rash middle-of-the-night entry, inspired by some solidarity with The North during the height of Andy Burnham’s fame is now forcing me to get out and get active. I started a half marathon training programme in December; I’m painfully slow, but I’m moving. Maybe if I stop eating so much cheese and chocolate I may even drop some of the excess weight again!
My #exercise pledge is:
Walk or run everyday, a minimum of 1km
Be as consistent as possible with marathon training, aiming to complete the Manchester Marathon in under the ‘sweeper time’ of 6 hours.
Take notice (#notice)
I’ve tried journalling. I love bullet journals, they are beautiful. I even kept one during the first year of my son’s life. I love the details it contains. But realistically, it’s a lot of time. I have two small children and far too many hobbies. Keeping a beautiful journal is hard. During the first lockdown I posted a ‘diary’ on my Facebook for family and friends to see what my kids were up to – the family originally wanted a spreadsheet update, but Facebook was a more straightforward and immediate medium for me to use. It was a mildly stressful at times, but cathartic end to each day to post my favourite photos and a summary of what we had done.
I’ve always taken too many pictures. I had to buy a new iPhone as the 100,000 pictures stored on it were preventing me from uploading to Dropbox or the cloud and crashing the software! I have a DSLR my husband bought me last year I would love to use more. And I need to get more digitally organised. Recently, encouraged by a friend, @KatBex, I have signed up for a ‘photo a week’ challenge at https://52frames.com. I’ve also ordered a new Lechtturm 1917 journal… you never know 🙈😂
My #notice pledge:
To record by photograph or words things which have been uplifting or encouraging.
To aim to complete the ‘photo a week’ challenge, and perhaps to journal, but with no expectation if time does not allow
Keep learning (#learn)
This one feels like the easy one for me. I’ve always engaged in CPD and am looking forward to the ASE conference, continuing to be part of the Chartered College Science Teacher Journal Club, and engaging with #ChatPhysics, the IoP and other opportunities. In 2020 I undertook individual and group coaching with @malcpd and hope to do more of that in 2021; I recommend her approach extremely highly, especially if you’re an emotional being like myself!
However, far and away my biggest learning goals going forward are related to my PhD in education. I have loved my first term of learning and developing, and look forward to more of the same. The training modules have been really helpful, and in the short term I have an end of the month deadline for learning about psychology and sociology paradigms!
My #learn pledge is therefore:
To remain on top of my PhD studies by working consistently and meeting deadlines
To engage with appropriate CPD without overburdening my time
I was brought up in a household where giving of time to help others was the norm, and not an aspiration. My mother, parenting my sister and I alone, collected for charity’s such as Christian Aid and the Children’s society, knocking on doors in all weathers, two children in tow! She leafleted on behalf of the church, delivering the monthly magazine to a collection of streets. She ran the church music group, helped at Sunday school and did volunteer work with the local music school teaching music theory and helping with particular badges at the brownie unit (astronomy in particular springs to mind!). One Christmas we even had a lonely lady join us for the day. An utterly selfless role model.
For myself this has translated into being involved in probably more than I can sustain, something the lockdown has taught me. Guides, ASE, being a parkrun RD are some of the things that I’ve done in the past, and will likely to continue to be involved with in the future. One of my challenges in 2020 was to slow down. With little happening I was able to revaluate. But I also felt adrift, feeling unable to help. I do not believe myself to be especially unusual or altruistic, I simply was brought up with the expectation of being helpful and volunteering. What I did find myself doing was organising support for my road, and shopping for vulnerable local people. This enabled me to stay grounded and feel useful through the lockdown. Volunteering is good for the soul.
This pledge is slightly different to the others: I need to consider reducing some of my activities to avoid burnout, but also ensure I continue to support others where I can. Here is my #volunteer pledge:
To consider carefully the use of my time when volunteering and ensuring I do not take on too large a burden
To continue with supporting those local to me, encouraging our community and building relationships
To continue volunteering with the ASE, Guides and parkrun, but ensuring that I don’t say yes to all tasks, remembering that my two small people are my first priority!
I am excited to try to engage with the #Teacher5ADay pledges, and I hope to see my own well-being and growth through the specificity of these pledges! Roll on 2021!