Time to pause

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I have just got in From twilight training. I am emotionally exhausted today. A full day and then 3hrs of physical intervention and de escalation training has all but finished me off. I have very few words left today.

It is like that sometimes isn’t it? You feel as though you are almost running on empty. Times like this I need to be mindful not to expect too much of myself. There are some moments in life when the most sensible thing to do is just to rest.

The concept of rest is a difficult one for me. My brain is constantly active, sometimes I wake myself up in the early hours, having remembered something I can do nothing about. I then battle myself back to sleep if I am lucky.

Tiredness causes me to become highly emotional, to become clumsy and forgetful. If I don’t stop, I get to the point where I am barely functioning. My mood has a huge baring on my students. I have a responsibility to myself and to them to ensure that my exhaustion does not negatively affect their experience.

I need to recharge. Teaching can become all consuming. Time to pause.

This is when I am glad that I don’t have to do all things in my strength. This is when I am happy to say – I am weary, I need rest.

Tonight is all about curling up on the sofa, under a blanket and just being.

‘He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.’ Psalm 23

The little things are the big things

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Today, I have been feeling very buoyant. I can’t explain why, but I am feeling very settled emotionally, a sense of peace that passes all understanding.

One of the best moments for me today was watching one of my students who hates writing complete an extended piece of writing independently. He rarely puts pen to paper but today, he went with it.

Another great moment was a member of staff coming to tell me one of our lower functioning students had requested for me to play basketball with him at lunch time.

These are the moments that cause me to catch my breath, things that could so easily be missed or brushed aside. They are priceless moments and ones that you have to hold on to as a teacher to get you through the bleak times.

Playing basketball when I am on duty every lunchtime is one of my favourite parts of the day. For 30 minutes I shoot hoops and take turns with the one or two students who like to join in. It is amazing how such a simple activity can cause so much joy.

You see, my argument will always be that if you are prepared to invest yourself and your time outside of the classroom with the students, you will have greater success inside the classroom.

I will always pick being with the students over an office or the staff room. This does at times mean I find it very difficult to have to closet myself away to do my paperwork during the school day. This is what causes my difficulties with work/life balance.

Tomorrow, I am missing my lessons as I am briefing key staff prior to about interim review which will then take place an hour later. I am torn about this.

The review is important and fully focused on one of my student’s well-being and our ability to meet his needs. However, it means missing out on teaching my classes their last English lessons of the week.

Sometimes I dislike having to sacrifice like that. I often wish meetings etc would slot in nicely when I am not due to be teaching, but that is not how things work!

Am planning on making sure I notice the priceless moments tomorrow.

Navigating Monday

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The day began with a lack of milk in the staff room fridge which caused much consternation first thing on a Monday morning. Thankfully, as I was nil by mouth I was not affected by this travesty.

People started to drift into the staff room, some smiling, some already carrying the spirit of the grinch. Such is the way in a school staff room, it is law.

I was stationed at the photocopier, my designated spot prior to 8am. It didn’t feel too bad being back but then I enjoy my job, as much as I may grumble at times, teaching is as much a part of me as the blood that courses through my veins.

My first class were ‘bouncing’ as we like to call it. Fresh from a half term break and not at all enamoured with the idea of being back at school. There ensued a number of conversations about appropriateness of behaviour and the revelation that thrusting one’s genitals while stood at the back of the classroom was not something that I was happy to tolerate.

My second class were the picture of perfection, intelligent conversation ensued as we discussed a ‘thunk’, we worked as a class to complete activities, we laughed (heaven forbid!), we journeyed through the learning process together and I was just a hair’s breath away from them all climbing on their desks and exclaiming ‘O Captain, my Captain!’

What was the difference between these two classes? The main difference was how they had been engaged by their tutor for the first fifteen minutes of the day. It may sound insignificant, but it is one of the most significant moments of the day for students. Handled well and there is a good foundation to start the day with. Handled badly and you end up herding cats for the rest of the day.

I am going to have to have some difficult conversations tomorrow about pastoral care. The part of my job I like the least, but the welfare and well being of the students is my priority and for those of you who may feel I am too liberal, this is affecting their learning, which affects their progress, which ultimately affects their achievement.

My hospital appointment had to be abandoned as part way through my test (an hour in, in fact) the equipment malfunctioned. So, I now have to go through the whole ordeal again within the next week or so.

Funny isn’t it, how life has a habit of throwing things at you that just knock you off balance? I thought I may get some answers today regarding my health issue but again I am in limbo. I know I have to have some difficult conversations tomorrow and that I won’t be popular for it.

This is where my faith kicks in, where I don’t focus on the opinions of man, where I don’t look at life through the way I am feeling, but through what I know.

I have hope, I have courage, I have strength.

And so it begins… again

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So, tomorrow a new term begins. After having a week off, I now go back to being a teacher. It is strange how much changes when work starts up again. I already know what I am teaching and when up until Christmas, I have a meeting schedule running through my brain and Parents’ evening on the horizon.

It would be a lie to say I am not a little apprehensive. We are on Ofsted standby, we have a Christmas production to film, I already know we are short staffed tomorrow. I also have my hospital appointment which means I am nil by mouth from 7am tomorrow.

I am looking forward to seeing the students again. You see, it may sound trite or cheesy but for me my job (vocation) is all about the students. I have a holistic approach to my teaching, one that was at times frowned upon as I was not solely driven by targets.

Being senior teacher, a large percentage of my week is spent listening, listening to students in crisis, listening to their complaints, listening to their fears. It is one of my favourite parts of my job. I have been criticised for having too much of a ‘milk and cookies’ approach and not being punitive enough. I will take that. I am not a soft touch, I have high expectations of the students my approach is just different and it works for me. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in teaching, your personality plays a large part.

I spent a lot of my life adapting and changing to fit into what people wanted of me. I am no longer prepared to do that.

Criticism is a large part of teaching, when I did my PGCE my tutor said I was ‘too emotional to be a teacher.’ I have no idea what he meant, I took it as a statement to rail against.

You can have a heart and be a teacher, in fact, I would argue you can’t be a teacher without heart.

Tomorrow, the journey begins once again. I will say this evening, that I am going to have more of a work/life balance this half term, that I won’t work until 9pm every night, that I won’t get burdened by the grumbles and complaints, that I won’t answer emails at 11pm but I know deep down that I will struggle. Being a teacher is 24/7.

So to all of my fellow educationalists, here’s to a new term. Let’s make the best of it. Let’s enjoy it more, but most of all let’s support each other.

‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just in fact as you are doing.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I would appreciate your prayers for my hospital appointment 🙂

Trusting I will be ok whatever happens

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Today is the 1st November. The start of a new month. The rundown to Christmas.

I look back over this year and wonder where it has gone, not that it hasn’t been packed full of memories.

I am busy making more memories on holiday this week. Laughing, crying (mostly at films) being myself.

When I say being myself, I mean feeling relaxed, not filtering everything I say through a ‘will that sound right?’ thought process that often renders me silent. I am not constantly replaying conversations and incidents at work in my mind micro analysing. I don’t have a constant tension headache.

It is something I need to work on when I am back at work. Something I need to be mindful of.

The Monday I go back to work I need to leave early to go to a hospital appointment. Earlier in the year I started feeling dizzy, then fainting, then having blackouts.

I have seen a cardiologist, had a heart scan and no answers, my ecgs show an abnormality but it is benign. I am now going to have a tilt test.

I have low blood pressure, I always have. This test will be another route to establishing why I faint/blackout.

I have had dizziness but no collapses for months. Then, out of the blue on Monday when we got in, I started feeling dizzy and the next.thing I knew I am sat on the floor and grey/white with all the colour drained and my heart beating rapidly and chest pain.

This scared me because part of me thought it had stopped, that it was over. I now realise it hasn’t and it makes me apprehensive.

I have my test on Monday and then I see the cardiologist in a month’s time.

Am I hoping for answers? Yes. Am I guaranteed them? No.

So what do I do? Do I over analyse? Do I just go back to how things were before? Do I plump for a little denial?

Life is hard at times, there aren’t always simple answers. At times we struggle. At times we don’t.

I don’t know what I am going to do. I know that I want to trust that whatever happens I will be ok. I know that I want to start enjoying life more and by that I mean even the mundane moments.

Who’s with me?

Moments

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He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.‘  Psalm 23:2-3

Today, I went on a four and a half mile walk. I knew that I needed to get out and ‘blow the cobwebs away’ as my late grandad used to say.

You see, I have been living in my mind a bit too much recently, thinking, over-thinking, analysing, over- analysing. Getting lost in my thoughts. I don’t know if you can relate? Times like these, I know that I need to get out into nature.

Have you ever noticed how much a good walk can change your mindset? Sometimes, a cup of tea just doesn’t suffice when it comes to making things better.

The day started off cloudy, a bit like the fog going on in my mind, but as I walked some blue sky began to show and then bright sunshine beamed down. So much so, that at one point I had to remove my coat, in October!

I realised how much I had been beating myself up over things,  how much emphasis I was placing on work. It was becoming my measure for everything.

I let go of that today. My sense of worth and self does not come from work – thank goodness, but I had lost sight of it.

I had become stuck in a rut internally. Scolding myself over things I could do better. Replying scenarios. If we are not careful, we all do this.

As I walked today, I took time to notice the little things. The sound of the water, the colour of the leaves, the feel of a cooling breeze across my face. I enjoyed the moments.

I know that I need to talk more. That I internalise too much. I had a chance to take stock.

I am grateful for that chance. Grateful for that opportunity to restore my soul.

What do you need to take stock of today?

Which moments do you need to take time to enjoy?

In it for the long haul

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Yesterday, school finished for half term. One week of rest, one week away.

The funny thing is, the closer we got to the end of the day, more love was being shown by students.

We have a phrase called ‘team hugs’ where I work. This describes an appropriate show of care.

Yesterday, I got team hugs from two of our most difficult and complex students along with ‘Thank you for everything miss!’

There are moments, days and sometimes weeks in teaching when it is a slog, hard going and you question why?

All of that is worth it for the short moments I had with those two students today.

People know when you genuinely care about them. They know if you are being authentic or just going through the motions. You can’t be in it for recognition, it doesn’t work like that.

It’s a long haul thing, there are no short cuts. It is consistent day in, day out actions, despite the response.

I do my best to act out of care and love. I don’t always get it right. I make mistakes but I don’t let the mistakes define me.

There is something powerful about genuine love.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV