In order to be able to concentrate on specifics, I’ll concentrate on the adults.
Teaching is a slightly strange job, in that, in order to become a good practitioner, there is a need to immerse oneself in the role, entailing much time thinking, talking and sharing ideas within the colleague team. The internet has added significantly to each of these activities, if the committed teacher then joins an on-line community, or spends time trawling the available information and resources. It can be a case of “How much is enough?” To which the answer is that teaching has the potential to become a 24/7/365 job, especially as one moves into promoted roles.
Exploring the dynamics of a teacher role throughout a career is interesting. I can only look at those lives that have been close to me and my own career, from probationer in 1974, through to 16 years of headship and now 11 years of freelance activity.
The early years of teaching were characterised by long hours, as training opportunities were invariably twilight, with some at weekends. Photocopying and ICT were still being invented, so worksheets and cards had to be hand written. Clubs were a regular demand. However, for several years, there was still time to play cricket during summer weekends and midweek, as these could be diaried and kept to. Other sports were a little more haphazard, as they relied on diaries tying up, eg squash. An interest in wildlife was supported by Wildlife Trust talks, again on the calendar. Personal time could be created and holidays booked to provide a bit of distance from home and school demands. But, I can still remember visits to places of interest which resulted in some purchases, photographs, booklet retention, picking up shells, stones or other objects that might go onto the interest table.
Family life changed the time dimension somewhat, in that cricket became one weekend game and an occasional midweek fixture, ending when I managed not to catch a ball with my face, which required a modicum of reconstruction. Our three year old’s reaction on seeing me was enough to bring participation to an end.
Folk music replaced cricket, being a little less hazardous. I’ve avoided all contact with Morris dancing sticks! After learning to play the guitar, as a 29 year old, starting with the school beginners’ group, I was asked to run workshops at the Sidmouth Folk Festival, during which I encountered the bodhran. An immediate affinity with the two-ended beater allowed me to relatively quickly develop sufficient skill to join a friend in sharing tunes and songs at folk clubs, then to join a demonstration dance group as one of the musicians, which led to an offshoot barn dance band. While this continued, it allowed regular extended sessions that required full concentration; no chance of drifting back to “school think”.
Conservation activities led to voluntarily running the Hampshire and IoW Wildlife Trust Junior Watch group, leading monthly meetings, coordination a dozen groups and collating the regular newsletter.
Within all this, I also made time for a Post Grad Cert Ed and then a PG Dip Ed! Time and energy seemed to expand to fill the need.
Promotion to deputy headship saw the loss of time for Watch, as coordination aspects of school took that time. Promotion to headship, developing a need school, took away the regular folk playing. Team building required coordination time, so personal time became less available.
Our third child was three when my first wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. This shaped the following eleven years, particularly as one major decision was to buy a cheap house in mid-France, to allow holidays at times other than the summer holiday, replacing the regular camping trips that we had done for fifteen years. It also offered an alternative place for activities that would clear my mind for periods of each day. Worrying about leaking pipes, security of electrics or of your carpentry concentrates the mind. These forays provided the quality time breaks, where term-time was heavily school-dominated.
Now that I am considering a new phase in my life, several of the “lost hobbies” are still in mind. I have, over the past few years, got out the paints and daubed on paper for relaxation. I’m looking for an outlet for folk music, and I’d love to find an over-60s cricket team. I just won’t field at silly mid-on. Perhaps that’s why it has that title! I will make diary time for that, and for the regular visits to France for gardening and maintenance.
Life changes. One has to accept that. We change, too. Developing and maintaining hobbies takes time and effort. Having the ability to diary time for this can be a luxury within family time, but pays dividends, as you have moments of relaxation away from work and family pressures. The ebb and flow of life can challenge our time. Some things fall, to be replaced by other demands. It is important not to feel deprived when this happens, it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.
Equally, there are no quick fixes. Demands on our time can come from all directions, as young people with older parents, marrying and sharing time with another, children arriving, various transitions then older parent needs coupled with grandparenting. Time demands are individual.
Work makes specific demands. It is timed, from the official start and finish times to the personal needs to arrive ahead of the start and to leave when satisfied that the job’s been done. Sometimes, in order to preserve sanity, “good enough” has to be just that. Perfect may be just one step too far on that day.
School managers need to consider the waves of demand that they put on people, usually eating into personal time, such as report writing and parent meetings, as well as staff meetings and the multitude of other meetings that schools spawn. An annual calendar helps everyone to know where peak demands are and enable adaptation. Where report writing is required, reducing the meeting demands in other ways can be a way to pay back staff for their time. Timing reports at term ends can allow build up and good use of PPA or other support time, rather than after a holiday, where staff will spend their personal time working rather than unwinding.
Goodwill is often a case of very good communication, a well ordered and organised overview and supply-side approach from management, which reduces personal stress that comes from not knowing about an event, or finding that resources have run out. Being able to get on with the job efficiently allows more personal time to develop. Constant adaptation is tiring and demoralising.
Being known as an individual is a key element. Managers who know their colleagues well, enabling them to deal with life issues effectively, recoup their goodwill many times over, as happy staff give far more that they receive. If someone seems to be taking advantage, this can become a professional issue.
Worker well-being is something that schools need to consider, have structures in place to provide personal support within available resources, run a well ordered school, where the team ethic can become self-sustaining; colleagues supporting each other.
On a personal level, find and try to keep personal time for distracting hobbies, whether it’s a half hour walk, time in the garden, being quiet, o something more substantial. Accept that responsibilities will alter the balance, so that they can be accommodated. Look after yourself; eat well, drink moderately, sleep and rest appropriately. Enjoy your life and find balance and contentment. Sometimes this is challenging, but is something to work towards, providing your own “light at the end of the tunnel”.
Learn to look after yourself.