In last week’s blog post, One Word for 2021, I committed to blogging each week as a way of intentionally carving out more time for myself and living out my one word, BALANCE. I was apprehensive about committing to that publicly in case I didn’t have anything to write about however, after reading blog posts (linked below) by Fiona Leadbetter, Lena Carter and Robin Macpherson, I am continuing…
This week’s efforts are inspired by a short video on Twitter, featuring Kathleen Johnston talking about staying connected and the impact on our wellbeing. I’d really recommend you give it a watch! Often I scroll past these sorts of posts as I know I should look after my wellbeing but it can be very difficult to switch off and the constant messaging to take time out leaves me feeling more guilty about my inability to do so. I imagine I was drawn to the video because of the scenery, we really do have some beautiful landscapes in Scotland!
According to the Oxford English dictionary, ‘connectedness’ is a feeling that you have a link with someone or something or are part of a group. This looks a lot different at the moment, with travel bans, restrictions on meeting and preparing for a return to online school on Monday. This past week, there have been several moments where I have felt grateful for a feeling of connectedness, most of which has relied on technology, but not all.
I was fortunate enough to be able to pop into school to collect some of the resources I will need for teaching online. During my short time in the building, I had short, physically-distanced conversations with a small number of colleagues. Although we weren’t sitting in the staff room having a cuppa and a long chat together, these in-person interactions (no matter how brief) meant that when I left the building to head home for a day of working online, I had a noticeable boost in motivation and feeling of connectedness. I know not everyone has this luxury at the moment so I am extremely grateful for that.
Same School Community, but Virtual
Our staff meetings take place over Google Meet and most people have their cameras on. This does not replace the feeling of togetherness you get when meeting in person, but it’s the closest we have at the moment. Last lockdown, we also had a drop-in coffee break each morning, where those who wanted a chat for 10-15 minutes could join a Google Meet and talk to colleagues. This was completely optional but helpful for those days where you weren’t in desperate need of a screen break. In some ways, it was nice that you didn’t know who else might be there. It helped build connections with staff members who wouldn’t usually have the same break times. These drop-in Google Meets have returned for this next spell of remote working and I know they will provide a welcome breathing space over the next few weeks.
The World of Twitter
EduTwitter seems to get a bad reputation but I’ve found it to be a supportive and inspiring place. A great way to connect with educators around the world. Since posting my last blog post and joining in with some of the #oneword2021 events (including (including the Teachers On Fire Roundtable and #CultureEd with Tara Desiderio and Lauren Kaufman), I have had some thought-provoking conversations with teachers in Australia, the US, across the UK, and closer to home. I saw a fellow Aberdeen City teacher post on Twitter looking for others to share examples of their timetables. Recognising that I find it easier to talk things through rather than summarise in writing (an excellent quality for a blogger!), I reached out to see if she would be interested in having a Google Meet chat. We had such a great discussion, sharing lessons and resources that worked for each of us last time then ideas for how things might work over the next few weeks. I felt a bit awkward reaching out at first, but I’m so glad I did! #TenPercentBraver
Friendships over Zoom
In the previous lockdown, my family and friends had Zoom quizzes and catch ups quite a lot. Spending all day staring at a screen (including daily Google Meets with groups of 10 year olds), the thought of a few more hours on the computer (no matter how lovely it was to see family and friends) quickly lost its appeal to me. This week, I had a Zoom catch up with some university friends (meeting from Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Chicago, USA). The last time the four of us were together was when they visited me in Aberdeen in April 2019 but, talking this week, it felt like just yesterday. I think this is the best sort of friendships, the friends you know you can call up or message after months of silence and you know they’ll be excited to hear from you. I’m grateful for these friendships, this week and always.
A few years ago, I read Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she describes the Strategy of Pairing as a way to build a new habit that will last. If you want to develop a new habit, you can only do something you enjoy at the same time as this new habit. To prevent myself from slouching at a computer for too many hours at a time and just to improve my health generally, I want to commit to going for a walk each day. I’ve set this as a target for myself many times, trying to use the Fitbit app and connecting accounts with family, or keeping a note in a diary. I’ve never managed. This time, using the Strategy of Pairing, I am only allowed to listen to a particular audiobook when I’m out for a walk. For this to work, I had to pick a book that I knew I’d quickly love. I’ve wanted to read Boys Don’t Try by Matt Pinkett and Mark Roberts for the longest time so decided to give it a go. (This decision was also helped by an impromptu Twitter chat with Kelly Mildenhall, a fellow Google Innovator who teaches in London, which came about after I posted about photograph on Twitter!) So far, I’m LOVING it and I cannot wait to get out for a walk each day. It’s only been a week (and the kids aren’t back yet) but I’m hopeful this strategy will work. I’m lucky to live close to a park and not too far from the beach (although it’s far too cold for that just now). I experience a different sort of connectedness on these walks as I try to be observant of what’s around me: other people’s footprints in the snow, the way the snow completely changes how things look, the sound of the river flowing in the park, the birds in the trees.
What events have sparked feelings of connectedness for you, this week?
There are many things throughout the week that I come across that I find I am inspired by so I thought I’d share them at the end of my weekly blog posts. I know Marie Kondo gets a lot of stick for talking about things “sparking joy” but, as we prepare for a house move, I find myself thinking about this a lot, so I’m going to combine this into a ‘things that have sparked joy’ section:
- Reading! If you also love reading, I’d love to connect with you on Goodreads to hear more.
- Second meeting of our joint Dare to Lead Book Club with Leeds City College – this causes me lots of overthinking and reflection but it’s so rewarding.
- Discovering Corrina’s Classroom on Youtube. As an author, illustrator, and former teacher, her energy is infectious. She makes me want to start drawing and write my own children’s book!
- Watching Emma Turner’s CPD video and signing up to future CPD events, including DiverseEd2020 and STEP’s “I’ll Give You New Normal” with David Cameron.
- Amanda Pickard’s wakelet of “Handy websites” as well as seeing so many educators sharing things they have made or discovered.
- First time making it to the #teacher5oclockclub.
- Tea. Always tea.
Blog Posts highlighted above:
- Fiona Leadbetter – Perfectly Imperfect Educator
- Robin Macpherson – Beginning the World Over Again
- Lena Carter – Pride After a Fall
I plan to publish a new post each week in 2021. Click “follow” to receive notifications when new blog posts are released or follow me on Twitter @ClareAnnePirie to connect there!