25 Feb 2015
Or: How to make work your friend: a guest post by Edna Hobbs, English & EPQ teacher at Lytchett Minster School.
Life is so precious I don’t want what Larkin calls ‘the toad, work’ to ‘squat on my life’. So, trusting in G.K. Chesterton’s assertion that ‘Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten,” I’m going to try kissing the ‘toad’ [taking the initiative] to see whether work can turn into my ‘prince’. Here’s how to make a small start:
- Regain control by ‘re-framing’ the parameters. ‘Nothing is but thinking makes it so’ - easier when others think the same way… join me!
The working week. Don’t leave it to the unions or politicians, decide what is a reasonable working week for you. 40x 50hrs weeks is equivalent to 50x 40hr [i.e. 9-5!] weeks and to be honest, most people have 3 weeks off rather than 2 a year. So keep things in perspective. Keep quoting that obvious, but never mentioned, comparison when holidays are mentioned, when prodded and pressed for more. Keeping track of your time has other advantages too: you work when you work and stop when you stop – no marking while watching T.V. When there’s a meeting, that’s work, that’s less time for work at home. Being able to show ‘management’ your working hours and justify not doing more is also an advantage.
Professionalism. Time is money to the professional, ask any lawyer. Keep thinking in those terms and you can ask whether a new initiative, extra demand, additional statistic etc is cost effective in terms of your time. Will you get paid for the booster classes? If not, they need to be accounted for in your weekly time. You can ask for a ‘time budget’ to do the extras suddenly flung your way: ‘how long do you expect this to take?’ is a perfectly reasonable question; then send in a note of how long it actually took ‘for bearing in mind next time’ and add it to your hours. Keep up the gentle, polite pressure to be realistic about your time. By the way, you don’t get paid for your lunch hour, so go for a walk, read a book, escape for at least half the time.
- Re-direct your ‘urge to splendour’. We all want to be the best teacher, admired, remembered, valued – re-think what for.
Relationships. Pass on to colleagues and students your values and passions by living them out. That way you are re-energised by what you put effort into. At a previous school praise postcards were available to students for teachers, so at my next school I got students to write a ‘thank you’ card to a teacher or TA whom they appreciated, saying why. No one knew I’d organised it; the genuine delight and surprised joy of the colleagues I saw finding their cards still gives me a buzz. Bringing in a few flowers for your desk and sometimes for a colleague; lend a student a book you think they’ll enjoy; teach individuals, human to human – much more rewarding.
Banish fear. You’re an adult: don’t be bullied. ‘Before a skeleton, the repressive aspects of others’ opinions have a habit of shedding their powers of intimidation.’ [Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety] Think long term. Think ‘life’, not ‘statistic’.
Education is not about Ofsted or targets: it is about enabling each new generation to become the best individuals they can be. Be your best self and this ‘toad’ may just turn into a prince.
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