Isn’t it weird how the whole COVID lock down escapade feels simultaneously like it was just yesterday, but also like it was aaaaaaages ago?
I’ve been seeing the carnage that’s been going on in schools over the last few weeks with the student (and parent) behaviors that you guys are dealing with and it’s only now that I truly understand the need for the word UNPRECEDENTED.
Seriously though, what the hell is going on?
My own kids are an absolute bag of crap right now and I try and make sense of the way they’re carrying by trying to look at the year through their eyes. Because, when you look at what happened, it’s no wonder they’ve all gone crazy:
One chilly Tuesday afternoon in March, every kid in New Zealand went home from school and didn’t see their friends again in real life for 6 whole weeks. While adults were frantically scrambling around to get information about what was going on, our kids had to sit tight and wait for someone to fill them in. Most of the info that was available to help people make sense of what was happening required that you had a reading age of 14+ and a reliable internet connection. There was some clear and consistent communication coming out from our health leaders but CRIKEY there was a whole lot to unpack.
What took things to the next level was just a few months later when the whole thing started up again literally overnight. While one third of the country went back in to lock down - the remaining two thirds were quietly crossing their fingers that they would too (well maybe a few teachers and students at least).
Rapid changes, stressed out parents, 24/7 time with their siblings.
It doesn’t matter how many teddies are in your neighbour’s front window- that’s going to create some tension for any kid.
We’re not here simply to admire problems - that wouldn’t be very coach-like of me. So let’s check out how you can get to the end of the term and still have something left in the tank.
Life Lessons from my Ex-Principal
Marcus is known for his many go-to sayings such as:
🏆 Come to me with a solution, not a problem
🏆 Don’t let the urgent drive out the important
🏆 Say no to hugs
But, the saying that we’ll talk about here is: “keep it tight”. It was a pep talk he’d always give the team at the end of a tricky term whenever we felt like the wheels were about to fall off.
For some kids and teachers, keeping the programme tight was exactly what they needed. There can be great comfort in consistency.
For others, the routine would become way too much pressure and the wheels wouldn't just fall off, they’d explode into a gazillion pieces.
There’s no magic formula sorry (I know, I keep letting you down by saying “no” to one-size-fits all solutions don’t I). But what you do have up your sleeve is a teacher super power:
The Overall Teacher Judgement
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the OTJ is just about assessment. It is one of the very few things that you can consistently rely on throughout life. You know the kids and dynamics in your class like no one else does. Trust yourself to make judgements about what they need in order to thrive during the last week-and-a-bit of Term 3.
You may decide that they need routine and consistency. You may also decide that they need midday dance parties and picnics under the trees. Whatever you do, make those judgments based on your knowledge of those kids because you’ve built that relationship and you do know what they need.
Self Coaching Question: What can I do to make _____'s day?
Making judgements about what other people need is the easy part - let’s have a think about what YOU need. Pick up a self help book or follow any of these influencer types online and you’ll see that EVERYONE has some advice when it comes to how to look after yourself. Just today, I had one guy telling me that if you take a break for longer than 10 minutes you lose your productivity flow and then I saw someone else posting that if you want to build your leadership skills then you have to make your bed every morning. It’s great that those things work for them, but I KNOW that those top tips will most definitely not work for me. (Don’t worry, Rob makes the bed so there’s at least some level of responsible adulting going on.)
In the same way that you get to use your judgement when thinking about what your students need, you get to do the same for yourself - in fact, you really do have to. There is no such thing as student wellbeing if we don’t have teacher wellbeing so prioritising what you need is the most professional and supportive thing you can do. You might decide to go big with an unplugged holiday to Queenstown where you take nothing with you but a credit card and a change of underwear. Or you might mix things up a bit by simply going for a quick walk at break times or setting your alarm for 10 minutes later in the morning.
Self coaching question: What will I do to make today even better than yesterday?
Ask yourself the questions and then just let your brain go to work coming up with ideas.
You + your OTJ super powers = You’ve totally got this