Wednesday, January 18th, was Winnie-the-Pooh Day. If you don’t teach children in the primary sector this may have passed you by, but for many colleagues, yesterday, was a special day. A day for dressing up – though that can be a daily occurrence for some people! A day for reading the stories, creating your own, drawing the characters, possibly even playing Pooh Sticks as a way to look at Science and/ or Technology. Perhaps, there were even recipes being made involving honey? However, one thing guaranteed is the fact that assemblies yesterday would have surely been devoted to A.A Milne and the characters he created.
This was no different at my school, however, the inspiration for this blog, is the way in which my colleague and some of her class explored not the author, or even simply read out from the stories, but looked at the traits of each of the characters.
Sitting, listening and enjoying the assembly, I realised that the message for the children was equally applicable to staff. Like A.A Milne’s characters, staffrooms are full of diverse traits, thrown together simply by inhabiting the same space. We all have our unique interests, histories and foibles, yet I wonder do we look often enough at each other to see the collective strength of the teams we’re in.
I ask this, not in a S.W.O.T Analysis manner, nor for SLT to be able to plan/ target/ measure/ psychoanalyse (delete where applicable) their teams. No, I ask this, because, now in my 21st year of teaching I am at a time when I enjoy teaching more than ever, but I recognise that it’s also harder than ever before in my career.
I’m not going to (well not in this blog anyway) list the numerous challenges that teachers face in 2017, just see Twitter, the TES Chatrooms, Facebook and other forms of social media to find that out. But the rate of leaving the profession hasn’t abated and the recruitment crisis hasn’t improved – it’s just thanks to the amazing job that teachers do and the NHS crisis that it’s not front-page news more often! (Though unfortunately, too often when issues are raised, we’re reminded of the 6 weeks Summer holiday, so…!)
No, with the job getting ever harder, here’s the time to stop. Look around your staffroom. And celebrate the diversity that’s there, the wealth of experience that colleagues have, inside and outside of education. Some people will say there’s not enough time to do that, to which I say, if it’s important enough to you (and it should be), you’ll make time!
So, let’s consider the characters, not the negatives or the things that irritate, but the positives that we can draw on as educators. Can you see them in your own staffroom? What about in yourself? Which character(s) are you most like?
The wisest of the creatures, happy to help all who asks for help, using experience and knowledge to support his friends.
Often irascible, he has clear ideas and is committed to them. He only wants to do the best for his friends and is determined to see his ideas through.
Kind and caring, not only to Roo (her child), but to all the others too, warning them when things might be risky. She is sensitive to their needs and offers support, guidance and encouragement.
Not deterred by his diminutive stature or lack of experience, he is eager to please and enthusiastic to be part of the gang.
An intelligent friend, who has great ideas and thoughts, he can just let his lack of belief get in the way, but his worth is shown by the fact that everyone loves and values him.
A brave and loyal friend to Pooh, there by his side through thick and thin, prepared to be involved in the schemes his friend has and is consistent, unvarying in his nature – unlike other members of the group!
Tigger (My favourite!)
A bundle of energy, up for anything and everything and revels (as he frequently tells his friends) in the fact that he’s unique!
The glue that holds the team together. His love for his friends, especially Piglet, is second only to his love of honey! From the minute he gets up, to the second he goes to bed – even in his dreams – he has but one focus, enjoying the most important thing in the world to him!
So, how did you do? Were you honest, or was that too painful? Did you find yourself reflecting that, perhaps, there are times when you’re more the negative sides of Rabbit and Eeyore and not enough the energetic and daring parts of Tigger and Piglet?
Maybe, albeit 3 weeks in, this could be a useful thought process for a New Year’s Resolution? Perhaps, with some self-reflection, we could all consider what we bring to our respective staffrooms and how do we show our best selves? Maybe the best advice is to follow that which we all too often provide for our learners about challenging ourselves, getting outside our comfort zones, being prepared to work with others (not just our friends), leave dramas (and egos) at the door and being prepared to get involved for the benefit of all/ the greater good, rather than being selfish?
But what about the celebrities?
Well, I have to admit, this time of year is one of my favourites – not only because I love watching skiing on TV and dream of my next ski holiday, but because (and perhaps I shouldn’t admit this) one of my true guilty pleasures is Celebrity Big Brother! Yes I absolutely love watching the nightly escapades of the housemates, particularly the live shows with Emma Willis and, especially, the delight that is Rylan Clark-Neal’s Celebrity Big Brother’s Bit on the Side (or #CBBBOTS!)
So, how would you and your colleagues compare to them? Who is the mother or father of the house, there for everyone and able to ensure calm for everyone? Who is the young energetic colleague, able to party late, start early and then fully throws themselves into the day’s challenges? What about the former star, one who’s been around for so long and has seen it all before, but has so much to offer in terms of experience and knowledge? And who can forget the rising star, male or female, who is desperate for attention, maybe to point of irritation to others, and so makes sure they have allies everywhere to be able to get to know as much as they can?
Although, I would expect far less drunken, swearing debauchery in your staffroom – unless you’re having a historical day re-enacting Rome at the height of Caligula!
So, remember, when the going gets tough, the tough don’t get going, they actually support others, find the best in people and work together as a team. An analogy I like to use is that of geese, who can fly thousands of miles in their v-formation, because they all have a role. The geese at the rear honk encouragement to those at the front, the ones at the front face the buffeting of the wind to protect the others and if one is injured then two geese leave the gaggle to land with it, before getting back to the main group. Oh, and these roles aren’t designated, they switch around, with the gaggle’s leader taking the front in the most severe of weathers!
Look around, who’s in your gaggle? When times are as tough as these, find the positives in everyone and build the strongest team possible for your success and sanity!