Metamorphoses #IsolationCollaboration: What does together actually mean?

Our latest blog post in the series commissioned by Transition guru Paul Kean is from Naomi Toland.

Originally from Ireland, having taught in London for 3 years, Naomi has been a class teacher and Learning Support Coordinator as part of the SENCO team at Stonefields School in New Zealand for the past 3 years. 
Naomi is also the founder of #empathetic_educators which is a youtube channel and a chat hosted every two weeks on a Sunday talking all things Neuroscience, Empathy, Relationships, Design thinking and Psychology. she tweets @naomi_toland

So here we are – it is the week of the 25th May 2020. I am writing this post from New Zealand and we have just had our first week back to school after 7 weeks off, including 2weeks ‘holiday’ (on lockdown in our houses with one hour exercise) and 5 weeks virtual learning. 

I wanted to write this post to share our transition back into ‘new normal’ and reflect on the emotional & physical responses I felt  personally as well as the responses of others in our community. 

I am a Class Teacher and Learning Support Coordinator as part of the SENCO team @StonefieldsSchool. As part of my role for the rest of this term I will be working in a range of hubs across the school which is great because this has allowed me to see a variety of responses from our learners. From our Year 0s, who were having their very first day at school all the way up to our senior learners……

Announcement

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For my own sanity, I am a person who doesn’t watch the news very often so watching this with my house mates will go down in my history as a very significant point in time. On Monday 11th May 2020, our amazing Prime Minister announced that we would be moving into level 2 (meaning schools, restaurants, shops will open again).What will this mean for our kids? How do you get 4 year olds to social distance? Will all learners return? What will the dynamic at the school be? How are we suppose to socially distance in a hub of 50 + learners? Will sports happen? Will assemblies take place?These were all questions that were running through my mind and because I live with two other teachers were questions we discussed as Jacinda was briefing us on the roles that we would have to play if moving out of lockdown was going to be successful. 

Many people from all over the world have commented on the leadership that our amazing Prime Minister has shown throughout this time and a big takeaway for me was the idea of responsibility and empathy. Every time she spoke to us she praised us for our actions – not only to help ourselves but more importantly to help others. 
“But for all of that, Kiwis of all walks of life were resolute and determined, determined that this was a war we could eventually win but only if we acted together.”

“You created a wall that meant the virus couldn’t reach those people it could easily take.”This is something that will stay with me, always. Because in a time of crisis or in a time of panic it can be very easy to rush into dictating and giving orders so that people adhere to the ‘rules’. Of course rules are needed in some cases but my biggest takeaway from Jacinda Ardhern is that if you reach out to the humanity of people and show that our choices have an impact bigger than ourselves, it helps us to seek perspective and have a positive impact on those around us.  So I wanted to bring this vision into the next steps of getting ready to return. 

Preparation

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Schools were given a week to prepare for the reopening, so teachers at Stonefields came in for 2 days to decide on what our learning, environments and wellbeing approach would be.

As you can see from the images, flashbacks from my testing years came flooding back. But while sitting listening to our head teacher provoke us to think about what opportunities we can bring from virtual learning. It got me thinking about what does ‘together’ actually mean? – into or in one gathering, company, mass, place, or body: to call the people together.
– (of a single thing) into or in a condition of unity, compactness, or coherence: to squeeze a thing together; The argument does not hold together well.
– Slang. mentally and emotionally stable and well organised: a together person.Isolation, distance, self – isolate. These are a few of the terms have been used world wide and I believe our words can have a big impact on the wellbeing of many involved. When planning to come back, instead of thinking about how we would keep everyone away from each other, we started to think about ways be could bring everyone ‘together’ but in a safe capacity. Here are some of my reflections from the day: 

– I could smell the lunch of one of my colleagues (yes it was tuna) but it got me thinking how could we use smells to create a shared experience? 

– As a team we were asked to fill in a reflection form on our virtual experience and even though we were filling it in independently, in silence, we were putting our ideas together for a collective purpose. How could we use this to bring ideas ‘together’ and collaborate in lessons? 

– Although we couldn’t hug each other (as a very tactile person this was very difficult) it was our words, expressions and our actions that showed each other how much we had missed each other – How could we use this to create safe, welcoming environments for our learners? 

Ways to bring people ‘together’

For the remainder of this post I am going to share a few ways we brought our learners ‘together’: 

1. Have fun!!!!

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Yes of course be vigilant, yes of course make sure the learners are safe but this can be done in fun ways. We had a themed week where all staff dressed up in themes every day and got the learners guessing what the theme was. This was getting them in a shared experience but from a distance. Then we had Funky Friday where all the learners could come in dressed up and have a ‘distance disco’ so they were sharing in the music but not touching.

Of course this had to be monitored, especially in the juniors but overall the learners understood how their actions could have a positive or negative impact on those around them. 

2. Kindness

As I mentioned before, New Zealand have been working together to ‘Unite against Covid’ so instead of teaching the learners what not to do which we predicted would result in lots of ‘ewww miss she touched me’ or ‘I’m telling on you.’ We decided our message as a school would be: Kind Hands, Kind Distance, Kind ActionsThis helped as a discussion starter with our learners and some hubs even got the learners creating games they could play in the playground that involved kind distancing eg shadow tag where instead of tagging the person you tag their shadow. 

Now although there was lots of fun going on across the school with lots of learners excited to get back to see everyone, of course there were learners dotted across the school who may not have had a great lockdown or were nervous about coming back to school. This message enabled us to have great conversations with the learners, for example, those who were nervous about hygiene, with many seeing their peers take responsible action and this calmed them. 

I also had other learners who were struggling adjusting being back based on their experiences at home and this was a great way to talk about tools they could use to be kind to themselves. 

I must say I was expecting more learners to display different emotions and we are prepared for this to come out in a variety of ways over the next few weeks but some of the learners who were a little be anxious at the start of the week began to relax as they seen all the amazing wonderful joy around the school.  

My big wondering from this week is, how does our messaging support learners to think positively while creating opportunities that allow them to be vulnerable? 

3. Communication & Collaboration 

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I just loved all the amazing lessons across the school creating opportunities for them to collaborate but think about how we do it for example we used coding and circuits to great morse code messages that they created for each other to solve. Learners were also learning sign language to be able to communicate from a distance, gaining empathy for learners who have to use this approach on a daily basis.

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Then on the very last day we had a virtual assembly where all the learners were socially distanced in their hubs / classrooms but we were able to listen to the assembly and share the learning from a variety of the learners across the school. This was such an amazing way to bring some learning from our lockdown experience and use it to create new opportunities as a whole school. 


What strategies have you found worked to support your community in the virtual world or in the physical world? How are you supporting yourself and your learners to remain positive and resilient but also have the ability to be vulnerable and have a voice? 

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about our journey so far and I look forward to hearing how you are responding in your communities!

To continue to follow our journey, I am posting updates each week on my twitter account @naomi_toland

You can join the #empathetic_educators tribe as part of our twitter chat every two weeks on a Sunday to talk about all things 
Neuroscience. Empathy. Relationships. Design thinking. psYchology 

Metamorphoses #IsolationCollboration: Year 11 to 12

Our next blog in the Transition series is from Parm Plummer. Parm has been teaching since 1997 in a range of settings, in London, Devon and the Channel Islands. She is a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, network leader for @WomendEdJersey and is currently a Senior Teacher: Teaching and Learning at a school on the island of Jersey. 
Firstly, a caveat. I am not an expert like others in this series, although over 20 years’ teaching does give me some understanding of this topic. Working in a large Sixth Form Centre for three years as a Head of Year has also given me an insight into the difficulties of moving from GCSE to A level. This post, then, is a collection of thoughts, having been inspired by the detailed discussion prompted by @MrsLFlower’s blog posts on transition, the @edroundtable report on transition and what we are doing in my current setting. Mine is certainly a unique school- a fee-paying all boys state secondary but my thoughts may start a discussion, particularly as most discussion on transition has focused on Yr 6 into 7, rather than 11 into 12. 
Firstly, my thoughts. 
Transition is tricky at the best of times. And this year it has become even tricker. To manage a seamless transition from one school to the next and ensure that everyone feels integrated and part of a team will be even harder when faced with social distancing, PPE and absence of staff and pupils. I won’t say too much about the wider issues, as they have already been eloquently written about by @MrsLFlower. Instead, I will focus on the specific issues pertaining to Year 11 into 12, a tricky transition for some, particularly when moving schools. 
According to DfE statistics, in England:

In 2019 (the 2018/19 academic year) 329,815 students completed their 16 to 18 studies and entered at least one level 3 qualification eligible for inclusion in the performance tables. This was a slight increase of 0.9% compared to 2018. The number of potential 16 to 18 students (those who completed key stage 4 two years previously) decreased by 2.1% (1)

This might suggest that sixth forms and colleges aren’t getting better at attracting students to remain in education, or retaining them. A great deal of this is down to transition. Many schools and colleges have invested a great deal into this, with taster days, parents evenings, information evenings and many other events littering the calendar to ensure a smooth transition. There is a great deal at stake. Students who do not feel a sense of community or make friends easily will struggle with the change and will drop out, potentially giving up on acquiring a good qualification that they have the ability to gain. Young people at this age will also be burdened by issues that may not have manifested by the age of 11 and inclusion, support and effective communication between stakeholders is particularly important for this group. The  impact of further qualifications on a young person’s life is huge, so it is fundamental that transition is managed effectively and carefully. 

Considering our current times, there are a number of issues that will be specifically relevant for this 16+ cohort that schools and colleges should be planning for now. This is a cohort with no formal examination qualifications at GCSE. The first time they sit formal exams will be at 18. They will have no benchmark information for universities and UCAS to consider and employers may question the validity of the teacher assessed Covid cohort in the future. Some of these students may choose to take exams in September and appeals will take up a great deal of time and energy. This will impact on learning, as will the time that they have been out of education without a formal curriculum or studies. If students are returning to schools, there may be animosity towards former teachers, as a result of grading. This will affect relationships and may be difficult to manage. Furthermore, the issue of mental health and the impact of isolation for so many months is important to address. Young people, already vulnerable, may be struggling and the added worry of the potential spread of a virus may manifest itself in absence from school, or heightened anxiety.

Some questions that arise: 

1) How can transition be effective with potential social distancing?

2) How can students’ mental health be supported and prior knowledge shared while schools are still closed?

2) How can students be supported to return to learning?

3) How can parents be reassured of support for students and that school is safe, once open?

3) What support systems can be put in place to support teachers in cases of conflict over grading?

4) What strategic planning needs to be done to help these students go onto university without formal grades?

Clearly, careful planning needs to go into thinking about these before the start of term. Is it prudent to spend a week on transition to ensure that these students are well integrated and ready to learn by Week 2, or will this be viewed as wasted time? What can be done before September to build relationships and a sense of community? And how can students be given time to formally end their 11-16 education, especially if they have come from different schools? 

Some thoughts on how these could be addressed

  •  Schools and colleges should be communicating now with 16 year olds, with reading lists and other opportunities to begin to engage with their A level subject matter and thus, excite and enthuse them for new courses, as well as develop study skills that will support their learning. Offers of diplomas or other such recognition for work done pre-Summer will help students to engage. Many Sixth Forms and colleges recognise and credit students for CAS style activity, so perhaps such opportunities could be highlighted. Fundraising (as Captain Tom Moore has effectively shown) is possible, as is community work through volunteering. There is a wealth of opportunity for these possibly frustrated teens and by offering some credit for their efforts, there may be better returns and more engagement. 
  • Sharing information between all stakeholders is important to ensure inclusion and this should not be abandoned as a result of social distancing. Maintaining links between schools, CAHMS, social workers, and others and enabling smooth sharing of information will enable schools to prepare and support young people. Virtual meetings will enable this communication and could mean all are more easily involved now that we are all at home. 
  • Virtual parent and student sessions over the Summer term will reassure parents that requisite knowledge and information is shared. This will give parents the opportunity to ask questions and feel reassured. @MrKeanTeaches has written about virtual assemblies as part of his Yr7 transition programme here.
  • Taster virtual sessions could be held for students to experience A level teaching and create a sense of anticipation for such classes. Many schools hold a Year 12 day for prospective students, where they attend lessons. Making this virtual would enable this to be timetabled relatively easily and allow students to meet teachers before September and ensure reading lists etc. can be shared. 
  • Team building is usually a feature of transition at this end, and this could be conducted virtually, through Zoom quizzes, collaboration tasks for subject or tutor groups and virtual assemblies leading up to the start of the year. Fundraising could be conducted by tutor groups to inspire a sense of community and belonging.
  • The relationship with the tutor is fundamental during 16-18 education as they are more like a personal tutor or mentor at this point. Tutors can play a key role in building connections between the school and family. They could contact parents and students on the phone in advance of the new year and serve as a single point of contact. A tutor session with all students present will help create a team ethos and if there is a house system, perhaps House assemblies or activities can ensure a sense of belonging before September. 

Longer term:

  • The curriculum will need some consideration as this year group may need more formal assessment and may need to miss time in September for exams as well as to visit former schools who may wish to hold formal leaving assemblies. They will have also missed out on the consolidation of their learning and this may impact on their hinterland knowledge. 
  • Data will be vital to smooth transition at 18, particularly for those going to university, so ensuring that data drops are consistent and more formal than perhaps in other years, or using school wide data systems to ensure that there is transparency and evidence to support predictions. Time spent considering how this could be done now would be well spent. 

My current setting

Our Sixth Form mainly recruits from the 11-16 school into the sixth form, but we are increasingly attracting students from other schools with the offer of bursaries and marketing strategies and events, such as taster days. Other local 16-18 institutions are all fee-paying other than one island wide 14-18 college offering IB and A levels and a college that largely offers vocational courses. 

Since schools closed and exams were pulled, our excellent Head of Sixth @MrFallePhysEd took the opportunity to engage Year 11s with their new learning. One of his biggest concerns was the lack of exam preparation that the group had missed out. Some had done little to consolidate their learning over two years and the academic impact of this may be felt at a later date. 

His initial strategy was to conclude the year- up to study leave- with subject specific tasks over a 4 week period, designed by subject specialists to bridge the gap between GCSE and A level. Students have been put into subject groups and every Monday, they get around two hours of work per week per subject. These tasks are designed to develop the skills and knowledge of students and to give them a head start for courses in September. The tasks have ranged from research tasks to submitted assignments to online lessons and student responses and take up has been largely good. 

In addition to this, we have encouraged academic enrichment/research through a series of compiled resources from Hods. This is to encourage engagement with the supercurriculum, giving students a head start to engage with material at a higher level now, whilst they have time. Furthermore, students are being set the challenge of completing a MOOC, an EtonX course or an EPQ, giving them a further advantage in preparation for A level. Many are getting involved in community or fundraising work. 

Plans are afoot for a virtual leaver’s assembly and a leaver’s video, as well as a lot of phone contact with current Year 13s (students and parents) and prospective Year 11s, checking in on them, sharing work and checking that they are keeping up their spirits. 

Closing thoughts

Whatever strategies are adopted by schools, the key points to remember are perhaps those that underpin anything that we do as leaders- to ensure a sense of community and belonging, to act with humanity and warmth and to safeguard the young people in our care. It is difficult to remember the long term when so much of our leadership is focused on the reactive right now, but this group of students, who have lost so much so quickly and experienced dislocation, will need this more than ever. 

References: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education/about/statistics

Metamorphoses #IsolationCollaboration: The Transition Project

Latest in the blog series on Transition during Lockdown is a piece from Amy Root, sharing some exceptional practice. Amy is an Assistant Headteacher and SENDCo, and a trained hypnotherapist, and tweets at @MrsAmyRoot

When our Specialist Teaching and Learning Service teachers asked our school to be part of a primary-secondary transition pilot last academic year, we jumped at the chance. The opportunity to work with local schools to help our children to start the next chapter of their educational careers couldn’t be missed.

A team of primary and secondary schools was formed, led by two of our fantastic Specialist Teachers Jaime Cronk and Emma Eldridge. Huge emphasis was placed on the importance of supporting children’s emotional wellbeing as well as providing them with practical advice and information.

Why we Took Part

It’s important to us to know that we have prepared our Year 6 pupils as much as possible for secondary school. We were keen to take part in the pilot, especially knowing that secondary schools were also part of this project to inform us what issues they face when the new Year 7s start. The group was formed of a range of school staff including SENCOs, Family Liaison Officers, Heads of Year 7 and Year 6 class teachers. This provided a broad range of perspectives and solutions to some of the problems that children sometimes face when they leave their primaries and head off to ‘big school’. Prior to this project, transition was something that we thought about mainly in Term 6 when the information meetings were held and secondary schools asked for paperwork and other information about their new intake. Through this project, we have moved towards the idea that secondary school transition is a journey from Year 5 through to Year 8.

Transition Booklet

The group put together a booklet with activities which our children initially used during Circle Time, with engagement becoming more frequent after the SATs tests in May. Each activity was carefully chosen to ensure it was relevant and beneficial to the children, and the input from our secondary colleagues was invaluable at this stage. We used authentic secondary school timetables, menus and other resources to provide activities where children could explore the practicalities of their upcoming day-to-day lives within the security of their Year 6 bubble.

Each week, every school in the pilot sent out an email to parents with a transition tip for them to work on at home that correlated with the discussions taking place in school and the activities in the booklet. This approach provided the children with consistency in the messages being given to them about secondary school and also reduced the feeling of being overwhelmed by information. Parent feedback was positive as they felt that the conversations that they were having with their child at home about transition were more structured.

The morning routine one was particularly helpful and has been started earlier this year for some children, including having a visual to increase their independence.

The highlights

The pilot was hugely worthwhile and I shared our experience alongside one of our Year 6 teachers at an AEN Update for local schools. Given the different nature of transition this year due to COVID-19 and partial school closures, the project has now been rolled out across the area. The booklet has been adjusted to reflect the current situation and for our school, we are using the activities as part of the children’s home learning. Parent feedback has been hugely positive as understandably, both they and their children have additional anxieties about moving to secondary school in the current circumstances.

Our Year 5 cohort took on board some of the activities to support them with their onward journey, too. Simple changes to their routine such as coming in from break time independently of an adult were found to be helpful. Giving a little extra responsibility to some children also helped them to grow in confidence, such as taking on roles in the school community that would usually only be available to Year 6 pupils.

We had some memorable moments as part of our experience, and lots of opportunities for children to experience problems that could occur in secondary school but within the safety of a known environment. Our Year 6 children had trays under their desks, but in order to give them an opportunity to learn personal organisation skills, these were removed. The children were responsible for keeping their belongings safe throughout the school day, as they will need to do this in secondary school. On the first day, naturally a large number of the children left their bags by the basketball hoop so that they could run around at lunch break. Some of the staff ‘stole’ their bags, much to the bemusement of the children! The learning point was clear, and the children realised that they needed to keep their bag with them.

Through the open conversations and the topics featured in the booklet, we discovered that many children had worries that they hadn’t previously disclosed because they just thought that it was part of secondary life, misconceptions that we wouldn’t have known about had we not delved deeper.

Feedback from parents and children ‘on the other side’ of the journey to Year 7 has been brilliant, and spurred us on to continue working with our secondary colleagues to support our children to have a smooth transition to the next stage of their education. Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, the Transition Project working party were still meeting to develop the tips and resources. This year, we are finding different ways to equip our children with the skills that they need for secondary, and their new settings are doing the same.

Further details about the Transition Project can be found on the Maidstone STLS website, and a recent checklist on The Key also featured the resources.

http://www.fiveacrewood.co.uk/primary-to-secondary/

https://schoolleaders.thekeysupport.com/covid-19/safeguard-and-support-pupils/pupil-wellbeing-and-mental-health/coronavirus-supporting-pupil-transition-to-secondary/?marker=full-search-q-transition-result-2

Metamorphoses #IsolationCollaboration: Teaching and Learning

The next blog in the series of posts on Transition is from Parm Plummer. Parm has been teaching since 1997 in a range of settings, in London, Devon and the Channel Islands. She is a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, network leader for @WomendEdJersey and is currently a Senior Teacher: Teaching and Learning at a school on the island of Jersey. 

Reading all the various blog posts in this excellent series, I have been fascinated by the commonality. No matter what our settings or demographic, all these writers see the value of time spent considering how we reintegrate students into a new school or phase of learning. 

My thoughts have emerged from reading these, but also through thinking about my own school and setting and what is necessary to ensure effective teaching and learning when we return; after all, this is the hat I wear on a day to day basis. If you subscribe to the belief, as I do, that everything in schools stems from quality teaching and learning, then you can understand why my lens is always defined by this. Furthermore, our specific experience perhaps gives us an insight into what impact absence from school might look like on return. Thus, I have instead decided to focus not on the transition of a specific cohort but instead on all our students. How do we ensure their effective transition back into school to ensure that teaching and learning has maximum effect with minimal disruption?

Firstly, the experience that I referred to. Last May, here in Jersey, there were a series of teacher strikes. This was the culmination of a long pay dispute that had been rolling on for years and finally came to a head last year. Teachers voted overwhelmingly for strike action, and strike we did. But not just for a day, or two. Instead, they went all out. The strikes begin in March with two days, then rolled on, with  three days in April, and then, when no quarter was the response from the States of Jersey, teachers went on strike in May. In fact, students were only in school for 7 days last May. This, of course, includes bank holidays (of which there are two at the start of May in Jersey) and the half term week, but this was a period of disrupted education from school for all our students. Exceptions were made for Year 11s, 13s and 6s for SATs, but otherwise, all pupils were out. 

Most teachers acknowledge that learning is lost during absence from school, such as the summer holidays, although this learning is quickly caught up when students return to school. As Shinwell and Defeyter (2017) found in their study of primary aged children “after a summer break of seven weeks, summer learning loss occurred, or at least stagnation in learning” (1). However, they found that the impact of this was negated after being back in school after seven weeks. We also know that those from a lower socio economic background will be most affected by this loss of learning, and may find it harder to close the gap on their return to school. 

When the strikes were called off in June, and students returned to school, it was evident that this absence had affected our students ability to learn effectively. Students had forgotten how to behave in classrooms, struggled to focus and behaviour issues spiked. Relationships between teachers and students were affected as teachers experienced the anxiety of ensuring that their pupils catch up, but the pupils struggled to manage the additional expectations put on them. Questions were posed by parents when trips were proposed or about teacher absence- hasn’t my child already missed enough school? 

I am not sure that we ,as a school, managed an effective transition back into the classroom for all our pupils, and as a result, the impact on learning has been significant, particularly in Key Stage 3. With exam classes, although they struggled to adjust, they understood that they were working towards a goal. For the younger ones, this was less tangible. 

Now, a caveat here. My current setting is academic. We are a State fee-paying school with a tradition of high achieving boys, and our boys (and parents) have high aspirations. So, our results will not truly reflect this absence, perhaps in a way that a school that does not have the same investment from parents and the community will have. However, in the day to day interactions in the classroom and from discussions with pupils and teachers, this lost learning was tangible. 

Admittedly, our current situation is different. This pandemic has been forced on us, we are all (supposedly) in this together, and teachers cannot go into schools to teach, even if they wanted to, as they are closed. Teaching is continuing, through online means, and we, like all schools, have embraced online learning, and I have been impressed at the speed and ingenuity of teachers and students in adapting to this new reality. One could therefore argue with my initial premise that this will affect their learning- how will it? They are still learning and all they will do is move from one site to another- how can they be affected? 

My thoughts are that learning will be impacted significantly by this absence from school in a number of ways and this will be starkly apparent, perhaps more so in some settings than others, but will be felt in all. 

– young people have had to adjust very quickly to a changed world. This brings heightened anxiety and mental health issues. All of this has been discussed extensively by others, but the impact of lockdown and the rolling effects of a pandemic will be felt by pupils whenever they return to school, particularly if their school experience is vastly different from what they have been used to, and this is highly likely, even in September. 

– many of these young people have missed socialisation and felt isolated and dislocated. Social media has been a positive force here, supporting them and connecting them. However, returning to school will connect them with others, many of whom they will not have seen for months. Naturally, they will want to socialise and make up for lost time. 

– At the other end of this extreme, we may see some young people who have become too fearful of interaction, and wish to withdraw, or who never having enjoyed school in the first place, may have a cogent argument to support their school absence. 

– young people will have developed superb ICT skills, and learning will have taken place in this way whilst at home. This may be the most positive effect of this period, in terms of teaching and learning, as digital literacy increases, schools should be able to take advantage of this through their own improved systems and upskilled teachers. 

– focus and concentration will have been affected significantly by absence from school. As we have all come to realise from our own experience, working from home is not the same as being in school. There are two many distractions, other siblings, parents demanding you get off the computer and go outside…. Home is not school and a classroom environment is geared towards home learning in a way that a home is not. All of this means that the ability of our young people to concentrate for any length of time will have been affected. 

Considering all of this, I would argue that school leaders must give time and consideration to how they will manage student’s transition back into the classroom when all pupils return. Some things to consider: 

  • Clear leadership is vital to mange the heightened anxiety of our students and staff. This will alleviate fears and make all stakeholders feel comfortable about their return to school. Communication is key to this, but so is ensuring plans are carefully thought through and delivered. Perhaps now is not the time for a collegiate approach, but instead a more direct form of leadership. Everyone just wants to be told what to do to be safe. This means thinking through the logistics of the first term back- what needs to be moved and what can be done without- and communicating this early so that everyone can make plans accordingly. For example, our Year 11s ordinarily do work experience in October. We have agreed that this is not essential and will impact on learning, so it is cancelled.  A decision made and communicated with a clear rationale. 
  • Our experience of the impact of strikes will mean that behaviour and cognitive load will be affected. This may be felt more in some schools than others. Anxiety, but also absence from school will mean that many young people will struggle to adjust back into a classroom environment. Some will find writing difficult, if they have been working solely on ICT and will have issues with literacy. Others will simply struggle from having to sit still for up to an hour. Many will find it difficult to learn and absorb new content easily, and will experience cognitive overload. How teachers and schools plan for this is key. Training on direct instruction will ease and support student understanding (@tbegum did a brilliant session on this for @senecalearning), but there will also need to be careful consideration of how teachers introduce new content to students in terms of the design of information, but also the construction of the different parts of a lesson. We will all be keen to be back in the classroom teaching again, but a more nuanced approach is vital to ensure good learning is embedded quickly. 
  • When students struggle to learn, this often leads to poor behaviour. This may also be the result of absence from the classroom. How can teachers be supported in how they deal with behavioural challenges in the first few weeks? What systems will be put in place to support students who have found being back in the classroom hard? How will this be communicated with parents? Training in the lead up to schools opening focused on relationship building will be key here, as both teachers and pupils will need time to adjust to life back at school and will need to make allowances. A school may choose to adopt a draconian, no quarter approach, or a Paul Dix style behaviour policy; either way, this has to be consistent and the importance of this must be stressed to teachers. 
  • It is vital to build relationships with outside agencies and parents to ensure that the impact of mental health issues are dealt with promptly. What support has been in place for students during lockdown and how can this be continued/extended when back in school. What steps can be built into PSHE, assemblies, tutor time to support student’s mental health once they return? And what processes are required for speedy action to non-attendance? Some schools have highly effective processes, but others may need to create clear plans and identify when they will escalate. 
  • The curriculum itself will be affected by the extended period of absence from school. How will your school adjust the curriculum to consider possible exams in September for Year 12 and additional exams for Yrs 11 and 13 to gather data that may be essential if exams are not run again in 2021? For Key stage 3, how can key knowledge and skills be addressed, particularly if these are taught in the summer term. Does the curriculum need to be re-jigged to build in time for the essential knowledge vital for later on in their school careers? And for exam groups, will there need to be a consideration of timetabling, perhaps giving more time to the core subjects and removing compulsory non examined options. One example of this in our school is that Year 11 RS (which is mostly taken as a short course by our students and is a compulsory GCSE) will be giving up a lesson for students to catch up on other work- a supported study lesson that is managed by a teacher, and enables students to get back on track. Subject leaders will need time to consider these questions and think about their curriculum offer for 2020-21, or even longer. 
  • How can the gap that has opened up for those who did not engage with home learning be addressed? There will be a substantial number of students who will need additional teacher input in order to catch up with others. Will this be delivered through additional revision sessions, after school catch up sessions, or targeted interventions focused on the year group as a whole?
  • Finally, how can advantages gained from ICT use at home be incorporated into schools to make them better? For example, could schools encourage students to use their devices in the classroom, doing away with the need for exercise books? How can digital learning platforms and resources invested in now be built into the curriculum so that the effort that has gone into producing these is not wasted? Although all teachers know that there is no replacement for face to face teaching, there are certainly many benefits to be gained from this online experience. 

Clearly, there is a great deal of preparation that needs to go into preparing and supporting teachers to return to classrooms. The glut of excellent and free CPD that is currently available is perhaps a starting point, but schools need to plan carefully to ensure that a generation of students is supported back into school again- whenever that may be.  

References 

1.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320246217_Investigation_of_Summer_Learning_Loss_in_the_UK-Implications_for_Holiday_Club_Provision

Metamorphoses #IsolationCollaboration: Year 13 to University

Dr David Preece is a Head of Geography, an experienced Sixth Form tutor, and UCAS & Higher Education Co-Ordinator advising Year 13 students. He tweets as @DoctorPreece.

For any student, the Sixth Form is a time of significant metamorphosis. They start as “Year 11s in suits” – somehow slightly older, but less comfortable in their new personae. They have finished their GCSEs, a ritualistic summer of trial, of freedom and festivals (usually!), and then of nerves and the tremulous opening of an envelope. And now, they are here.

Embarking on a new world. Less than six months after being in the rigorous disciplined world of Year 11 – where the narrowing of their focus down to exam revision, practice, and permission to do everything was their bubble – we start asking them big questions. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be?

And the Sixth Form is a time where they – by and large – try to find that out. There are stages and moments of growth in fits and starts: starting to explore their futures, starting, perhaps, to think about universities. The first forays to Open Days. Starting to think about choices, careers, reading, extensions, work experience… slowly, they transform to young adults before your eyes. Hesitantly, they start to talk about their identities separate to their parents, where they might live, what it might be like to have to cook for yourself, or go for catered halls! They begin to do personal statements, narrow down subject choices, start to become focused on their chosen pathway, and keen to do well.

Then, it starts to get serious. At some point, almost every Year 13 student will get “The Fear” – a crashing realisation that this is all important to them now, and no one else. That their places, their aspirations, all of the things they have done over the last year, now means they have to go and earn it.

And revision begins. Sometimes, it’s frantic flashcards, sometimes beautiful notes uploaded to Instagram, or hours of study groups cramming. It’s earnest conversations with teachers – clarifying, consolidating, checking – making sure they have taken as much as they can, absorbed as much of your thoughts and wisdom…

The exams. You’re equals now, you and them. Fighting alongside each other: aiming for the best result against a nameless, faceless “examiner”. You’re not their teacher now, you’re their coach, their cheerleader, their moral and emotional support. You stand with them, as they enter the exam halls. You whisper good luck, you wait nervously while they finish – your little babies, all growing up. You laugh nervously with them, when they talk about what questions they’ve done.

“That’s good”, you say. “That’s good. You’ve done well. I’m proud of you. Go and rest, now”.

They are adults now. They have grown in this trial. You’ve faced it together, you come out the other side… you have endured, and forged a bond that is unlike any other in the school. 

And it’s felt. At the end of term celebrations, at the Sixth Form Ball that you absolutely, 100% refuse to call a prom, because that’s an Americanism – but you secretly love anyway. Dressed to the nines – inevitably with questionable interpretations of what ‘black tie’ means, they return. 

Conspiratorially, they test the water of this new, murky adulthood – this state of no longer being a student.

“Do I still call you sir?”

“Can I buy you a drink” – or, for the cheekier ones – “Will you buy me a drink, sir?”

It’s a test. Who’ll use your first name first, because “they aren’t your student any more”? Who’ll offer to hug you, or ask shyly whether you’d mind being in a selfie with them.

And you meet them again. On results day, to celebrate joyfully. To shake their hand, to wish them well, to send them off in to the world that they have chosen – young adults, now, somehow confident without you. 

The Brave New World – How Can We Cope? 

Of course, this isn’t the summer that we expected. Many of these rituals of change and metamorphosis have been ripped away, and the students have been left bereft. It’s not what I expected – I thought they’d have joy – but I realised later that while they weren’t exactly looking forward to the trial by exam, perhaps they appreciated the chance to earn their passage to the next steps of adulthood. As a Sixth Form tutor, and a UCAS co-ordinator, what have I found has helped in these moments?  

1. Get in touch with them, and continue to talk to them

Some schools are continuing to offer some “enrichment” classes to Year 11 and Year 13 to keep them motivated, engaged and thinking. Some schools are doing ‘Pre-A Level classes’ for their Year 11s, while others are offering wider projects and opportunities for the Year 13s heading off to university. This is brilliant – it reminds the students that you’re there, gives you opportunities to talk in a more adult and scholarly way, and potentially go off the curriculum track that you were on, and explore interesting things for the joy of learning them. For those of you who have online learning portals and “live” functionality, consider hosting discussions and chats with your Year 13s. They know you well, they miss you, too – and they appreciate seeing familiar faces. My students have met my cats, now, via video chats…

Many will have been inspired by the words and ideas of Ben Newmark (Lots of Little Chats and “Dear Year 11”) to write to their students directly. Whether it’s by email, or even sending “postcards home” – students have really appreciated the personal kindness shown to them by teachers, and the sense of “this isn’t fair, this isn’t what we wanted for you either” just reinforces that shared adult status that is so crucial to this transition time. Try and connect with them as people, if you can. 

2. Support them and continue to develop those relationships with the decisions and components that you can.

Many schools will continue to want to support students with key decision making. Universities and the wider issues about UCAS applications, offers, changes – these are all potentially bewildering and scary for the Year 13 students and their parents. Where possible, can you offer support? Seminars, even discussions with the Head of Year, tutor team – what can you do to reassure them, help them, and point them in the right directions.

Some students will – inevitably – have a wobble and want to make huge decisions about their proposed plans. A Gap Year travel agenda no longer seems that attractive, and who can blame them? Students who were deferring entry might want to shift it up to 2020; others who were planning to enter post-results may now want to submit entries for 2020, based on the lack of exams and the lack of gap year opportunities. All of these would have been helpful conversations to have – how can you do that in the current environment? If your school has a live function, what can you do for these students to embrace these complexities, and support them reaching out to universities to ask big questions?

For students on different pathways – Art Foundations, apprenticeships, going in to careers – there are going to be just as many questions, and important conversations to be had. How can you help them – as you would normally?

3. What can you do to develop some of the key events and major components that they might have missed?

Many of the “big rituals” of the summer have gone for Year 13s – and thankfully, I’m not just talking about the exodus to festivals around the UK. The shirt-signing of the last day, the collection and discussion of the Year Book and photographs, or the highlight of the Sixth Form Ball. 

Are there any components of that you can replicate? Can you put together a video from their teachers? Can you get the group together, online, somehow? Hold a virtual assembly, pub quiz? Can you make plans to hold a Ball at a period in the future? Are there any components of these rituals that you can do, replicate or hold to? As Ben Newmark said – these things are important to the students, therefore they could be important to you.

For us all, this is a time of transition and metamorphosis, too. Sixth Form hasn’t changed – just the context and the trials that we have to go through.

You’re equals now, you and them. Fighting alongside each other: aiming for the best result against a nameless, faceless enemy – whether it’s coronavirus, or the baffling world of online technology. You’re not their teacher now, you’re a coach, and a source of moral and emotional support. You still want to stand with them, whether we can come back to the world we knew, or not. You’ll hear from them, with emails, perhaps, or fleeting discussions. 

“That’s good”, you say. “That’s good. You’ve done well. I’m proud of you”.

They are adults now. They have grown in this trial. You’ve faced it together, you come out the other side… you have endured, and forged a bond that is unlike any other in the school. 

Metamorphoses #IsolationCollaboration: FAQs of a disadvantaged child during Transition

This series on transition in lockdown, commissioned by Paul Kean continues with an additional post from Liz Stevenson, an expert in transition. Liz has worked Primary, Secondary and Special schools. She is now the Transition Manager for an LA with over 120 schools. She writes a blog which can be found here https://transitionmatters.coach and you can reach her on twitter as @lstevenson2410

This post is through the eyes of a child and I am providing no answers. They are all situations that I have encountered through comprehensive research with children in both primary or secondary settings. I have changed some of the language, and added a Covid spin on a few, but the issues are real!

Hopefully the questions are enough to spark debate in leadership meetings:

  1. My primary school know what my home life is like because I trust them and feel safe to talk to them. How will you help me to feel comfortable enough to do the same at secondary school?
  2. Will I need to provide my own pens and pencils? I don’t have any at home, and I don’t want to have to ask my parents for the money to buy some as I know we don’t have much spare.
  3. I think I will need to get the bus to school but I don’t know how to, I have never been on a bus before. What if I get lost or I am late?
  4. I don’t know where I will be living in September. I am worried about how I will get to school each day. Who do I need to talk to about this? How do I know I can trust that person?
  5. I will need to get the bus to school most days but I won’t be able to afford it everyday. What will happen if I am late?
  6. The trousers I wear now won’t fit me in September. My parents have not been able to work since March so we can only afford part of the uniform I need. What should we buy first?
  7. My primary school keep a spare PE kit for me in class but they help me pretend that it is mine because they know I am embarrassed about not being able to afford one. I am worried about what to do in PE when I get to secondary school.
  8. I haven’t been able to do much work at home because I have no one to help me and no access to the internet to search for answers. Will I miss out when I start year 7?
  9. I am really scared about moving to secondary school. I don’t have anyone at home that understands and none of my friends seem to feel the same. I am too embarrassed to tell a stranger, how can you help me?
  10. I work hard in school but I never do any work at home because I have little a little brother I have to care for. I don’t know if that will ever change and I can’t get to school early or stay late. Will I get in trouble or will I miss out on anything?
  11. How will I know how much the food in the canteen costs? I am worried I will spend more than I have and that will be embarrassing.
  12. When will I be able to spend my money if I am Free School Meals? I won’t have breakfast at home, will I have to wait until lunch time to be able to eat?
  13. Will I have to write about what I did during the holidays? I don’t want to tell anyone that I didn’t do anything!
  14. I have a medical condition but I don’t want any children to know about it. How will school support me?
  15. I have never been on a school trip, I know my family can’t afford it so I make sure that I am not allowed to go by getting into trouble and so I don’t have to ask them. Will you help me break that cycle?
  16. My house is so cold in the winter that I get very poorly. Will I get in lots of trouble if I have a lot of time off?
  17. Will I have to bring my own ingredients/resources for any subjects? I know my family won’t be able to afford them but I am embarrassed by that and don’t want the new children in my classes to know I am poor.
  18. My big sister said that when she started secondary school she had to do some tests. I know my friends have been doing lots of extra work at home but I haven’t. I am worried that I won’t look as clever as the other children in my class. What should I do?
  19. I have never been to an ‘out of school club’, will that hold me back? Will I be allowed to join them at secondary school or will I need special kit?
  20. My parents did not enjoy secondary school and they have told me it will be horrible. Is that true?
  21. What if I don’t understand my homework? I have no one at home who can help and I won’t know how to find the teachers who set it. I always know where my year 6 teacher is. That will be different at secondary school.
  22. People pick on me now because my clothes are always dirty. I lose my temper when children are mean to me and sometimes I lash out. I get in trouble but my teacher knows the whole situation. I am scared that this will get worse when I get to secondary school and I have heard that I will get in trouble. Is that true? Will anyone hear my side of the story?
  23. I just don’t like school, I am so busy at home that I don’t feel like I have time. I will do my best to get sent home!

I know the last one wasn’t a question but it is something I have heard from children in the past and thought it was a poignant comment to end on. I wonder how many of us have met this child over the years, without realising their motivation for poor behaviour. I could go on with several more FAQ’s and I am sure, in hindsight, we all know a pupil who will have been in one or more of these situations.

I have written this through the eyes of a child to be their advocate. Of course, we all know that the vast majority of disadvantaged children that we work with might not want to admit or acknowledge their disadvantage. As the adults in their lives it is our responsibility to help and support them to reach their potential despite the circumstances that surround. I hope this post has provided some discussion points.

Leadership: Enabling others to share their opinion

After my post on ‘Forming an Opinion’ I had some incredible responses, particularly from the WomenEd community. Most shocking was the article I read from BYU ‘When Women Don’t Speak’.

It transpires that simply having a seat at the table does not mean having a voice.

The study conducted by Professor Jennifer Preece, Professor Olga Stoddard and Professor Christopher Kravitz on mixed gender groups of women and men, found that when asked to make a majority decision, the perspectives of influence meant that women were routinely interrupted, had unequal talking time, and as a result were seen as less influential in shaping the direction of the decision making in the group.

However, interestingly, when the groups were asked to make a unanimous decision, female speaking time became nearly equal to male, interruptions were overwhelmingly positive ‘Yes, I agree’ or ‘Good point’, and the influence gap narrowed significantly.

Unanimity rule sends the message that everybody’s voice matters.

The conclusions to be drawn from this, particularly in relation to leadership meetings in an education setting, are too important to ignore. We must empower all to have an opinion, give them a seat at the table, and ensure that their voice matters.

These are the practices I shall be taking forward as a leader to ensure that voices are heard:

  • Clarity of agenda: Sending out the agenda in plenty of time prior to the meeting, clearly stating what will be discussed, along with any supporting pre-reading materials, will ensure everyone has time to think and digest the materials, supporting them to use the time in the meeting to discuss rather than digest. Marking which agenda items are for discussion, and which are a briefing, will also save colleagues valuable time in their preparation, and mean that they are committed to future meetings, as they know that it matters that they are there.
  • Don’t be precious: If you are chairing the meeting, think carefully about the outcome you want to achieve. If you have already made the decision, don’t waste time by courting others’ opinions. This could result in their frustration and feeling a lack of value. If you are willing to have your mind changed, accept that others may disagree, and allow the time for a full discussion of all points of consideration.
  • Solicit opinion: Consider the dynamics of the discussion – is one person dominating? Make sure that everyone has the time to share, and draw out quieter members in a non confrontational way to share their ideas.
  • Use positive interruptions: Not all interruptions are rude! Positive affirmations are encouraging and allow people to feel heard, and gain confidence in their points. This could be ‘Great point!’ or ‘I agree’ – or even non-verbal head nodding.
  • Be aware of stereotypes: As found in the BYU study above, men were more likely to have their opinion courted and agreed with on subjects such as finances, even if they were less qualified than the women present to speak on this topic. Ensure you are pushing back.
  • Be an ally: Men, support the women! Listen carefully to what is being said, and don’t automatically step in with your thoughts. Call out negative interruptions, and support women’s points of views. #HeforShe

Differing perspectives are crucial to us as leaders to make the right decision for our contexts, but we must ensure that we allow those opinions to be heard. ‘A seat at the table does not mean having a voice.’

I would love to continue this discussion – please comment below, or speak to me on twitter @MrsLFlower.

Here are some more excellent articles to read on this matter which have influenced my thinking on this matter, particularly focusing on imposter syndrome in women:

Jill Berry’s excellent blog post on ‘Making the most of Meetings’

An article from the Economic Times on how ‘Women need to be the change they want to see’

An article from The Guardian on ‘Imposter syndrome is a response to a world that doesn’t believe in women’

Metamorphoses #IsolationCollaboration: Transition – We do what we can do, and we keep doing that

Latest in our series of expert guest blog posts on Transition commissioned by Paul Keen: A Vice Principal with responsibility for Teaching and Learning in a large secondary school in the Midlands, who has been in education for just under 10 years. Secret VP can be found on twitter @noonetoldmehow and on their blog at http://www.noonetoldmehowtodothis.com

Transition is on everyone’s mind as we creep towards the end of the academic year without knowing what it will look like. Whether this be for those starting Primary school, Secondary or indeed A Level. Below I’ve focused on transition from Year 6 into Year 7.

Many of the decision around transition, I believe, just can’t be made just yet (you’ll see what I mean towards the end of this blog), until we have more clarity around what return to school will look like. However I think using the blog from Ben Brown @EdRoundtables to make sure that the key areas he describes are at the forefront of your mind is beneficial. I’ve certainly used it to organize my thoughts below.

The ideas below are just decisions we as a Secondary school have decided to make. I don’t believe there are right or wrong answers to the questions transition in these times poses, so please take from it what you please and ignore the rest.

The need to ensure that our children feel comfortable in their new environment is so important to ensure they have a happy start to their educational journey with us. Below are just a few things we have done to ensure this happens despite the current circumstances, but this is an ever evolving process and I’m blown away with the attitude of our transition managers who are being incredibly creative in solving this problem.

Communication with new students and parents at home

Welcome evening – we have taken this online using Teams, recording the Head, Head of Year 7, transition manager and other key personnel such as SENCO and PP lead to talk about the provision and support available and how excited we are about having them at our school.

Mini tour of our site – when we had our Open day some of our buildings were under construction and are just being finished off as we speak. Thanks to the lovely site managers we managed to do a video tour of these new buildings which were recorded on an Iphone and edited using iMovie so students could get a feel for the site as it has changed somewhat. We’ve also used this opportunity to reinforce our values mentioning them throughout the video.

In addition to the above we have also considered, depending on government guidelines, offering tours to students with Special Education Needs who really struggle with change. This would be on a 121 basis but we’re conscious that they have extra challenges when it comes to changing school.

Weekly emails and tutor videos – Our Year 7 tutors have been great about recording at home a short video to talk about why they love being at the school and how they can’t wait to meet their tutees. A different tutor video is released every week to parents so they get to know staff.

Transition booklet – the above is accompanied with a transition booklet which gives our future students quizzes and questions for which they must collect answers from the videos to complete the booklet. For instance, what book does Mr Harrison like to read every year? etc.. This ensures students and parents watch the videos and engage. We have also left spaces in the booklet for students to include information about themselves that their tutors can read when they arrive.

Using social media – Weekly questions such as Word of the Week and Maths brainteasers are put out on our twitter account to engage students. It’s been nice to see that some parents of our future year 7s have started a twitter account to take part with their child!

Forms – such as registration and friendship forms have been taken online in order to collect key data and put into our school systems. There is every chance we will need to print and get the parents to check this when schools return to whatever our new ‘normal’ will look like.

Communication with schools

Groupings – Our primaries have been wonderful in relaying information and have helped us decide tutor groupings and highlighted to us any areas of concern or additional need.  Year 6 teachers have been incredible in being available on zoom to discuss transition and also preparation for secondary school.

Key knowledge and skills gaps. Currently plans for testing are not being looked at. The focus has been on material that our Year 6 teachers think is critical and what the plan of action will be if they cannot deliver it. This has probably been the most challenging aspect of transition and a challenge I think that can only be dealt with by establishing good relationships with the primaries. Obviously, this will be easier if your Year 7 cohort comes from a smaller group of primaries than larger however, I think the insight from whichever primaries you can work with will be invaluable.

  • What do they wish they had time to cover with the kids which they might not get to now?
  • Why is it important?
  • What difference does it make to the kids?

I will illustrate this with an example: In the preparation for the SATS Year 6 students do a lot of work on literacy, for example Inference. We know in secondary school Inference is important in history when looking at evidence and English, not to mention many other subjects. So, we need to build in time in secondary to cover this to make sure our students can access the secondary curriculum.

Uniform

At the moment the line is you can order online and exchange if the fit isn’t right when the students start. At SLT we have discussed the need to relax expectations/sanctions around uniform. This is not ideal especially as we want the students to have clarity around expectations but I don’t think this is a decision we will make till the end.

The start of the year

The calendar has been a nightmare! Do we plan the usual one day for Year 7s to be in as the only year group? Can we afford to have the Year 10s out any longer and should they be in from day 1? Again, another decision we will leave for as long as possible or until we have more clarity about schools returning.

I hope the above is useful. I hope it makes you realise none of us have all the answers. I hope it makes you feel part of a community of professionals who are trying their best for our children.

Patience #DailyWritingChallenge

When doing any task, my brain is constantly whizzing from one area to the next, writing a mental shopping list, going back over an awkward conversation from earlier, all whilst creating an important policy document.

Being praised for always meeting deadlines gave me a smug sense of self satisfaction. Striding round school so fast that I didn’t have time to say hello to anyone surely only heightened my importance? At home, my exasperation at my husband’s inability to multi-task as frighteningly efficiently as I did often manifested in very audible sighs, tuts and mutters.

It was as I hissed in frustration ‘Please just go to bed so I can do some work!’ at my one year old, who was delightfully trying to capture my attention away from answering my work emails on my phone by playing peekaboo, that I realised I had a problem with patience.

The sudden slow down of life, without (lets face it) a clear plan or timeline for the mid-term future, has had a profound effect on me. For the first time, I’ve had to focus clearly on ‘now’, rather than impatiently racing ahead.

By allowing myself to have laser-like concentration on the task I am completing at the time, the quality of my work has vastly improved. My thinking has had the time to percolate, considering differing viewpoints, and finally coming to my own, strongly held conviction on the topic. I am able to just enjoy the stillness of everyday life.

To my surprise, it no longer matters that things take time. Dinner might be an hour late – it doesn’t matter. Consideration of a blog post might take a couple of days before posting – it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter if a work deadline needs to be pushed back, as nothing anymore is so urgent it cannot wait 24 hours.

When we do return to ‘normal’, I hope to bring back some of that patience and need for time to an otherwise frenetic life. Rather than simply ticking things off, I want to produce something considered, at both work and in life. I hope to bring back this stillness, this quiet, this patience.

Integrity #DailyWritingChallenge

Clearly ahead of me were the rungs, each one to be ticked off as I passed swiftly to the next.

The acquiring of the next promotion, then the next, were what mattered. The addictive high of success was what I craved.

When finally, my winning approach halted spectacularly, the ladder crumbled, and I stared up into terrifying empty space. If the ladder would ever reappear, I was certainly at the bottom.

The time to step back from the hustle of my ruthlessly driven life caused me to reflect. To my growing horror, I realised that in order to get my success fix, I had not stayed true to my values. Everything I had achieved was not truly deserved.

I had nodded along in meetings when really I should have challenged. I’d said ‘no problem’ when asked to do others’ dirty work. The values that were becoming so dear to me had been vague in my daily behaviours and practices. In trying to please everyone in order to succeed, I’d unwittingly lost myself.

I recognise now that integrity is key to my fulfilment. It doesn’t matter if I’m not pleasing everyone – the next time I am pursuing a step to success, I will do it with integrity.

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