And so we have reached the last week of term. I wonder if you, like me, have an advanced case of end-of-term-itis. This is a worryingly infectious condition that affects millions of teachers at this time of year. There are a few tell-tale symptoms. Most notably; not sleeping, panicking about your to-do list, scraping children off the ceiling at every turn and feeling like time has simultaneously slowed down and speeded up. If you work in a primary school, you will also have the exciting additional bonus of having all that brain noise and energy-sapping activity set to one particular Nativity song (usually the most irritating one), which will be playing in a continuous loop inside your head, day and night.
The only known cure for end-of-term-itis is the Christmas holidays, which will very soon be upon us. And whilst I am looking forward to the chance to rest and relax as much as you must be, I am also worried about how fast this year has gone.
The months seem to have slalomed into each other like drunken dodgem cars, resulting in a huge December pile up of events and experiences. The velocity of each collision is often set by the media, which seeks to hype each season’s main event months early. Halloween costumes go on sale in August, Christmas decorations in October. I saw the first headline crowing about the must see films/bands of 2017 back in September. Every shared celebration in our calendar is brutally marketed and fuelled by the inexhaustible determination to extract as much money from it as possible, over the most protracted period possible.
The effect of all this is the normalising of speed. We live in a society that is addicted to perpetual motion. We are forever hurtling headlong towards the next big event and when we get there we are hustled past it, our wallets emptied as we rush through and on to the next.
But the thing is, living our lives at such a tilt doesn’t just knacker your bank balance, it affects everything else too. When speed is king, everything else suffers. I wrote a while back about the danger of busy in the classroom for students and learning and the danger is no less real for teachers, families and school leaders; too much, too fast is toxic.
Now, those clever marketing folks have spotted this too and so to combat (and profit from) the endemic stress and busyness of our lives, they sell us back our free time in the form of adult colouring books and expensive holidays, spa retreats and mindfulness classes.
But here’s the thing; there is another way. How about if we all just decide to take back the control? Let’s wrestle the remote from the hands of the moneyman and prise his finger from our fast forward button.
And let’s choose to hit pause. Do it now, do it right now. Whatever you are doing as you read this, choose to hit pause. Just let yourself stop everything, choose to make it all wait, just for a little bit.
There. Doesn’t that feel good? Now that you are stopped, you can turn around. Stop facing forward and turn, just for a minute, and look back.
Look at what this year or this term or this week has brought. What’s been good? What’s been hard? What was special? What needs to change? And the golden question, the one that you must wrap around yourself and use to push back the busy and the speed:
What have you learned?
Because that’s what really matters. It is the only thing that really matters. Everything we do as humans is about learning. It is how we make sense of our experience of the world. And if we are moving too fast, we miss it.
As a teacher, it is your job to hit the pause button for your learners and give them time to wallow in what matters.
And as a teacher, you must do the same for yourself, because the difference between an excellent teacher and a busy teacher is simply who is in charge of the pause button.
If you don’t have the ability to know when to stop or slow things down so you can work out what you are learning, you cannot be an effective teacher.
So do your own review of the year and dinnae fash yersel about the ‘must see’ movies you didn’t see or the ‘must hear’ bands you’ve never heard of. Think about your own ‘must see’ moments instead. There’s a nifty little hashtag where you can share those highlights called #PedagooFriday.
Look back and learn.
Look forward and plan in your pause times. Plan in when you are going to step back and stop and look and wonder and think and inspire and imagine and have fun and share what you do. Pedagoo events and Teachmeets are built around the pause button and there’s one happening near you in 2018.
Most importantly, reflect on who is in charge of your remote control. Because if it is not you then you need to get that sorted.
Wishing you a speedy recovery from end-of-term-itis and a pause-filled and peaceful Christmas and New Year.