Using Your Values to Navigate a Crisis

We are all navigating a storm. We know it is happening, we know it is gaining momentum, we know it is heading in our direction. We don’t know when it will arrive exactly, but we know it will come. We know that this is a critical incident, we know that there are casualties and that there will be more. We are practising our survival techniques, we are honing our navigation strategies, we are gathering our safety resources. We are using our values to stay buoyant, physically and emotionally.

The Safety Briefing

Whenever we go on a journey, we need to know how to stay safe. We need a trainer to explain to us what to do in the case of an emergency. We all need to hear the same message, we all need to respond in the same way. We need to hear the shared vision and the collective responsibility. We need to act accordingly. It is the intelligent thing to do.

What values are our leaders showing us right now? Do these leadership values instil our trust?Are they the values we want to be seeing and following in our leaders?

In the UK, I have been inspired by the school leaders who are making difficult decisions in a humane way and by the Headteachers who are challenging the decision-making from the system. Globally, the leader who embodies the values of courage, compassion and common sense I want to trust in is Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. She has been a country leader for 3 years and is a year younger than me, she is impressive in the emotional intelligence she has and the values she models. She is a swan and seems to take everything in her stride in her characteristically composed and compassionate way.

The Safety Manual

We have literature we can read. We should all be reading it, and not relying on someone else to read it for us. We need to listen to the experts and follow the instructions we are being given for our collective safety. We need to learn from the case studies of what is and what is not working. We need to be consistent in how we follow the instructions. It is the sensible thing to do.

Who are our experts during this time? Who is talking sense? Who is making pragmatic, human-centred decisions? Who is sharing helpful advice?

I am filtering the information I am consuming. I am keeping my social media feeds positive. I look for updates when I want to check something but am not overwhelming myself with the news, I am not sure it helps. I am trying to steer every conversation I am having away from doom and gloom, towards hope.

The Life Jacket

We all need to put on our own personal flotation device. We need the protection from this piece of equipment that is designed to keep us afloat in water. We don’t know when, or in fact if, we will end up in the stormy seas, but we need it on, just in case. We need to don the protective layer. It is the responsible thing to do.

What resources have you invested in to ensure you stay safe? What habits and routines have you changed to ensure that you stay afloat? How are you keeping others safe? How are you challenging your loved ones when they are not acting in a responsible way?

I am going about my new routine in a careful and considered way. I am checking in with friends and family, discussing options and opportunities as they arise and challenging if I do not agree with decision-making. My hands are parched from all of the hand washing. My body is craving a hug from all of the social distancing.

The Compass

We need our internal compass to help us navigate and orientate the journey. It will help us keep going in the right direction. We are heading due North, but our route has obstacles in its way. The compass will return us to our course each time we detour off. We need to listen to our intuition and follow our gut. It is the dignified thing to do.

Which values are guiding you right now? Which values do you need to develop? Which values can you gift to your friends, family and community?

I am trying to balance thinking as an individual and behaving as a collective whole. I am reaching out to people to listen and support. I am being kind, courageous and resilient. I am also creating boundaries though, I need to self-preserve so that I have the energy to help look after others too.

The Lighthouse

We need our external lighthouse to emit light to help us navigate the waterways. The silhouette of this structure built to protect us is looming on the horizon, we can see it through the storm. It is guiding us. At times it will become so dark and overcast we will not be able to see it but we feel its presence. We will continue on our journey. It is the moral thing to do.

Who or what is keeping you calm? Who or what are you relying on? Who or what is helping you stay positive, hopeful and optimistic for the future?

I am doing the right thing, even when no-one is watching or checking. I am trying to find the small pleasures in our new regime, celebrate the small wins along our way. I am keeping my spirits up and connecting with friends when I need a pick me up, as they are with me.

The Coast Guard

We need to do as we are told. Other countries are managing the pandemic better because they are cultures who are more obedient and they are used to following strict social rules. We need to consider that each time one of us is socially irresponsible that we are putting another live at risk. We need to consider the vulnerable people we know, and the vulnerable people our networks know. We also need to be mindful that the key workers are putting themselves at risk to look after ourselves. We need to do as instructed, until we are told otherwise. It is the obedient thing to do.

Have you broken any of the social distancing rules? Are you bending any of the expectations? How are you holding the needs of others alongside your own needs?

I have not stock piled and I have not booked massive online deliveries. I have not bought a chest freezer nor filled the garage as if the world is about to end. There are a few non-essentials I have run out of. It has made me think about how little I actually need to survive.

The Storm Lamps

When our visibility is poor, we sometimes need to rely on source of light, a lamp, a candle or a torch. We need to be a source of light and strength for one another. We need to help each other navigate the darkness. It is the kind thing to do.

How can you be a source of strength and hope for others? How can you inject some positivity and optimism into the world?

I like visual symbols. The #RainbowsOfHope are a representation of the weather and the mood changing. I have drawn them for our windows but also for my neighbours. I have ordered a pack of rainbow cards to write to friends and family, to post some hope and some love through their letter boxes.

The Buoys

We need to follow the rules. We need to stay in our designated spaces. We also need to be resilient. We need to bounce off of each other and keep each other float in the coming months. It is the honourable thing to do.

How can you keep your spirits up? How can you uplift others? How can you add some humour and some lightheartednesss into your life right now?

Despite the doom and gloom, I am laughing a lot. I am reaching out to people to show that I care, and I am being reached out to. I am connecting with people and talking nonsense, sharing stories, listening to concerns.

The Life Boat

We need our rescue crafts to attend to rescue us if we do have a collision and become a vessel in distress. Our crew and our passengers will be pulled out of the sea, some will be injured, some will survive. We need to ensure that our life boats can access us. We need to ensure that we are not putting the rescuers in a place of danger too. It is the respectful thing to do.

How are you ensuring that your actions are not putting others at risk? How are you helping to keep others safe?

I am eating what I have in the cupboards, I am exercising in isolation. I am in the safety of my 4 walls, all day every day, I am staying home to stay safe and save lives. I keep reminding myself, the world is not going anywhere but our lives could.

The Anchor

As the storm hits we need to hit pause, take stock and put our anchors down. Our anchors will hold us tight and support us. It might feel at the moment like everything is in chaos and out of our control. We need to consider what we can and what we cannot control, and find peace with that. It is the mindful thing to do.

What can you no longer control? What can you control? What can you do, step by step, to regain a sense of control over your life?

On my peer coaching support circle calls this week we have reflected on what we can anchor. What one thing can we tie down this week, and then each week as we progress in our reflections, we will try to tie a different thing down until the control over our lives feels like it is back in our hands.

The Harbour

We need to stay home to stay safe and to stay alive. My harbour is my house and my garden. They are my sanctuary, my space of peace and calm. Physical safety is important right now, as is emotional safety – our families and friends are the supporting walls that protect us from the storm. We need stay in the harbour. It is the safe thing to do.

How are you coping with spending so much time at home? How are you managing living on top of your loved ones? Or how are you managing being totally by yourself, as many people are?

My parents are on their farm in Devon. They are both vulnerable following recent accidents but they are still quite young and they are very self-sufficient. They are safer there by themselves, away from us all, in their bubble than they are if my sister or I tried to visit, but that is hard to think and hard to say out loud.

To finish my morning musings, when I was a headteacher I wrote our school homily. It encompassed our 12 community values. We shared it at the end of each assembly – many of the children learnt it off by heart. I am going to work on a homily for the values we need in the world right now and share a variation as a daily affirmation for us to reflect on.

Aureus School’s Values Homily

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 8: Gratitude

Gratitude, thankfulness, or gratefulness, from the Latin word gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’, is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, towards the giver of such gifts. 

Gratitude is an Attitude – it is said that by practising gratitude and being grateful that we will be happier. So today, make a lit of everything you are grateful for, it will remind you of all the good things you have in your life.

Today I am grateful for…

My home – I moved into my new house last year, it is my sanctuary. I feel safe and secure here.

My lodger (and his girlfriend) – I have lived by myself for a long time, I love my own company, quiet and stillness. I have Airbnb guests occasionally, one asked if he could stay for a few months whilst he found somewhere permanent, he moved in the week before lockdown was suggested – he and his girlfriend are in isolation with me. Luckily they are lovely!

My garden – I know I am lucky to have outdoor space to escape to when I get cabin fever.

My family – I live a few hours away but we talk regularly – we are a small, close knit family, there is a lot of passion and a lot of love in the relationships with parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins.

My friends – I have a lot of people who love me in my life, they are looking out for me, checking in on me.

My neighbours – moving into a new development, we have all bonded, I have people either side of me and we are all looking out for each other and checking in regularly.

My health – we take these things for granted, but I am healthy, fit and well.

My happiness – I am a hopeful optimist, my class is half full not half empty, I keep holding on to the Silver Linings of our situation.

My job – transitioning out of school leadership and headship was hard, but I have a secure salary, for now.

My old teams – the staff I recruited who are keeping the children I admitted to our schools safe and supported during these tricky times.

My devices – I take my technology for granted, it is my gateway for survival and for staying in touch with everyone.

Today I am also grateful for…

The NHS – the community clap last night made me go a bit teary, the sense of the united appreciation and collective effort to combat the disease overwhelmed me.

The teaching profession – all of the colleagues I have worked with, trained and know through education.

The weather – the sunshine has helped us all with our moods in the last week, it encourages us to get out for a walk/ some exercise and some air each day.

If I could hug everyone and everything I am grateful for I would, for now a virtual hug will have to do.

#DailyWritingChallenge #Gratitude

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 7: Friendship

Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people. It is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association, and has been studied in academic fields such as communication, sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and philosophy.

Relationships with partners, family, colleagues and friends are under a new spotlight as we adapt to our new normal. Some will be strengthened, some will be broken and some will be formed in this period of social distancing and isolation.

I think perhaps we need to use our words more specifically, this period of physical social distancing and physical isolation, socially we can connect now more than ever more. We now have the time, the energy, the empty schedule and the inclination to reach out, for many to reconnect with old friends who we may have lost touch with.

Friendships are a great source of support, love and energy for me. I have important relationships with different friends and friendship groups which mean a lot to me. My friendships enrich my life.

Some friends have been constants in my life since I was at primary school, college and university. Other friendships have formed through work, socialising and staying in touch when people move on. I have several groups of women who I see regularly, we rotate dinners, spa and theatre trips. My sister is someone who, even if we were not blood-related I would want to have in my life as a friend. We are chalk and cheese but have a strong bond.

As my friends have got married and had children around me these relationships have not changed, a few friends have disappeared and found new friendship groups, but on the whole my circle of friends has remained in tact, our catch ups may be less frequent, but we pick up where we left off each time we reconnect on the phone or in person.

At one point, my two oldest and closest friends were both living away – one in Borneo and one in Canada, navigating time zone differences and life style changes meant we had to recalibrate how and when we communicated. Thankfully, free Whatsapp calls enabled regular messaging and voice notes. Friends living overseas has also shaped my travels as I have arranged trips to go and visit them and their families – I am Godparent to the children of both.

Leaving London and relocating meant that friendships had to evolve as I was a few hours away from my immediate circle. I miss the mid-week wine, cinema/ theatre and dinners but I now get to spend long leisurely weekends with my friends instead. I don’t mind bombing around the country at weekends to visit friends and they really don’t mind escaping to mine for a weekend away from husbands and kids!

Becoming a Headteacher didn’t affect my work relationships, I think some educators fear the shift to SLT or Headship as putting barriers between them and their relationships with peers and colleagues. I am fortunate to have recruited two brilliant teams, and despite leaving my role and my schools, I am in regular contact with many of the ‘originals’ still.

Relocating and not knowing anyone in the local area except for work colleagues, plus being flat out at work opening two new schools, meant that for the first few years living in Oxfordshire I didn’t meet new people who were not linked to the school. Yet, overtime I have met some wonderful people who are my local friends who I am beginning to resurrect my mid-week socials with.

And then there is Twitter. My Dad still doesn’t get that I have friends who I met on Twitter. I think I have been on the platform for 8 years, and I have probably been an active user for 5 years, which is when we founded #WomenEd. Through going to grassroots events and networking online, I have met so many kindred spirits. Converting virtual connections into real time friendships has been a gift that I didn’t expect to receive. Some of my closest friends who I am in daily contact with, are from relationships ignited online, developed at events and that have moved into more social interactivity.

So in the coming weeks I am going to consciously reach out to people in my circles who I have not seen nor spoken to in a while. I am going to pick up the phone and have a chat, rather than commenting on Facebook or sending a text. Who knows what new friendships will also be formed under these new conditions too.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 6: Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.

We explain empathy to children with the phrase “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes”.

I have not worn shoes very much in the last 10 days because I have been at home, staying safe. The shoes I have put on are trainers to go for a walk locally or wellies to get out in the countryside. I love shoes, and have cupboards of them, for all occasions. But I prefer most to be barefoot or in a pair of flip flops. I fear my shoes are going to become dust collectors under quarantine.

Who am I empathising with as I sit at home, in my pyjamas, drinking my coffee and staying safe?

My restless thoughts that woke me at 4am this morning are with the vulnerable and with our key workers who are on the front line:

Black leather school shoes – for children around the country their school shoes will be strewn in the hallway or on a bedroom floor for the next few months. I wonder if they will still fit when schools reopen?

White surgical shoes – for doctors, nurses and other health professionals, their white clogs will be pacing the corridors over the coming months, as they struggle to save lives, their soles will slowly be worn down as their step count goes up on back to back shifts. I imagine some will be sleeping in them as they pass out on a break.

Black work boots – for the police, the ambulance service, the fire service and other emergency response services, it is business is as usual, as they fight to keep everyone safe, they will be donning their uniform each shift to keep civic order.

Slippers – for many elderly they are trapped at home, or in a care home. A friend is volunteering with Age UK as they have put a call out for volunteers and donations to support the most vulnerable during this crisis. We were already a nation trying to combat loneliness, this will be compounded by enforced social isolation?

Baby’s boots – for new parents or expectant parents this is a scary time to be raising young children or bringing babies in to the world, how will this affect the development of children in homes where the remote learning will not be a priority?

Trainers – for our mental health and well-being sports stores have been left open, signposted as essential resources, as the nation invests in home gyms and sports wear to get active once a day, I wonder if these new habits will stay?

Wellies – for many parents and carers confronted with the reality of spending all day, every day with their children, and now being responsible for home schooling them, the great outdoors has just become our classroom, a new learning environment. My personal social media shows my friends with kids taking them on hikes to get them outside and keep them busy and active. I empathise with those families with no green space to access.

There are many shoes I have missed, of many people who are going above and beyond in the current climate.

Whatever shoes you are wearing today, tomorrow, this week, this month – remember, and remind others, to keep putting yourself in other people’s shoes. We are all struggling to come to terms with the new reality. It is likely to get worse before it gets better as the death toll rapidly creeps up.

My thoughts turn to profound art installations using shoes as poignant symbols that I have seen on my travels or read about in the last few years. Shoes by rivers, climbing up tower blocks, exiting public institutions, representing human loss, grief and trauma.

Shoe Art Installation on the banks of the Danube river in memory of the Jews killed in WWII

If you are at home, not wearing shoes, consider who’s shoes you could be in right now and how they are feeling.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 5: Resilience

“Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”.

Resilience. It has become such a buzz word in schools and in society over the last few years. All of our thinking, reading and training about it will now serve us well.

There are loads of inspiring quotes out there about why we should be more resilient, but it is at times like these when our resilience is really tested.

A lot of the resilience quotes are about boats navigating turbulence and adjusting our sails. Remote working, social distancing and isolation are those adjustments we are making for our survival. We are not a lone ship on a sea, we are a fleet. We are in this together. We just need to put our anchors in for a while and sit tight, weather the storm. Blue skies and calm seas are on the horizon.

Another extended metaphor which we see for resilience, is that of a tree. The roots holding it in the ground. Our roots are our values, our families, our communities. We are bending, not breaking right now. Although the wind is so strong and the storm is so vicious that we are bending so far it feels like we are about to break, physically, emotionally and socially.

“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.”

― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

We may be falling down, but we will get up. We may fall again, but we will keep getting up. We are stronger than we think and more powerful than we know. We will not allow this invisible predator hunt us down. Together we will beat it.

We may be facing a myriad of adversities, but it is our reaction to these adversities which will determine our next chapter. For me resilience is about creating order out of chaos, it is creating calm in a storm. We need our safe havens to retreat to.

Accepting our new reality, considering our new normal is difficult. Some things will be irrevocably changed over the coming days, weeks, months. Some of these changes will be welcomed, some will be fought against. But those changes will come whether we like them and accept them or not:

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”

― Elizabeth Edwards

So what is in your resilience store? What are the difficult and traumatic experiences that you already overcame? What are the resources you need to draw down on right now?

Self-care is of vital importance right now. When you are doing your home schedules for remote working, home learning, domestic duties and down time, make sure you are putting in ‘me time’. Whether it is a cup of tea and some silence in the garden, a book or a bath, build in those opportunities to stop, rest and recharge.

Consider what you can do to still your brain and calm your nerves. Focus your attention on what is in your control rather than what is out of your control. One thing we can control is our media consumption. I am watching the news and the Governmental updates, once a day, otherwise I am protecting myself. The social media hysteria will not help. Curating your communication sphere carefully is self-preservation. Turning notifications is not selfish, we need to establish new boundaries in our new world.

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” ― Maya Angelou

#DailyWritingChallenge #Resilience

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 4: Guilt

Guilt is a feeling people typically have after doing something wrong, intentionally or accidentally. A person’s sense of guilt usually relates to their moral code. Guilt isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes it’s even productive.

Is anyone else weighed down with guilt at the moment?

After 18 years in schools, it feels wrong that I am not on the front line doing my bit.

Watching the madness unfold via the news and following the crisis management activity of my former school leader and Headteacher peers I know I could, and that I should, be doing more to help.

But I find myself handcuffed by my situation. I am no longer school-based. I am no longer responsible. My university role means I am safe, I am at home, I am working remotely. I am not going to come in to contact with anyone who is infected.

Is it absurd that I feel guilty that I am safe and well?

I imagine my peers in education who are university-based or who are independent consultants, advisors or freelancers are feeling the same. As trained teachers we are fixers, problem-solvers and helpers. As former school leaders we are used to being the ones to lead the teams through turbulent times.

But right now we cannot physically help. We can only sit and watch things unravel, supporting virtually, from the sidelines. The best thing we can all do if we are not on a emergency childcare team rota is to #StayHomeSaveLives.

I was racking my brains about what I could offer as support.

I process my thoughts and feelings by writing, which is why I initiated this blogging opportunity through the #DailyWritingChallenge. The idea was to help people connect through social isolation virtually and share their experiences as they grapple with their emotions. I know it has been cathartic for many in the group to write, to read, to discuss how we are feeling.

Seeing lots of my #womened community sharing their anxiety, overwhelm and stress on social media, I have offered to host a series of women peer support circles. I am doing this to support 25 women who are friends, family and former colleagues manage the uncertainty and navigate these turbulent times by creating some emotional safety. If I am honest, I am also doing this to keep myself busy and feeling useful to relieve some of the guilt too.

I have seen some creative ideas spawn on social media over the weekend – the community of educational tweeters are more united, more supportive and more collaborative than ever before. There is a #WeAreInThisTogether spirit uniting everyone in the collective responsibility of stabilising the chaos – the kindness and generosity being shown has removed all sense of competition and division between schools. I hope that when this period is over, we can hold on to the selfless values-led humanity we are witnessing and all turn over a new leaf.

#DailyWritingChallenge #Guilt

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 3: Honesty

Honesty is a facet of moral character that connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Honesty also involves being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere.

Honesty is the best policy. So we are told. But is this true even when the truth hurts?

I was brought up with one rule in our house: you always tell the truth. My parents gave my sister and I a lot of freedom as teenagers, they trusted us to do the right thing, as long as we were honest about where we were, who we were with and what we were doing. I can’t remember ever lying or telling a half-truth to them, whereas a lot of my friends had parents who were much stricter and my friends hid things from them.

I have carried this honesty and trust into my adulthood. I am known for being straight talking and direct, if you ever meet my parents, you will see where I get it from. I know that I can be seen as Marmite as not everyone likes my directness. I believe being candid is important so am comfortable with being respected rather then be liked.

As a teacher I have been line managed in my career by a lot of different leaders. Each had a different style. I have preferred male line managers to female, as they have been straighter talking in my experience. As a leader, I have line managed, mentored and coached a lot of people.

I believe honesty is a gift which helps us to grow. If we are not given clear, honest feedback then we cannot do this. Giving feedback is often easier than receiving it though.

An anecdote – as a DHT I remember line managing an established HOD, her results were not very good, her lessons were weak, she was known as a difficult member of staff. I chaired team meetings and her comments were often inappropriate or combative to her colleagues and to me. I took her to one side one day for a one-to-one. I gave her some honest feedback that people found her abrasive and hard to work with. She cried. But the tears were surprisingly tears of gratitude, she thanked me for my honesty – she had no idea why people avoided her. She said it now made sense.

My learning from this experience was that often we assume that someone else has gifted the honest feedback, but a lot of people tiptoe around the issue rather than addressing it head on.

My honesty has sometimes got me into trouble at times in my career. Not everyone likes to hear the truth, no matter how kind it is. My commitment to the trust also means that I have whistle-blown on things that are not right. Never an easy thing to do.

My final thoughts are that we tell our children to be honest and we tell others this, but how often are we truly honest with ourselves?

360 degree feedback can be a good starting point for this, if the relationships of trust and respect are there for the feedback to be given and received in a supportive way. Through coaching I have spent time really reflecting on who I am, what I believe and what I stand for.

We often know the answer to our questions, but we hide from the truth. We need to be more honest with everyone, but most especially with ourselves.

If you are interested in reading more or doing some training on honest communication and relationships then I recommend:

Kim Scott – Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean

Susan Scott – Fierce Conversations

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 2: Courage

Courage is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

I have always been quite a courageous person. I am not sure exactly why. I guess it is how I was brought up… The Wilson childhood was outdoorsy and adventurous. My Dad is a bit of a daredevil and as a child we mountain biked, canoed, and went skiing – water and alpine. My Mum, my sister and I followed Dad where ever he went, whatever he did, we trusted him to look after us.

I learnt to ski when I was 7 and I can remember blasting down black runs and mogul runs from an early age. We were never reckless, but we were fearless. The character education my parents gave my sister and I, most definitely developed our courage to get stuck in and our resilience to bounce back and carry on.

So being courageous in my life is very much in my DNA and in the fabric of my upbringing. This has led to me doing some amazing things as I have grasped opportunities in my life to continue this adventurous streak. I have travelled lots, volunteered lots and put myself out there.

I am not really one to get homesick and I don’t really let things hold me back. On reflection, I am very comfortable being out of my comfort zone. And it has served me well until this point.

Another part of my upbringing is in the courage of my convictions. I have a strong sense of integrity, ethics and what is right. I have made decisions in my life that feel right, listening to my intuition I have reacted instinctively to different scenarios.

I have had the courage to walk away from friendships and relationships that do not serve me – both personally and professionally. Those who know me, know that I have also resigned from a lot of jobs! It takes courage to articulate when things are not aligned.

I started doing the #OneWord ritual 5 years ago and they have been my North Star – last year my #OneWord2019 was Joy and this year my #OneWord2020 is Purpose. It is a simple and effective reflection on opportunities to ask: Will this bring me Joy? Will this serve my Purpose? If not then is it a good use of my time and energy? Maybe Courage should be my next word…

I can remember doing a presentation at the Leading Women’s Alliance on ‘Saying Yes’. Shonda Rhimes wrote and a did a TED talk on having the courage to say Yes and working it out afterwards which really resonated with me. I was sharing this mantra, when the lovely Karen Giles challenged me on this and said that sometimes we need the courage to also say No. Depending on what is being asked I totally agree. It takes as much courage to say Yes as it does to say No, depending on what is being asked and by whom.

So my courageous act last year was to resign from Headship. I had just bought a house, turned 40 and following lots of conversations with friends and family, at the end of March 2019 I pulled the rip cord. It came as a shock to lots of people, but things were not aligned.

Finding myself on unexpected gardening leave for a few months I dug deep to find the courage to make a positive out of a negative. I needed to get some physical and some mental distance to process my emotions. My solution was to book a 2 month trip to South America and disappear for a bit. I courageously went away by myself and joined an open group of strangers to travel from Peru to Brazil, through Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

I have travelled a lot but I have always had work sat there on my shoulder reminding me of my responsibilities on my return. It was refreshing on this occasion to escape from the world, have little social media and no professional identity. I didn’t talk work for 2 months. If anyone did ask I was a teacher from the UK. People were not that interested in talking professional lives anyway. I guess we were all there to escape from something or someone?

On my return to the UK I started my new role in ITTE. I brought to this role my new relationship with work and my self-identity. I consciously re-framed how I feel self-worth, I have re-calibrated my work-life balance. There are lots of things I have enjoyed about this role, but going back to my one words, I have not felt enough Joy nor Purpose. Consequently, I have again resigned! It was announced this week that I am working my notice until April 30th. I am then going independent from May 1st.

I have lots of plans for the future. I thought I was being courageous leaving full time employment, but with the world developments of the last few days, I need my reserves of courage even more than ever right now, as I face unchartered waters. It was scary leaving a secure salary, stable benefits as it was, but it felt right. Regardless of what is going on the world right now, I have still made the right decision for me and my career. I just need to be courageous, creative, resilient and optimistic about what the future holds for me next chapter.

So keep those flames burning. It might feel very dark right now, but there is a light to follow. And yes that is me fighting the demons in the headershot – the monster is symbolic of so many things right now!

Go forth and be courageous!

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 2: Courage

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 1: Kindness

Kindness is a behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern and consideration for others. It is considered a virtue, and is recognized as a value in many cultures and religions.

Our world is in chaos. I feel like we are living in a dystopian novel and anyone who knows me will know that I am not a fan of science fiction literature nor futuristic films. I can remember studying Ted Hughes’ ‘Crow’ poetry anthology for my A Levels and learning the word ‘nihilistic’. It would be very easy to become negative, fearful and to lose hope very quickly right now. More than ever, in the current situation we need to be positive, optimistic, hopeful and kind. Above all we need to be kind.

So how can we spread love and not fear during these uncertain times? What small acts of kindness can we make to help others during this anxious time? How can we look after ourselves and our loved ones, whilst also being kind to those around us?

Science tells us there are health benefits to being kind, so as we worry about our physical health, let’s make sure that we are looking after our mental health too. Being altruistic will help us to hold on to our sense of belonging, feel part of our community and keep our spirits up. But being altruistic does not mean being a martyr and putting others first at our own expense. We need to strike the balance between self-preservation, selflessness and selfishness.

Kindness to others: there has been much reporting about the selfish streak that comes out at times like this, especially when it comes to resources. Stockpiling and the supermarket sweeps have left some people feeling vulnerable and anxious, others have been left but little resources such as toilet paper and dry food goods. Yet, there have also been some heartwarming stories about people putting others first. Let’s be kind and think about everyone, not just ourselves. Let’s take what we need, not hoard at the expense of others. Let’s consider who might be going without.

Kindness to strangers: in a world where we are less physically connected, we can go days without seeing our immediate neighbours, we can go weeks without speaking in person to our loved ones. I have already heard of some brilliant community driven initiatives to ensure that those living by themselves, who may be less mobile are being looked after. There has been a lot of talk online in my educator community about supporting vulnerable families and those who are disadvantaged – we need to ensure that our FSM children who might only get one meal a day in school are looked after as we approach full school closures. Let’s put pressure on the Government and on the bihg super market chains to step up and look after those who are going to struggle the most.

Kindness to the community: I have seen social media light up with a sense of belonging as communities pull together. I have a whatsapp group with my neighbours and my work colleagues and will be checking in on them regularly. For my online community I know lots of my contacts are school leaders dealing with considerable stress and carrying the weight of heavy decisions, I also know a lot of educators who work freelance who will take a financial hit with work drying up over the coming weeks. We need to remember that we will respond differently to what is going on, and that is okay. Let’s reach out to those who we would not normally talk to and be a listening ear.

Kindness to the environment: I read a great post yesterday about Mother Nature being given time to heal as we lock down and stop damaging the world through our human endeavours of driving and flying. However, we also need to be mindful that we do not fall back into our disposable ways of eating processed foods with lots of packaging. Who knows when the recycling collections will stop. Let’s consider the impact that our changing habits will have on the environment over the coming months.

Kindness to self: as always we need to remember to be kind to ourselves. I am genuinely very worried about the mental health and wellbeing of lots of people who suffer from anxiety as social isolation will aggravate this. I have already spoken to family and friends this week who are feeling highly-stressed, this situation is triggering their worse fears and they are worrying not only about the day to day, but what the future might bring. Let’s be kind to everyone, including ourselves. Let’s address the negative self-talk and turn our inner critic down, we are in survival mode, and that is okay, for now.

Kindness to our loved ones: we are sometimes meanest to the people we love the most as our guards come down. Being cooped up with a partner and children, estranged family members is going to put pressure on what might be already strained relationships. Let’s watch what we say and how we say it. Let’s consider what working and studying from home, together, will look and feel like. Let’s talk about what is not working and how to make it better for everyone on the short term.

Random Acts of Kindness:

I have read lots of articles about things people are doing to combat the #CoronaVirus with Kindness. Loving Pret A Manger gifting free hot drinks and 50% off of food to NHS workers.

Here are some ideas – add more in the comments or via a tweet:

  • Reach out to that person who lives by themselves who may be feeling lonely. A text takes seconds and might just brighten their day to know that someone cares.
  • Ring a friend, a colleague or a family member, better still skype or face time so they can see you too. A friendly voice or face may be just what they need.
  • Help a neighbour or an older person in the community with their shopping. You can join the #ViralKindness campaign here. There is a template for a note you can leave on doorsteps for people to reach out.
  • Share your time with others – there are already lots of pop up events like online coffee meets and catch ups so people can connect and converse. Think about what you have to gift and share with others.
  • Share activities that people can engage with for free, online – join one of the free online concerts started by Chris Martin and John Legend. Arrange to meet friends online who share your musical preferences.
  • Go for a walk in a National Trust property – now free access.

Go forth and be kind! Let’s restore our faith in humanity.

#DailyWritingChallenge

Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t connect & collaborate online. Self-isolation means we could get bored & stuck in a Netflix rut. Remote working means we will gain time on our daily commute & could get restless.

Fancy joining the #DailyWritingChallenge to keep yourself busy and occupied over the coming weeks of uncertainty?

If so… follow the hashtag and join us each day. I will publish a daily theme – in the form of a value – and you can join us by writing 500 words. Publish it wherever you like, then share it with us using the hashtag/ tag me in. There is no pressure to write every day. Just engage, as and when, you want to by writing, reading, commenting on the posts from the growing edu-writing community.

There is also the option of joining the #DailyWritingChallenge DM group – we are currently 40 strong and support new writers in finding and using their voice, plus chat about what we think about each others’ posts.

I started blogging about 5 years ago, on a platform that no longer exists called StaffRm. It is where a lot of the #WomenEd and #BAMEed community found their writing voices. We nurtured and supported one another to share thoughts, ideas and stories about our educational journeys. Lots of people ask how to get started with blogging, well here is your chance.

Also you will get to think and discuss with new people, or find out more about people you already know. It is a great way to connect with like-minded people.

If you are feeling lonely or isolated you can also join the DM group if you want to chat about the posts too. We are a friendly bunch I promise!

Day 1 is today! March 18th 2020. The theme is ‘Kindness’ so look out for the #DailyWritingChallenge posts shared on twitter and get involved, however, you wish.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 1: Kindness

Updated 4/4/20 – we are Day 14 this Monday. So far we have explored the values of: Kindness, Courage, Honesty, Friendship and Adventure to name a few of them. The lovely Sue Webb has collated them as collections on the VBE website here.

I wrote a blog about why we need our values to help us navigate this crisis here.

I had an opinion piece published in Schools’ Week here.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed a blog or supported by reading in the last 3 weeks. Each post is a written expression of the visual #RainbowsOfHope.