A New Year is often the time for positivity, new beginnings and looking forward, but this year the freshness of the new year has been tainted by reports of experienced SBLs leaving their roles and taking their skills elsewhere.
I hate to hear about colleagues leaving their post under a cloud; whether it be through disagreement, pressure, work overload, or just simply running out of energy and enthusiasm for our intense role. I’ve been there and I know how it feels. It hurts. But eventually the SBL has, quite rightly, got to put their health and well-being first and the New Year is often the prompt that is needed to make a fresh start and find something new.
I’ve been reflecting on this and my own ability to manage the pressures of my job in this new year, especially as they have already cranked up considerably over the last couple of days.
Just before Christmas I attended a workshop on resilience and was asked a very pertinent question that really set me thinking over most of the holiday…
Are you resilient…or are you just coping?
Now I’ve often thought that I am very resilient, that I have a thick skin to protect me and that, having experienced most things, I can bounce higher than one of those tiny coloured plastic balls that we used to buy out of a machine in the paper shop and play with for about five minutes before we lost it in the bushes.
But recently, I don’t feel bouncy. In fact I frequently feel like I’m dragging myself through the day like Gary from SpongeBob and I’ve reached a conclusion as to why this is…as SBLs we don’t get time to heal.
Of course, every job has pressures, deadlines, returns, forms, demands, daily ups and downs and I wouldn’t dare say that our profession is significantly more stressful than any other, but what I would say is that for the SBL the carousel of demands has now become relentless meaning that the only way to get off is by taking a massive, bone shattering, leap.
Not many years ago I would have told you that the SBL role was subject to peaks and troughs. There were quieter times. Times when you could ponder. Times when you could enjoy an empty brain that welcomed ideas. Times when you could plan. Times when you could address those objectives on your performance appraisal. Times when you could heal.
Those times are gone.
We find ourselves galloping from one high pressure demand to the next, whether it is DfE returns, payroll deadlines, management reporting, meetings, strategy planning, accounting deadlines, managing staff wellbeing…(I could go on and on) with no respite, no time to breathe and no opportunity to recover from the inevitable setbacks or frustrations.
This carousel is manageable for a few years but the unavailability of time to heal wears you down, blunts your senses and inevitably and eventually leads to an overwhelming desire to throw yourself off.
So. What’s to be done? Here’s what I think;
- Get yourself an SBL buddy/coach/mentor/contact/friend. Someone who will listen when you need to vent. Someone who can offer advice. Someone who can support you. Someone who will be there to catch you.
- Take a bit of time for YOU everyday. Whether it be #sbmlunch, a trot around the school field, stroking the School cat or just staring at the sky. Step off the relentlessness if only for a few minutes.
- Find one small thing to do at work everyday that YOU enjoy. This is going to be specific to you (and totally weird to everyone else). It might be washing up a few mugs, writing tomorrows ‘Thought for the day’, putting post in staff pigeon holes or walking a circuit of the school observing all the lovely learning that is going on (ok, that one isn’t weird). What’s important is that it is something you want to do, and that makes it empowering.
- Find a little tin with a lid and put your small frustrations and worries inside by speaking them into it and then put the lid firmly on. (I got the idea to do this from Barry who tells me his brother used to collect farts in a marmite jar when he was a boy). This is not a substitute for 1. – more instant relief!
By the end of Christmas break I had come to the decision that I am in fact resilient. Of course, I have days when I just have to cope until the end, but I try to trust in the tools I’ve gathered around me to protect my own well-being so that when the time comes to get off the carousel it will be because I want to…and it will also be with a dignified step.