A teacher's Christmas Carol

Barry Dunn

Barry Dunn believes that leadership should be open, honest and human. His mission is to shift school culture towards a collegiate environment for teachers and schools. It is this kind of environment which will allow supportive, innovative and reflective educational communities to flourish. Barry has his own blog about his educational ramblings, and is an avid reader of educational literature. He is passionate about pedagogical research, connected leadership and philosophical enquiry. When not thinking about education Barry is proud to be a family man and enjoys ultramarathons.

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Website: https://ikonoklaste.wordpress.com/ Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Originally published on 8th December 2015 Originally published on 8th December 2015

The winter season always puts me in a reflective mood. Musing the years past, present times and the future in a Dickensian fashion. There's six lessons I'd like to share from this year which mean a lot to me. Much like those three ghosts, the past, the present and the future has a lot to teach us too.

Ghosts of Teaching Past

Gratitude - One of the greatest virtues is knowing to be thankful. Think back over those who have helped you this year, whether professionally or personally, and take time to thank them. It doesn't take long to add an extra sentence to a Christmas card you're already sending, drop a Post-it on someone's desk, fire off a quick email to a colleague or text a friend. Showing appreciation costs very little and helps make the world a bit of a better place. I'm planning to message one friend on Facebook on each of the twelve days of Christmas to thank them this year.

Celebrate - Teaching, like many professions, is an intense job. Often we're thinking of the next thing as soon as we've finished a task, if not before. This piece of advice is to show gratitude to yourself for all the good things this year. I'm not going to suggest sending yourself a note, but maybe when you've got some music on and a glass of your favourite single malt over the festive season, just take a moment to remember your achievements lest they become lost in the maelstrom of your days.

Ghosts of Teaching Present

The big lessons here I took from a speech by Marc Laithewaite from @EnduranceCoach when I heard him speak in July. They're so important I thought I'd share them here but wanted to acknowledge their origin.

Look Around - These words of wisdom come straight from Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around every once and a while, you could miss it." It's all about enjoying the journey, even the tough times and challenges; not just racing to the end of everything you do without ever looking up. Take some time each day to notice something special. You'll look back one day and these days will be the good old days, try and remember them.

You're Not Normal - Yes you, and anyone else who after all the work this profession demands of us takes time to further reflect and improve ourselves makes you extraordinary. The amount of determination and effort required to do the job well is extraordinary; don't take it for granted. Many of us are used to be surrounded by like-minded passionate educators; that doesn't make it normal. If you're dedicated and committed and those around you aren't; keep not being normal as it's much more fulfilling.

Ghosts of Teaching Future

These are some foci I know I need for the year ahead, and hope they're useful to you too.

Future You - Each day, try and do something that future you will thank you for. Although I believe in the value of the moment don't throw away your dreams for right now. Whether it's starting to learn a language or instrument knowing it'll take a decade or more until you're happy with your time investment or putting more into relationships. Start putting something aside for future you. One day the rewards will come in and you'll be able to celebrate it and meanwhile it's an important part of enjoying the journey.

Be Selfish - I don't mean to sound shocking, but you need to look after yourself in any demanding profession. Making sure you take time to protect your wellbeing has real value. If you're a healthier, happier and more fulfilled person, you're far more likely to be doing a better job and inspire your students than if you're waiting for the seemingly eternal limbo of each lesson to end as you push the boulder that is your career, like Sisyphus in his timeless ordeal. If you're not sure where to start, an excellent movement of teachers supporting each other's wellbeing was started on Twitter by @MartynReah called #teacher5aday; there's a lot of great ideas there.

In the words of a controversial TV host, "Be good to yourself and each other."

How does Christmas make you feel as a teacher? Share your thoughts below.

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