#OneWord2021 Reflection on the year gone by

Last Hogmanay, inspired by Jill Berry I reflected on the year which had passed and looked ahead to what 2021 might bring. I tried to find positives within the challenges of a global pandemic and considered how I might use these experiences from which to grow. I attempted to choose a word for 2021 but really struggled to find a fit. In the end I settled on ‘Dichtomy’ and it seems that in retrospect it was quite apt. Little did I imagine that in 12 months this city girl would have a new job, have sold a house, moved 100 miles, and have begun to readjust to rural living far away from any family or friends. It has been quite a year – a year of bravery and a year of fear. A year of sadness for loss of the old, and excitement for new beginnings. A year of incredible planning ahead, yet taking each day as it comes. A year of positives, balanced out by trying times. Here’s a look back at 2021…

My year, like everyone’s, started in lockdown. A return to home learning allowed us an opportunity to put into practice everything we learned the first time around. Positive routines, increased participation ratios and asynchronous resources which helped break down learning for young people all helped me to become a better teacher. I loved live lessons with young people but hated feeling so distant from pupils and my team. In addition, I loved time with my own boys and the flexibility it allowed in terms of childcare, getting outside and exercising. But it was tough! Without the interaction of young people and connection with colleagues in person, each week became a little harder. It made our return to in school learning very welcome and at various points I’ve often reflected on my gratitude at being in the building and hearing voices in the corridor.

I was fortunate to be given several great opportunities to share my practice with others – presenting to iPGCE students at Strathclyde university, recording various podcasts, and working with Pgde art and design students at Moray House before they completed their virtual placements. I have loved being able to help and influence others within education.

At the beginning of the year, I knew I needed a new challenge but wasn’t quite sure what. Having been in my post for over ten years, I needed to get my teeth into something. I had more to give. And then… not one, but two jobs caught my eye. His and hers, matching posts. In Oban. I can’t explain what possessed me to consider moving 100miles for a new job, but something about it just felt right. My word of 2021 came into play again… applying for a new job was a real dichotomy. Heartbreak at leaving the familiar, excitement at being able to contribute to a new context. Fear of not being good enough to do a different job, confidence that I could make a positive difference. Worry that we were going to uproot and unsettle our boys. Assurance that it would all work out ok. Sadness at leaving behind great colleagues and pupils. Happiness at the opportunity to meet new people and build great teams. And so it goes on…

After 6 months, I continue to see my word of 2021 reflected in much of what I live, think and do in my new role. The dichotomy of wanting to do it all, yet knowing I need to pace myself. Of having a strong vision of where we need to go, yet knowing I need to take others with me and thus feel ownership. The dichotomy of challenging directly, yet caring deeply about my team. The new challenges, the new relationships, the new perspectives side by side with the old experiences which shaped me as a person. The beginning of 2022, sees me wanting to grow and move forward, continuing to build and improve myself and others, at a pace which is both manageable and aspirational.

2021 has provided yet more opportunities for me to curate my work/life balance. Another dichotomy I constantly face is the need to relax and realign, yet struggling to be still and do nothing, instead feeling the need to be busy. But I’ve realised that self-care for me is not the same as that for others. When I’ve enjoyed time for me – be that running, paddle boarding or drinking gin with friends and family – I’m in a better position to handle the complexities and the challenges of life. And that’s self-care. Spending such an amazing summer at Port Ban meant that I had plenty of opportunities to practise my paddle boarding – making new friends and enjoying the space and time to just ‘be.’ And one of my most recent discoveries in my new house, is the simplicity of sitting beside my wood burner and getting lost in a book. I look forward to much more of that in 2022.

Finally, the dichotomy of being a mummy, and all that brings, parallel to working full time as a middle leader. I so often feel torn and this year has been no different although I’m proud of how I’ve coped. Being a mummy is hard. Really hard. Juggling homework, pe kits, permission forms, school nativity, parties, packed lunches, tears, tantrums, a million questions and school/nursery drop offs don’t come naturally to me. Throw into the mix numerous precautionary Covid isolations, working from home as well as home learning in a rented house with no central heating, and it’s been a recipe for building my patience, self awareness and keeping perspective. I love my boys with all my heart. They amaze me everyday and I love being the one to care for them, love them and make them feel safe. But I also love my job. So I’m learning to lean into the dichotomy of life as a working mummy. Because it’s who I am.

And this holiday I’ve been most thankful and proud of both of them as I pause to watch them grow and play together after all that this year has thrown our way. I am so thankful for all that we have – family, friends, love and careers. The tears, tantrums and arguments are definitely lessening and to all those with young children, it does get easier. Here’s to 2022.

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