I have fingers in many pies. Mostly, these pies are metaphorical (though as I have chronicled relentlessly this year, the literal ones are also problematic and gout-o-genic). I am not complaining about having many pies; I have actively worked myself into this polypied corner. I operate best when my workload resembles a platter rather than a hog roast; I like to nibble at a smorgasbord rather than gorge for hours on one carcass.
The problem comes when slightly too many pies appear at once, or when all the pies look equally delicious/important/necessary/timely or when all the pies look equally gross/objectionable/pointless/avoidable. These situations lead to me to this situation, presently.
Here are my pies at the moment.
- PPA Cover for all of Year 5 and some of Year 3 (three days a week)
- Organising a Parents Curriculum and running after school classes for parents on Politics, Democracy and Citizenship
- Overseeing an effective School Council of Year 2 – Year 6 kids
- Organising a five-school residential Year 5 Writers Retreat with Adisa
- Putting together an outdoor learning visit to Spitalfields and Sky Garden as part of an SLE Deployment
- Organising all the CPD that goes on as part of our Teaching School
- Running another Geography Bee
- Running a basketball club with some of my now secondary-age kids coming back to help me as Assistant Coaches
- Putting together TeachMeet Newham
- Putting together a conference on Religious Literacy and Diversity with Claire Clinton
- Being a governor at Sarah Bonnell School
- Planning a whole school Refugee Week
- Planning an International Mother Languages Day
- Facilitating TeachFirst training as part of the Leadership Development Programme
- Leading CPD on Assessment for Learning on the UCL IOE NQT Primary Partnership
- Leading CPD on Knowledge, Mastery and Differentiation for our Mastering the Basics course
You can see why I have gout.
I am self-conscious that this appear like some kind of plea for attention, a request for praise or a cry for help. Like most things I do, it is probably all of these, as well as a load of other psychosocial flotsam. But actually, it is really necessary.
There are many forgotten individuals lurking around in the educational mainstream system whose professional role means that don’t have ready access to a network of people who do the same work and can sympathise. I know when I teach a stressful maths lesson, I can slam my way into the staffroom, hurl myself onto a stool and have a rapid-fire moan about it with teachers who get it. Like Mid-Day Assistants, School Office staff and perhaps SENCOs, those leading Teaching Schools don’t have the same thing.
Without a soundboard, it can become too much, and the pies can swell.
I have found just one thing that work to raise my productivity and to allow me to begin to tackle the work-mountain that resembles the Sisyphean pie above. It is to do nothing.
It is very easy to convince yourself that you are doing the right thing when you are doing something, but in the act of doing something, you begin to think only of that which you are doing and not that which you are not doing.
At a day of such high stress that colleagues approached me to comment on my contorted face, I found myself sat at the computer desk, the broken air-con parping stale warm gusts into my eyes as I stared at a list of emails that got longer the longer I spent tending to it. As I read one email, four more arrived. I just carried on ploughing through them as the important stuff remained on my To Do list.
Looking back at what ended up being a completely wasted day, where I worked solidly at the computer desk for probably about 9 hours and achieved about 10% of what I needed to achieve, what I needed to do was to stop doing. Stop, recuperate, make a list of tasks like I did above, and to date them and categorise them.
For each task, grade it between 1-5 for Urgency, Required Time to Complete It and Importance.
So planning for my sessions to Newham NQTs on the IOE programme is a 5 for importance (v important to get it right), but a 1 on urgency because it doesn’t start til February and a 3 for required time, as it will need for me to meet my co-facilitator, plan two sessions, resource it, print it and set up the training rooms.
Thinking, proper thinking, sometimes need to happen in isolation; even if only for 15 minutes a day, having some time to stop everything else to evaluate is just about keeping my little boat afloat.
Make time to step out of the work you are doing, to look objectively at yourself doing it. Is it the right work; if so, is being done well and if not, why are you doing it?