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It Shows that we Matter

I realise that my self imposed fortnightly target for writing this blog has slipped but it is all for good reason both personally and professionally. However, unusually for me I am not trying to cram this in last thing before bed on a Sunday. In fact it is nearly 2pm on Sunday 26th May and I am sitting in my converted loft with the sun streaming through windows, sounds of busy-ness from the streets below and chillaxing tunes in my ear.

On a personal level I have had my flat turned upside down to allow joiners in to create a soundproofing barrier between myself and my downstairs neighbour. It has been well worth the inconvenience of moving out to stay with my partner for a few days, sleeping on my sofa after 2 nights on a top bunk in school camp. Prior to ‘moving out’ I decanted my three double wardrobes and drawers from the living room and bedroom crammed with ‘stuff’ to the loft. I have yet to return everything to its previous place because I am seizing this opportunity to have a damn good de-clutter.

How did this happen? When I moved 2 1/2 years ago I promised myself I would aim for a fairly minimalist look. I know I am my own worst enemy when it comes to collecting clutter – I cannot abide just throwing things away if they can be recycled, upcycled or put to good use, but that requires time to plan, consider and let go and sometimes I just don’t have the energy for that. One small job often means the start of something so much bigger and time consuming and so it’s easier not to start.

But before I mindlessly return everything I am going to sift through boxes and bags and be ruthless about what stays and what goes. I can’t ever promise to be completely clutter free because I have some lovely pieces that give me immense joy but I do want to be able to keep a clear head for my continuing creative journey and that can’t happen if my living and sleeping areas are congested.

On a professional level I can hardly believe that two weeks ago I was beginning to panic a little for having agreed to support a residential trip and then becoming trip leader for young people with additional support needs. We chose Scottish Outdoor Centre’s Dounans near Aberfoyle because it came highly recommended and I’m glad we did. For not only did I witness these young people make some momentous memories for themselves and push out of their comfort zones I was able to achieve a few goals of my own: ringing the bell at the top of a very high tree, aiming an arrow for the bullseye (and getting close) and paddling a rafted canoe with four boys, one of whom giggled, chuckled and pointed to the woods suggesting there were bears nearby. When the wind picked up I was glad to have A alongside me who had the strength to help steer us all back to shore.

While at Dounans I was reading from my Kindle seated beside the door to our dorm, before preparing to go to sleep on a top bunk so that I could be on hand for all 5 young people who were sleeping there. We had been given very detailed instructions about medication routines and my amazingly unflappable support leader CM had everything down to a fine art by Thursday night. The boys were tired after their first full day of activities and had slept well the night before and so I was able to sit and just listen to the sounds of their rituals and routines as they settled themselves. One was chatting away to his teddy bear another squeaked and twittered something to do with a spider in the milk, two rocked themselves gently and the 5th was already asleep, hurrumphing and muttering to himself. It was a real privilege to bear witness to this and rather than have a sense of overwhelming responsibility I felt utterly calmed, connected and blessed to be with them all.

Returning home I needed head space and decided that it was preferable to be alone and among the clutter in my loft and so spent 3 nights on my enormous sofa. I wasn’t in the right place to share all that had happened with my ever patient partner, much as he tried to encourage me to his clean and tidy house with the promise of cups of tea and support. Perhaps it was a mistake not to take him up on that offer because another week had gone by before we were able to properly re-connect and catch up on everything but at the time I recognised that I had to prioritise my needs. One thing that comes with age is the ability to trust our own instincts. Had I gone to my partner’s I would have thrown myself into domesticity as a coping and blocking mechanism whereas my need for space and time to reflect on everything was essential.

The process for reflection was further enabled by a health and well being morning at school and sessions on Mindfulness, Book Reading ( as it says on the tin) and Zero Balance massage couldn’t have been better timed!

To round off an unplanned and fairly intense period of self-reflection, I was one of 11 depute head teachers from across the SEIC who met at The Norton House Hotel on Friday to participate in a Collaborative Leadership Workshop delivered by Drew from Drummond International. Not only did we find kindred souls among our peers, and opportunities to participate in co-coaching and networking sessions, we had time to slow the pace right down in order to be fully present and therefore cognisant of how we were all subtly changing our perspectives on the roles we have undertaken and finding hope, optimism and determination to take that energy back to school on Monday. Everyone of us will be proactively engaging with school improvement on so many levels, and I believe this will be achievable because the focus was all about us – not a single power point and no-one talking at us, but rather an incredible sense of peace, calm and well-being. In that room we mattered and we were valued and we know that we can take those messages back to school and further empower staff and pupils to believe that we really do want to get it right for every one of them. We’ve already created a WhatsApp group and the energy and support for each other is genuine and gratifying based on all the messages abounding today: an example of social media at its very best.

I have naturally started to adhere to my personal and professional action plan from the collaboration workshop which was to re-set my priorities and so this weekend has been about catching up on writing tasks before I tackle the inevitable mound of school emails. I have given myself permission to write a reading for L+M’s wedding, prepare the school newsletter and complete this blog. I have also allowed myself to have lunch outside in the garden, cut the grass and mooch along the High Street.

My cynical hat has slipped from my head: if the SEIC can continue to empower and energise those of us in the crucial deputising role then I’m well and truly in. Thank you L, I and Drew.

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