• Charli

Time for Change

In the week before Easter I popped into the Cancer Research shop in North Berwick to buy a blue glass tear drop shaped vase which I had spotted in the window. Much as I try to talk myself into not getting distracted I did also spy a rather perfect pasta dish to match those currently residing in my kitchen cupboard.

As I was paying for my items feeling very pleased with myself that I hadn’t been tempted to even look at clothes I became aware of another customer who was leafing through the card section. She looked somewhat Lulu-esque, with a bright pink walking stick, oversized black tee-shirt over leopard print leggings and the obligatory Sketchers slip on trainers. I should explain that Lulu was my maternal grandmother who remained stylish until she died aged 87yrs. She was wearing her hair bright pink long before Zandra Rhodes made it universally fashionable and I clearly recall Lulu recounting how on one occasion she had to resort to using pink shoe cream because her regular supply of hair dye had run out. Lulu would wear many shades of one colour from top to toe, often in very bright hues and always unique!

Back in the Cancer Research shop the aforementioned customer was enquiring as to whether there were any Easter cards. The shop assistant replied that sadly sending Easter cards seems to have become a thing of the past, the vast majority of those wishing to send greetings at festive times doing so via email.

‘That’s all very well’ replied the stylish customer ‘but one can’t put one’s laptop on the wall or mantelpiece can one?’ An insightful comment and a reminder that oft times receiving a card or letter still has the capacity to give much joy to the recipient.

This interlude reminded me that I had received a card and letter from my aunt several weeks prior to the holidays and I hadn’t responded. Upon return from a holiday in Penzance I sat down to write and send a few birthday and Easter cards. My aunt was top of my list especially as I was able to do a 3 in 1 card: new home, birthday and Easter and accordingly sent it to her new address only to discover that she is on the move again and in fact might not have moved yet!

I celebrated my birthday over the Easter weekend which has happened a number of times in my life and I rather enjoy it. I’m not religious in anyway but there is something a bit special about the Easter weekend when families make more of an effort to connect if not in person then by card, text or email regardless that it can’t be put on display. Personally I was delighted that friends had bothered to take time to write me a birthday message on Facebook and I appreciated everyone of them, which also reassured me that when I post a message from the heart it is as genuine in thought as a card would be. I am however very thankful that I also received many cards that adorned my mantelpiece.

Whilst sitting on the beach with B and surrounded by families over the Easter weekend I couldn’t help but think of schools returning after the holiday. Inevitably there is a fair amount of stress at the end of the Spring term for secondary teachers in particular getting pupils exam ready and thoughts turned once again to school holidays and I wondered if it would be an idea to have a set 2 week Easter holiday regardless of when Easter weekend falls. This could allow for more strategic curriculum planning and ease confusion each year trying to accommodate the never-ending change in Easter dates which can be up to four weeks from one year to the next. A Head Teacher friend from East Renfrew informed me recently that this is done in her authority and has resulted in better planning and allows for effective exam preparation.

During a recent discussion with professionals about teacher capacity for continuous learning there was some disagreement as to what constitutes capacity for learning and why it should have changed in the past few years. Two of us in the discussion overwhelmingly agreed that the emotional demands put on class teachers, curriculum leaders and senior leaders makes the desire to absorb further learning more challenging because many of us are emotionally drained at the end of the day. It’s not enough to accept that there is a requirement for lifelong professional learning without recognition that the nature of teaching has changed. We three all graduated with a B.Ed (Hons) in Primary thirty years ago and it is without question that expectations for professionalism have radically increased and in most instances for very good reason. However resources have diminished, budgets continue to be cut and further change is afoot with the inception of Regional Improvement Collaboratives. The teaching profession needs support, stability and sustainability. Perhaps it was naive of me to assume that all RICs would approach the change with a unilateral national agreement, but I gather this is not the case as each collaborative is spending finances very differently, and indeed the size of each RIC varies significantly.

Personally I will continue to remain cynical about these sweeping changes and much as I hope to be proven wrong, can’t help but think that before long the teaching profession will be at the behest of the next bright idea which will be to return the large and unwieldy collaboratives into smaller more manageable local authorities. Anybody else getting a sense of déjà vu?

As the weekend concludes and for no particular reason I find myself counting my blessings. The weather has been extraordinarily kind to us in North Berwick as sadly much of the country has been battered by high winds and heavy rainfall, and I have spent quality time with friends and family, as well as just the right amount of time route seule. I am healthy, live in a beautiful town and have exciting future events to look forward to, not least L+M’s wedding in July.

I have also learned that it is essential to be kind to ourselves, make time for healing if needed and really try to focus on a positive if not every day then at least every 2-3 days. Worrying and fretting over what has been or what is to come does nothing but create a negative forcefield that sucks all trace of joy and hope into it. Look aboot ye and smile.

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