Transitioning out of lockdown | Education Support
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Transitions - wellbeing of teachers and education staff

Transitioning out of lockdown

4th June 2020

Teacher and author Andy Sammons shares somes thoughts about the impact on teachers and education staff of transitioning out of lockdown.

About a week into lockdown, I was heartened to hear from colleagues across the country that, in some cases, anxiety levels were actually decreasing.

It made me reflect on my own thoughts, feelings and experiences. I love my school - my team is amazing, my line manager is honest, kind and always constructive, and the kids at my school are superb. Yet, my anxiety has undoubtedly decreased over the last couple of months. Why?

For me, I think the root of much anxiety is the disconnect between our agency and the life we’re leading; during lockdown, life has been hugely simplified (if only for a relatively short amount of time in the grand scheme of things). This is not to say that I’ve been walking round in an oasis of bliss and tranquility since March - not possible with a 3 year old and a 9 month old.

It’s forced me to confront my mind (and my kids…) nuts, bolts and all. The transition to the life I now lead was tough; lurching around Tesco at 11pm trying to get hold of Calpol for the kids and paracetamol for my wife and I felt uncomfortable. As a nation we were trying to make the adjustment.

I think the coming weeks and months will be tough too as the educational cogs start to creak back into motion. I’ve a feeling that ‘business as usual’ in September might be optimistic, and what we do with that the time in between will require a degree of mindfulness and awareness of the difficulties we face.

In a nutshell, school will not be what we recognise for a good while, and leaders, teachers and pupils need to come to terms with that. We need to get to grips with what we can achieve in the coming months in terms of curriculum design, reading for our own professional development and also how we can best support our students.

What psychologists call ‘tricky brain’ often comes into play when we have more chance to ruminate on things. I suspect at leadership level, leaders are looking at other schools and ensuring that they are doing what they should be doing- I’m sure that many of you will agree that the comments from political figures such as Andrew Adonis have been unfair and far from constructive in this regard.

Yes, there will be those who will batter schools with vitriol about disadvantage gaps, for example. But those inequalities aren’t a result of Covid-19. They’re a result of deeply entrenched social injustice. Schools and teachers are a vital catalyst for change, and that isn’t going to be any different as life resumes. Rushing back and putting undue pressure on parents, students and colleagues to try to blast back to normality - it’s not sustainable, nor is it realistic.

My headteacher is superb: he has a clear vision that he constantly articulates, and is confident in ‘our offer’ to the students, and what is right for us. We need to do that on an individual level, and be confident in what we are as friends, family members, parents, teachers and leaders. We’re living through something our grandparents didn’t even live through- so as we emerge from this, small, purposeful steps will be vital.

As we make the transition back into school life, please do take the time to be mindful and kind to yourself.

Andy Sammons is a Director of English in a large secondary school in Wakefield, is a passionate advocate of improving mental health in schools, and is author of the book The Compassionate Teacher

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