A lot of 2020 has felt like running a hundred miles an hour to stand still. Sadly 2021 may not be too different – at least to start with.
However, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about 2021, not least thanks to the promise of vaccines that could bring normality back to our lives.
How then can we ensure we build on this optimism and don't just spend this year running to stand still but find ways to return to your career – and personal – growth, whatever that looked like?
How teachers can prioritise positivity and personal growth
Here are some fun, practical and useful ways to do just that.
1. Host teacher swap days
If practical, you could let teachers swap classes for the day and try a new year level. For example, my students created a fire safety lesson and taught it to a lower grade.
I supervised them teaching it and it was good to immerse in a new year level for myself and the students.
Of course, this may not be feasible right now, but when it is, it's worth thinking about.
2. Be a guest speaker in another class
You could talk about something you are passionate about. This means you can liven up another class by delivering a segment of a lesson instead of the subject teacher.
It may be that a Year 8 English class are learning how to deliver and prepare for presentations. This could be your chance to go and give them an account of your best and worst presentations as a warmer for their lesson.
Alternatively, you can invite other teachers or staff as guest speakers into your class. The good thing about this is it can be done quite easily remotely as well as in school, depending on your circumstances.
3. Broaden your networks
Try to suggest cross-community swaps so that, rather than the focus being on peer learning in just one school, it could happen across schools digitally.
My current school has a partner school on the other side of town. Sometimes, professional development sessions can be mixed together with staff from both schools attending and sharing ideas.
With the shift to virtual meetings, cross-community professional development sessions are easier to conduct. Alternatively, partnering and sharing and conducting professional development sessions with neighbouring schools could be a possibility.
4. Focus on your role
Mention it in your next appraisal or catch-up meeting: I think it is useful to make a wish list. Create a mind map or a vision board of your future career. Ask what opportunities are available that will help you gain the direction you want.
Don’t forget to follow up after the meeting and to ask for feedback outside of catch-up meetings, too.
You can also use the European Profiling grid and reference it to your line manager, identifying areas you would like to grow in and how this can be achieved.
5. Boost team camaraderie
Build staff morale by suggesting team-building exercises or fun activities
This can be in the form of an online bingo quiz across different departments or you could take part in team staff enrichment programmes – for example, I have been taking Arabic classes once per month with colleagues.
6. Push your career forward
Apply for internal and external roles, and spark your passion back doing interviews. It could help you grow or help you appreciate where you are now if you realise what you have feels better than the roles on offer.
7. Understand yourself
Answer a wellbeing survey for your own personal record and try to identify if there are any personal issues that could be rectified. Sometimes it can help to admit if this is holding us back.
In the chaos of 2020, we may well have neglected ourselves and what we truly enjoy about work or want to achieve – so be honest and assess what you want and what you have and how you can act on this information.
8. Read widely
After reading Angela Duckworth’s book on the growth mindset, I am more open to feedback from students and staff. I remind myself to create space to try new approaches, whether they are a success or failure, as learning is the most important part. This has all taken place thanks to the simple act of reading.
So if there's a book that's been gathering dust on your "must-read" shelf then now is the time to get stuck in. New ideas and inspiration could be just what are needed to regain control in this strangest of times.
We owe it to ourselves to keep a portion of our time, however small, for our own development.
Orla Carlin is an English teacher working in the UAE. She has taught internationally for seven years