We did it ... and you can too

4th January 2008 at 00:00
Decorations down, detox underway, so what's next for 2008? Madeleine Brettingham talks to four teachers who resolved to turn their lives around - permanently.

It's easy to be cynical about New Year's resolutions. We all make them, but how many of us assume we'll be back to our old ways before the party clothes are back from the dry cleaners? However, it is possible to use the start of a new year to turn your life around, with a bit of courage and determination. To celebrate the start of 2008, The TES Magazine talks to four teachers who put last year's resolutions into practice.

"I found romance"

Lynne Adderley was a lecturer at a sixth form college in Lancashire when her husband went missing while on holiday in France.

The 38-year-old suffered shock and the indignity of being informally questioned as a murder suspect, before he resurfaced four months later, bedraggled and giving little explanation for his disappearance. They later separated.

Now two years later - after months spent battling low self-esteem and the damaging loss of trust she suffered as a result - Lynne has found a new man.

"I love sitting down and having a glass of wine and a natter and a giggle on a Friday night. It's nice just having someone about," she says of Robin, a "brainy guy with a cute smile" she met via internet dating site smooch.com.

On her first date they just "clicked". "There was something really cheeky about him I liked and we've been inseparable since," she says.

She advises other singles not to heed the stigma surrounding the web.

"You get to an age where you don't want to go to a bar and snog the face off a stranger. Not everyone on the internet is a weirdo."

After deciding she was ready to re-enter the world of romance at the start of 2007, Lynne went on a series of dates, many with teachers she met via The TES online staffroom (www.tes.co.uk).

She also expanded her social circle, saw a counsellor to raise her self-esteem and a life coach to set goals for the year ahead, one of which was finding a long-term partner.

Her sessions with the life coach included a self esteem-raising exercise that involved collecting positive testimonies from former students, and helped keep her open to romantic possibilities.

"I realised I was a good person. It put me in a receptive frame of mind and things have happened as a result."

She has even got a heart-shaped tattoo to celebrate her new-found happiness, together with two new kittens.

"I kept saying I wanted a pet but my husband wouldn't let me. Then, two weeks after I met Robin, I found two kittens abandoned in my backyard."

"I got my first head's job"

Tracey McGeever had been teaching for 15 years before the 36-year-old applied for her first headship.

"I never considered it before. My children had just started school and I didn't want the pressure."

She won her first deputy headship 18 months ago after beginning a National Professional Qualification for Headship, and starts as head at St Osburg's Roman Catholic Primary in Coventry this month.

"I'm looking forward to getting to know all the children, rather than just my own class. Being a head is hard, but it's also the best job in the world," says the mother of three.

Tracey credits forward-thinking former bosses with giving her the experience necessary to move up the ladder. In previous roles, she helped implement a thematic curriculum and the healthy schools initiative, as well as seeking experience in finance and administration.

"A lot of deputy heads mainly teach but I was always asking to take things on. I would say, 'can I do the head's report this time?' You've got to find out what the job really entails."

She landed the job in September, after her first interview, and says she immediately warmed to the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the school.

Now she is hoping to introduce a thematic curriculum.

"To be a good head you've got to be able to inspire a team. You've got to have a lot of courage, strength and belief in your own vision, but not in an arrogant way," she says.

"I beat depression"

When Becky Sandle, 30, decided to tackle the depression that had left her drained and miserable, she had no idea how immediate and powerful the results would be.

"At midnight on New Year's Eve 2006 I had a sort of realisation," she says. "I knew that the next year had to be better than last one. And I knew if things were going to change it would have to be because of me."

The previous year, Becky had been the victim of an alleged rape, and her mother had suffered a serious illness, events that left her nursing a deep and numbing anger.

"I closed up. I used to be a happy, bubbly, vivacious person. But it got to the stage where I wouldn't answer phone calls from my Mum or Dad or husband. I just wasn't interested. The only place I felt normal was work."

It took a year for Becky, a maths teacher and head of Year 9 at Bucklers Mead Community School in Yeovil, Somerset, to secure an appointment with a counsellor, during which time her doctor prescribed anti-depressants.

"I am sure they are a lifesaver for some people. But for me they were like a plaster on a wound. They stopped me from feeling so sad and angry. But in a way, I needed to feel that raw emotion."

During the autumn term, Becky reached her lowest ebb and attempted suicide. She recalls how even waking up in hospital with her family around her left her numb.

But, when 2007 dawned, she made a resolution to transform her life. Becky stopped taking anti-depressants, started eating healthily and running to lose the stone and a half she had gained from comfort-eating, and set herself the goal of taking part in the Great South Run for Cancer Research UK.

"It's about taking very small steps. The weight was my first target. It seemed like one small thing I could control."

Now Becky is celebrating her 30th birthday with friends and family, and feeling great.

"I'm surrounded by people I love, wearing a slinky black dress. I feel fantastic and so positive," she says.

The secret lies in the fact she made small, positive changes to take control of her life, and learnt to open up to friends and family, she believes.

"Talk to people you know and you'll be surprised at the response. I wasn't used to asking for help because I'm normally the helper. But sometimes it's good to be able to say, 'I'm not coping'."

"I got my Masters"

After 19 years in the classroom, Michael Arvidson, a science teacher and head of critical thinking at Chatham Grammar School in Kent, was looking for a challenge.

He'd quit his job as a head of science to return to the classroom the year before, but he still craved that extra mental stimulation.

So Michael, 49, decided to finish a Masters he'd begun several years ago, and left incomplete when personal problems and a promotion got in the way.

"I realised I had the time to do it. I just wanted to keep my mind moving and find out how to improve my teaching," he says.

He studied an MA in education with the Open University, setting aside several hours on a Saturday and Sunday for reading, and completing essays during the week.

The course took him three years in total, and cost around pound;11,000 - half of which was paid for by his school.

"They decided it was actually better value than an inservice training day, which they would need to pay supply for," he says.

He attended the graduation ceremony in spring 2007. "I wasn't that bothered - but my mum would kill me if I didn't go," he laughs. "In the photos, she is grinning from ear to ear."

He says units in science education and mentoring PGCE students helped him think about his role, and he even carried out original research (into pupils' attitudes to marking) at school.

"I didn't do it for advancement in my job, I did it for pleasure, but I've found it's really helped in the classroom," he says. "I've enjoyed it, I've read books I've never read before and it helped me analyse the process of teaching. I'd definitely recommend it."

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