I’ve been caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of too much schoolwork and all the home chores I wanted to catch up with in the first week of the summer holiday – achieving not very much in either sphere. No surprises there! When you’ve been working from home since late March, the lines become somewhat blurred. It’s hard to know where to focus the limited energy you have left after spending hours on Zoom. Time to get away and give myself space to recharge and rethink. Cue a few days away beside the sea in Pembrokeshire, walking, reading and spending time with those I love. Yes, the very ones I’ve been holed up at home with for three months.
I never fail to return from a holiday with some ideas for lessons, a determination to maintain a healthy work-life balance and renewed vigour with which to tackle the pile of work which is waiting for me. Usually I have an idea for a novel too – but that’ll have to wait until I’m retired. This time I took a break from my phone too and social media, with which I have had a less than easy relationship of late.
Twitter has provided the most marvellous group of people for me to get to know over the years – gardeners and teachers mostly. I’ve magpied some fabulous resources for lessons. Since lockdown I have indulged in hours of really useful professional development – all free of charge. But I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the rise of the edu-celebrity tweeter. By this I mean a group of teachers (or ex-teachers) who are never short of an opinion (or a book to market), retweet and recommend each other as experts and have lost a little humility and kindness in the way they engage with other teachers, especially those who hold different opinions and have different ways of working. Perhaps it’s a given when you have part-time celebrity status on the echo chamber that is Twitter? having Saudi that, the gardeners I follow – professional and amateur are never less than generous and humble in their interactions. I know that gardening brings happiness whereas teaching sometimes does not. It’s true!
A break has allowed me to curate my Twitter feed – an excellent idea on a regular basis. Muting the white noise has given me space.
Space to be creative is just as important for students as it is for their teachers. I’m so glad that summer school is not a ‘thing’ around here. After weeks of Zoom teaching and work packs from school and the media-hyped idea that the current cohort were the ‘lost generation‘ blighted by three months of home-learning in its various guises, these students need a break too. Just as I encourage my daughter and her friends to continue with netball training on a Tuesday, even when there is a test the next day, the summer holidays is a much-needed time to recharge the batteries, organise yourself for next term and approach your courses with a more creative mind.
Here are my top tips for students who want to be more creative In their approach to their studies when they return to school.
- Establish some rituals. If you get up at the same time every day, check your emails or instagram feed at certain times, exercise on the same evenings every week, this will become second nature and you’ll free up time to be creative.
- Have fun, connect with others, especially those who have different ideas to you. Be open-minded and kind.
- When thinking about solutions to problems believe that there are no bad ideas. Don’t self-filter. Jot everything down as viable. Then think through the options.
- Watch films and read books – especially the read books bit.
- Exercise and do it alone, without music and your phone at least some of the time. Silence and exercise = creative energy.
- Practice devotion not discipline. The former has more of a positive vibe.
- Learn to love lists. Unloading your cluttered mind onto paper is another beneficial way to shift a creative blockage.
- Know when your peak work moments are. These are the times when you are at you most creative. Leave the mundane jobs for when you’re more tired.
- Create something every day. Practice makes perfect. Sowing a seed which will become a beautiful plant, making the best scrambled eggs on toast you can, knitting -yes, I know. Me recommending knitting – anything you’ve made is beneficial to your mental health and your creative confidence. If you can do something small then the next step is much easier.
- Do it now. This is about having the confidence and an open-minded approach to allow you to take risks, have a go, avoid the shackles of perfectionism.
I’m going to follow my own advice starting today.