I’m writing this on New Years Day, a temporal landmark that helps me leave all that happened in 2015 behind and start fresh.
So what is to come in 2016? For me new challenges.
I’ll be starting the year as relieving principal of what’s commonly called a behaviour school, for students in Kindergarten to Year 4. These are students who for various emotional and behavioural reasons do not do well in a mainstream setting, but the aim of the school is to get them to the point where they can.
Students attend the school four days each week, remaining in their home school on the fifth. The teachers work closely with their home schools to support their re-integration into the mainstream setting. By the end of their three term placement, the number of days at their home school increases, until finally, they return full time.
It’s a good program. I’ve worked with a number of children and families who have had their lives turned around by this and similar programs. And its so important. These children’s first experiences of school are often of alienation, and that can colour their experience throughout life. If we can’t turn things around, these children are at high risk of poor social, emotional and educational outcomes.
Aside from the obvious challenge of working with such high need students and families, I’ll be responsible for leading a team of teachers and learning support officers who are operating in roles which are both physically and emotionally demanding.
There’ll also be the steep learning curve of managing school finance, and of being a site manager.
And I’ll be working with a broad range of stakeholders. In addition to parents and students, I’ll be working with the Department of Health, an NGO who will be managing a residential part of the school, the home schools for all the different students, and even the taxi drivers who provide transport for students to and from the school.
On top of this, I’ll be commencing a Master of Education (Research).
So, my priority going in to the year is to ensure I remain healthy and fit enough, both physically and mentally, to manage all of this.
I’ve learned the hard way that if I over commit, I don’t do well in any area of life, and given my recent ‘episode‘ I’m even more cognisant of the need to take care of myself.
To bring myself back to a state of good health, I put in to place practices that I need to maintain. Having a healthy diet and regular exercise were obvious, but the other that was vital to my recovery and to my continued well being was ‘me time’.
I have always been a reflective person, and need time to think, process and make sense of things. If I’m busy, always involved in activities or surrounded by people, I go under. Making time to simply be in my own headspace is essential to my wellbeing. It’s also one of the things that can most easily be sacrificed when I’m busy, because it seems hard to justify the necessity of simply ‘being’ when there are so many demands on time.
So, the practices I began last year that I mean to continue include:
- No work on weekends. This probably won’t be possible in 2016 if I’m combining work and study, but I still need to quarantine some time. I need to learn what the demands will be to determine how best to manage, but hope to quarantine at least one day of the weekend. Another option might be to schedule weekends off or away every few weeks.
- Get a good night’s sleep. This is going to be the hardest part as I’ve struggled with insomnia for years. But I found avoiding wine on week days, staying hydrated, going to bed at a reasonable time, and reading a book rather than surfing the net on my smartphone before sleeping helps a lot.
- Get up early. I started getting up at 5:30 am last year, even though I didn’t need to leave my home until 8. I loved it. The sun would just be rising and the only sound was bird song. I’d read, write, have a leisurely breakfast, make lunch and bid a somewhat smug farewell to my partner who would leave getting up until the last minute then fly out the door feeling stressed – which is exactly what I used to do. Making time to start the day slowly made the whole day run well. Work didn’t feel as if it was taking over, but was just one part of a varied day.
- Walk or run every day. I NEED exercise to clear my head and to get rid of tension. In 2015, I would either walk to and from work (45 minutes each way) or go for a late afternoon run. I won’t be able to walk this year, and I’m not sure how late I’ll be working. I’m considering using the school grounds after hours for exercise. The school has large grounds, with a walking track and a swimming pool. There could be some good possibilities there.
Since I’ve already begun these practices, this is not so much a list of resolutions as of intentions. The main priority for me as I head into 2016 is to prioritise those things that will keep me well. If I don’t have my health, I’m not much use to anyone.