By Jenny Bowers
Those of you familiar with the developments of SENCO wellbeing #senco5aday will recall how #TeamADL have distilled the 5 components of the Foresight (2008) study into three elements: People, Place & Purpose. In exploring ‘people’ as part of the ‘Return to School’ post COVID19, we invited Jenny Bowers to share her thoughts on ‘packing your suitcase’. Enjoy!
March 8, 2021 heralds a new season in education and a new part of the COVID journey. We need to be ready and prepared as we can be for the return of all students to schools and settings. It may have been a while since you packed your SENCO suitcase, so what do you need to do? In this blog, I use the ‘packing your suitcase’ metaphor to help SENCOs think about how they prepare and invest in their wellbeing at the same time. It’s all about when, what and the how to pack.
When to pack?
I have always been a day before packer, (although I have a couple of reliable lists of ‘to pack’, one for a generic holiday and one for the more specialised festival camping bag). A friend packs over a week in advance, popping things in as she thinks of them. Two different methods, same outcome; a packed suitcase prepared and ready to go before we leave. What is your preferred time for packing?
As a last-minute packer, I’m often left thinking:
- Is it the right type of suitcase?
- Can I carry it?
- Is it bursting at the seams or the zips straining under the pressure?
- Is it reliable or will it break as it is thrown into the back of the car?
- Are there things trailing out of it?
- Can I get to the bits that I need first without difficulty? (A side pocket for my ID and ticket? A secure place for my phone and purse?)
This may sound a bit doom and gloom. It is certainly not about being a worrier. Just making time and space to think through the process, recognise our strengths, but also areas where we need support from our team. I was chatting this through with Anita Devi, and here is what she said,
Returning on 8th March 2021 after lockdown 3 – this needs to be seen and presented to staff, students and parents alike as a key milestone, in the academic year journey. It is a milestone to reconnect, reset and start over. There will obviously be some residue issues from lockdown and some learners with clinically vulnerable needs may still need to be educated from home. However, we need to view this date as an opportunity to re-establish healthy boundaries of working. SENCOs are often too quick to take on additional tasks and/or create extra (and sometimes unnecessary) work. Here is my top tip: map out the trajectory for the next 6 months. What needs to be done and who from your wider SEND team (i.e., the whole school / institution) can do it? One final thought … education and leadership are both like a journey. The suitcase metaphor Jenny uses provides us with a good foundation to plan, pack and be prepared for the next stage of our travels. Onward!”
So back to my questions to think about.
What to pack?
How to pack?
Finally, have I got my itinerary? This is important! You need to make sure you do everything you want to do, but not cram it all in so you have no time to relax, or to reflect on what you have seen/done. Maybe some things are better left for next time?
Two tools that can help you prioritise the day-to-day stuff:
(1) Urgent / non-urgent matrix
When facing a list of to-dos, it helps to sift and sort using established criteria. The matrix below looks at urgent and importance. You may have your own criteria.
(2) The 1, 3, 5 list
This is great for organising what you will need to get through day one productively. You cannot do everything at once. Using this model, you can build for day 2 or 3 and so on.
Thinking about the rest of the half term and the bigger strategic picture: in the first half term have you scheduled in a meeting with your SEN governor and your line manager? This will help to check if everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. A coaching or supervision session booked in within the first 4-6 weeks, can also be supportive. I will be returning to these subjects in my next blog for #senco5aday, later this month.
A few final thoughts … as you start to pack:
- Do not pack too soon, as you may end up taking something out to use and then forget to put it back in (yes, my friend did this).
- Do not pack too last minute as you may well forget something important and end up having to deal with some stress (yes, that is how my list was born!)
- If you are not sure what to pack, ask a colleague, connect, and collaborate with fellow SENCOs.
Most importantly, if the suitcase does burst open, do not panic, reach out and get support in putting it all back together again, maybe in a different case or a different way!
Do let us know, how your first day / week goes!
About Jenny Bowers:
Jenny is passionate about empowering educators to excel. She believes that a culture built on ensuring excellent wellbeing, where coaching and supervision is an entitlement for staff, enabling them to work to the very best of their abilities. This means they will have a good work life balance and good mental and physical health. Jenny is very focussed on her purpose and from the tender age of 3, she knew she wanted to work in education. After, pursuing a degree that had a year at university in the USA and a gap year to experience work in other sectors, this became a reality, with Jenny training as a 3-11 year old specialist. Jenny has taught in different areas in England and in addition to teaching has been DSL, SENCO, deputy head and headteacher. In all these roles, staff wellbeing as been at the heart of Jenny’s approach. She continues to serve in this area through coaching and supervision. You can engage with jenny via Twitter @jennypurplemoon (ask her about the moon image … it is quite a story!)
#TeamADL is a non-for-profit multi-agency team of specialists, committed to developing people, growing organisations and strengthening localities. Find out more at www.teamadl.uk