Teaching through the Lockdown

"I knew I needed to carve out a new routine for working from home... I knew if I didn’t, it could be very easy to fall into some sort of low patch."

Read this personal and honest account written by one of our music teachers about their life during the lockdown periods and some of his daily coping strategies.

By Steven Hawkins on 23 Feb 2021

I’m sure every teacher in the UK could list off the different ways in which their job has changed. For me this has been no different, and I suppose the nature of working for One Education has enabled me to experience the breadth of changes that were possible. As well as working with large groups, I also normally work with small groups, pairs and one-to-ones, not to mention all the different types of staff that I am used to bumping into and catching up with. It is all these interactions, big through to small, that I have missed the most.

As we all know, we have been in and out of Lockdowns for nearly a full year. In September, my girlfriend Gemma and I moved into our first place together. Gemma is a Dietician at the Christie Hospital and has been working regular shift patterns. After moving into the new place and having to get back to work in September myself, we didn’t have much chance to settle in, but we didn’t realise what was around the corner as Lockdown 3.0 was looming. When this latest Lockdown was announced, both Gemma and I were in shock as I don’ think we quite expected schools to close again. Almost immediately, I knew I needed to carve out a new routine for working from home in the new space. I knew if I didn’t, it could be very easy to fall into some sort of low patch. I wouldn’t even classify myself as somebody who tends to struggle, but the last Lockdown made me learn that we can all go through ups and downs and I learned that a good working routine, regular exercise and feeding the soul are imperative to making sure I can stay consistent with work and staying positive.

Working from home I don’t have to fit my job around children, so for me it was easy to create a timetable for myself. But for me the challenge lay in knowing when to switch off for the day and essentially being comfortable with creating my own boundaries. Simple things such as what room to work in, what time to start and how often to check your email before you start becoming a slave to the dopamine release when you realise you have had a reply on something you’ve been trying to sort out for a while, were important things to consider.

Personally, I am a morning person and I always have been, so I was happy to start early. I wanted to read more this year so I started doing some reading every morning. My morning reads have become somewhat of routine now. And I really do believe, that reading a book in the morning is great for getting your brain fired up; ideas create ideas. From here, once I’m more present I’ll have a posh coffee (with hazelnut or gingerbread syrup) and get the front room ready for exercise. Once I’ve exercised I feel fully charged and ready to go, so my first task is to list everything I need to complete for that day. This lockdown has been the most varied for me in terms of work. It has been a mix up of visiting a school, setting up online learning for schools with Charanga, recording videos for students, making well-being videos and also doing online tuition. Consequently, my list making at the start of the day has really helped me think clearly and not get overwhelmed by unnecessary things. The point at which my day is finished really does vary upon what comes back to me from the schools I have been communicating with that day, but at the point of finishing for the day I would always make sure I get out the house for a short bike ride or walk to clear my head.

Once my head is clear and I am home, that is MY time. And this is where I feel the concept of boundaries are important. I didn’t want to associate my home with just work, so this clear boundary of coming home and working on something for myself is how I fed my soul. I am a keen music producer and I have a little studio set up at home. For me, the nicest point in the day is knowing I have completed all my jobs for the day, knowing my schools are happy and knowing I can switch on my personal computer in my studio and work away without any concerns. It is this that has really kept me sane. Making music is something that is so mindful for me. I literally don’t think about anything else whilst I’m doing it and the plus side is I’m also being productive with something I love outside of work. I think it’s so important that we all have that one thing in our life where we can feel like that.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and life from all the ups and downs of this unusual time. There have been many challenges, but there has also been a huge amount of positivity that has come out. I have been reminded about how much I love walking into a school where the children are excited to see the ‘music man’ walking into their room. And I have felt so inspired to see ways in which different communities have pulled together. I have no doubt all of this will shape the way we feel and think about our work. Now, I’m really looking forward to going back to school, but I hope we’ll all look back and take something from this time, which will shape the way we live our lives so that we all feel more grateful for what we have and what we do.

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