We Must Not Go Back to Normal

It seems a common thread amongst the media, friends and online interactions is related to some of the things that we can’t wait to do when we ‘get back to normal’. Going back to normal would be the worst thing we could do. We should not return to the state we were in before this tragic and still unfolding pandemic.

I asked the question, what is the best thing about lockdown? Within twleve hours there had been over 500 replies. The most common responses have fallen overwhemingly into two categories:

Time to do various things – hobbies, think, clean, sort, watch, do

Family – being around them and spending time with them

Whilst there are awful consequences to the global situation we have to look for the postives. The thread from last night (https://twitter.com/secretht1/status/1248664862286372870?s=21) is full of them. There are so many examples of people being able to use their time to do things they have been waiting to do for such a long time. It is littered with people exclaiming they are reconnecting with their children, or seeing their child take their first steps. These are wonderful things.

However, how have we got ourselves to this state? This doesn’t just apply to teachers, it applies to workers everywhere. We are rediscovering what is important to us and what really matters. Of course, at the moment we have more time to spend with families, more than we ever could when we are working at full tilt as we were before lockdown. Reading that parents are being able to reconnect with their young children breaks my heart though. It shouldn’t be this way. This isn’t the parents fault. It is not through lack of willingness, attentiveness or love. It is because of the situation professions have painted themselves into with expectations, the constant quest to be seen to be doing enough and the unrealisitic expectations of others. How, as a society, have we allowed ourselves to reach the point where the one thing we don’t have is time to spend with those that are nearest and dearest to us? I am as guilty of this as anyone at times. This is exactly why we can’t go back to normal.

Normal was not working.

Normal made us neglect.

Normal took away the best part of humanity – togetherness.

Very, very few of the replies to my question mentioned the time to complete work tasks. They aren’t important now. I’m not suggesting that we will never feel the pressure of work again, that’s ludicrous. We will, because that is working life. There will be busy times where we can’t carve time out to do the things we have enjoyed during this time. Maybe though, we need to reflect on how we go about our work when we return. We must change our understanding of normal. It will be so easy to be well intentioned to do this on our return, but we know that within a week it will be far to easy to slip into old habits – habits which made many of us miserable, stressed and unhappy in our work at times.

How do we do this? We need to make positive choices ourselves. We need to resolve to do this and make it happen. Pick three things to initially change. Think about the extra work you do. There will always be thousands of things you can do in your job. Start by just doing the ones you have to do. After that, see if you have any time to work on others. Think about whether it is essential that piece of work gets done this evening. Would you mental health and life, and ultimately your productivity be better served by spending time with your family instead?

Leaders – what are you requiring of your collegues? We have made plenty of brave decisions so far during this time, but perhaps the bravest are yet to come. We have an opportunity to change our working habits for the better. How can you as a leader enable this? It will take self reflection, looking at what is useful and what tasks are bloating peoples workload but, now more than ever, there should be a willingess to do this. Take the opportunity that is given to us out of a terrible situation. It will need systemic change too and this is where we need bravery from policy makers too.

Don’t think you can’t make a difference though. Lead by example. You might not be able to change your whole organisation – but you are in control of what you do to an extent. Resolve not to go back to normal, but to make a new way where all of those things we value now stay at the top of our list of priorities where they belong.

Published by @secretHT1

Primary HT. Using this as a space to write honestly and freely about the state of education currently.

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