I am signed up to the emailing list for Life-Resourceful, Rachael Roberts’s website, which connects with her Facebook group, Lightbulb Moments – helping ELT Professionals manage stress and gain balance. (If you want to sign up too, it is easy to do so via her website and Facebook.) In her most recent email, she invited us to reflect on 2020 in a positive way despite what a challenge it has posed globally. She offered us the following questions as a starting point:
- What achievement this year are you most proud of?
- What new things did you discover about yourself this year?
- Which of your personal qualities was the most helpful this year?
- What new skills did you learn, work-related or otherwise?
- What, or who, are you most grateful for?
- What little things did you most enjoy during lock-down, and if you want to, how could you make them part of your life going forward?
- Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
- What experience would you love to do all over again?
- Who or what had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
I’m a sucker for reflective questions, so I thought I would accept the challenge and have a stab at answering her questions as a wrap-up post for 2020.
Question 1 – What achievement this year are you most proud of?
No answer came readily to mind, largely because this year seems to have lasted about 60 squillion days so I’m not sure what counts! Turns out I was in fact awarded SFHEA (Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy) recognition this year not last year. Ah yes, having confirmed the date via my email inbox, a vague recollection starts to swim to the surface – working on the portfolio and getting it finished at the end of last year, to then submit in late January this year (the halcyon days of pre-Covid!) and receive confirmation of my success on 4th May.
So I suppose that would be my greatest work-related achievement for this year. There again, so was the (really not so) small matter of surviving the shift to online teaching and ADoSing thrust upon us by the pandemic! In connection with that, getting better at asking for help/support at work when I have needed it has proved useful, as has making the conscious decision to prioritise my health and wellbeing, and that of my relationship. This doesn’t mean slacking off, it just means being more careful about what I take on at work – what I say yes to, and what I say no to. It has also meant going down to 4 day weeks from the beginning of this academic year which has made a real difference to my life balance!
Question 2 – What new things did you discover about yourself this year?
- I discovered that Google meet gives me sensory overload quite easily. I had to come up with strategies to deal with this when the high volume of meetings that characterised the start of lockdown made it apparent. It made me wonder if I am neurodiverse in this way because others I spoke to didn’t experience the same effects as I did.
- I read extensively in the area of neuroscience and now have a much better (though still growing) understanding of how brains, and my brain in particular, work. This helps me handle myself better in both professional and personal arenas.
- I like working from home! (Apart from the Google meet thing :-p ) The lack of commute time freed up lots of time for pre-work exercise and a lunch break is a real break (with freshly prepared food rather than food that has sat in a thermos all morning!). I find it easier to concentrate too as it is quieter at home than in a staffroom.
Question 3 – Which of your personal qualities was the most helpful this year?
Ummm….my carefully cultivated ability to find things to be grateful for and feel positive about? Does that count? I started keeping a gratitude calendar in December last year; it started as an advent calendar but I kept going. And every day, however difficult, there has been something and mostly (always?) more than one thing, however small, to write on it. Or…maybe that I am mentally and emotionally quite strong as a consequence of the challenges life has thrown at me over the years? I’m not really sure! Maybe I need to further clarify for myself what my personal qualities are before I can evaluate them in terms of helpfulness during a pandemic!
Question 4 – What new skills did you learn, work-related or otherwise?
- How to teach online! Including how to use Blackboard collaborate, how to adapt materials to make them work in an online classroom, how to build rapport with students online and so forth. A steep (and ongoing) learning curve!
- How to keep a new relationship going through lockdown – not an experience I wish to repeat. Of course, like anybody, I am hoping this relationship is it so no more new relationships! It involved establishing routines, using google meet for things like yoga, crossword-ing, art, dancing – being creative, really!
Question 5 – What, or who, are you most grateful for?
My lovely girlfriend. This year would have been the pits without her! Being able finally to move in with her so we don’t have to wonder if/when the government/pandemic will stop us seeing one another again. Also, my job/people at work. I am so lucky to work with a fab team of colleagues.
Question 6 – What little things did you most enjoy during lock-down, and if you want to, how could you make them part of your life going forward?
I really enjoyed doing more art! I could make it part of my life by….doing it more! Hopefully that will be a thing once the moving in/unpacking has finished. I also enjoyed being able to be selective in my exercise due to not commuting to/from work on the bike. Commuting to/from work will be a thing again but now I live closer to work so commutes will be short unless I want to make them long by going via the Peak!
Question 7 – Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
Hard to say… Mindfulness has helped me become better at noticing when I am worrying about the future and shifting my attention to now. I worried a lot when family members were ill with Covid but though they are now better I would not say that was unnecessary worry. I suppose in the earlier part of this year, worrying that my girlfriend would get to know the real me and be disappointed! But I did recognise the irrationality of that at the time and manage it successfully.
Question 8 – What experience would you love to do all over again?
Long bike rides on sunny days, days out paddling with my girlfriend, walks in the Peak district in the sunshine together…. there will be more of all the above in 2021!
Question 9 – Who or what had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
I guess the answer to this is obvious! My girlfriend, hands down. Also my line manager/programme leader though. He has been incredibly supportive and another year of working in a supportive environment has done wonders for my confidence and calmness professionally. For a “what”, mindfulness. It has helped me negotiate a very challenging year in a generally positive way.
2020 has certainly been…different! I am lucky to have come through it as well as I have. I am lucky that I had such a positive thing (my relationship) threading through all the challenges I’ve faced.
As for 2021… these are the goals, or values, I identified at the start of the academic year and they stand:
- Be curious! By being curious about everything that I encounter, all the newness that is ahead, I can open up lots of opportunities for learning and growth.
- Be patient! With myself, with my colleagues, with my students. It won’t be an easy year and that is ok, it can still be a positive one.
- Be grateful! Look for the positives and appreciate them. Smile lots.
- Be open to challenge! It’s ok, good even, for things to be difficult, challenge leads to discovery and growth.
- Be kind to myself! Look after myself appropriately, maintain a good work-life balance (easier with the 4-day week!), keep meditating, eat well, exercise regularly, spend quality time with my girlfriend regularly.
Happy Christmas and New Year everybody. I (as ever) hope to blog more next year, particularly as I will be starting an online Italian course in late January and am hoping to learn as much about teaching and learning a language online as I do about Italian, so see you on the other side! Here’s hoping 2021 is kinder to us all.
To finish off, here is a 2020 meme that made me smile: