Since 2000, Ronan Keating has been singing “Life is a Roller coaster”, contestants on X Factor tell Dermot O’Leary they’ve been on an emotional roller coaster from the beginning to the end of their journey and possibly every SBL at one time or another has described on twitter a period of time or even working for THAT Headteacher from the past as a roller coaster ride.
We all have our own professional emotional SBL roller coaster ride, which twists and turns around and through our personal emotional roller coaster. How many times have you been grateful for a steady piece of track at work as it looked like the roller coaster car was coming off the personal roller coaster track at home? Or vice versa? How many times have you felt your two roller coasters of professional and private were on a simultaneous fast downward spiral into the darkness and there was no way of controlling the brakes and the young roller coaster operators at the control desk seemed to be oblivious of the impending doom. It’s a very unpleasant feeling. This blog isn’t going to focus on our personal emotional roller coasters, we cannot control or influence when a parent falls ill, when a partner loses their job or how much revision a child does for their exams. If anything like this is being experienced by you right now – huge virtual hugs to you.
As every H&S aware, risk assessment writing, compliance abiding good SBL has probably guessed, real roller coasters are subject to some pretty strenuous tests to ensure they are up to the job of entertaining safely the masses hour in hour out as they face steep slopes, tight turns and inversions. Hopefully your own professional emotional roller coaster is a top of the range one, modern, designed by experts, computer feedback to knowledgeable operators paid more than minimum wage to ensure the safety of those on the elevated railroad track. Remember though, even this type needs maintenance, to be taken out of service temporarily to have an overhaul, touch up of the car paintwork, soiled seats replaced etc… I know we all have long lists of important tasks to complete this Term 7, but maybe your working hours in Term 7 don’t need to mirror those of the rest of the year. Of course, do what you are contracted to do, but be aware that your emotional roller coaster can have a slower patch, maybe a more scenic route and if you’ve got some time off take that car off the track and store it safely in a little box for the duration of your hols. I can say that this year slightly more easily as we’ve got no major building works lasting the duration of Term 7, but I do know its very hard for those who are dealing with big change in Term 7 to switch off and shift focus – my heartfelt sympathies to you.
Only 5 more weeks left of Term 7, 2 of those for me will be on leave and no I’m not going on a roller coaster! Three years ago, in Florida, as I got off my penultimate roller coaster in Busch Gardens I thought “hmm I think I’ve had enough of this sort of fun”, then when I got off the last roller coaster this was confirmed to me. All the highs had been replaced, with all the what ifs? My anxiety levels had increased – ensuring my boys were ok when I was unable to keep hold of them the whole time to stop them from falling out if required during all the loops and inversions, what if the roller coaster broke down when we were upside down? Was my seat belt really secure? not sure the teenager checking it was looking at what they were doing when they checked mine…the list went on. Suddenly our fortnight of pure family joy and exhilaration in the Florida theme parks was beginning to be tarnished with my anxieties. Jeepers my Fitbit tells me my heart rate rose considerably as I wrote that paragraph!
What do you do when gravitation and acceleration are not in play and you feel like you are sinking with disappointment or anxiety when something goes wrong? What about the gravitational pull that gets you distracted from your main role or accelerates you too quickly for comfort towards a looming hefty deadline? How do you equalise the forces of gravitation and acceleration to maximise and sustain the feeling of flying and success? Are you even aware when this is happening to you? Modern roller coasters operate at speeds of 100km/hr, without an engine, just using chains, pulleys, induction motors or electromagnets. They rely on natural forces and use fins underneath the track to slow the car down due to friction. Glad I learnt all this after our fantastic two weeks in Florida!
How do you make sure you are smiling not screaming when the flash goes off and the photo is taken on your roller coaster ride? Just in case you’ve lost your manual for maintaining your SBL roller coaster here is some guidance on preparing yourself for the next academic year:
- Manage the queues – manage the expectations of colleagues. Communicate clearly.
- Avoid being irritated by the queues and give yourself a Fast Pass for the first couple of days of Term 1. May seem bonkers but don’t plan to do anything, keep your work schedule free to literally help others – new staff, existing staff, new parents, your office crew etc.. to get strapped into their roller coaster seats as quickly and effectively as possible so the ride can start without delay.
- Ride it and accept that you need the downward parts of the roller coaster to gain speed and momentum to propel you forwards. The academic year is cyclical and therefore elements are incredibly predictable, so we can reduce the feeling of acceleration by planning, delegating and rescheduling non-date sensitive work.
- Apply the brakes! – Check those roller coaster braking fins – have #SBLLunch at least weekly even better if it is daily. Walk around your school and talk with the children, let them remind you why you’re an SBL. My (out of hours) fins are eating giant chocolate buttons, drinking gin and meeting up with lovely friends. I understand other fins which have a similar braking affect include running, being creative or reading. Avoid applying the brakes by burying yourself in more work and taking on more demands. These are destructive fins, which could damage your roller coaster car or create obstructions on the track.
- If all else fails, re-establish your roller coaster in a new Theme Park.
Wherever your personal or professional roller coaster ride is going to take you in 2018-19, remember Ronan’s wise words – “don’t fight it, life is a roller coaster, just gotta ride it.”