By Rebecca Thomas
"I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple."
- Jacinda Adern, 7th February 2023
Listening and reading the educational landscape and mental health of our educators this week the most common phrase I have heard in my travels around the motu has been, ‘I’m so tired and it’s only week 5 term 1.’
There is a desperate feeling of the frustration of beginning a brand new year on the back foot.
2023 expectations of our educators is high. Perhaps some of us understand the stakes at play and feel the extra stretch, the emotional and academic support our young people need from us, and they are concerned that they may also be running their tanks on empty too.
A familiar echo from our very own PM at the start of the year. If this is true, and an alarming consensus, what can we do? How can we hang on to the educators we have? How can we lift them up?
If you are a motivator in a school reading this, I urge you to take the following idea back to your school. I confess this idea was passed onto me by a compassionate middle leader going through financial hardship one Christmas. The memory has remained with me nearly 20 years later.
Customarily at Christmas, in the school I was working in the syndicate leaders would buy their teams a small gift at the end of the year to show their appreciation. Working in a very large school this particular middle leader had 18 gifts to buy from their own salary (no budget here for wellbeing gestures) even if they spent $5 that’s a large enough portion of their own wages when in financial hardship, and what can you really get for $5 to show such thanks?
Our cubby holes were gifted with a simple paper token, hand drawn, resembling and old fun fair ticket. On it read a message:
‘Sadly this year I couldn’t get an appropriate gift to equal your dedication, support and professionalism, so this year I’m giving you the gift of time. Please cash this in when you need it. Today I owe you 30 minutes of time: be it a wet playtime you’d rather not oversee; be it a longer lunchtime to replenish your soul; be it covering the staffroom cleaning rota; be it an after school club, or an early exit from a meeting, I will be there.’
And sure enough one by one, at a time when we needed it, a time when we were close to tears she came with a smile to rescue us. And for 30 whole minutes we met our own needs, we claimed our vouchers while she filled her wairua up helping.
Imagine if we began a chain reaction doing this in our schools. Imagine if that as we give a gift of time the teacher in question must pass on the time token and pay it forward. I wonder how far the timeline would stretch? I wonder if it would cross the ocean?
Attached is a set of *Gypsy Clock tokens that you can download and share out if you want to join in.
Coming from a long line of Spanish Gypsies myself, I gift this *Gypsy Clock pass to you.
*Gypsy Clock: A free spirted teacher that doesn't have a timetable or stick to routines. They are always late for assembly as they don't wear a watch and their classroom clock either has a flat battery, or is covered by a display. You can tell which students they teach too, as they are the ones who are late back from break times due to being down the bottom of the field - with their shirt untucked!