So there I was. Alarm set, 4:00am. Train to catch, 5:26am. Expecting to collect my tickets from a self-service machine that actually happened to be inside the main building, requiring staff to be present. The main building was closed and not a soul at the station. Self service? Good start.
I'm now on board the train after a lot of explaining and my iPod battery seems to have developed a fault. No music on my iPhone or iPad (or rather, no Wifi connection on board) and a three hour journey to survive. Expectations for the day are well and truly lowered. Still, I do have a slightly out-of-date website here - maybe it's fate...
More interestingly, however, is that tonight is Burn's Night. And I'm missing it. You see, I'm heading to Manchester for a course and it's going to be a long old, but hopefully exciting, day. It's my choice to be on the course and my choice to skip Burn's night. I've made a choice around that touchy area of a 'work-life balance' and I'm content with it.
At first, this post was going to be aimed primarily at trainee teachers, although I hope that it could resonate with most professionals. Often, as the omniscient lot that we are, we forget to put to practice what we preach...
How often have you said or heard something along the lines of: 'children need first-hand experiences to ensure quality learning and to broaden their minds'? My big concern is that people usually start that with 'children' and not 'humans'. Everyone needs a contrast to their work-life and allowing time to do so doesn't make you any less career-dedicated.
In the past few years I've directed a show, produced a show, presented on local radio, played in a band, performed, written several songs, published articles in the media, invented a solar powered helicopter, and so on. Okay, so I might have made that last one up...
You get the idea, though. And the most frequently asked question is 'how do you manage it all?'. The truth of the matter is, if I didn't do things like that, I'd go insane. I love my job, I really do. But as human beings, we need variety. Scope. Colour. We need sides to our life that aren't always work-focussed. And, most importantly, we need to make - not find - time for it.
A large difficulty for NQTs is, I think, feeling comfortable that you don't need to spend every hour working, preparing, assessing, resourcing, planning, etc to be a good practitioner. Your brain needs a variety of stimuli and your pupils want to see personality - share your experiences and hobbies with them. Use them as part of your practice. It's okay.
Of course, you do need to find a balance. You know what you're capable of and how much you can take on. Try taking on interests or tasks that are flexible as you never know what's around the corner, but make sure that you find something you genuinely enjoy. If going to the gym is more of a chore than a gripping moment in your life, don't go. If learning to play the violin is something quick that you can half-heartedly do once a week, then don't do it. Be true to yourself.
How do you manage your balance? What keeps you going? Do you make time or just hope to find it one day?