Open your eyes. A guest blog by Jenny Martindale

“We are only as blind as we want to be”

Maya Angelou

Every lesson counts. Every part. Every minute. Every second. I think I became a little obsessional this half term. I purchased a kitchen style timer so I could consecutively time activities and check my slides in order to ensure transitions flowed as smoothly as swans glide upon water.   Everything must be seamless, smooth: no wasted moments. Every opportunity for learning taken.

Term time it feels that the speed, pace and rigidness of the school day infects every part of your life. There’s never enough time to do things in the way you’ve originally planned. Somehow the vision you had for some amazing teaching and learning experience that would transform and revolutionise the lives of one or more pupils becomes not quite as you’d anticipated. Ambition versus reality…wiser, senior and more experienced members of staff advise with kind, gentle words and realistic, muted enthusiasm. And I have the feeling that they heard this idea before, something similar, many years ago and it may or may not have had some impact. Still I feel it’s a failure; I question myself: is this a moment lost? An opportunity gone.

Holiday time everything seems so achievable. Term time the teaching treadmill starts at break-neck speed from the offset and as a working parent you don’t run alone. Inexplicably there’s two races that run at completely different speeds. It’s taken fifteen minutes for the eldest child to put on their shoes. Why does it seem so momentous? It would possibly be just ten minutes to anyone not a teacher. Yet so many days it seems those ten minutes will make or break the school day.

How can I be more efficient? Where’s the wastage in the day? What time of the day do I work the best? Every holiday it’s the same- evaluate and review. This is achievable and manageable I tell myself. It has to be when you’ve given your heart and soul to a job you love.

So many times I’ve told myself that you’re just looking at this from the wrong angle or perspective. This term I vowed to make more time for those important individual conversations with pupils and valued and loved colleagues and at home, I’d never again wonder how my youngest had grown nearly as tall as the stairgate in what felt like a single beat of my heart.

As usual, with all my ambitious missions, it started off so well… for about a week. Yet, too soon lessons were a sprint to the finish with the seemingly never-ending amount of items to hand out, stick in, label and the imperative checking of progress. The things that make lessons concrete, that are the bones of it.

Yet I often feel I just need a moment longer with that pupil, that colleague, my children. I live in a beautiful chaos of sticky kisses, hear every day from pupils who are seeing the word from untainted eyes and yet I’m fearful of the moments I’ve lost, the things I should have seen.

I’d organised a short time to catch up at lunch time with some members of my Year 7 form. I wanted some precious moments with them, to try and form that important bond that needs to be formed in the first year. They were seventeen of the nicest school minutes this academic year. Listening to their experiences so far, their plans for the future and being able to focus just on them uninterrupted made my term. They asked me as we all raced off to afternoon registration if we could do it again. Of course was my reply. It was an opportunity to give those pupils a moment in the rush of a typical school day, the chance to find their voice, feel their value and worth among so many others.

Despite the initial success of it, the doubts soon crept in. Was it enough? Would it be enough? How often could I do it to make those pupils believe and feel their worth?

There’s so many important things to do, that have to be achieved in a typical working day, how can we find these moments?

If you can find those planned and unplanned moments, to be brave enough to ignore the rising panic in your brain of everything else that must be achieved, I can promise you it will be worthwhile. Because I smile at the toy train filled with baby animals going to school under the dining room table that we made rather than saying the behaviour of a four year old was not acceptable when they were stalling to leave the house. It’s nearly the end of term but I’m still filled with ambition to make the world what a brand new secondary school pupil wants it to be.

If you can give that moment to someone, to look into their eyes and listen, you should take it.




3 thoughts on “Open your eyes. A guest blog by Jenny Martindale

  1. This is beautiful. I have always felt that it is the unplanned moments that help a class connect with each other, because we are after all, human. The students remember the teachers and the moments where they were treated like people, not statistics.

  2. A lovely post – thanks for sharing Jenny/Emma. Have got behind with my blog reading so catching up with this on the day schools resume after Feb half-term. Appropriate!

    The point about time is that it’s THERE. It’s really all about priorities – and trying to make sure that our priorities aren’t constantly driven out by the priorities of others.

    Very best wishes with getting your priorities right, and feeling happier with your choices, this half term, Jenny. And try not to worry about “Is it enough?” It’s a start.

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