Best of times, worst of times
I came into teaching “late”, and when I was deciding whether to make the leap into the classroom, I spoke to a wise, experienced teacher (my dad!). He said I needed to consider the fact that I would spend the majority of each working day away from my colleagues. As teachers, most of our day-to-day contact is with students, not with our peers.
Teaching can be extremely rewarding. But it can be lonely, too.
Sometimes, teaching can feel like a never-ending treadmill of data, “conversations”, tests, intervention, catch-ups, chasing, marking…. Teachers can feel pressure from “the big O”, SLT, pupils, parents, colleagues… themselves. It is easy to get caught up in a negative cycle and forget the positives.
Teaching can feel lonely. And sometimes we have to be reminded that there’s life outside the classroom.
Two years ago, Yvonne stood up in our morning briefing and said she wanted to help inject a bit of cheer into everyone’s lives. She’d heard about “secret buddy” schemes (like this one) via Twitter , and wanted to start one at our school. You can read more about similar schemes, and teacher wellbeing in general, by searching for #teacher5aday on Twitter (and looking at accounts like @teacher5aday or Martyn Reah)
The idea is simple. You are assigned a buddy, and it is your job to cheer them up over the course of the year with little gifts, notes, and acts of kindness. The “secret” part is that you don’t know who your buddy is. You fill in a questionnaire at the start of the process, so your buddy knows things about you like when your birthday is, what kinds of snacks you like, what makes you laugh and so on. Then it is up to them to decide how (and when) to inject little bits of cheer into your days.
Yvonne told us to be as imaginative and fiendishly clever as we wanted to be. She gave examples of people smuggling in Full English Breakfasts for their buddies, for example. But she also stressed that it doesn’t have to be so elaborate, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. A little post-it note wishing someone a lovely day can be a simple boost, and a reminder that people care.
Smiles and intrigue
The scheme has been really successful. It creates a real buzz, as people try and work out who their buddy is (we have had many discussions about this in our coffee room). And you really do feel a glow when you find something waiting for you in your pigeon-hole. Someone is thinking of you. Someone has thought of you. Someone has taken the trouble to brighten up your day.
Of course, the whole point of the scheme is that you don’t know who your buddy is, so you can’t actually say thank you to them. This has, at times driven me to distraction! But I also like the fact that I don’t know who my buddies have been. They have been caring and funny. But they are still un-named.
However, Yvonne has made a special “Thank you board” in the Staffroom, so you can tell your buddy just how wonderful they are.
I’ve had two buddies now. The first one heard about some particularly tragic news that had affected me, and sent me a card, and this still makes me feel quite touched when I think about it. My second buddy had a real knack of sending little notes that made me smile: jokes, poems, comments about life. And the notes were always accompanied by little gifts. Both buddies brought little moments of joy throughout the year.
I also gained a great deal from giving “gifts” to my buddies. I really hope that they experienced the same joy that I did from the scheme.
Third year… join in
The secret buddy scheme is now entering its third year. Pick up a questionnaire, and post it in the staffroom to join in. It’s really worth it.