Thinking things through…

I return to work tomorrow. Sigh…

2016 was a big year for me. Not a big year for this blog, but a big year for getting stuck into seriously difficult work at my current school and ensuring that the work that needed to be done got done. It’s worth a blog post of its own, and I just may write one. There was a lot of learning to be had and, dare I say it, many opportunities for “personal growth”.

Unfortunately, this blog’s growth remained pretty stagnant throughout. I’m not going to declare publicly that this situation is going to change in 2017 because I’m beyond making false promises. If I become more prolific, then that will be a good thing, because I’ve found writing cathartic – cleansing for my soul. But, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t. One thing 2016 taught me was that it’s OK – essential even – to take care of your mental state when you are working yourself hard. I found solace in my family, in quiet moments with friends, in reading without feeling the need to break it down in a blog post to help others understand it too. I adopted a slower pace, and it’s taught me that caring for me is pretty damn important.

So, for the last three weeks I’ve sat in the sun, enjoyed time with family and friends, read my Twitter feed (that’s a constant), and discovered some great viewing on Netflix. I’m rested.

One of the Netflix finds was ‘Black Mirror‘, a series that explores in single stand alone episodes the potential impact of new technology and the effects it may bring to bear. It’s fascinating and unsettling all at once. While trying to find out more about the series writer, Charlie Brooker, I came across this YouTube clip of him discussing what provoked the series creation.

I was entranced by the first part of the interview, as so much of what Charlie said echoed thoughts I’ve had over the past year. Like Charlie, I’m increasingly concerned about our inability to control technology that is going to have an impact on all of our lives and I worry about future possible scenarios that may play out. Charlie speaks of how he became fed up with writing columns as there was a cacophony of noise with so many sharing extraneous information. I’ve felt much the same at times. There are so many people writing in education spaces and it seems (feels) like my contribution would be pithy so I find myself withdrawing, lacking the drive to contribute, or starting, and creating for the first time ever, unfinished drafts that never see the light of day.

Maybe, as Charlie thought, I’ve already said enough?

Well, I’m writing this post so I don’t really think so. (Heck, Charlie wrote series episodes!) I do have words, thoughts, ideas to contribute. Maybe a few unfinished drafts will see the light of day, maybe I’ll write about lessons learned over the past year. Maybe I’ll write about my concerns around the technology I saw as liberating in 2008 morphing into scenarios not unlike those dreamed up by Charlie Brooker for his Black Mirror episodes.

Time will tell. In the meantime, a return to work beckons. What will 2017 bring? Time to write, reflect, contribute, or a need to find energy from slowing down, caring for the soul?

Like I said, time will tell…

Where do you find the time for you?

I read an article in an education leadership journal today that talked about the need for teachers, and especially those who hold demanding leadership positions, to take time out of each day to step away from the job and do something just for you.

It brought back to me a moment recently that really did make an impact.

The family had been bugging me – nagging me quite frankly – to sign up to Netflix. So after 90 minutes on the phone one evening renegotiating a contract with Telstra and extricating us from some pretty banal Foxtel content, out came the computer and Netflix entered our lives.

Screenshot 2015-05-04 22.46.45

(And yes, I have shamelessly grabbed this image off Google image search – link here –  because it is perfect for this post and none of the CC pics for my search ‘Netflix monster’ pulled in anything worth using. And yes, it is 10.49pm at night, and I’m too tired to spend hours finding a CC image that’s worthy. Sorry Lawrence Lessig.)

You would have thought the Messiah had entered the room, such was their delight when the realisation struck that I had signed up for the four screens deal and everyone could be viewing different content at the same time. Yes, it was that kind of moment – open mouths, devices switched on and the hunt for the perfect program was on.

Now, I’m no longer a television watcher – there’s no time for that. I’m present, but my mind is elsewhere, either tackling work for school or watching the twitter stream with it’s endless links to interesting content roll by. I can keep my head around some reality television offerings, because you can dip in and out and there’s a part of me that likes prying. But for the most part, television represents too big a commitment. I’m too busy to invest in a space that requires me to tune in at specific times and stay the course.

But I did wonder about this Netflix thing, so into the world I entered.

I could feel the pull as soon as the personalised suggestions started scrolling across the screen. There was ‘Rainman’ a film I haven’t seen for more than 20 years, but one I’d really enjoyed and have wanted to see again. In the next view, a bunch of series I’ve heard people talk about were tempting me, drawing me in, promising me hours of quality immersion into worlds far removed from mine. I succumbed.

I watched the first episode of ‘Call the Midwife’, and I knew this was a relationship I needed to sever. I had to cut the umbilical cord connecting me to Netflix and the temptations within. You see, I really don’t think I can let myself loose in a space like that, where entertainment flows at the command of your fingertips. It comes at a cost, and the cost to me is time spent learning, time spent feeding the information junkie part of me that is sustained on a diet of content that feeds my mind and sets the synapses into overdrive. ‘Call the Midwife’ would entertain me, but would it feed my soul and set the synapses spinning?

Somehow, I think maybe I need to find the nice middle ground in all of this, and the article I referred to earlier made that pretty clear. Netflix isn’t the answer, as I discovered when my husband tuned into ‘The Killing’ and I lost four hours one afternoon before I threw my hands in the air and declared that I really couldn’t do this. He could, and devoted large swathes of his life over the next week to unravelling plot twists until he finally declared freedom from Netflix’s tangled web when all four seasons had been consumed.

Maybe it’s walking, maybe it’s reading novels, maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s none of this, and maybe I need to come to terms with the fact that maybe it doesn’t matter, because I enjoy immersion in spaces that other people think replicate work.

Maybe I just need to be at peace with me.