The Book of Job teaches us that we can do hard things*
What I am about to share makes me very uncomfortable.
I am going to admit that I have found things hard. So hard. This is uncomfortable for me because I have forged myself a thick suit of heavy armour. (Those who know, know that although armour is for fighting and warfare, it’s really about protection). I’m hard, me. Roll with the punches. Demport*. Admitting to struggling, and leaning into my vulnerability is relatively new for me.
The last half term has been one of the toughest I have ever experienced. And I know I’m not the only one.
First, there’s the obvious one: coronavirus. The guidance, the risk assessments, the challenges regarding your judgements on the risk assessments, the chastisement when these are breached, the worry for your children, your staff, your family, the checking, the admin, the guidance, the guidance, the re-evaluation of your risk assessment, the ‘what the school down the road is doing’, the checking of stock, the constant reminding and forgetting, the guidance… It seems so innocuous when I see it in text and nothing compared with what some people are going through. Nevertheless, to describe how I truly feel might require oil paints and a canvas or a day to form a poem.
Next, I have said farewell to a much-loved school and faith community and moved to another with a huge job on its hands. Safety, familiarity, settledness; towards uncertainty and all the pressures that come with a school on a steep improvement journey. Another layer of trepidation.
Then, there’s leading a new school and managing a different set of expectations: new systems and leadership structures, ways of working, community, relationships, deprived demographic, wellbeing and recovery, improving standards. These have all taken their toll. Manage the pandemic and raise standards. Have you got a remote learning plan in place for your community even though that doesn’t have access to the technology? Don’t forget – they also need to do what you send home! It has felt like a ton weight pressing on my windpipe. Just breathing’s a struggle. ‘Focus, be strong, keep going’ has sort of been my frenetic, almost maniacal, self-mantra.
Add a general lack of trust from the parental community. Families that have been let down by constant leadership change. Seriously, I’ve been on my knees. The most painful bits have been the dismissiveness of parents – some have been downright personal and nasty. I’ve always relied on the power of relationship, but social distancing has made that difficult. I feel at their mercy. Another mantra: ‘It’s not you, don’t take it personally’. Yeah, well, my stamina has been stretched, and my skin is thinner than usual. It’s got inside.
My poor family have paid the price in time and snippiness.
It has been dark.
It has been dark, but I am ok.
Like Job, I have my faith and know it isn’t always about ease and comfort. Understanding the book of Job is like sitting in a pitch-black room, knowing there’s a light switch somewhere. You can blindly fumble around and tap the walls with both hands forever because you know – sooner or later – you will find it.
Hope has illuminated the past term in the form of: my gorgeous husband and family; unexpected chocolate fudge cake; the local vicar and his wife; the parishioners; incredible, kind people who are fantastic, good-humoured and determined teachers; knowledgeable and passionate colleagues; school cooks (especially the school cook), coaches; children’s smiles; singing; positive tweet; local community groups determined to share the load of an impoverished town – the list is long. Balance has also come from getting out and about under God’s big sky. Forcing myself to get outside and be active has brought a much-needed perspective to the trials and tribulations of a challenging term.
The Wisdom is: keep looking for the light. You don’t need to be religious to do that. Research in mental health expounds the benefits of gratitude – there is always something to be grateful for – as well as the cruciality of physical exercise, adequate sleep and self-care. It helps me to remember that you never have to pour from an empty cup when you can tap into an eternal stream of living water.
Far from being a book about misery, The Book of Job is about hope.
I might not understand the complexities of the universe and why things are hard sometimes, but as the thick armour of my earlier life thins, I can feel the warmth of light much better these days, especially so in the darkness.
Strength in weakness; light in dark; life in death.
Thank you, God, for every ray of light that shines.
And for the dark that makes them so easy to see.
- We Can Do Hard Things (Glennon Doyle)
**Demport (Shortened version of Devonport – the rough end of town, my childhood home). Only grow up ‘ere if you fink you’re ‘ard enough!