Dear All,

Holidays always come a week too late.

This is something that has been an end of term mantra and health warning for many years. I remember when I started tracking disciplinary cases and conflicts at a school long ago over the course of two years and found a spike in reported cases, fights, case meetings and suspensions; there are very good reasons for holidays.
When we move from one thing to another, as many of us do in school and in our professional and personal lives, we rarely build in the time to reflect or even to think about what we are doing and why. We fill our down time responding to emails, returning calls, reading documents ahead of meetings… all the things that we tell ourselves are not real work, but what we can do in between.

I caught myself explaining to someone last week that I was looking forward to the weekend so that I could catch up on work… The surprised response was  “What do you mean, catch up on work?” 

Talking to the boys at breakfast this morning about the way that they are preparing for their end of term assessment I got a sense of the way in which they mimic our behaviour, by burning the candle at both ends in the belief that it will pay dividends. Of course, being responsible for something and taking that seriously when others depend on you means that, from time to time, you will have to pull an all-nighter and put in the occasional weekend, but when that becomes the norm it’s unsustainable. 

Our efficiency, wellbeing and mental health are all things that suffer when we are not working sensibly or looking after our nutrition, exercise and, most importantly, sleep. We convince ourselves in this cult of busyness, that we are doing more and achieving much when, all too often, we are achieving more of less quality while simultaneously running ourselves into the ground. When I look around at school I can see it, and I am sure that many working parents will also notice this in their offices, amongst their co-workers and at the end of the day in the mirror. So what can we do to support one another?

When your boys come home for this holiday, please let them sleep in for a couple of days, but make sure that you are sitting together for your meals and maintaining a good end-of-the-day routine. Routines and rituals can be very easy to develop, it’s making sure that they are good ones that matter; find the time of the day when you know you will be able to fit your exercise in, don’t load up on sugars or caffeine in the evening, avoid using devices or responding to emails after dinner, drink plenty of water, talk to each other or play a game rather than stare at a screen, read in a chair rather than in bed, have a warm drink and a think about the things that you are grateful for before going to bed. 

Making this your practice each day will, even in the space of a week, make an enormous difference; I know this because it is what I have been doing since Founder’s. It’s not always possible to do every day, especially if you have to travel for work, and there are going to be things that come up that require a change of plan, but it doesn’t take long for better habits to form. I used to do a lot of running, but got out of the routine until making it something that in my day is more important than looking at my inbox after 8 pm. I’m now back at a 5k time that I haven’t achieved for 14 years and I feel further away from burning out. If anything urgent comes up after 8 pm I have a phone and people know where I live.
For many of our boys the next term will be the most important term of their lives so far. They need to be in top form to do well and we can help to set them up for this over the holiday by managing their routines; it’s our gift to them as parents. But like so many things that we do as parents, bosses and leaders, we can also reflect on our own choices and behaviours and make some changes in our own schedules to be kinder to ourselves and those around us; it is our own busyness, distractedness and burnout having an impact that we don’t notice because we don’t have the time. 

What’s the impact of tiredness on our working life and personal relationships? What message do we give with the time we send emails and messages (have you discovered ‘scheduled send’?)? Are we addicted to things that are not good for us because they make us feel temporarily better? There is no end to the questions we can ask ourselves… why not take the opportunity to ask your children this holiday what they notice about you and would like you to try and change? As we have learned from years of having the students watch potential teachers give classes in school and this year having an SC Former as part of the panel for our admissions interviews, they are as perceptive as it gets. Add to that the love that they have for us and their feedback is priceless; we just have to be present enough to listen to it.

Have a wonderful holiday, spend as much time as you can together and love each other unconditionally; it’s what we all need.


Matthew Raggett

I am currently reading Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh; one of our great Dosco writers. I love the way that he plays with voice and genre in his work and am continually delighted and surprised by what is happening. I'm also reading Brainstrom by Daniel Siegel. This is a book that one of the A Form mums shared with me that helped her understand more about the actions, behaviour and choices that she was seeing her children make. 
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