Here in England, October half term has finally arrived. If you’re feeling shellshocked, numb, grumpy, irritable and/or as if you’ve been run over by a truck, this is not unusual. Like many of us, I remain a stubborn optimist, but there’s no escaping the fact that it’s been hugely challenging for almost everyone I’ve met working in schools since September, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of you to talk about wellbeing, working with parents or for coaching.

Today, I’m extracting myself from the sofa (the weather is practically demanding a duvet day) and studiously ignoring the domestic and family to-list to share a powerful wellbeing tip, based on an idea first shared with me by Emma Turner: turn your to-do list into a ‘ta-dah!’ list – look at what I’ve achieved!

Rather than looking ahead at everyone and everything else that demands a piece of you; rather than berating yourself for perceived flaws or mistakes; rather than worrying about the next half term ahead or launching straight into the laundry pile or DIY, can I urge you to take a few moments to look back at everything you’ve achieved since the beginning of September? Many of you will struggle to start with. ‘It’s just my job!’ you will protest. ‘I really haven’t done much.’ (Our professional is notoriously self-deprecating). I don’t believe you.

  • That trip you finally managed to run? What effect did it have on the child who’s struggle with confidence this term?
  • That parent who stopped to thank you at pick-up one afternoon? What exactly did they say? What does it mean for their child?
  • That colleague you made a cup of tea for because they were looking a bit frazzled? What did that gesture of humanity mean in a stressful week?
  • That student who made eye contact and smiled at you for the first time? How much patience, how many subtle skills on your part did it take to get them to that stage?

The challenges you’ve survived, the resilience you’ve shown, the laughs (even or especially the darkly inappropriate ones) in the staffroom, the mutual support, the skills you’ve learned, the progress your pupils have made, the fact that, even in the last week when you may have been on your knees, you still did it – you still smiled, you still taught, even as the leadership of our country imploded…

Take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back. Note it down somewhere – in a journal, an audio-file or on a few post-it notes. Treasure it. Because you truly make a difference, ever single day and you deserve, in the words of the legendary Rita Pierson, to find joy and a sense of achievement in the invaluable work you do.