Monthly Archives: April 2020

A Giant’s Game

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An enormous die crashed into the sand with a thud, but what number would it land on?

The die is cast and it certainly does feel as if it has landed on an unlucky number…number 19! For the human race – is our number up…or is our way of living up?

It is a number that we will long remember along with the year 2020. One of my favourite memes of recent is one that says that there were 29 days in February and hundreds of days in March…could also be said for April although I can hardly believe that, as I type, it is the 28th of April.

On Tuesday night one of the local news agencies published a supposed report from the Government. It felt like the light at the end of the tunnel. After 31 days in full ‘stay safe’ mode with only being allowed to leave the house for shopping or medical treatment we were to be allowed to go out for a walk! To me this seemed the best news and went to bed excited about walking in the park or even getting my bike out. However, like so much of what we read, this article was not quite as good as it seemed. Yes, we could go out, but only to the gardens and areas around our buildings…it is a start. One positive was that the seed shops would be open allowing the farmers to get planting the vital crops.

Last night there was another announcement – this time I made sure that the same information was consistent in a variety of sources – and from May 4th we are beginning a gradual lifting of quarantine with small shops being allowed to open along with banks, dentists and ….hairdressers. We are waiting for full confirmation on where we will be able to walk and exercise…that park across the river is so tempting.

The news from many countries beginning to ease quarantine is positive. But the news from the UK is not so good with numbers of deaths rising daily, particularly with the elderly.

And so the die has been cast again and it is looking more favourable…but have we learnt a lesson from this? Only time will tell.




Controlling the Weather

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During these times of uncertainty I make sure that I take some time for myself everyday to refocus and remember that although there are things I cannot control, there are many things I can.

This is a technique that I was teaching our children earlier this year – who would have thought that it would be such a valuable tool for all. The steps are easily remembered as they make the acronym APPLE:

A – acknowledge: the first step is to notice what is happening within yourself, a body scan is a good way to first recognise that you have feelings of uncertainty or anxiety that is different. Stop, scan and acknowledge.

P – pause: by acknowledging that we have feelings of uncertainty or anxiety we can give yourself the time to pause – not react as we might have panicking or taking our unexplained emotion out on others.

P- pull back: remind yourself that this is ‘the worry’ talking and this is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling and not to believe everything that your mind is trying to tell you. Thoughts are not statements or facts, they are only thoughts.

L – let go: keeping in mind that these are thoughts, not statements or facts, you do not have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud. Blow them away as you would the seeds from a dandelion clock.

E – explore: bring yourself to the present moment because at this moment all is well. Focus on your breathing: ┬áimagine you are holding a flower and breathe in it’s amazing scent. As you breathe conduct another body scan or try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and then return to what you were doing before you felt the worry.

We need to be kind to ourselves as well as those around us. There will be days when we go through rollercoaster emotions when the smallest thing will frustrate and anger us and then, like dominoes, other things will make us react in a way that is not rational.



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For the past four years I have been living and working ┬áin Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan. Nur-Sultan lies in the north of this vast country amidst the wide-ranging and almost endlessly flat Siberian Steppe. This, along with being right in the middle of the largest land mass on Earth makes for very cold winters and hot summers. Although this past winter has not been the coldest it did come early with a huge amount of snow and lots of grey cloudy days. It is only in the past weeks that signs of spring have been showing themselves. I am very fortunate to live beside the river looking over to one of the city’s many parks so I have a ringside seat – especially in these times of quarantine – to watch life come back to the land. Today in the middle of April the river is back to a reflective glassy surface and there are hints of the palest green on some of the trees. Grass is sprouting, bulbs are pushing through the dry earth – we are no longer trapped in a frozen wasteland. The days of being trapped in a monochrome land are over for another year. However we are trapped in a different way, all be it for our own safety and the safety of our communities. The time will come when we will be able to emerge from our hibernation but we will need to continue to be patient and be kind to ourselves and those around us.


Quarantine Day 25, Lockdown Day 17…the new normal continues.

We are all beginning to settle into our ‘new normal’ routines with school, work and home life. No one will deny that this has been a very challenging time for everyone. I don’t know about you, but I find it mindboggling yet somewhat comforting all at the same time that the whole world is going through this. I feel as if in some ways I am in a state of suspended animation while nature carries on with it’s awakening into spring. Hour by hour I can watch the river change from mat ice to reflective water. Gulls have come back, cackling in the time just before sunrise, and gathering in groups on the thin ice. Magpies are noisily gathering nest materials and busy pairs of coal tits chirp in the bare branches of the trees outside my window. The ever present pigeons are still taking their daily stroll along the riverside walkway constantly searching for food: no doubt bewildered at where the humans with their bags of bread have gone.

Shoots of green are appearing in the bare earth. Earth that until a couple of weeks ago were covered with deep blankets of snow. Bulbs are pushing through bravely, grass changing from yellow to green and, if you look very carefully, there are buds forming on some trees. The birches are not yet ready to show that they are awake but we know that in a short time they will be covered in bright green leaves shimmering and rustling in the breeze.

Meanwhile we are adapting to our life of confinement. We all understand the reasons and appreciate everything that the local authorities are doing to protect us. We worry about family and friends in different cities and countries yet are helpless to do anything to help or change the situation that we find ourselves in. We are all going to experience many different emotional stages during these times but not necessarily in the same order:

Optimism: This is great; we can spend more time together as a family; I can get all those jobs done that I am always so busy to do; I can learn/improve a skills; start a new hobby.

Determination: You feel less positive but you are determined to keep going and stick to some kind of routine and follow a schedule.

Satisfaction and frustration: Sometimes you get a lot done, other times you just cannot focus on anything or complete anything and you move between these states.

Depression: This is hard. Boredom begins to settle in. Your routine, or lack of routine, might not be working for you. You are restless, cannot concentrate. You reflect more on missing going out or meeting friends and family. You might feel demotivated, hopeless, a sense of despair.

Anger: Anger about the situation, the confinement, the lack of an end. Irritated by others in your house, irritated by the smallest things.

Acceptance: Carry on doing whatever is in your control and letting go of what is not in your control. Remembering that all this is necessary and that you are helping to prevent the spread of this virus.

Up until yesterday I thought I was coping well. I was asked only a few days ago where I thought I was on this diagram. I felt that I was well on the way to the outer rim… but something shook me yesterday and I have no idea what it was. In my role as a leader in a British International School supporting and guiding others is my focus. I send a motivational message to all our WhatsApp groups, remind everyone that I am here to listen. I answer numerous emails reassuring my wonderful team of what a great job they are doing, I continue to be a sounding board for those whose worries impact on our school community but are, in reality, much wider. How much support do I get? Good questions that is relevant for every senior leader whether in a global pandemic or not. Who do you turn to to vent your frustration, your worries, your doubts, self-doubts… I am fortunate that I do have several friends who are teachers and leaders and are willing (sometimes) to listen but everyone’s context is different and points of reference differ. Within my own leadership team there are two people that I know that I can count on – but have I ever really been open and honest with them? Yes, there are times when we can all share our shared challenges.

So what happened yesterday? It was a lovely sunny day…all I have said above stands about spring and the changing views from my window. I just could not shake the blanket of anxiety and stress that I felt around me. Try as I might I could not pin point what, who or why I was feeling this way. And then it lifted – I did nothing different apart from lie down and watch another episode of the Crown. Still self-searching I could find no reason for my feelings previously. I have woken today to a dull, wet morning yet my spirits are lifted and ready for a day or…the same!

How are you coping?