In her podcast, ‘Happier’, Gretchen Rubin looks to her listeners and guests
for ‘happiness hacks’ to help us all lead lives that are...well...happier.
Depending on your mood when you read or hear this, a ‘happiness hack’
may sound like either a great idea of a trite triviality! Please be assured that
Gretchen Rubin does not presume that all problems, issues and concerns
may be solved by one little life change. However, she does propose that
those little changes suggested by her listeners may go some way to
initiating a culture of development, change and growth within individuals,
families and workplaces. With all those caveats, and the promise that the
podcast is free and I’m not on commission (!) I’d like to share with you one
such suggestion that struck a chord with me, and perhaps with you too.
The notion of making concrete offers of help is this:
so many people want to support those around them in a time of difficulty, challenge or even
tragedy. This desire to help is human, wonderful and reassuring. However,
many of us find ourselves at a loss as to how to help, especially in a
situation that seems impossible to improve, so we invariably end up saying
words to the effect of ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’. This is so
well meant and most people who say it probably do mean that they would
help if they were asked. But if you’ve ever been in the midst of a crisis,
you’ll know that the very thought of finding something for that person to do to help, and then getting back to them, is exhausting. Making concrete
offers therefore, takes that pressure off the receiver of help. An example in
our wider lives could be cooking a meal for a friend with a new baby and
leaving it wrapped in the porch, or telling another parent you can collect
their child from school the next day so that they can visit a sick relative.
Gretchen Rubin’s sister mentioned how one year she was struggling and
Gretchen did her Christmas shopping for her - a huge gift from one sister to
another but such an act of kindness in a moment of challenge.
For us in schools, our challenge is to look at those around us and look for
the moments when our colleagues are struggling. We will all have seen
many extraordinary acts of kindness take place, but there will also be
many, many more that we never see, as they are completed quietly and
without fuss. Here are some ways we can make concrete offers of help to
those around us, and avoid the ‘let me know if I can help’ trap:
- If someone has returned from being unwell, they are rarely back at
their best - tell them you’ll cover their duty that day so they can stay
inside in the warm.
- Look ahead in the schedule - if a departmental review is coming up
for a colleague, offer to cover their detention slot so that they can
- Cover a lesson for someone to allow them time to get their head
- Bring them a tea or coffee at the start or the end of the day.
- Bake a cake or buy them some flowers. Any small token that shows
you are thinking of them.
- Help them to their car with bags of books.
- Offer an NQT a slot when you can talk them through their first set of
reports or any other tak you know they won’t have done before.
- Share an assessment sheet, report comment bank, Christmas quiz or
anything else you have made that might stop others from reinventing
the wheel when they are pressed for time.
- Gift your accounting team a box of treats during the week that ends
the tax year.
- Get together a group of teachers who share a light timetable day and
cover the phones for the reception staff one day at the start of term -
they will be inundated with calls and will probably end up working
without a lunch break.
The list is endless with possibilities of small ways we can help each other
out with concrete offers of help. Aside from the huge potential ways you
can help those around you, concrete offers also mean that you are able to
help in a time, manner and setting that makes you feel comfortable. I’ve
seen concrete offers made by head teachers all the way to trainee teachers
and everyone in between, along with admin, support and site staff. Anyone
can find themselves needing help and anyone can offer.
One final thought - pupils pick up on staff that support each other practically
and will begin to emulate your kindnesses.
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