Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear to me that the role of being leader of the boarding community, or even a staff member in a boarding house, is becoming more and more immense and this has never been more obvious than during 2020 and 2021 with the added pressures of dealing with the impacts of Covid-19 in boarding houses.
Juggling sudden lockdown, border closures, detailed and challenging regulations written by bureaucrats who have never been in a boarding house, anxious parents and students, vaccination and on-line learning have all impacted on the role a great deal. And guess who is usually pushed to the side - YOU! So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to help you think about a re-set - a chance to look at what you can do for yourself so that you can continue with the huge role of looking after your boarders.
I know many people find it difficult to make time to read, but I can’t encourage you enough to set aside the time to get lost in a book. Many years ago I undertook the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, course, and habit number seven, Sharpen the Saw, included one of my great loves - reading. However, Stephen Covey talks of only reading non-fiction books which will improve your knowledge, and I can’t object enough to this. Certainly, reading non-fiction is great - my last two non-fiction books were Norman Swan’s new book ‘So You Think You Know What’s Good For You’ and Chris Thurber’s new book ‘The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure’ (and I’d recommend them both to you). However, it is with fiction that you can get lost and enjoy stretching your imagination. Reading books like ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and ‘All The Shimmering Skies” both by Trent Dalton, ‘The Dry’ and ‘The Survivors’ by Jane Harper, and ‘The Dictionary of Lost Words’ by Pip Williams (can you tell I love Australian authors!) and ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens (one of my all time favourites) just to name a few. Finding time every day to get lost in words is good for the brain, and for the body - so try it!
So many boarding staff forget the role exercise plays in a healthy life. We are often so busy looking after other people we forget to look after ourselves, and this was never more evident to me than over the last two years here in the ABSA office. So I took the time to do two things - firstly I left my car at work and walked to and from home - a distance of between 2.5km and 3.5km depending on which path, and have discovered the delight of time to myself with no-one interrupting. It gives me time to plan the day, to let go of the tough issues, and above all, to think about the things I love. I have discovered how beautiful the sunset can be, how amazing it is to watch the full moon rise, how very few days it actually rains fi rst and last thing of the day (I have only been caught twice). Try to find time to walk - it is good for the heart and good for the mind. Secondly, we have brought in a Personal Trainer two afternoons a week (and yes, I walk home after the session too). Mat is one of my ex-students, is qualified and enjoys hearing us complain about how sore he made us from the last session. Yes, sometimes I go back to my desk afterwards to finish off what didn’t get done before he arrived, but most often I have enjoyed the full-bore way to end a day.
I must admit that pre-Covid I had never listened to a podcast, even though my two sons kept telling me about great things to listen to. Therefore, I decided to use the time walking to listen to things for me, speakers who would improve my life in some sort of way. I have laughed and cried through some of the interviews on ‘The Howie Games’ (his recent chat with Andrew Gaze post the Olympics is priceless) and have loved improving my basketball and business knowledge on ‘The Old Man and the Three’ by JJ Reddick with interviews of many NBA players as well as hearing from Bob Iger the Executive Chairmen of the Walt Disney Company - as an example. I am hoping many of you subscribe to ‘On Duty’ and ‘Study Time’, the ABSA podcasts (I won’t mention my favourite interviews, but wow - they have been fun to listen to). So find your thing in podcast world - my wife Karen enjoys ‘Conversations’ by Richard Fidler, there is a great one called ‘You’re Wrong About’ - you name it, there is a podcast for every interest.
These are just three ways I have discovered to ‘Look After Myself’. What can you do for yourself? The first step is to try something, and make time for it - I challenge you to, as you will find you do an even better job of looking after your boarders once you look after yourself.