taxidermy butterfly left to me by my scientist grandfather
It’s that time of year when we’re recovering from the holiday season and gearing up, or regenerating, for the new year. It’s a time, often, of reflecting on the year that’s been and planning for the year ahead. For the last few years I have used a ‘oneword’ to clarify my intent for my year. While I sometimes forget the oneword intentionality I have set, especially when life is at its busiest or most pear-shaped, mostly I find that choosing a single word allows me to bring a mindfulness to my year that is based on an essential focus to which it is easy to return across a year.
In 2015 it was CONQUER, as I worked at a ruthless pace to submit my PhD in between parenting my two young children and working 0.8 at my school.
In 2016 it was MOMENTUM, as I tried to capitalise on my PhD through lots of presenting (including at AERA) and writing from my thesis, still in the spaces between life and work.
In 2017 it was NOURISH, as I worked to clarify my work and life by focusing on that which nourished me.
On 2017 …
In 2017 my oneword embodied itself in multiple aspects of my life. As my youngest child entered full-time school, I returned to full-time work that has been nourishing in its focus. That is, I’ve been grateful to spend my time in areas of passion and purpose: teacher professional learning, building a research culture, focusing on staff development, and leading the Library, as well as teaching English.
In 2017 I have said ‘yes’ to projects because they are nourishing experiences for me, or because I have been burning to say something. My formal 2017 publications, for example, have been:
- My first co-authored (as opposed to solo-authored) journal article: Netolicky, D. M. & Barnes, N. (2017). Method as a journey: A narrative dialogic partnership illuminating decision making in qualitative educational research. International Journal of Research & Method in Education.
- A paper that was pretty out-of-the-box, in which I used the tv series Westworld as a way for thinking through academic identity, and in which I move on from the Alice in Wonderland metaphor of my PhD, into darker spaces: Netolicky, D. M. (2017). Cyborgs, desiring-machines, bodies without organs, and Westworld: Interrogating academic writing and scholarly identity. KOME5(1), pp. 91-103. DOI: 10.17646/KOME.2017.16
- My first published book chapter, co-authored for (as it turned out) a book that sold out overnight: Netolicky, D. M., Andrews, J., & Paterson, C. (2018). Flipping the system: An Australian perspective. In L. Rycroft-Smith, J.-L. Dutaut, & K. Sowter (Eds.) Flip the System UK: A Teachers’ Manifesto. Abingdon, OX: Routledge.
I have also joined the Board at my children’s school, and become a member of Evidence for Learning’s Research Use and Evaluation Committee. These commitments are about contribution, giving back, and making a difference; through them I receive the nourishment that comes from doing something worthwhile.
In 2017 I have spent nourishing time with my family, including a couple of lovely holidays. I have been seeing a new personal trainer whose strength and conditioning sessions have meant that my regular three-day-long headaches seem to have disappeared. Working with him has meant looking after my body, paying more attention to it, and getting stronger.
To 2018 …
2018 is around the corner and I’ve been considering what might be my fundamental intention for a year that already feels like an ending before it has begun. The end of 2018 will mark 10 years since I returned to Australia from the UK. That decade is a time in which I have had my two children, from pregnancy to babies to primary school students. It’s the decade in which I completed my PhD. The end of 2018 will mark a full decade of working at my current school (well and truly my longest ever period of employment). And at the end of next year I will have a zero birthday. The years from 2009-2018 feel like a chrysalis from which I will emerge at the end of next year. (I’m no doubt influenced here by the book I’ve just finished: Stephen and Owen King’s 715-page novel Sleeping Beauties in which women around the world are falling asleep indefinitely and being cocooned in mysterious chrysalides.) This seems a perfect time for looking back and looking forward.
On Twitter it was a close race ….
For 2018 I have considered the word CREATE because I have some projects I’m keen to progress. I have considered STRENGTH because I would benefit from focusing on the strength of my body as well as the strength of my advocacy for others and perhaps for myself. But I am going to tackle a more complex and messy word this year: METAMORPHOSIS.
It’s not that I think 2018 will be filled with transformation. In fact, it’s more likely to be about consolidation and simplification (think Marie Kondo’s KonMari method applied to life, or perhaps Sarah Knight’s life-changing magic of … ahem … figuring out what not to worry about). METAMORPHOSIS isn’t just about change. It isn’t that I think I’ll grow proverbial wings in the space of a year. But it is about development and moving on to another stage. For me that stage is mid-teaching-career, post baby-having, post-PhD stage. It’s time to figure out what ‘mid’ and ‘post’ look like when they are my ‘now’.
METAMORPHOSIS is also about letting go. It is about shedding old skins, old bodies, old habits, old values, old dreams. It is about considering what I want to take into my next decade, and what I’m willing to leave behind. After a few packed but fragmented years, full of simultaneous, competing, overlapping commitments (teaching! school leadership! PhD! academic writing! presenting at conferences! pregnancies! parenting! moving house! all at the same time!), it’s about re-assessing how I am spending my time and considering where it might be that all my endeavour is leading me.
The questions I will ask in 2018 in order to be mindful of METAMORPHOSIS in 2018 are:
- What might flight, freedom, joy, and purpose look like and feel like for me?
- How might I imagine the next decade and what might I need to do to get there?
- What do I want to focus on doing and what can I stop doing, or do less of, in order to fulfil that focus?