Annie Pendrey, FE / HE specialist

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome onboard Flight #FE with the service today flying you from Face-to-Face lectures to the Land of Digital Teaching and Learning. We are currently second in line for take-off and we are expected to be in the air in approximately three minutes time. We ask that you please fasten your seatbelts and secure all baggage underneath your seat or in the overhead compartments. We also ask that your seats and table trays are in the upright position for take-off and please turn off all personal electronic devices… no… on this occasion you can leave them on!

This is not quite the usual in-flight announcement and the crew are not the usual crew. Instead, on this flight, the Captain is the Principal with his/her Co-Pilot, the Assistant Principal. The inflight service and menus have been swapped for the curriculum, with all announcements made by the Inflight Manager, the Head of Curriculum. The Cabin Crew are the tutors, supported by the Inflight Marshals being the personal coaches, not forgetting the passengers, our learners.

The flight so far for all of us as educators has been a bumpy flight, with pockets of turbulence and having to quickly adapt to working from home on new digital platforms with the duty-free trolley nowhere in sight! The inflight menu has required all educators to support the learners (passengers) academically and emotionally and to adapt the curriculum and our pedagogical approaches to suit their needs, with the inflight menu being created by tutors and support staff in the Gally, our home office.

The galley is that small space on the flight that is designed for the cabin crew to prepare gourmet food and drink - this can now be likened to our home offices where we are preparing resources for our learners and communicating with our colleagues, with the flight time unknown. Communication has never been so important as we all deal with the changing landscape of education, in addition to self-isolation. No one knows how long this situation will continue and how we can begin to ‘normalise the normal’ and not begin to suffer from cabin fever. Cabin fever is that sense of confinement, isolation and irritability we may sense as we work from home, share the space with our loved ones much more than we normally do and, for some, having to home-school children too.

So how do we continue to work in the galley and avoid cabin fever?

Ladies and gentlemen, please sit back and relax as some of our cabin crew today take you through tips on how to endure this long-haul flight.

Cabin Crew (Harry Empsall – Personal Skills Assistant) ‘I have found myself constantly wanting to something, so I am not sat feeling anxious or worried. It can take a while to motivate myself to do something and I do miss my students and my colleagues a lot - we are like a family. I am trying to keep myself in as much of a routine as possible. My workspace is wherever I can sit with a laptop but it’s generally away from lots of noise and somewhere. Harry suggests routine is essential and as Harry has ASD, he appreciates the need for stability for all learners and tutors to create regular times for engagement for their studies.

Cabin Crew (Tracey Lee Business Lecturer Abingdon & Witney College and Marketing Consultant) further supports the need for routine and states, ‘Routine is important to aid motivation. I’m lucky in that I already have an office at home. Again, because I’m used to working from home, sticking to routine, taking breaks and setting targets isn’t a problem for me. Communication is just as good, if not better with colleagues’

Cabin Crew (Cheryl Bedding Early Years Consultant and Trainer) adds to our inflight information by sharing: My son has ASD and so we all have to have a routine, but this helps keep a sense of normality and clarity for all of us, this has enabled me to support my son’s school work, allocate times for me to work and for our daily walk out together.’

Cabin Crew (Fey Cole Early Years Lecturer) goes on to share with all passengers how ‘it has been a big transition from working in a classroom, to teaching from home. The first week brought a heavy workload as I tried to produce a range of resources and virtual classrooms for students, but it really is amazing what has already been achieved. The biggest challenge has been trying to manage this with my own children at home. I must keep reminding myself that I am only one person! I really miss the small interactions, reflections and chats over a coffee that come each day with both students and staff when we are in our usual environment.’

As this flight continues all the cabin crew wish to share with you how to avoid the symptoms of cabin fever, to avoid restlessness, a lack of concentration, food cravings and possibly decreased motivation:

  • I have never been very good at factoring in ‘me’ time, but I have quickly realised that if I am going to manage this journey, it is essential (Fey Cole Early Years Lecturer)
  • Each day I have allocated my time for myself, 20-minute HIIT sessions on YouTube and time on a turbo trainer allow me time to listen loudly to my music, supporting my physical and mental health (Cheryl Bedding Early Years Consultant and Trainer)
  • I am looking after myself as best as I can, and I am eating regularly and healthier as this supports my anxiety (Harry Empsall – Personal Skills Assistant)
  • Not as well as I should admit but conversely paying more attention to meal prep. It’s the wine and treats that need restricting! (Tracey Lee Business Lecturer Abingdon & Witney College and Marketing Consultant)

So whilst we may not be landing anytime soon, with the Captain illuminating the seatbelt sign and requesting that all cabin crew take their seats for landing, what we must do is look after our well- being and be aware of our work/life balance as we continue preparing the curriculum from the galley!

Annie Pendrey, FE / HE specialist

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