When I was a child, time seemed to go so slowly. I was eight-years-old for what felt like two years and not one. The school days and weeks between each holiday felt elongated and packed with lots of interesting opportunities. When a countdown started, in preparation for a special occasion, the days and weeks moved at a snail’s pace. Life was packed yet seemed to move in a wonderfully pedestrian manner, in slow motion almost with elastic seconds filled with excitement. I was young and carefree: time stretched ahead of me, an endless resource.
Even as a twenty-something, as I started my teaching career, the terms moved with a steady rhythm. I enjoyed lesson planning for the weeks ahead, deciding which sports my students would study, which drills and activities to include. In the classroom, learning evolved with purpose and the progress my students made over the course was exciting. Before exams we seemed to have so much time to prepare and revise, learning without haste but with patience.
Something has changed in the last few years though and I’m not sure when it all began: time really has started to fly. There is so much to do, yet there seems so little time to get it all done. The days are over suddenly, weeks merge into a blur of moments and experiences as time flashes by. Life is rich and rewarding, challenging and exciting.
However, only today it dawned on me that we are nearing the middle of February and I have absolutely no idea where the first six weeks of 2014 went. I celebrated my birthday last month and took time to look back over the 17 years since I left university. I’ve been so fortunate. I have met and worked with inspiring colleagues and students, travelled across England to teach and around the world to explore. I have a supportive and loving family, a happy home, and a challenging and fulfilling job. And yes, time is absolutely flying by. The door to my next decade year is just around the corner and I realise that it will be open very soon!
I’m increasingly aware that whilst time flies it is how I fill those minutes and hours that is important. Many colleagues talk of their struggle to maintain a balance between work and life even though the idea of ‘balance’ suggests a 50:50 split. In fact, when talking to prospective staff interested in working with us at Lincoln UTC, I stress the importance of such a balance. Not as an even split, but as an opportunity to ensure they are fulfilled by work with time to enjoy their families, personal hobbies and interests. An effective member of staff, even a teacher, is one who is fulfilled at work and happy at home, inspired by opportunities, well rested and fuelled. However, achieving any balance is very hard nowadays, as more and more pressure can be placed upon us, by ourselves and others, to do and to achieve more.
I’ve come to realise that in the eyes of some I don’t have a “good” work-life balance, given how much of my time I devote to my headship. Even the phrase work-life balance misrepresents the idea that actually life should be more important than work!
I define myself by my work and my hobbies; my life is rich because of my family and significant people I am close to.
My head is filled with the activities and excitement of setting up Lincoln UTC and my time is carefully managed to achieve the many tasks and goals necessary for us to be successful. I flourish on the buzz of the highs and am driven by the challenges of the lows. It is all consuming. I simply don’t wish to change my daily life in order to follow the work-life balance that I think others expect. This works for me.
Today I was delighted to appoint the third member of our team at Lincoln UTC: our Director of Engineering. Martin Doughty will join us at Easter and immediately embrace the challenge and excitement of creating our unique Engineering education. As more and more staff come on board, I hope I will look back on this article and remember to help them maintain a life-work balance that allows them to perform at their best by living life to the full, enjoying their families and remaining enthused by teaching.
And if you are reading this on Valentine’s Day, I hope you get your work-life balance right and are able to spend some time with the people you love.
Dr. Rona Mackenzie is Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC). She has a strong background in education, having worked in six local authorities during her career, and is passionate about providing an education that meet the needs of young people and their community industries. She is a keen sportswoman and mountaineer, recently trekking to Everest Base Camp, and has an interest in photography.