I am a people pleaser and love to be of service and to do things that help and make a difference. However, I thrive on validation and recognition. I like to know that I’m doing a good job, to get that pat on the back from the boss. Except, as a freelancer, I am the boss. So, despite misgivings about being my own personal cheerleader, I do need to do things to acknowledge my strengths and successes.
The Happy Jar
If like me, you aren’t so good at this, I suggest that you give it a try. I’ve had a ‘happy jar’ for my personal life for some years – it’s really useful to write down those little things that make you happy, or you are grateful for each day, especially when times are a bit tough. Why not do this for your business too?
Looking Back at 2020
2020 was a particularly challenging year for many. At the start of lockdown in March, I desperately needed to pivot my business: I work in schools. Lots of them. Hundreds of schools. Hundreds of teachers. Thousands of pupils. The potential to be a covid-19 super spreader, moving from class to class and school to school was too great. I made the decision early on to suspend all face to face activities. Normally, I deliver fun and engaging, curriculum-relevant, hands-on science workshops and STEM clubs and provide training and support for teachers’ professional development.
Faced with no income stream, I did what I do best and tried to help! I started providing free resources to teachers and to families attempting to juggle working lives with supporting homeschooling. With this, I:
- collated a list of the best websites, resources, and activities to help,
- provided help and support for science teaching and planning,
- posted free daily science activities on social media (one a day for 121 days from the start of the first lockdown and partial school closures to the end of the summer term- and again as a science advent calendar of 24 festive investigations), and
- moved my STEM clubs online, delivered sessions virtually over zoom, and extended my provision to a downloadable interactive science club (and even cycled around the local area on my bike delivering mini science kits to children!)
This did increase my profile. By putting myself out there, and engaging with my existing network, led to some radio interviews and guest blog posts. Not only that, but I also won and a couple of short-term contracts, including recording remote video lessons for the national organisation, STEM Learning.
This was a change of tack for me and required a steep learning curve to master the world of video conferencing and recording equipment. As a life-long learner and serial goal seeker, I loved it! Each lesson required many hours of research and preparation, as well as the time needed to create, record, and edit and I worked really, really hard. And incredibly long hours as there were understandably very tight deadlines involved to get the support out there. I also moved some of my existing work online. All whilst running a household and supporting my teens with their remote learning too.
By summer, I was pretty burnt out. The frenetic workload had definitely helped me through the mental challenges of lockdown, but it had also taken its toll. So I needed to take stock and look at all that I had achieved.
A Visual Reflection
Now, I do love a list, but I’m also a very visual person. So, I created an infographic to reflect and celebrate everything I had done during those first few months of lockdown. It really helped me to acknowledge that I had worked hard and been of some use to people. To see your efforts laid out in front of you like this can be a really helpful way to give yourself that virtual pat on the back.
I do often create these visual representations for myself to summarise each year. It’s useful to look back and see how the business has grown or how the focus has started to shift. It also helps me to plan for the future. My images usually represent metrics about how many students I’ve worked with or which workshops I’ve delivered the most:
These visual infographics might be doodles in the notebook or a digital rendering like these. (Any designers out there will be collectively sucking in through their teeth as they shudder that I haven’t used InDesign or even Inkscape, but these graphics are really just for me.) And so, a quick and dirty rendition in my notebook or using PowerPoint will suffice. The Office365 version of MS PowerPoint even comes with the option to directly insert and modify these friendly icons. If you fancy having a go, just use whatever you have at your disposal – whether that’s a pencil or state or the art design software!
To Sum Up
2020 was undoubtedly a very different year, but one where I can quietly say to myself that I have done well!
Dr. Jo Montgomery has more than 20 years’ experience working with children and schools to support science education from Early Years to university. Jo is a primary science specialist, delivering a fun and engaging curriculum-relevant, hands-on science workshops in schools and for community groups. She also works closely with educators, supporting teacher professional development as a STEM Learning Associate Facilitator, PSQM hub leader, and independent consultant.