Reward: Lost Mojo

Reading time: 4

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
Read more about John Dabell

What do you do if you lose your mojo?

 I’ve come into contact with a lot of teachers lately that have lost their mojo.

They’ve been grumpy, depleted, self-doubting, lethargic, bored, knackered, overwhelmed and not themselves. I know how this feels. I lost my mojo in 1999, 2003 and then again in 2009 and on each occasion it took a while before I found it again … or, did it find me?

Losing your mojo is a serious business when you are a teacher and that’s not surprising given the toxicity of the job sometimes. The spring in your step goes AWOL, people notice you don’t have the spark in your eye, the fire in your belly is a mere flicker and your personality is flatter then one of Aunty Bessie’s pancakes. None of this is good for you or anyone else and so being mojo-less is like driving around with a couple of flat tyres, you still get from A to B but the journey isn’t comfortable.

Zing, Fizzle and Buzz

When your mojo is playing hide and seek, you have to surround yourself with fizzy and frothy people and fizzy and jazzy resources. Bubbly things help bring the effervescence back to the surface and help you find the sparkle again.

One resource that definitely does that for me is Nina Jackson’sOf Teaching, Learning and Sherbert Lemons’, a humorous and highly accessible book full of the fizzy stuff and “dedicated to the teachers I’ve met who feel like they’ve lost their zing, their fizzle, their buzz…The teachers who want the sherbet back in their sherbet lemons.”

This book is a collection of intelligent counsel and practical ideas to help all teachers discover and re-discover their fizz “without blame, guilt or a hidden agenda.”

There is certainly plenty to go at with 33 short chapters devoted to tricky and delicate themes and questions posed by teachers. These stretch from mutism, engagement, dyslexia, inclusiveness, ambition, group work, behaviour and pushy parents to special learning spaces, action research, stutters and stammers, inset day blues, music, motivation, professional relationships, ADD, ADHD, dyspraxia…and more. This book has life force written into every page.

‘Cause It’s Gone, Gone, Gone

Of Teaching, Learning and Sherbet Lemons is an incredibly insightful and inspiring book and is every chapter offers something new to kick-start your thinking and uplift it too. One of my favourite chapters, I’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,  appears about a third of the way through and perhaps should have come right at the start.

It’s a great reminder of what teaching and learning means and why we ever chose this crazy profession in the first place. It encourages you to press pause and think about your career choice and what you would miss if you weren’t teaching. Nina Jackson encourages us to reflect on who we are and what amazing value teaching adds to our lives. She says,

When was the last time you stopped, thought about you and told yourself that you are doing a damn fine job in putting the teaching and learning of the children first. At the end of the day, you are your own resource, so if you focus on the reasons why you came into teaching then I’m confident it will help you get your lovin’ feeling back.

If I have made this book sound like it will change your life then I apologise because it won’t: it will fire up your Ninja thinking though, fill you with hope and inject you with plenty of energy so you can start kicking and punching again. It will undoubtedly go some considerable way to helping you find your passion for the best job in the world.

No book is a magic wand but Of Teaching, Learning and Sherbet Lemons will remind you page after page about the magic of teaching, the vigour it can give you and the vitality you can give back. ‘Sherbet lemon’ isn’t just the password into Professor Dumbledore’s Headmaster’s office, it should also be the password into every staffroom: if you haven’t got your zing then you’re not coming in.

8 Ways To Get Your Mojo Back

1.Drink champagne: well, not quite but spend time around ‘champagne people’ and drink in their energy. Be around people who are bubbly, full of life, motivators, positive souls that empower and see the best in you and others. Avoid toxic people who moan as they will drain you.  Can’t find champagne people? Then watch them – head for ActionJackson – a few minutes watching this amazing guy and your cup will soon be  full of mojo – he is amazing. No relation to Nina Jackson, Action Jackson is Mojo personified – get him into your school to fire up the kids and the staff!

2. De-stress: mojo-less feelings come about because of stress, conflicts and workloads that eat into our personalities. Try to pinpoint the stresses, lighten your load and regain perspective that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

3. Have fun: the pupils we teach make the job – they are blessed with brilliant minds and outstanding senses of humour that you can tap into everyday for inspiration. They are never boring but spreadsheets are. Forget the spreadsheets, they are boring and mojo-less.

4. Move: activity is key to feeling better and even if you are shattered, try to make time for exercise. This doesn’t mean going mad at the gym – a short walk can do wonders.

5. Unplug: have a definite cut-off point and remove yourself from technology and spend time doing something that is not work-related but will restore you.

6. Get out: move out of your comfort zone and do something different and something adventurous. Try something new, visit somewhere different and surround your senses in diversity.

7. Cut the crap: avoid the booze, fatty foods and veggin’ out as these will just sedate you and work against your mojo.

8. Be positive: when you’ve lost your inner fire then you can perceive changes and situations negatively and fail to see the opportunities. Re-route the negative and try to stay down the positive end of the battery.

Of course, having a mojo-less teacher in your school is always a cause for concern but worst still is having a whole school that has lost its mojo.

If Ofsted have been and things haven’t gone that well, then it’s not uncommon for the ‘collective mojo’ to have suffered, but you can’t let that happen. For lots of children, the school is their mojo source because it’s their safe haven, their second home; the place they grow and progress. It’s the place they go to for daily inspiration and daily mojo top-ups. Take away a school’s mojo and you subtract its very essence and everyone within it.

If you’ve got your mojo, hold on to it really tight! Don’t let it get away and don’t let anyone or anything hijack who you are … your wellbeing depends on it and so does your school.

5 thoughts on “Reward: Lost Mojo

  1. Saving the school’s mojo is essential for the children, just as you have described. I love the sound of the book Of Teaching, Learning and Sherbert Lemons. Your suggestions for getting one’s mojo back are good too. I think it’s especially important to de-stress and have fun!

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