From education to employment

Why FE Needs Radical Rest

Dr Lou Mycroft is a nomadic educator, writer, and Thinking Environment facilitator.

In her brilliant book, ‘The Lightmakers’ Manifesto’, social activist Karen Walrond talks about listening out for the “whispers”. The premise of the book is how to make change without losing your joy – or your health. The “whispers” are those calls to action which help you find focus, without trying to do it all. 

Photo by Aleksandar Cvetanovic via Unsplash shows a ginger cat fast asleep in a furry nest.

My whispers are unmistakable, in fact they have become shouts. The universe is yelling in my ear that what FE needs is rest. The need for good quality sleep, for mental ease and for a physical rest is common to us all. There’s no wonder we are haemorrhaging staff. We are exhausted. 

Even if your brain is saying, “Impossible!” I’m pretty sure you’re registering the truth of this. A weekend is not enough. A week is not enough. We are fundamentally drained. 

The Sleep Scientist

This year’s Association of Colleges conference acknowledged this with an excellent presentation by Dr Sophie Bostock aka The Sleep Scientist. Sophie was amazing: hugely credible, engaging and entertaining. It was like watching the very best of TED Talks. But essentially, despite all the compelling science, the message was the same as it always is: it’s on you. Sort your sleep out. 

I believe that the rest deficit is more systematic and collective than that and that’s why, with my changemaking buddy Joss Kang, we’re launching a three-month co-creation campaign around Radical Rest, leading to a Radical Rest course launching in April 2023 as part of FE Constellations. The campaign will help FE think together about what radical rest means in the boom and bust of the academic year. We’ll then have ideas about how to leverage community, to change systems and cultures which drive our exhaustion.

The socio-economic angle is undeniable.

Sophie is on the advisory board of The Sleep Charity, founded by a dear friend and fellow TEDx-talker of mine, Vicki Beevers, and they just launched their #SleepPoverty campaign (check it out). The unpalatable truth is that the people who have less in this society get less sleep. That includes many of our students – and our colleagues. 

Sleep Poverty affects people who can’t afford decent bedding (or housing), those working long hours, continental shifts and multiple jobs. Sleep is hugely impacted by menopause, mental ill-health, physical disability. Carers get less sleep. New parents get less sleep. And the academic and youth leader Shawn A Ginwright, who introduced us to the term ‘Radical Rest’ in his brilliant book, ‘The Four Pivots’, taught us that those in our society who have to work harder to get where they want to be – people of colour battling the intersections of multiple inequalities – are likely to get the least rest of all. 

Life in FE is noisy and busy.

It’s not A+E but somehow, everything’s urgent. When we don’t get enough rest – and rest does not just mean sleep, it means downtime – our decision-making is impaired, our empathy is impaired, our communication is impaired. Join the conversation via the #FERadicalRest hashtag on social media and let’s come up with some collective changemaking that will give us all a break.

Dr Lou Mycroft is a nomadic educator, writer, and Thinking Environment facilitator.
By Dr Lou Mycroft, a nomadic educator, writer, and Thinking Environment facilitator.

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