Why Geoff and Margaret @RetirementTales are the new heroes of the teaching profession.
Have you got a mental health hero?
Maybe someone in your family? A sporting legend? Or a fictional Marvel Character?
Laughology’s CEO and Head of Happiness, Stephanie Davies, is a big fan of She-Ra. In fact, she has a pair of golden pants in She-Ra’s honour and will bring them out of the wardrobe at every opportunity, and without encouragement!
Research shows that having heroes has a positive psychological impact on us, which is good for our mood, our mental health and wellbeing.
Over the past couple of years there have been many notable heroes. COVID has highlighted the fact that it is often the ‘ordinary’ people who come up trumps in tricky times. Not the investment bankers, the high-flying business folks, and definitely not the politicians.
Instead, we have clapped the NHS workers. We have relied on delivery drivers. And school staff, well, you are heroes – every one of you!
In the New Year’s Honours List, Tobias Garbutt Weller, an autistic boy with cerebral palsy, who is unable to walk unaided, said that he had been inspired by the late, great Captain Sir Tom Moore to complete two marathons and an Ironman challenge, raising £150,000 in the process. Extraordinary things happen when people have someone to look up to.
And now, teachers everywhere have a couple of new ‘kids’ on the block to inspire them. If you haven’t yet heard of Geoff and Margaret @RetirementTales, then you must have been living in a cave for the past month or two. They joined Twitter in December 2021 and, at the time of writing, have 24.2k followers.
According to their bio, Geoff and Margaret have responded to Nadim Zahawi’s call to action – for retired teachers to return to the classroom, to cover staff absences until we see the back of Omicron. Even though it’s unlikely that Geoff and Margaret are exactly who they say they are (their account is, apparently, ‘more metaphor than parody’), it doesn’t matter to their followers.
So, why have these two retirees become national teaching treasures, and how have their tweets helped people’s mental health?
From the get-go, no job that ‘the lady from the agency’ has given Geoff has been too big.
“Can you take a mixed age class, primary and secondary, in a town where all the schools have no staff?”
“My pleasure!” I say.
“You will also need to cook 267 dinners….”
While it might only have been meant as a funny tweet, over the past few weeks there will have been people who have needed to cover unexpectedly, at short notice and teach a year group or a subject that is well out of their comfort zone. Geoff’s ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude will have helped some folks to maintain perspective, and not catastrophise. In staffrooms all over the land, there will have been the rousing cry, ‘If Geoff can do it….’
January can be a miserable month, but there are things that you can do to get through the short days and shite weather.
At Laughology, we know the importance of using humour and having a laugh – with others, and also at ourselves, when things go wrong. Geoff and Margaret’s tweets are littered with observational, old-school comedy and, as much as they maintain their apolitical stance, who didn’t have a titter at last week’s post:
‘Margaret finished off the week by telling her class the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
To bring the story up to date, she renamed the boy Prince Novak of Johnsonland.
Margaret can do traditional and contemporary at the very same time.’
If you haven’t been persuaded yet to give them a follow, here are some of the lovely comments from G&M’s devotees:
‘Absolute sunshine on these dark mornings!’
‘Thank you for great memories … and a smile each day.’
‘You’ve made our week!!! Thank you not only for your humour but for your friendship, understanding and camaraderie.’
‘Thank you, thank you for making me belly laugh! You’re just the tonic I need.’
So, apart from these wonderful septuagenarians (yep, we’re going along with the belief that that’s what they are), who else makes you smile, chuckle or guffaw? By surrounding yourself with these people, you will get your serotonin flowing; making you feel better, both physically and psychologically.
Connecting with others is also key to our good mental health.
As we all know, social media can be fantastic. It can also be foul and #Edutwitter is a dark place sometimes. Regularly, people will say that they are having to leave, take a break or block others, for the sake of their wellbeing. Whilst these are good decisions to make, it’s a shame for the profession that not everyone can ‘play nicely’.
Of course, it’s okay to have a difference of opinion. However, there are ways and means (in both the real and online world) of kindly disagreeing. Whoever Geoff and Margaret are, they have reminded people how to connect in a supportive way and to: ‘Keep it light and loving, and in the spirit of @RetirementTales.’
There are so many other reasons why Geoff and Margaret have become the new heroes of the teaching profession. They are relatable, extremely likeable and authentic - which may sound strange, being as we don’t really know who they are, but it’s clear that they have been/are teachers and they do know a lot about education way back when.
The final attribute for the time being though, which shines through in every twitter post, is Geoff’s kindness. In particular, at the beginning of term when he was providing a listening ear to a stressed head, who had a host of problems:
‘The kindly Head took me to one side at lunch and ended up telling me all about his money worries. I could see how it was troubling him.
I told him it’s ok to open up and I listened as intently as I could in a busy dining hall.’
Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs. It can also be tough. To maintain the good mental health of the whole team in your school, be sure to:
Spot any workmates who are struggling, by regularly checking in and noticing any changes in behaviour. This includes the Head, who may be feeling very isolated at the moment and may not yet have found his/her own Geoff.
Support them, by asking open questions and listening with empathy.
Signpost them to mental health professionals, if and when you feel this would be helpful.
And finally, if you’re reading this Geoff, it sounds like you’ve got kindness and compassion down to a fine art. But you have highlighted men’s mental health in your posts, so we’d like to invite you to our Manchat webinar with the fabulous Dave Keeling.
If you can’t make it because you’re simultaneously teaching 320 children, cooking all of their dinners and searching for cardis for Margaret, just let us know and we’ll send you the recording.
N.B. This blog was written for Laughology