What I did on my lockdown

By Catherine Sloman

Catherine Sloman, bakery school teacher and life coach, shares her experience of lockdown and what has helped her thrive through the past several months of the pandemic.

As a bakery school teacher, sharing the love of baking at London’s Bread Ahead Bakery School, my professional life suddenly took an unexpected turn when Covid-19 struck.

We knew it would get tricky – whilst our classrooms are big enough, 12 students in a class with both a teacher and an assistant isn’t conducive to social distancing. Even before lockdown became official, I managed to come down with a cough. So, that day, I had to bow out of teaching a big group how to get messy baking ciabatta and focaccia and isolate for seven days. After a week or so working at home, refining recipes,  planning new classes and so on (the jobs that contribute to making a school run smoothly, apart from actually teaching, the bit I really love), lockdown was real and I was on furlough.

The first week or so felt a bit like some relaxing time off work, getting domestic jobs done, baking (obviously), walking the dog a lot and indulgently watching afternoon films with my daughter, prematurely back from her first year at university. But then I decided it was time to get my act together and try to use my unexpected spare time wisely.

I’m also a life coach (more of that another time) and, whilst it’s notoriously difficult to coach yourself, I did try. So here are a few tips that have helped me make the most of lockdown:

  • Make a plan: it sounds so simple, but the days when I started by mapping out the hours ahead were the ones when I achieved most. I’m not saying I ticked off everything on the list, but making that list focuses the mind, especially when normal routines are disrupted. I do this first thing in the morning, over a cup of tea
  • Get creative about using old skills in new ways: I usually teach face to face, so I tried out different ways of sharing my skills and knowledge. I’ve held some Instagram Live sessions – ‘Lockdown Lunchbox’ was a series of short sessions, with a quick recipe that viewers could join in with or just come along for the company. I’ve also offered workshops and cookalongs on Zoom, for groups and one to one. I teamed up with a fellow foodie and coach to offer a series of ‘The Virtual Kitchen: From Old Habits to New Skills’  webinars combining cookery tips, food chat and the timely subject of reflecting on what we want out of our lives and careers. I’ve even recorded a few YouTube videos.
  • Do something different: I offered to deliver baked goods to people shielding locally – there’s a limit to what I can bake in a domestic kitchen, but I followed the example of some of my fellow Bread Angels and started selling bread and cakes in the area. Not a particularly cost-effective endeavour, but one that has expanded my network and won lots of local folk over to the joys of real bread
  • Try new ways of doing your thing: I’m naturally a bit passive on social media, but I took advice from some younger people and tried to embrace that world. Post often and be helpful to people who want to learn more about cooking – it’s a great way of building up your network and telling the world what you’re up to

Catherine Sloman is a bakery school teacher at Bread Ahead and also teaches classes through her own website/kitchen kitchenconfidence

Follow her on insta @battenburgbelle

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