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NAHT Life members' newsletter - Spring 2017

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The National Life members' committee (NLMC) is pleased to announce that as an important element in improving Life member communications our Twitter account @NAHTLifeMembers is now up and running, having been blessed by membership services.

For those who use Twitter no explanation is needed, for those who don’t the following might help! I guess it’s best described as a cross between blogging and instant messaging with the ability to follow people and have followers and interact with Twitter on your smartphone, iPad or computer. Twitter is in many ways the perfect social messaging tool.

It’s our intention to use the account to flag relevant education issues, highlight the work of NAHT and of course share other items we feel may be of interest to both Life members and others who choose to follow us. There will be a link on our website providing more information about how to set up an account and how to use Twitter for those interested. The more followers we can gather, the more we can use our influence!

East Riding of Yorkshire: Life members development – a case study

By Phil Williamson, East Riding of Yorkshire Branch

As a member of the NAHT East Riding committee, I was working on improving communications with members and through this, I became aware of just how many NAHT Life members (LM) there are out there. And at that time, I, and many other committee members were soon to join their ranks!

As time goes on, LM are becoming more and more involved in the support to members offered by branches – either by decision or default. We needed to see how this could be developed – by decision. A lot of experience was disappearing from our committee, we needed to see what we could do to replace it – and we had to ask the question, by staying on the committee were we making it too easy for the current generations of members not to step up?

This led to us deciding to put some sort of active LM section together.

We needed to know what sort of group we wanted, why we wanted it and who would organise it? The latter fell to me as it was my idea!

The first thing I did was to contact a few people whose name appeared on the back of the old LM magazine to see how their groups were run. Fascinating: these groups range from three friends meeting for lunch to well-organised groups with over a hundred members. In Northern Ireland, the move to the LM group appears to be an automatic step for anyone retiring.  Initial research suggested all seemed to be social groups.

Inevitably we’d be a small group as we had fewer members to call on, but there were no reasons we couldn’t undertake similar activities as the bigger groups referenced above.

So, if you want to start a group how might you do it?

Be social: meet for lunches, don’t ever be put off by how few people attend, keep plugging away and spread the word. Have an email address for your group.  We also printed a business card with contact details to pass on to anyone interested that we 'bumped into'.

Ensure you invite your LM to your AGM

They have every right to attend. It surprised me how many came / still come, and how we’d missed doing this in the past.  Talk to them when they attend, get their views and draw them in!

Try and get in touch with members before they retire

I find this very frustrating – getting this info is nigh impossible in the Riding, as would-be retirees tend to keep their retirement a secret. Members also then ONLY have six months to join as an NAHT Life Member so many take time to appear on our NAHT Branch Secretary’s monthly membership list. This needs scanning regularly, which means someone on the committee must have a specific LM role to access this information e.g. the NAHT Branch Life Member Link Representative

Let the social side grow naturally

After a year we have an overall group of 20. We meet monthly for lunch and, being near Hull, this year’s City of Culture, we are starting to visit events together.

Importance of making connections

I’ve learnt that this group does more than meet to eat. We laugh, we remind ourselves that we are still skilled people and we didn’t lose our skills when we retired, we combat loneliness, we meet new people, make new friends and we don’t lose touch with those old friends we’d worked alongside for so long.
As a sideline – as the organiser, I’m a conduit to pass on LM issues to the East Riding committee and then on to the Regional Executive and we share between us our working knowledge of the financial benefits NAHT offers to Life members.

Those are reasons enough to form any LM group.

How effective is this group in supporting members?

Actually – it doesn’t at all. That’s tackled differently. There are seven LM on our Branch committee. We stayed on after retirement, and, importantly, we are also members of the group above.

Initially, we have moved gradually to a support role for the committee, rather than individual NAHT members which we consider to be very important.

LM are the minute taker, the treasurer and the communications officer; they organise training, attend training to sign people in, help any presenter set up their gear and tidy up afterwards. We are the membership secretary, book the venues for our committee meetings (which we now move around the county to hold support 'surgeries' for members.) and prepare agendas. We attend JCC meetings and any other meeting to allow our Branch Secretary more time to work with members. We take away the jobs that take up the time that serving members associate with being on committees. We think this works and feedback supports that view!

Our attendance at the aforementioned surgeries is also very important. It allows us to share our experience personally with any members who come along. Here again, we can reduce workload for the Branch Secretary. Many of us are also school governors, involved with Initial Teacher Training or self-employed consultants. We have a lot to offer. It’s refreshing for us to realise that our experience is still there and that we can still give good advice and support. We have successfully encouraged several serving members to join the committee through this personal contact.

Our second biggest challenge now is that our Branch Secretary has become a Life member. Time-wise this is good. Succession-wise this is poor. However, with the reduction of facilities time and pressures on serving members, it is more than likely that there will now always be a supporting role for Life members. Currently, we are working out what that role could be, and the best model for it to work successfully in our area.

Our biggest challenge is to decide when we move from the committee to the Life members’ group solely. The benefit of the group is that we will still be around if needed.

The NAHT Life member group goes from strength to strength!

Phil Williamson East Riding of Yorkshire Branch

Grow your own...Loofah/Luffa!

An article by Nick Dowler – gardening correspondent

Many of you reading this NAHT Life newsletter will have a little more time to explore your green fingers as you enter the world of NAHT Life membership. Growing something out of the ordinary can give you an exciting challenge and be a talking point at your next dinner party or visit to your local pub.

Almost anyone can achieve reasonable results in the garden when growing the standard range of vegetables but what about trying something different? About a year ago, coincidentally whilst having a gardening discussion with a group of friends in my local, the idea was born to try to grow a luffa plant.

The first problem was obtaining seeds but a few minutes on the internet revealed a source and within a few days, they arrived all the way from Tennessee USA. As a member of the cucumber family, I treated them as I would a cucumber seed. They were planted on a window sill quite early as they require a long growing season. Germination was successful in about 75% of the seeds and they appeared initially to be very similar to a marrow but once the second or third set of leaves appeared it became obvious that they were a vine type of plant. Instructions which came with the seeds suggested a steady temperature of 20 c so it was some time before a move to my unheated greenhouse could be considered in fact the three or four plants on my bathroom sill were around 30-40cm high before they were taken into the greenhouse. I also experimented with a sunny position on a south-facing wall outside but these plants became very poor specimens and withered away to nothing after a few weeks. After a slow start, the greenhouse plants suddenly took off and grew at a terrific rate and would have completely taken over the entire greenhouse if they hadn't been cut back.

The stem from the ground was surprisingly thin to nourish what would become such a big plant. The first flowers were around two meters from the base of the plant and were large yellow blooms. Not long after this, the fruits appeared and they slowly grew to a considerable size.

Probably because of the cooler temperatures than in their home environment the fruits took ages to ripen and come the end of September I decided to cut them and place them in an airing cupboard to dry out. This was a success as the photographs show. A friend who planted his out a little earlier than mine did manage to ripen his on the vine but mine was slightly bigger.

For your own seeds try this website

You may be thinking "what would I do with more than one luffa?" The answer is easy buy a soap or two and a bottle of shampoo, add a luffa and you have an instant bathroom gift for a birthday or Christmas.

Nick Dowler
First published 16 October 2017
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