I spend a lot of time each week reflecting on what has gone well and what has gone not so well in our school, as I am sure a lot of you do.
I consider my actions and reactions, thinking about whether or not I need to make changes in my focus in order to support the growth of the school team.
Lately I have noticed a sense of urgency and almost robotic panic in our building seemingly based upon the number of things everyone is juggling. I hate to see people so tired and overwhelmed to the point of not enjoying what they do. One thing I never doubt, not even for one minute, is each member of our team being focused on our students- always.
We can be bombarded with requirements, committees and changes coming at us from various directions outside and inside of the school. It can be a difficult task to balance the expectations and requirements coming at us, with what has to happen in our classrooms, with our students, and in our school, on a daily basis.
I know as an administrator I often feel overwhelmed by the number of things we are expected to balance and complete and spend a lot of time thinking of how to make that easier for teachers. I don’t think we really stand out in the educational crowd with these feelings. I also feel it is something that is not going away anytime soon.
On Thursday of this week, we had the opportunity to have the home town and much-loved, hockey team players from The Estevan Bruins, spend the afternoon in our school. There were 25 of them, spread out, working in every classroom for an hour and we ended the day with a floor hockey game in the gym involving as many students and staff as possible. What a fun way to spend the day!
I am not going to lie, it was a bit of an over the top frenzy for the whole afternoon. The students were so excited and it was nice to just take time to have a whole lot of fun together.
Looking back at that afternoon, I have wonder if that is what we are missing right now. Do we give ourselves permission to shut it all off occasionally and just have fun with each other without feeling guilty about it?
It seems like we can get so caught up with all of the expectations we are balancing we can let those expectations control our actions, rather than us controlling how we will fulfill those expectations. We have many things in our profession that we can’t control. I am always trying to bring our conversations back to the things we can control and reminding myself about those things often to refocus.
For example, we can’t control parental actions and reactions. We can promote, encourage and assist, but in the end we will always have some parents that do not support all of our actions. Should we focus our energy on those few by allowing their negative feedback to control us? Or does it make more sense to focus our energy on forging relationships with all of our supportive, eager to partner, parents and see what we can accomplish?
Now I would never say we should stop reaching out, encouraging and trying, but when they do not reach back, we should try not to take that personally and feel bad about it. Our energy is better spent on ways that we can reach out to the majority and the benefit it will be to all of our students.
Many expectations are put upon schools by different departments at the school division/district level. The intent of all of them is based on best practice, school division/ministry goals and improving the way we do things. The desire to improve our practice is strong, and good intent is there, but it can be overwhelming when there are too many changes. Once again, however, are we concentrating and spending energy by becoming too focused on things we can’t control?
We do need to continue to improve our practice. We do no need to continue to drill down our data. We do need to continue to improve team function so we can meet individual student needs and improve academic achievement. No one can argue that.
At the same time, however, we do not need to lose our individuality in the process.
We can stay true to the good practice and routines we have developed and feel are important in our classrooms and schools. We do not need to change who we are, what we are, or the things we feel are important to our school culture.
Let’s spend more of our energy supporting relationships, reaching out to each other to meet our goals, having fun with our students and families, enjoying reading and the love of learning, meeting in the staff room for a quick chat at recess rather than working alone, letting ourselves walk out at the end of the day and not looking back, rather than dragging home our laptops and book bags for a long night ahead.
The long list of expectations and things to do will keep coming. Where we decide to spend our energy and focus each day is up to us. I have a feeling the expectations will be met much easier if we allow ourselves to be true to who we are and what we stand for.
“To thine own self be true.”