Looking Within First

As I was putting groceries away this week, I noticed that I already had some of these items in the pantry. When I put the mayo away, there were already two full containers of mayo. When I opened the cabinet where I keep the tuna, there were already tuna packets there. Sigh. I’ve been here before. I’ve even been guilty of buying a pair of jeans only to discover that I already own that exact pair! Lessons continue to pop up until we truly learn from them, so here I am, presented with the lesson again. Maybe this time I will learn.

I come by this problem honestly. When my died passed away, I was only six years old and my first question for my mom was, “Will we have enough food to eat?” Concerns over having enough food have stuck with me ever since. It’s not an excuse. It’s an understanding of the root of this issue, so I can grow from it. Growth isn’t linear – sometimes we fall into old patterns, and we need a little reminder to learn that lesson.

This has me wondering about old patterns that are easy to fall back into during the school year. Specifically, in the area of looking outside for things we need when we have what need within us and among us.

A few areas that I want to be mindful of this school year.

Looking Outside for PD

Before we go hiring outside consultants and experts, let’s not forget to look down our own hallways at the immense knowledge and expertise of our very own educators. There are so many smart, talented professionals making incredible things happen for students every day. Some of the best PD I’ve ever received are from my colleagues in the little 2-3 minute sprints between class bells and while visiting their classrooms. True leadership means that we elevate the voices around us, empowering others to expand into their biggest selves and share their learning with others. If we keep hiring outside folks for PD, we are taking learning opportunities away from the people who have invested their time and energy into our schools. New teachers can teach us just as much too. We can learn something from every person we meet. Often the most influential voices are the voices of people who are “in it” with us every day. I love a good speaker and facilitator as much as anyone else. Let’s just be sure we look inside our organizations first.

Control

Often, it feels like we have very little control over our work. This is true for some more than others. But in my experience, I have a lot of more control that I sometimes care to admit. It’s a lot easier to blame other people or factors because there are a lot of factors that influence student learning. So, I’m not diminishing that. But the truth is, the one thing we can control is how we show up. We can decide how we will respond to situations. We can decide who we want to be and how we want others to receive us. We can choose the energy we bring into the spaces we serve everyday. We can choose to keep trying, learning from what is and or is not working, and we can keep trying again. We do in fact have quite a bit of control – it can be scary how much control (or my preferred word “influence”) we can have. We get to make a lot of decisions every day. Let’s embrace that opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others. We aren’t going to always get it right, but let’s be relentless in the way we own our impact on other people. Let’s be relentless in our commitment to our own growth and development and model that growth and development for other people.

Time

I’m always fascinated by how much time is lost complaining that we don’t have enough time. I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve sat in meetings and thought to myself, “Ugh, this meeting could have been an email. I could be getting so much done right now but instead I’m listening to people talk.” However, there are plenty of other uncaptured minutes that I could be using more productively that I do have control over. Sometimes, I will trick myself into not starting something by saying, “Oh, well, there is no way that I could get this done in the 5-7 minutes I have now, so I might as well put that off until later.” Sure, we may not be able to get it done in those 5-7 minutes. But sometimes, starting is half the battle and using those 5-7 minutes will make the rest of the work go faster later. Or how about this – sometimes, I will get into a rut about how much time I have and start thinking about how busy or overwhelmed I am, and then I will spend an hour scrolling Instagram at night. I get that too. We need a break. We need a release. But every choice I’m making is a choice – the time is there. I’m making a choice about how to spend it. I didn’t have to be on Instagram. So, before I let myself get worked up about meetings that take up more of my time, I need to be honest with myself about how I’m choosing to spend my time during the workday. To be clear, I’m not saying that my hour on Instagram should go to work, ha! But sometimes, it could go to making a healthy meal, reading a good book, or enjoying a nice conversation. Back to work though, as an aside, if your meeting could be a well-written email though, write the email. No one likes having their time wasted in unproductive meetings. That’s a real culture killer.

Whatever it may be for you, buying things you don’t need or complaining about time or control, I encourage you to look within. First.

It feels good to be ridiculously in charge of ourselves and our impact. Perhaps if more people made a small step toward that kind of self-awareness and ownership, the world would change.

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