I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself. As I say in my upcoming book, “The most important work we do is the work we do on ourselves. Everything else is secondary.” I believe this is true because how we show up impacts everything else. Showing up well for ourselves and others makes our work better.
This is a very challenging time of year in schools. By March, we are well into the school year. We are tired. Some of the challenges we’ve been facing have taken a toll on us. Many of us feel less patient. Many of us feel less compassionate. Some of us aren’t feeling much all together because it can all feel very heavy. Not to mention, the pressures of spring testing are upon us.
Pair these conditions with our own internal pressures, and it’s exhausting. I never seem to make it through my to-do list, and I’m often disappointed by the amount of progress I’ve been able to make on my goals.
And yet, there are students to teach. There are staff to support. There are plans to be made. There is quite a bit of school year remaining, and we must find a way forward. What does that look like? What does it look like to show up well when the work is overwhelming? Certainly, we must find ways to talk about how we feel and talk about hard things, but this will only take us so far. It often makes us feel better in the moment which is important. However, long-term solutions are important too.
I am working on one solution to quiet the chaotic feeling that accompanies this time of year. My simple strategy seems to be bringing me peace while making others feel cared for.
It’s simply this:
Nothing is more important than the people I’m with in the moment.
That’s it. It’s that simple. Emergencies are an exception, of course, and then it’s that simple.
As principal, I had a day when I was speaking to an upset parent on my office phone. In the same moment, my work cell started ringing, my personal cell started ringing, my walkie talkie was going off, and I had a teacher knocking on my office door.
I was completely overwhelmed by a sense that I could not be what everyone needed in that moment. It’s easy to feel this way a classroom teacher too. It can feel hopeless and insurmountable.
But we are one person, and we can only do one thing really well at a time. Let’s go all-in on being fully focused on the moment we are sharing with others. Let’s set our phones aside when people are speaking. Let’s listen and truly see others with our full attention and care. As teachers, let’s put systems in place, so students can get what they need and can learn productively when we are engaging with a small group of students. As administrators, let’s create systems that empower others to be problem solvers, so we aren’t the only person who is trusted to make decisions. Then, let’s move into what my husband calls having a WIN mindset, “What’s important next?” When the moment has passed, let’s move on to what is important next.
We are allowed to work this way. We might need to do a little work to create systems that make it possible, but we are allowed to work this way. In fact, it’s how we work best. Wherever we are, we are at our best when we are all there.
When it all feels like too much, let’s remind ourselves that nothing is more important than the moment we are in with others.
Wishing you more moments of peace and presence during this challenging time in the school year.
Keep going. We need you.
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