The Run/Walk Interval

I am feeling a little overwhelmed this evening.  I have a list of “todos” that I go through on Sundays.  I send out an email and “one call” to my families and an instructionally-focused email to the staff.  Before I send out my staff email, I like to draft a new blog post. This week, I also have a few items on my list that are due tomorrow that I do not normally have.  In addition, it was a beautiful weekend.  In my efforts to get some exercise and enjoy the weather I went for an hour bike ride yesterday and a 2-hour hike today.  Now, I feel a knot in my stomach as I think of what needs to be accomplished before I go to bed.  I also want to be sure that I get enough sleep so that I can get up to exercise at 4:30 AM.

I know I am not alone in my feelings of being overwhelmed.   Many educators who try to balance the demands and joys of family time on the weekends with staying caught up with work feel this pressure on Sunday nights.  I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know that I put a lot of this pressure on myself.  A lot of teachers I know do the same:

We don’t HAVE to have x,y, & z done, but it would be so GREAT, or the kids would just LOVE this activity, or the families would really APPRECIATE that level of communication, or there’s that FABULOUS idea we saw on Pinterest that we could do that would just take a minute…

As I struggle with balance, I am thinking that balance doesn’t mean that I equally incorporate all aspects of my life in equal measure all the time.  It’s proving to be impossible.  I think it’s more like a run/walk interval.  I find that when I do a long run it can help to use a cycle of running for two minutes and walking for one minute.  If I am intentional about periodic walking I don’t feel like I am “slacking” by taking walk breaks and I can go a longer distance without feeling as tired after.

It was a pretty weekend. It was good to be outside.  Perhaps I won’t spend as much time crafting the perfect email this weekend, perhaps my one call will have a couple of words I stumble over, perhaps this blog won’t be a very deep reflection, but it will be okay.  I can not run full out in every aspect of my life perfectly all the time.  Sometimes an intentional walk break is a needed to power through the long run.

 

What Follows Makes the Difference

Lead learner. Several blogs I read have used this term to describe the principal.  Before I took on this role, I thought that I understood what that meant. Principals should model what we expect out of the staff and students. We should be open to new learning, understand that we don’t have all the answers, have that growth mindset, etc.  I thought, “I got this! I always think there’s more to learn! I  have the attitude that there are tons of ways I can improve and get better! I just love all that stuff! Heck, I’ll even write a blog to make my learning visible to everyone.”

Once again, after only one week, I am reminded about how little I really do know! Understanding the concept of lead learner all depends on how you define learner and true learning. Initially, I suppose I was thinking about learning at the surface level– about “the what and how” of my job–how to support management of the details of the school, how I should plan my PLCs, what should or shouldn’t be included on my first SBDM agenda etc… 

Deep experiential learning, however, is something different.  Allowing myself to be in a position of discomfort and making myself vulnerable are the precursors to deep learning.  When you place yourself in a position of vulnerability, you are going out on a limb.  You are trying or testing a hypothesis.  You are writing for a real audience.  Yes, this will sometimes lead to mistakes and moments that you wish went a different way, but it’s through these experiences that you find that deeper learning.  

After a few mishaps this week, I found myself longing for the time that I wouldn’t be so “new”–the time when I would have this “principal thing” down. The unease and uncertainty is not a comfortable place to be, yet it is through these experiences that I will grow.  That’s what I  keep telling myself, anyway.  

As I learn, I can’t help think about our students.  Do we allow them to go deeper?  Do we plan experiences that provide a “productive struggle” or are we just spoon-feeding them?  Are we providing safe environments for them to go out on a limb? If we are providing these experiences and environments, are we allowing our students to reflect on the experience and transfer their learning?

I find that without reflection, I get stuck in the “I-should-haves” rather than moving on to what I learned and how this will impact future decisions.  Perhaps I need to stop wishing for the time when I won’t be so new and embrace the discomfort and mistakes.  If it’s through these that I learn deeply, then I should be grateful for them.  I need to be intentional about reflecting on what happened, what I learned from the experience and how I can move forward.  I guess being the “lead learner” is not about just being open to new learning, it’s about being open to discomfort, missteps, and still being willing to take risks even when the possibility of messing up exists.   It’s what follows the missteps that makes the difference.

Balance

At our opening day staff meeting, teachers individually chose a word to be their focus for the year.  Many teachers picked “balance” as their word.  After my first three days of school as a principal I am thinking that word would have been a good one for me to focus on too.  I am already seeing many situations in which finding a balance will be key to being successful.

I knew going into this new position that each day would bring the unexpected, but I am quickly seeing that finding balance between addressing issues that arise unexpectedly and doing what I had planned will prove to be a challenge.  I am a planner. I love planning and feeling like I am intentionally allocating my time.  I am going to have to find a way to balance being in the classrooms, addressing people’s needs, interacting with students in the cafeteria, and getting desk work done.  I didn’t get into classrooms as much as I wanted these first few days, which (I imagine) is a common challenge among principals, but I didn’t think I would be feeling that pull in the first three days of school.

I think one of the things I need to do is to plan my time specifically in chunks.  (Here I go– planning again!) Time in classrooms from x to x, time to work on this task from y to y, and so on.  Then I can reflect at the end of the day on what got finished and what needs to be carried over to the next day.  If I am not super intentional and prioritize WHAT needs to be done each day, I will run the risk of doing what I have these first few days–being in reactive mode all day then staying after school way too late to get done what HAS to be done before the next day.  Staying too late will not be good in the long run and will throw me off balance in the family, health, and spiritual parts of my life.  I know when I get off balance, the part of my life I am giving the most energy to ultimately suffers, as well.

Regardless of how each day turns out, being reflective will serve me well.  I know I will make many mistakes this first year. This is great news because being reflective will allow me to grow from those mistakes instead of allowing them to dampen my spirit.  I should see tons of growth this year!