Welcome to the Sisterhood

I’ve had conversations with other women who are built like me–women who work tirelessly to meet an expectation that we ourselves create, and then when one small part of that expectation doesn’t go as planned, we beat ourselves up.  We know we do this.  We can anticipate it, we can see it happening, but in the aftermath we are helpless in stopping ourselves from the negative self-talk or disappointment that follows even the smallest of disappointments in the midst of an overall victory.  We don’t give ourselves the grace we give others.  We talk to ourselves in ways would never dream of talking to our best friend.

Why do we do this?  It makes no sense to me, yet I do it over and over again.  When I approach each week I think if I just get more caught up on Sunday or if journal/pray/exercise/meditate more, this week will be different.  I just keep adding on expectation after expectation and then beat myself up when I don’t meet them.  This makes no sense–yet I do it.  I say, “I just need accountability for getting up at 4:30 AM to exercise…I just need that pretty journal to do my daily devotion…I just need to do yoga…then I’ll get it all done and meet some expectation of success I set forth in my mind.”

But life happens.  The nurse is sick.  You don’t have a sub for PE.  You have “chaos” in the lunchroom. Your people need you to listen to them.  You are left feeling like you got “nothing” accomplished because you didn’t do what YOU set out to do.  Yes, even as I write this I know it’s ridiculous to feel like a failure, yet I do.  Again and again.  What is that?  I laugh, thinking I must have some trait or gene that helps me to be highly successful in some portions of my life, yet sorely lacking in others.  Is it the overachiever gene?

I don’t have any answers tonight.  I read other principals’ blogs and get lots of ideas on how to improve culture, be an instructional leader, manage time…blah…blah..blah..I’m just trying to get through the week.  The only thing I have to offer tonight is solidarity, perhaps.  Girls like me–you know who you are and you are not alone.  You are the girl that goes to a PD, visits another teacher’s blog, or even peruses  Teachers Pay Teachers and beats yourself up for all things you are not doing that “everyone else is doing perfectly.” You are not alone and you are killing it, even if you, yourself can’t recognize it.  Welcome to the sisterhood.

Saying, “Yes!”

At the end of my last post I posed the following questions:

  • How can we live above the line of compliance and fight off the forces of mediocrity so that we don’t become stagnant?
  • What does that look like for us at PLE?
    How can we push ourselves to create instead of merely comply?

In my post, I quoted the principal of Thomas Nelson High School, Mr. Bradley, when I wrote that you don’t ask, “how,” you just say, “yes.”

I believe many of us at Paint Lick have said “yes!”  As I have been meeting with grade level teams during our on-going learning PLC meetings, I have seen seasoned educators challenge themselves to change the structure of their classrooms to better meet the needs of their students.  I have seen teachers look at best practice reading strategies and structures and measure what they do against them.  They are being true “creative directors” as Bradley might say.   Using what they read and what they learn from collaborating together, they are being reflective, thoughtful and learning new ideas and making them their own.  It’s exciting to watch!

I find that I have to say a resounding, intentional “yes” every day…sometimes several times a day.  I have to commit to my purpose over and over again.  I’ve been joking that I need to own the day instead of it owning me.  That is so true. I find that I have to align my day to day interactions, problem-solving, planning, and even the most mundane tasks with my purpose or I will stay in reactive mode instead of being purposeful and intentional.  Without purpose and intentionality I will surely drown in compliance and mediocrity.

Lately, I have found strategies to manage the many tasks that come my way so that I can spend time each day on what makes sense for that moment and that day. I have tools and routines I use to prioritize tasks, but sometimes these get derailed when there is a problem, crisis, discipline issue, or when a parent just needs to talk.  That’s when I get frustrated.  I see these as “interruptions” to my work instead of as the work itself–opportunities to build relationships and serve.

Successful CEO, Cheryl Bachelder writes “in the real world, serving others is the path to superior performance.” Serving others feels natural when I can see a direct path between what I am working on (the way I am serving) and our school goals. Serving is more challenging when I can’t see a direct alignment between the issue and what we are trying to achieve.  I think this is where I need the most work–this is where I need to say, “yes.”

I need to remember to look at everything I do through the lens of my purpose.

My purpose isn’t about accomplishing MY tasks I have set out for myself that day—it’s about serving the people of my community.  In the podcast Principal Matters, William D. Parker shares this important point—“time spent=relationships built.”  I don’t think I’m always fully present when people come to me to with an issue or just to talk.  I need to change my mindset about these interactions and look at them as opportunities to connect with people instead of just as situations that are taking away from my time for my work “getting things done.” These interactions are the work. They are directly tied to my purpose.

As I wrote above in relation to juggling tasks, without purpose and intentionality I will surely drown in compliance and mediocrity.  I need this same intentionality in my interactions with others. Again, I need to constantly say, “yes.”—yes to being present, yes, to listening, and yes to serving. That is the work.