Going on a Bearhunt

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!

Uh-uh!
Grass!
Long wavy grass.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

Each day I go on a bear hunt.  My bear is not a literal bear, but definitely may have teeth and claws.  I never know what I might find on this daily hunt. When I come to work each morning my day rises up to greet me in ways in which I would never have dreamed.  Some days go as planned.  I get in my expected number of walkthroughs, meetings, observations, and then have some time to do reports, paperwork, or planning.  Other days the office door is a revolving door of discipline issues, teacher issues, or impromptu planning meetings.

In order to be successful in each day’s hunt, I have found that more than anything, I need mental toughness and emotional resiliency.  I didn’t realize the level of stress that would be associated just by having unmet expectations of how one’s day would go.  This is not even including the stress associated by the event itself.  For example, let’s say you have expectations that you will complete 3 walkthroughs and write your weekly staff email before 10:00 this morning.  Instead, you needed to provide safe crisis management support all morning for a student.  The event itself is stressful and takes an emotional toll upon you.  Couple that with the stress of having 2 hours of work that did not get completed and now the additional paperwork that accompanies the safe crisis management.  The stress in compounded.

I have come to realize that there is nothing I could have done to prepare for this.  No class, no workshop, no book.  In order to develop the strategies to persevere through each day’s hunt, I have to go through each day and learn as I go.  It’s faulty thinking to tell myself, “I am not cut out for this” as I have been known to do at the end of a, particularly hard day.  There is no genetic or innate trait that would make that statement true or false.  There are better or worse ways to handle situations and better or worse ways to think about or frame them.  Somedays my instincts will lead me in the right direction and my training will help with what to do and other times I will make a mistake.  Nothing, however, that I have experienced before becoming a principal has prepared me with how to think, react emotionally, and cope.

There are specific strategies and ways that I frame my thinking now, but I wouldn’t know or understand how to use these tools without the experience to provide the context.  I’m not always successful in remembering to employ them, but I know I will improve each day.  One thing I do know is that I can’t avoid the situations.  I just have to go through them to become better at using my strategies.

A discussion of the tools and strategies I use is for another blog post, but for now, I hope to leave you with the idea of learning to accept that you can’t always be prepared for what comes, but with the hope of knowing it does get easier.   No amount of careful planning and strategizing will prevent all problems.  No daily devotion or minutes spent in meditation will equip you with the armor to face all situations with grace, confidence and a peaceful spirit. However, certain tools can help you get through the tough situations and with practice, you can get better at dealing with what comes.  You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it.  You just have to go through it.