Invest now, so we will thrive later! See this situation as an opportunity! This sounded really good at first. I was pumped the first week, but the reality of the situation had not hit me. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I guess I saw this pandemic situation just as a short term challenge to be overcome. I suppose I figured we would have a couple of weeks where we educators could recharge, use the time away to learn more to make us better at what we do, and then come back more tech savvy and ready to see our kids again. Wow. I definitely was in denial.
Personally, I thought this time would be a fantastic opportunity for me to hone my skills. I thought I would have tons of time to learn, grow, and reflect–a type of sabbatical. Our kids would be okay, our teachers would thrive, and we would come out stronger as a result…like I said, the reality had not hit me. Now I find that if I’m not careful I can become consumed with worry–worry for our students, staff, my own family, and all those who are touched by the illness.
Last week I realized that I needed to come to terms with the reality of the situation. I had to recognize it for what it is, grieve the losses we are experiencing, but not stay there. School has changed. Distance Learning means Distance Leading, so now I am trying to figure out what that really means for me. What does being a good leader look like when you are leading from afar? How can I structure my days to make that happen?
This week I’ll be working hard on fine-tuning my focus, goals, rituals, and routines. I know focus and discipline are important, especially when trying to be productive when working at home. The challenge will come when balancing being responsive to staff and families with productivity on work projects AND taking advantage of spontaneous learning opportunities. I’ve got my schedule set, now I’ll just take it one day at a time.
The situation we are facing with the Corona Virus is devastating. I can’t imagine what it is like for those who have been laid off or whose income has been cut. I’m worried about the most vulnerable getting sick. I am worried about my students who count on school to get their most basic needs met and for connection to loving adults. My heart aches for the disappointment students are feeling due to missing out on school and sporting events, activities with friends, and social connection. There’s a lot to worry and feel sad about, but I have a choice. I can talk about how awful it is and lament about everything our students will be losing, or I can focus on what I can control–the use of the time I have been given.
The first week I was bombarded with information and resources. I was on information overload. In addition to dealing with and responding to the realities of the situation and trying to communicate constantly changing information to my community, I felt like I needed to be a step ahead and analyze and problem-solve this new reality of distance learning and how it would look at my school. I had to organize both the logistics of what was happening in the present and what might happen in the weeks to come. One of my first tasks was to sort through all the resources coming at me for distance learning. I had to figure out a way to both organize and house access to the materials, and make them accessible to the staff and to the school community. I used my school and staff blog pages as the hubs for the resources and then used social media and school communication channels to share them. I also had to unsubscribe to a bunch of companies who apparently launched email campaigns to let principals know of their resources they were offering free during this time. This management took most of the week, but was important for me in order to position myself better mentally moving forward.
As I went throughout last week, not only did I have to take on the roles of sorter and sifter as I went through the resources, deciding what we could use and what would work for our school, but I also had to do that with the Professional Development Opportunities that were coming my way. Many of the leaders I follow were offering free webinars and mastermind opportunities. I had this nagging anxiety that plagued me…much like Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) that some face when looking at social media. I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities. I signed up for what I could and quickly deleted what seemed less important for this time.
As I enter into the second week, I don’t feel as overwhelmed by what is coming at me, but I feel a pressure to do well with what I have been given. I am very fortunate to have a career in which my income won’t be affected by the shutdown of school and businesses and therefore, I feel that I owe it to my community to make something good come out of a bad situation. I plan to apply the strategies I use to manage my time during school to “Distance Leading.” I will set my “Big Three” Most Important Things to focus on each week then build my calendar with routines that support and connect to my “Big Three.” I know if I see this time as an opportunity for our school instead of a setback, not only will I be in a better state of mind to lead my school during this crisis, but we may emerge stronger.