If you are like me, this summer was about getting back to the norm. I found myself wanting to do all the things I had been avoiding for the past couple of years…travel, fun with friends, getting together with family, and most of all, learning face-to-face with people from all over the world. After the whirlwind we have been living through, I have found myself looking for ways to SLOW DOWN. The problem with this is that it does not seem like the world received this same message. The question I find myself thinking continuously is why is life on fast forward?
Life on FAST FORWARD…
The question becomes how do you slow the world down long enough to pause and care for yourself as you move through life on fast forward? The simple answer is you plan for it. We made tremendous strides last school year. Many of us are pressing hard and fast as we double down to repeat our past successes. Past mistakes have taught us that if we push ourselves and our students too fast, we/they will likely fizzle out or give up on our goal way before the year ends. Around this time a year ago, my best friend gave me one of the greatest pieces of advice that I have had. She told me to “go slow to move fast.” My advice to us all is to slow down, teach in the moment, and proceed with intentional purpose.
Although things seem normal, our students and the educational system are still recovering. Learning gaps are not as wide but are ever-present and evident in our day-to-day processes. It will take us a little more time to fill in the cracks in our children’s academic foundation. We must remember that small successes lead to large achievements.
Are you guilty of trying to do it all?
So, what am I saying? Essentially, you are not going to be able to do it all. It’s okay to sit and look at the trees from your back porch, to watch a movie or television without working, to take a nap in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Don’t feel guilty about spending time with your family. You need it. Encourage your colleagues to do the same. You will not be your best if you pour into everyone else without pouring into yourself. Over the past few weeks, in addition to opening the school year, I had also been getting my son prepared to be moved out of the state for his freshman year of college, presenting at a national conference, and publishing a book. There has been zero time for me to just stop, pause, and breathe.
Life With No Speed Limits
Life has pushed me at what seems like 100 miles per hour daily. If my job was anything except the leader of the school, the expectations might have been different. I realize now that I may not have been bringing my best self to work. As I reflect, some of my staff have not agreed with the decisions made over the past few weeks and have told me that my temperament has been different. These interactions have made me begin to wonder why leaders are not afforded the grace we so freely give to others. Why are we expected to be perfect?
Although I strive for perfection, I am by no means perfect. I am just as human as anyone else. I have feelings, I have a life outside of the school building, and sometimes I too have a bad day. So, why do people not ask us how leaders we are doing, if everything was okay, or simply put, not give leaders the benefit of the doubt? The only thing that comes to mind is this… perception can indeed be a double-edged sword (White & White, 2022, p. 126). I often talk to administrators, coaches, school, and district leaders about this, but never the teachers I lead.
Are you able to see the viewpoint of others?
People often only see things from one viewpoint, their own. Why? Emotional turbulence will indeed take over your actions if you are not keeping a pulse on your mindset pendulum. As educators, we should work to reflect from all angles before judging those around us. This is essential when working with students, parents, our colleagues, and when interacting and getting feedback from others. Why do people not ask how you are doing? We are all guilty of this. It could be because it takes a lot of practice to learn to detach your feelings and look unbiasedly at all angles of a situation. On the other hand, it might be due to whatever emotional turmoil you have going on in your life at that moment. Whatever the case may be, never forget that school and district leaders make decisions for the good of the whole, not one individual.
Emotions Blur Clarity
The next time you find yourself feeling upset about a decision that has been made by your school or district leaders, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be careful in your approach, and make sure you are ready to listen. If you are not in the right frame of mind, you may misconstrue what you hear and be tempted to take it personally. Leaders strive for transparency, but sometimes have to limit what we put out into the world. Once we say things to one person, regardless of whether it is personal or private, it becomes a proclamation. Proclamations are seen as mandates and prevent things from transitioning as smoothly as most of us would like.
REWINDING to Make Progress
This month’s Better Mindset entry is focused on reflecting on how you perceive others, yourself, and the perspective the world has of you. Now, it does not matter what your position is. You are a LEADER. Why? A leader is born out of the impact you have on those around you. Teachers are some of the most powerful leaders I know. Each day you enter a room and influence the trajectory of our youngest and most moldable minds. As many teachers leave the profession or are thinking of leaving the profession in hopes of finding their purpose, getting recognition, and/or feeling a sense of accomplishment with a minimal amount of stress, I urge you; I beg you to consider stepping away from the “I” perspective and take a look at your impact from both the single student, complete classroom, entire school, and the entire community as a whole.
Perspective is two-sided. To ensure we are all viewing it from the same entry point, perspective will be defined as “the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed. This is essentially what you say versus what people hear” (White & White, 2022, p. 126).
Press PAUSE to Optimize Performance
As you continue to plan for the future, take a step back and review the strategies you used last year. Write down your top ten go-to strategies for success. When life is moving too fast, vow to stick hard and fast to things you know work and move students towards mastery. It won’t be easy. You will be tempted to stray from the tried and true and go with the fresh and new. Our children can’t afford for us to try out the newest fad. Their foundation is not strong enough yet…but we are getting there. Notice that I said “we.” This means it will take all of us to get this right. There is no playbook for bringing students back from the longest learning slide we have ever faced. This slide has many ups and downs that we must overcome before our students can stand on a firm foundation of knowledge. Brace yourselves and encourage students to hold on to the rail.[scroll down to keep reading]
Learning to Cope Without a Safety Net
This year, we are on the upward climb without a safety net. Mentally, we are all tired, on edge, short-tempered, and yearning for just one normal day. Well, all I can say is we have “not yet” made it to the downward slope of the slide. I encourage you to dig deep, remember to focus on a “not yet” state of mind, watch out for prospective pitfalls, and stick to the “tried and true” as we persist on the longest slide of our lifetime. Above all, remember to “go slow to move fast.” Five simple words have become my mantra. These words serve as a reminder to make changes in small increments and keep a pulse on my emotional turbulence as I continue to live life on fast forward.
Fowler-White, J & White, F. (2022). The Labyrinth of Leadership: Navigating Your Way Through the Maze. Memphis, TN: Digital PD 4 You