I guess I could call this yet another round of challenges… but I want to talk for a few minutes about how I get through the rough patches (and we’ve had them).
A quick example of rough patches – distributing 2700 laptops in 3 weeks. Struggles with workload. Balancing the needs to support students and repair laptops quickly and support teachers in their learning. Finding the balance between what district policy requires and what is realistic on the scale we’re dealing with. Working with multiple teams and departments around the district who all have requirements, while we are the face of the project to our staff and students.
So it happens that these rough patches crop up. Anytime we take on a new challenge, especially one of this scale. Yet, the key is to not get so discouraged that we give up or give in to what we are comfortable with (the way it’s always been).
Three things that help me are perspective, balance and focus.
First, with over 2700 devices out to students, it’s so easy to obsess over the things that seem to be happening over and over and over again. A great example of this was in the beginning of the year, we had what felt like a ton of devices with failing system boards. It seemed that nearly every student who walked in our office for support had a bad systemboard, which meant they needed a loaner while theirs was out of commission for repairs when really it was a week and a half when we saw about 75 students with the same problem. 75 out of 2740 is not a high percentage of failure! It just felt like every kid had a problem rather than about 2% of our students.
The to do list is long..and really is never ending. Trying to stay on top of it can feel like a job that requires 24 hours in a day, and still doesn’t really allow you the time to complete the tasks. Those supporting a huge initiative like this are stretched thin, so it’s really important to take time away and turn off the pressure. Easier said than done. I struggle with this, but when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed with the work and the lists and the tasks, is exactly the time when I need to focus on my own time.
- Spending time with family and friends,
- reading for pleasure,
- turning off my phone/email,
- taking a long drive and singing at the top of my lungs,
- creating and crafting,
- working in my garden,
- spend some quiet time … not working on school work!
These are all things I do to relax, refresh and recharge. It’s hard for me to step away. I have this huge fear of letting people down and not following through on all the things, but I’ve been forcing myself to do this and I’m a better educator because of it. (I say this as I’m blogging about work and reading a professional book on a quiet Saturday afternoon. This is a work in progress for me).
One of the key phrases a former superintendent in our district was famous for saying was “Keep the main thing, the main thing.” Remaining focused on the work we’re doing is important, but more important is why. Remembering that every decision, every task we undertake, every move we make is to ensure our students are prepared for their future. Staying focused on the main thing helps us make decisions and find answers to the rough and tough questions. When we have lots of choices, this focus narrows it to a few and sometimes points to one single option. It doesn’t mean it’s easy to make these choices, but when our reason is clear, it’s easier to explain and implement.
These three tips help me to keep pushing when the going gets tough. It’s not magical and it doesn’t make the tough times disappear. It does make it more manageable and allows me to keep on moving, even when we hit a rough patch.