Year 1 of FCPSon and Lead Yourself First

Over the last week I’ve read (devoured, really) Lead Yourself First by Raymond M Kethledge and Michael S Erwin.  I couldn’t put it down.  This book is all about how solitude is absolutely necessary and can improve the work leaders do.  As I read it, I found myself shaking my head in agreement and realization about so many changes I felt needed to happen during year 1 of FCPSon.

Throughout the year I felt myself being tugged and pulled in multiple directions and struggling to find the balance and the space to really figure out what I needed to do.  I couldn’t explain it – I just didn’t have the words to explain why it was so challenging for me.   Now I have those words.  Reading this book was like an incredible moment of turning on the idea light bulb and that giant moment of “Aha!!!”

I want to point out a few of those moments and ideas that this book connected for me.

Constant input

The drain of constant input is real and was one of the first challenges we faced.  We are a tech team of two and support a staff of 300 and over 2700 students, all with their own laptops.  We started feeling this at the moment we were selected to begin this transformation (the number of meetings and emails and materials we were sorting through to plan for FCPSon was intense) and then it ramped up even further at the beginning of the year – not just the constant walk in from students in need of help, but also the number of teachers who wanted support for the changes they were making.  All of these things were great and exactly what we wanted, but were extremely draining!  I felt like I was running from one thing to the next, not doing anything to the best of my abilities.

Making Quiet Time

One of the first big changes I made in the fall, when I started feeling overwhelmed by all of the things was to start seeking out quiet time.  I couldn’t explain it…. but I did things like eating lunch in my car (where no one could interrupt or find me) and riding home quietly from work without the radio on.

My time in the car commuting to and from work used to be for Voxer.  I am connected to incredible educators in two busy groups, #edumatch and #tosachat and used to speak with them, listen in and catch up in every spare moment in the car.  Before Halloween this year I stepped away from these groups because I knew intuitively that I needed that quiet space more than the fabulous ideas and conversation.  Luckily these educators understand and welcomed me back (in person) when we met up at #ISTE17 this past week.  I remained connected through my Twitter connections when I had a few moments here or there, but it was definitely less than previous years.

I am a person who loves my interactions with others and talks through so many problems to find the best solutions, but in this project, in this year of so many variables and so many needs, I found that what I needed was solitude to collect and analyze my thoughts before I made choices and decisions and plans.

Seeking out Solitude

I found myself craving the quiet – sometimes coming home and leaving all electronics off, reading or sitting still, working on crafts that require concentration, working in my garden, walking through the neighborhood.

I knew, intuitively, that I needed this, but wasn’t quite purposeful about it.  I sought out solitude as a reaction to overstimulation and challenges I was facing.

I think my takeaway from this book is to build it in.  I like the structures some of the interviewees shared – a focused meditation, checking in with oneself each morning in a routine before anyone else in the house rises, identifying key values and ideals and checking in on those daily, monthly, yearly.  I can see so much benefit in building in this in BEFORE becoming overwhelmed rather than as a reaction.

I highly recommend this book to all in leadership positions.  The examples, the take aways, the suggestions are fantastic and validate the struggles I faced this year!


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