Woah, what a crazy couple of weeks it has been since I last wrote. This time last week as a principal, I had just made the decision to postpone our school camps, to stop having school assemblies and we were talking about moving the Staffroom into the Hall so that we could all practise the correct social distancing etiquette during intervals and lunchtimes.
In the back ground was the constant pressure building about who should be self-isolating and who wasn’t. Everyone had an opinion. I ran constantly between the surreal world of COVID-19 and the real world of running a school as normal. Quickly over time the two merged. If you were like me, you probably ran on some sort of mega adrenaline rush, that was just enough to get you through each day, before running out and leading to a crash in the evenings.
Fast forward a week and all New Zealand principals are now at home. In New Zealand we are all in lockdown. We join a couple of billion people throughout the world in a similar situation. The decisions from last week are now pretty much redundant. There is a relief that I don’t have to be the on-call, face to face expert about everything. That pressure has gone, but no doubt it will be replaced with other pressures soon enough.
No doubt all principals through the land feel the same way. And to be honest I think for a little while we should all stop and reflect about the bloody good job that we have done. We should take time to look back and give ourselves a pat on the back (no one else can because we’re all practising social distancing!!) in regards to how we steered our ships through troubling times to this point. Wow. Great job us!
New, unforeseen pressures will start to rise, but for the moment let’s take a breather.
I thought it was useful to share again the four key points that David and I promoted last year as a result of the findings of a survey of New Zealand principals that we ran. The point of the survey was to discover what it was that principals did to pick themselves up again after stressful situations – what did they do to head back into “functioning at 100%” levels?
No doubt we have all been through an unprecendent (it’s the “it” word at the moment) stressful event. We’ve had to do things, and make decisions on the fly like never before. But, unusually, we now have a little window to take stock and get ourselves sorted. So taking a look at those four points that other principals use regularly is a good idea.
The four key things are:
Exercise: When I was on sabbatical I factored in exercise every day. You should do the same during the lockdown. There are lots of ways of doing this … I’ll be going for a short run, but there’s heaps of things on line from Yoga to Tai chi that’ll get you moving. Be creative, but keep moving.
Talking with Your People: You might not get to talk to your usual go-to people face to face, but you can still ring them, FaceTime them, email and text them. I’d recommend phoning and Face timing, Skyping or the like. Having an actual conversation, not just a written one, is much more beneficial
Me Time: You’re at home for a longtime. Organising MeTime into your daily routine is important. MeTime is your time. It’s not time where you have to do something that needs to be done. No, it’s your time when you get to do what you want to do. For me it’s probably shutting myself away for an hour a day and playing the guitar. For others it’ll be reading a book, or choosing to get in the garden. Either way, it’s a time when you choose to do something for yourself, guilt free.
Rationalising: This one is crucial. We are going to get a lot of time over the next four weeks to think. Some of those thoughts might be quite dark, especially if we are locked down in small houses, and/or in small groups of one or two. Like all things, this too will end. Yes it’s hard to be precise as to when it will end, but it will end, and there will be good times. Be rational about your thoughts. Some great advice is to give yourself a wallow time once a day – that’s a limited time put aside to write down your thoughts and investigate what you’ve been thinking and feeling. By doing this you get to unpack your ideas fully, and you get to see them in front of you on the screen, or paper, as they really are – and you’ll find that most of your wallowing is just that. Wallowing.
There is very little that you can control fully over the next four weeks. Worry about those things you can control. Appreciate that your old control as principal at school is now more of a watered down influence instead. This is fine. It is what it is. Don’t worry that you can’t get everything to the auditor, or that the otto bins haven’t been put out yet. Work to influence positively, but don’t stress if things aren’t quite as you would expect. Control yourself, look after yourself. The rest?, well it is what it is.
Kia kaha everyone!