Mid-term 4 seems to bring out a special blend of drama in many schools. I see the label “Madvember” popping up on social media and can’t argue based on recent personal experiences. Maybe the combination of warmer nights (sleep deprivation), spring (hormonal crazy) and the busyness leading up to Christmas is to blame? I don’t really know, but it is definitely different!
Set against this slightly chaotic background is the daily running of your school. There’s a lot on. And when there’s a lot on, it’s all too easy to let the busyness overtake the things that matter.
. . .
Recently, one of my amazing team leaders did what she does so well and noticed a member of her team struggling. They were stuck with a looming sense of paralysis by overload – lots to do and overwhelmed by where to start (starting is always the hardest!).
She met with the teacher, listened to their worries and then together they wrote what was essentially a priority list with a timeline attached. Clarity was restored.
This “fix” may sound ridiculously simple, but that’s because a nice sanitised blog post is far removed from the emotion and reality of the situation as experienced by the teacher inside it.
The point of this little slice of school drama is that now is the time when many (most?) of us have a constant feeling of being out of time with multiple deadlines crowding our calendars and more stuff coming daily. With less than four short weeks until the end of the school year, it can be difficult to know where to focus and impossible to meet all the competing needs. And as Steve posted last week, any “plans” can be trashed in a heartbeat by having to deal with an unexpected drama. On a bad day the stress is very real.
. . .
So how do you cut through the background “noise”, get the important work done, and stay well?
My suggestion – slow down.
Yes, slow the heck down.
You need to (temporarily) step off the hamster wheel and sit out to the side on a lilypad. A presenter I heard recently described it as “getting off the dance floor and sitting on the balcony” – you need space to get perspective. And you need to remove yourself from the busy so that you can see the important work clearly.
Given that we all have plenty of important work to do right now, it’s essential to deliberately reflect on what it is and when you’re going to do it. Just like the teacher I described at the start of this post, you need a priority list with a timeline.
. . .
So, on Monday morning at 9:30am, close your office door, put your phone on shut-up mode and get a nice clean piece of paper. Make sure your gatekeepers (office team) know you are in an uninterruptible meeting – with yourself!
Plot the next 3.5 weeks out on the paper and then add the non-negotiable work that needs to be done. I’m guessing you’ll have stuff like:
- Finish appraisals
- Keep in touch with your leavers
- Employ a fantastic teacher (or two)
- Be visible around the school
- Get class placements close to right
Congratulations, you now have a plan!
Outside of this short (if it’s not short, shut the door again, and get clearer) list, the rest is “noise”. It’s just stuff that the world is throwing up (sometimes literally!) and either needs to be ignored or dealt with as quickly as humanly possible.
But now comes the real challenge – how do you focus on the important stuff, deflect the noise, and stay well?
The answer is to keep it simple and do the things that you already know keep you well. Things like regular exercise, enough sleep, eating lunch, capping your work hours . . . things that may seem surplus right now but are actually essential.
If you are anything like me, the temptation is to ignore all this stuff and sprint to the end of Term and hope to recover on the other side, but 3.5 weeks is not a sprint, it’s a middle distance race that can hurt both your wellness and happiness if not managed.
So I say, make the time. The time to walk, to eat, to chill with your friends and family. The time to look after you because the alternative is neither effective nor sustainable – you owe it to your school and yourself to arrive at Christmas with energy and good-humour.
Everyone you care about will thank you.