This year I am again in the classroom teaching classes 25% of the time. I was very lucky last semester as I had been able to arrange not to teach. It allowed me to actually do some things more thoroughly as an administrator. It gave me a chance to be more involved, as the education leader, in the comings and goings of the school. That was then, this is now.
Now, well, I think I hit officially overwhelmed sometime this week but I’m not sure because I really haven’t had time to sit back and reevaluate what it is I’ve been doing. I do know that, for the most part, I am now officially behind in all areas. So, tonight I’m taking some time to think through what exactly it is that I need to do to stop the spiral from going completely out of control.
As an administrator, I believe I am not one of those who is controlling or distant from staff. Because I teach, I spend time planning and correcting, figuring out how to keep the middle years students from going completely hormonal on my watch and keeping the senior students from going completely comatose during the period. I think I am open with staff and encourage them to come to my office if they have problems or need assistance. I’m working on listening more and talking less, at being able to discern when people need that little extra.
I work at making technology available to my staff and encourage them to access the various open web tools that are available. It’s always a balancing act – trying to figure out when someone is ready to try something and when we need to stay the course and not go too fast. My staff using a wiki for communication and I rarely send any paper out, trying to use the tools that are available to save time by not redoing things. I do know it has been a stretch for some teachers but, with encouragement and guidance and persistence, we are moving along. We now have 3 smartboards up and operational in classrooms with the plans for more. We use electronic signs to inform our community of what is taking place at the school and we use an electronic message screen to scroll through messages for students. The school is using distance education for in a few different areas and our teachers are broadcasting to other sites and are committed to the students at those sites.
I am aware that, at this time, I probably have too many things on my plate. I coach volleyball, Sr. Girls and Boys, am involved in football, sit on several committees and have several more meetings each week. But, I feel that students deserve to have access to these and it helps to build the school spirit and creates a sense of belonging to the school. In the four years that I have been here, that feeling of belonging to the school has grown bit by bit until, now, it’s finally really starting to take root and it means something to be part of our school. I haven’t done it alone and give all the credit to the staff and students who have been building the foundation that is taking hold. I believe our School Community Council has had a great impact on the school atmosphere with their work on beautification projects and being interested in what is happening in the school and pushing for the school to get better. Being out in the community to support the work that is being done.
This year there are also 7 new teachers who will have joined staff and are finding their way around. I am lucky to have such a great group of veteran teachers who are willing to take these younger teachers or new teachers and help them find their way around. But it has also added excitement and enthusiasm that comes from new people being around. One of these new staff is a new vice-principal who is new to his position. Some days I not sure where to go first to see how things are going – to the new teachers or the existing staff – as I muddle my way through being the person overseeing this motley crew!
So, where exactly is this post going you may be wondering. Good question. This post, like me, needs to find it’s bearings. To step back and focus on the most important – the students in the building. What is it that I need to do to ensure that they, from K – 12, are getting the absolute best we have to offer? Well, like any good teacher, I work with the strengths with trying to build up the areas of greatest need. With some, there’s more of the latter that needs attention and so it is with teachers and the rest of the staff in the building. I really need to make sure that our school is delivering the best possible programing that it can and that we, as a staff, are doing what we can to bring our students forward in their learning to the greatest degree possible given what we know. If I can do that, then the winner is….. all of us.
Ah, but what exactly are you going to do? the observant one’s are saying. You haven’t really done what you set out to do, which was figure out how the get past the overwhelmed feelings. Your right. Bang on. But, maybe, that’s part of what it means to be an educator now as we live in a time of rapid changes and increasing accountability. So, instead of panicing when that happens, I just need to realize that it will happen and when it does, sit back and reflect about why I do what I do. And if the answer ever changes then I’ll know that it’s time to look for something else to do. So, being overwhelmed isn’t really the problem – it’s being sure to keep the priorities focused on the students and their growth. With that in mind, then, funny enough, things seem to become clearer and all those overwhelming things begin to fall into place. Paperwork can wait – deadlines can be moved – losing a child isn’t an option, not if we can at all help it. We can’t see all the leaves in the forest or possible know all that is happening in all parts but we can make sure that we do our part to ensure that the forest grows and thrives. To try to do all things in the forest is overwhelmingly impossible but that’s not what we are suppose to do. Instead, we have to ensure that we do our best to keep the forest growing and safe by practicing the best methods and using the best tools for the job.
All I really need, I guess, is a bear costume and I’d be complete!