Think back four months ago… January 1st, 2020. We entered into a new decade. We were full of hope, determination, and passion. We made new year’s resolutions and/or declared one word to summarize our goals for the year. I saw social media post after post about having 20/20 vision!
Four months later as we find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I ask, “What do you see with your 20/20 vision?” I see a world divided, a nation divided, a town divided, and questionable leadership (in too many areas to list). My perfect 20/20 vision in the pandemic shines light on time, money, character, and heart.
The busyness I once had, I no longer have. My evenings used to begin with me rushing in from work to hurry and cook dinner. My mind would be so full of work and other issues that may be going on that I couldn’t really relax or enjoy the evening. I now take an energizing and calming walk around the neighborhood each afternoon to signal to my brain to turn off work and anything else that may have invaded my mind during the day and turn on the family time. After my walk, I cook dinner, take a calming soak in the tub, and settle in for the evening. My mind is clear and ready to enjoy time with my family.
My 20/20 vision shows me to stop the busyness and to stop and smell the roses.
Not being able to do the things I once thought were non-negotiables, I see that they may not be so mandatory after all. My hair, nails, housekeeper… it all adds up. I am saving more money now that I’m unable to spend money on these things and realizing that I’m not so bad at doing them myself.
My 20/20 vision shows me to be a better steward of my finances.
True character shows during adversity. Who we really are shines through when things get tough. How do we respond when things don’t go our way? How do we respond when we lose control of everything around us? Leaders, how do we respond when our teams don’t willingly follow? The reality of how we respond to these questions will reveal our true character.
My 20/20 vision shows me to work on my character… be braver, be more honest (with ourselves and with others), be more compassionate, be more unselfish, and to be more loyal.
Our conversation and actions are representative of our heart. My heart is shown each time I make a decision that is best for me and not others. My heart is shown each time I intentionally use my words to hurt others. Likewise, my heart is shown each time I make decisions that may be inconvenient for me, but is what’s best for others. My heart is shown each time I make the choice not to use my words to hurt others, but to instead, find a more effective way to express myself.
My 20/20 vision shows me the need to ask God to do a heart transplant on me… to give me His heart and desires so that I may love like He does (unconditionally).
What do you see more clearly in your life from your 20/20 vision?
About six weeks ago, conversations began in educational institutions about how to respond to the new coronavirus pandemic. Before that, we had heard about how bad it was in China and then Italy, but probably didn’t seriously think it would hit the United States so harshly… because, after all, we’re the United States.
Many of us were nearing the end of our Spring Break when it began to become a little more real for us. This could hit the US, and if it does, how should we respond? What is the best decision to make for the safety of our students? How do we protect our students and staff members? By the end of Spring Break, it was determined that it was not best to return to school… at least for a couple of weeks.
School districts all over began feverishly working to figure out the best way to teach students from their homes. As with any crisis, you completely jump into the situation. I am certain that most educators lost countless hours of sleep. Our minds were full of: What conditions are my students living in 24 hours 7 days a week now? Do they have enough food to eat? That student who I had suspicions of abuse in the home… how is he surviving in that environment now? That student who has six siblings in a single-parent home, where the mom is a custodian at the hospital… who is taking care of the kids? Is there enough technology in the home to effectively teach them? Is a packet of worksheets really the right thing to give when I know most of our students are working below grade level?
Countless, countless, countless questions… most with no definite answer, but still, we tried our hardest to meet the needs of our students. We offered food distribution sites to make sure children were fed. We found online programs students could access to continue learning. We made hundreds of packets of work for students to continue learning. We set up distribution times to give parents what they needed to continue learning for their children. We communicated social services that could help our families in need.
We did what we had to do to make sure our students and families were taken care of… because this is what we do. When we are in crisis, we answer the call and figure things out. We don’t mind losing sleep because we know at some point, it will calm down and go back to normal. Our harsh reality now… it’s six weeks later and we are still here. Now what?
The first step is to realize the temporary has become the permanent. We must realize that this is our new normal. We must accept the fact that this may not end as quickly as we first thought. We must accept the fact that we must continue to figure out what is best for our students. The next step is to find out how to adjust to this new normal. We are not built to live in “trauma mode”; therefore, we must learn how to lead in a crisis situation as the norm. A few tips are listed below to help you along the way.
Normal is NOT normal!
Stop allowing your mind to tell you “this is not what we do”. Living in the old normal is in conflict to the new normal and it only hinders your ability to problem-solve in this new normal. Delete your mind of what used to be and move forward with what will be.
Embrace the change!
Everyone is dealing with life in a different way. As a leader, you must embrace the change quicker so that you can lead effectively. Ineffective and weak leadership in this time is fighting against the change, refusing to accept that more will be required of you in this time, and that you will need to require more of others during this time as well.
Lead and follow!
As you lead your group, remember to follow your leader as you expect your team to follow you. Don’t be the naysayer in the group. At this time, teamwork is essential.
Take care of you!
Leadership is most challenging in the midst of crisis. Leadership is a lonely place on a good day, it’s extremely isolating in crisis. This is when mental toughness comes in. You must find what works for you to take care of yourself. Take a walk around the neighborhood to begin and/or end your day. Pray to God, a much higher power, who can give you strength and comfort. Re-discover your hobbies…reading, working puzzles, scrapbooking, journaling.
Final thoughts… THIS IS NOT A DRILL. We are living in a new normal. How will you respond?
Coronavirus pandemic pandemonium is everywhere. The news is all about the pandemic. Social media is all about the pandemic. Educational leaders are working hard to overcome what looks like an impossible task of teaching students while at home. Teachers are trying to juggle teaching from home as a profession and also teaching their own kids as parents. Parents are working overtime juggling the new titles of homeschool teacher (to their kids) and working remotely from home. Some people are also struggling financially as they have lost their jobs.
I think it’s safe to say that this pandemic is affecting just about everyone, just in a different way. Regardless of how you are being affected by this, it is vitally important to protect your peace. The cares and worries of this world can most certainly weigh you down. In times like these, our minds can be our worse enemy. Our mind can go places that are not in our current reality. How do we protect our peace?
Finally, Jesus left a very special gift for us. In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” If you know Jesus, accept the peace He left for us. If you do not know Jesus, this is the perfect time to get to know Him. Simply confess your sins and ask Him to come into your heart to live… and then accept the peace He left for us.
Be blessed this week!
Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.