After two weeks of being completely consumed with the task of figuring out how to teach students while not at school, I have learned so much about myself, my faith, and about my leadership. Who you truly are is revealed in challenging times. I would definitely say these last two weeks have been challenging times.
Listed below are reflections of the past two weeks. I do not share the survival tips because I have this thing figured out (because I certainly do not), but because there are a few things I have learned in the process. This is so new, we all are learning one day at a time.
Routine, Routine, Routine!
It is very important during this time to keep a routine. Your routine may not look the way it did when you actually went to work, but find what works for you remotely and stick to it. I wake up at the same time each day, workout, read my bible and pray, take a shower… then I’m ready for my workday. I highly encourage you to make somewhat of a schedule for your day.
Also, for my teams, I have tried to keep our regular meeting days and times. One team, we usually meet on Mondays at 2:00… we have continued that, but virtually. Of course, if things come up, we will have an emergency meeting, but outside of that, we all know when we’re meeting.
Ignore the Naysayers!
Launching something completely different in the age of social media can be brutal. There are naysayers on every side. I saw a guy who is loved by teachers on Twitter bash remote learning. I saw parents bashing their school and/or district for things not being done the way they think it should be done. Some leaders have even responded in a less-than-perfect way with their teams.
How do you ignore the naysayers? Put your plan in place. Ignore the loud mouths on social media saying you shouldn’t be doing what you are required to do. Give your boss grace when they lash out or don’t recognize the work you’re putting in for the good of the students. Do your best to be there for parents to help them understand the new learning environment. Also, remember for parents, they are scared, anxious, and stressed as well. They now have the responsibility of working from home AND teaching or at minimum, overseeing the learning of their children. At the end of the day, remember you are doing the best you possibly can. Everyone won’t be happy.
Put on your POSITIVE Pants!
This time more than any other, we must stay positive. We must believe we can meet the state expectations that we provide remote learning while also doing what is best for our students. For leaders, this is the time to be positive with your teams. Tell them every chance you get that you appreciate their efforts. You see the long hours they are putting in to put your plan into place. You see their willingness to do whatever is necessary to continue instruction. Negativity during this time will most definitely work against you. The team is already tired and weary… to hear what is not going right will only leave them with feelings of discouragement and feed into the thoughts of just giving up and not even trying.
Summary of this tip… we must believe that we can overcome what looks like an impossible feat. And this leads into the next one….
Remember your WHY!
We must remember our WHY! No, we did not sign up to work for an online school, but that’s where we have found ourselves. What we did sign up for… is to do our very best to provide a high level of education for students. Regardless of the environment, we still must do our very best to do just that.
Self-Care is Key!
Even for the strongest, you can find yourself in some weak moments. We MUST take care of ourselves. I remember there was one day when I felt myself getting overwhelmed. I stopped working, made myself something to eat for lunch, and sat outside to eat. The fresh air was just what I needed for a brain break.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
At the beginning of this year, our district leadership team began studying Brene Brown’s book “Daring Leadership”. One of the first things we talked about were things leaders don’t say enough. The one that resonated with me was “I need help”.
More than ever, now, we must understand the power of teamwork. No one person can carry out this thing. Leaders, don’t be afraid to say that you need help. You have a team for a reason. Don’t be afraid to say you need help and solicit the help of your team members.
For me, the biggest reason I survived the last two weeks is one person…. GOD! I have never been so challenged in my professional career. I have never been in a situation, professionally, where I have had to be so calm. I am naturally not a calm person. I am high-strung and strive for excellence in all that I do; however, in this situation, I couldn’t be high-strung. I prayed each morning and asked for what I have asked for every workday this school year… wisdom and creativity. I truly believe God has heard this prayer for the last 8 months. He has given me wisdom in carrying out a plan and certainly gave me creativity when working with the team to develop the plan.
If you don’t know Him. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Him, there is no better time than now.
Fellow educators, you are awesome. You are creative. You are capable. You are mentally strong. WE CAN DO THIS!
Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.