About a year ago I started this weekly school improvement blog. Writing has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my work in schools and I have tried to make as many connections as I could to life in general. Some weeks, it has been difficult to put pen to paper and have this ready for Saturday. The “difficult” part of this is only time and staying on top of things. When a busy week is filled with lots of work and travel, I need to stay organized. At first, I wrote several blogs and stayed ahead by knowing I had a few ready to go. As the year progressed, I decided that I enjoyed the reflection on the week and wanted to make my writing as immediate as I could. So now the honest part… this is as immediate as my blog has been. It is midnight on Friday and I am just writing for you now. It has been a busy week and prior to this week, I had an amazing vacation. So, this week I decided that I would write about something I know first hand…being prepared…or …perhaps not prepared.
As a young girl, I remember learning the Girl Guide motto, “Be Prepared”. At the time, I knew it was important but I don’t think that I quite understood how much a part of my life that phrase would become. In both my career and my personal life, there have been times when I was able to live up to that motto and other times when my guide leader would not have been impressed. I have “flown by the seat of my pants” more times than I want to think about and eventually I learned to prioritize and figure out what I had to do to stay organized and on top of my life. Two things this week (besides my own late writing) reminded me of the importance of being prepared; one involves my work in schools and the other is, personally, near and dear to my heart…
Going back to work this week after a great vacation required me to “be prepared”. It seemed to take a little longer than usual to pack, to organize and to have my work ready. Once I walked in to my first school though, I was quickly reminded that my preparation was nothing compared to what the school leaders and teachers are doing each and every day. And this time of the year, what is so obvious is a feeling that there is just too much to do, not enough time to do it all and a fear of failure when the list of tasks continue to grow. In one school, we looked at the calendar and quickly realized that the year is more than half way over. The urgency of the work is obvious and requires care and attention to the tasks at hand. Staying organized, prioritizing and determining the best use of time requires a serious commitment to doing the right work. It also means being prepared. There has to be an intentional focus on knowing what to spend your time doing and taking the necessary time to be prepared; be prepared for class, for meetings, for the unexpected, for safety requirements, and the list goes on.
The second reminder I had this week about the very critical need for all of us to be prepared, comes from my son-in-law. As you can see in this picture, he is in the Canadian military and currently on an exercise that is all about “being prepared”. Throughout the year, he participates in organized field practice to ensure his ability to respond if necessary. This keeps him acutely aware of what he would need to be prepared to do if he was called to action. The seriousness of his chosen career absolutely comes in to focus during these trainings. Just like our work in schools, there are systems, effective actions, skills that can be learned and expertise to develop if we are going to improve. This improvement does not happen without study, practice and commitment to being totally prepared.
My challenge to you this week is to consider if you are doing all that you can to be well prepared. Are you asking questions, reading, studying and finding out the most effective practices when you are not sure? Are you taking the time to work with others in preparation of meeting the needs of your students so that when you go in the classroom you have done all you can to be ready to serve your students? Does being well planned seem like an “extra” task instead of just part of needed preparation? As a leader, do you reflect and consider carefully the meetings that you should have, where your time is best spent and how to manage all of the tasks at hand? Or do you go in to school each day with a more “reactive” style of leadership rather than a proactive one? And, lastly, are you spending your time on what matters most to the students? Are your preparations truly focused on saving the lives of your students?
This weekend, we honor our veterans and share in remembrance of the sacrifices made for us. The commitment that is made when a uniform is put on represents the ultimate “preparation”. With my sincere gratitude to all veterans and active duty members (including Bryan, who is in the picture and my daughter Elizabeth, who serves as an officer in the Canadian Air Force), I dedicate this blog.