Green or Red?

What will I remember from October 2020? Conversations- both personally and professionally that challenged and caused me to reflect on how important relationships are. We are living in a time when “seeing others” might still mean by video or at least a phone call. It is not possible for me to travel and visit with family and those I work with (yet) and I am missing my people. This is also the time of the year that I would normally say good bye here at home and head south as one of the many, many Canadian snowbirds. All of this feels different. And, there are days that I feel selfish for even voicing what I am missing since so many in the world are suffering with the pandemic and its side effects. Health, death, job loss, financial and housing issues- these exist in real time and I know that my losses are nothing compared to so many. How can I ever complain?

In my school improvement coaching this past month, a very wise principal put it all in perspective for me. She said that she is working hard to keep her thinking, visioning and reflecting in the “green”. As she so beautifully stated, she can see the problems of the day, the worries of tomorrow as green or red. They either present problems to solve, actions to take, thoughts to work through or they stop her in her tracks. Similar to what happens when you quickly come to a red light. You have to come to a full stop and wait. Sometimes the wait is long but once the light is green you move on. Unfortunately, when we let “red” influence our thinking, we often stay stalled or stuck for too long.

As I continue to work in schools and districts, I have seen wonderful examples of “green” thinking. Despite feelings of exhaustion and a sense that this year and pandemic may never end, forward “green” thinking is alive and well. What can we do next to help a student? How can I support a teacher during a particular difficult time? What will it take to keep learning as the focus no matter what? These are my green thinking people and they are a dream to work with. I am so appreciative of their willingness to work through the challenges and ensure learning for each student is the goal.

One of my “green” thinking principals is new to me and my very first coaching session was this past month. Logging on to Zoom, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was anxious and excited to meet her. When her camera came on, I found a very sick lady in her bed. She was home with COVID and had some severe symptoms. DESPITE this, she wanted to talk about her school. She has a vision, dreams and goals of what her school will become. She knows what the work has to be and she is passionately engaging her staff in authentic school improvement. I am blessed to have the opportunity to meet her and work with her and thankfully, our second session found her much better. Lessons learned- if she can be a “green” thinker despite her situation, I sure need to keep my focus on green.

One other great conversation that I had this month was with four principals who volunteered an hour of their precious time to meet with me. Through video, we connected from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast with two southern belles in between. My goal was for these seasoned principals to meet and hear how each of them were keeping the focus and sustaining the work that they had achieved before COVID at their schools. They are all keeping things “green” and I knew that they could learn a great deal from each other. Most importantly, they all understand the importance of relationships and taking care of their people. They are focused on both the adults and students in their buildings and they understand their own personal impact in ensuring student success. I know that they are tired and I know that they all feel overwhelmed. They are working through daily challenges and the stress of the current reality is real. However, they are not letting the red light hold them back.

My reflective question to you is this- are you able to keep your thinking through a green lens? When you are faced with complications and/or you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, can you see the positive in your life? In your work? What can you do to help see the positive? What can you personally do to find the time and support to help? A constant theme in school improvement this year is self-care. School and district leaders need time and support to be able to stay the course and the first step is to be able to identify when you are spending too much time at the stop light. Intentionally noticing this is a nice starting point for personal self-care.

Thank you for always reading and thinking. You continue to inspire me as a school improvement coach. Have a great week.

2 thoughts on “Green or Red?

  1. A timely and compassionate message. The pressures are real. And as principals we often feel exhausted navigating remote/hybrid learning and trying to forge a new path in the wilderness. You very eloquently remind us to keep our mindset in the green, on our visions for our school communities, and on the things we can control to ensure learning continues for our students. Thank you, Karen. And thank you to all educators out there keeping the vision of high levels of learning for all, regardless of the circumstances.


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