Over the past couple of years, significant events have caused us to pause and consider what matters most. Many of my friends and colleagues have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, directly or indirectly, and of course, all of us have had adjustments to make and plans to change. As life evolves, we continue to have reminders of what is most important and challenges that draw on our strength and courage.
Personally, I am dealing with a family member’s sickness that is requiring all of my daily strength and energy. Throughout this, I am amazed at the inner courage and positivity that one can have when sick and I am in awe of how quickly adjustments are made. The true meaning of “one day at a time” has become most critical in our lives and prioritizing what we spend our time on has never been more important.
As I continue to provide some virtual leadership coaching to schools and districts, I am equally in awe of the resilience and adjustments that are being made, once again, to open and keep open schools as centers of learning. I see teachers and administrators every day working tirelessly to keep students safe in areas where COVID-19 cases are increasing and teachers and support staff are falling ill.
This is what I want to celebrate in this first blog in a very long time. I want to honor the commitment to understanding what is important – in professional and personal lives and I want to celebrate the joy that we can find in having clarity on what matters most.
In schools, students matter most. Accelerating learning and focusing on what are the most essential learnings are providing schools with much needed direction right now. Being clear on what we want students to know and be able to do is the only way to stay true and strong to guaranteeing learning when so many challenges face teachers every day.
A principal told me this week that she is so focused on making sure her teachers and support staff understand the need to focus on learning as their state and district struggle with keeping her school open in these unprecedented times. She spoke of the need to clarify each and every grade and content so that teachers are not confused on what they can spend their precious instructional time on and she is having those conversations daily with teachers. What matters most to her is that she stay attuned to the needs of her staff and students and that she is able to keep learning at the center of their world. What a nice way to say learning matters.
And, of course, the adults in the building matter too. Personal self-care has been more of a focus for educators this past year. Finding a balance of giving so much every day with meeting personal needs has been a difficult and, some days, impossible situation, for many. However, I have witnessed the collective strength when others wrap their arms around each other, virtually, in person and in spirit to provide support and love. I know the impact of friends and family who reach out and genuinely care and I have seen this same dynamic in schools in districts everywhere. Collectively, we are stronger together. No one wants to deal with complications and challenges alone and thankfully, schools continue to develop a strong sense of professional community to meet the needs of both staff and students. A favorite quote of mine is from author Peter Block (2008) who asks, “How are we going to be when we gather together?”.
I leave you with this challenge- How are you when you gather with others? Do you balance support with seeking support? Are you able to ask questions that guide thinking and focus to what is important? Are you there for others? Can they be there for you? Are you clear on what matters most to you and those who you impact with your daily actions? Is that what you spend your time on? Are you taking care of yourself so you can take care of others?
As this school year begins, reflect and clarify your daily purpose. You deserve this intentional time to consider your needs and what matters most to you. Have a great week.