As a teacher and school leader I used to try and do everything. I thought I had to do everything. Worse, I thought I could.
Don’t get me wrong, this can be a good sentiment when you want to work hard for others, but too often, like it did for me, it can become a negative thing when you seek to take on every extra thing that’s happening beyond the class and staff room.
Over the last five years the biggest reflection and learning I’ve had is the importance of focusing on the simple things. As a lot of learning does, this discovery happened through making many mistakes during this time.
Like most school teachers and leaders out there, some of my key strengths are creativity, kindness and enthusiasm. If used well these strengths help us to continually love discovering and exploring things, imagining and developing new ideas, adapting and enjoying change and helping people – all with a sense of positive energy.
But, if we get sucked into overplaying these strengths it can make things incredibly difficult.
When I was in my classroom this usually led to me trying to do everything single thing I heard about. Making the best Welcome door, creating amazing display boards for groups, trying new rotations for maths, beginning a new approach to inquiry sessions or trying out some ways of weaving new positive relationship strategies into day to day activities.
Even just typing those things now made me tired all over again.
As a school leader with one of my teams I overdid it. I wrongly assumed and pushed too hard to do more than was possible – the timing and group wasn’t ready for it yet. (And that word yet is so important there).
Don’t panic – it’s not all doom and gloom! There’s a genuinely simple thing we can all do that learn from my mistakes as an early classroom teacher and team leader.
Work out what your big purpose is for the year.
With that team my big purpose for the year was to build up trust to start collaborating. And they bloody nailed it. Trust started to build up for this new team, people began adding to one another’s ideas, collaboratively planning, respectfully challenging when we disagreed and sharing the load.
BUT. Half way through the year I lost track of that clear purpose and other things seemed more important. Some were genuinely important (like school reports in a new format), most were not.
I don’t know about you, but that slow creep of other stuff can be so easy to slowly take over.
Here’s how we can fight it. We’ll take a lead from Angela Duckworth, legendary author of Grit (check out her TEDTalk too). In this video she talks about knowing your BIG, BIG life goal and purpose.
For right now, we’re just focusing on finding the ONE thing we are really focusing on for us a teacher or school leader for the year. It might be improving teamwork, building up trust, creating awesome reflections, properly using data to know where kids need to go next.
There’s a fair chances your BIG goal is either you know you are passionate about. Which is good – because you’re digging in for the year!
Just be honest – you know which one you actually want to focus on. Go for a walk, have a coffee with a mate or two, hit up the gym or draw; whatever helps you to get thinking about this.
From there we do what teachers are so good at doing. Working backwards. We know what we looking to get to, then it’s about what things need to happen to get to that point.
Things that don’t fit into the plan either can be tossed or handed over to someone else who could actually do it. (If you’ve been specifically asked to do this by your boss, you might need to have a chat about ways to approach this).
Now in true teacher fashion, here’s one I prepared earlier. Here’s a glimpse of some of my year ahead with designing mentoring programs.
My BIG goal for the year? Inspire people to take risks, share stories and create strong connections.
What about you?
Why not share and comment below your big goals for the year? Let’s share a little bit about what we’re hoping for with the year ahead! (Which can also help us out as the year passes!)