Two Worlds

There’s a particular time of year in which some teachers, definitely administrators, and others who work in a school begin thinking about next year, essentially having feet in two worlds for several months as one school year is coming to a close and another is beginning.

I gave up trying to use a typical planner long ago because my world doesn’t exist January to December. It exists July to July with some overlap during that month. I can’t set quarterly goals typical of an entrepreneur because there is so much ebb and flow to my year that I have distinct periods of time when goal-reaching can occur…

March through June, for me, is the most exhausting, rivaled only by October and February. I find myself having to be reactive to situations I swore were addressed in September more than once and that is upsetting. Questions run through my head quite often as I have to reflect on why something once again went south or simply didn’t run as smoothly as it should have or what I missed altogether. I find myself making plans for next school year, events and speakers, running on the assumption that a random date next March will magically draw a crowd this time instead of just the 20 people who show up to everything. I look through my ever growing to do list, having given up in November adding due dates because I learned two years ago that my priorities aren’t always seen as priorities for others (and sometimes others just don’t know they exist at all which is no one’s fault) and since there are a finite number of hours in the day, things I think are important often get pushed aside to be considered another day in favor of what others need or want to see happen in the “right now.”

I’m thinking of all the things that went well and all the things that are still needed. I’m thinking about things I’ll do differently, and how to get people to understand the thinking behind some of the decisions we make and the long term impact beyond just today. What do we need to purchase? What do we need to change? What do we arrange for that’s missing? What do we use? Why do we use it? How are we using the resources we have already? Or are we at all?

I’m thinking of how to address the constant requests for “more time” when there’s only 24 hours in the day and it’s not looking like there will be any hours added and I have nowhere to move the things that exist on plates…and no additional plates.

I’m thinking about leadership and boundaries and honoring people’s time and my own as well. I’m thinking about ways to empower teachers to take ownership when it feels like everything should be someone else’s task because there’s already so much to do.

I’m thinking about how to support families who are new and wanting to see a school that THEY envision in their heads…which doesn’t always match the actuality of what we do or who we serve. I’m thinking about the feedback I’ve gotten all year, the criticism and the praise and how they essentially cancel one another out–for every comment about what is wrong, there’s one mentioning something done right.

I’m thinking about how to support people and yet hold them accountable for information, tasks, and basic professional adulting. I’m thinking about what “professionalism” looks like in this business, because there is both an art and science to this work and there has to be room for both… There’s an element of professionalism in education that looks very different from other industries…and it should, but there’s also pieces that overlap and need to.

I’m thinking about how to get others on the same page and be able to share messages about the work we do and why we do what we do for the population we serve…it goes beyond “I wanted to be a teacher since I was four.” Why are we in this specific place working with this specific population of kids? We all had choices about where to land…why did we choose here?

I’m thinking about what I want for myself as I grow professionally. What organizations do I want to be involved with beyond my job? How do I want my service to others to be–or do I want to leave it open ended according to need, spreading myself among many? How do I put boundaries around my time when it comes to working in other capacities to ensure that my time is honored instead of assigned? What parts of my work do I want to grow? Delegate? Eliminate altogether?

And always back to that question…What’s my Why?

This is the time of year that the Why looms over every conversation, decision, and action I take. This is the time of year in which second-guessing is an everyday occurrence.

I’ve come to the realization that I can’t make everyone happy though. Someone will *always* be unhappy with something I’ve said or done or the impact a decision made had on them. What gets missed is that for most of us in an organization, we each exist in a tunnel of sorts, with all of us heading toward the same destination for the most part but each traveling in our own tunnel. Each tunnel is of different widths, and encompasses more information or less depending on the role we play and connects to others at variety of points, much like exits on a highway. Some are narrow with only a few exits, and those traveling within them can see a limited end, perhaps a particular project or result. Other tunnels are vast and those traveling within them see not only immediate needs but those in the long term as well as the impact that the organization can have beyond the confines of its walls. It’s these that often branch beyond the smaller exits, creating new tunnels that connect to others and who can still see the big picture, but also the greater impact. It’s these that understand the Why and have their feet in two worlds…sometimes more.

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