During the summer months when I meet new people, they usually ask one of three questions. Most automatically assume I have summer off, and they ask, “Are you enjoying your vacation?” My response is always the same, I share that even though the teachers and students are gone that I am still hard at work. Their second question, “Well, what do you actually do at school during the summer?” This question is rhetorical because you can almost see their eyes start to glaze over as you open your mouth to reply. It’s like when I try to recap the highly dramatic and satisfying points of last season’s “Greys Anatomy” with my husband. It’s a pointless and futile effort. Again, most people don’t really want to know about the hiring, preparation of the building, the shaping of the master schedule and the joys of hand scheduling hundreds of delightful students. To be honest, they usual don’t wait for my reply. They get right down to their final question. The one that’s really on their mind. “So, when do students go back to school?”
I bring up these conversations because the word “summer” translated, for educational leaders, is still means work. It’s just a different kind of work. We need to change our translation.There are things that have to get done in order to be ready for the upcoming year, but what have you done to prepare yourself, as a leader for the upcoming year? I’m not talking about professional development or reading a new educational leadership book. I’m talking about “self-care.”
During the school year, we spend our 180 school days and 1600 plus hours giving of ourselves. In the summer months, we have got to figure out ways to take care of ourselves by depositing “self-care” back in our lives. It becomes more difficult to continue this very important work we have been called to do without setting aside time to replenish. Tackle your mandatory to-do list, but to also add some things that allow you to care for yourself. George Theoharis in his book, The School Leaders Our Children Deserve, discusses how seven principals managed the challenges of the principalship and built a resiliency that allowed them to maintain their work. Here are their personal strategies for keeping their equilibrium.
- Prioritize your life outside of school – set aside time to leave work and school behind
- Use mindful diversions – participate in activities that allow you to get your mind off work
- Accept outside validation – connecting and hearing positives from others
- Engage in regular physical activity – getting in shape to improve your health
- Provide for others – being able to see the fruit of your labor through helping someone else
How will you practice some self-care, so that you can be ready to meet the successes and challenges of the 2014 – 2015 school year?