Mind the Gap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Crossposted on http://literacybytes.com/)

There is so much going on right now in schools and education in general. My strategy for coping with the onslaught is to sit down and make a plan. Larger than a to do list, more refined than a hopes and dreams paragraph, a good plan reaches for the stars while laying out “the build” or how to get from Point A to Point B. It helps me mind the gap between what is happening now and where I’m trying to head.

Often the biggest complaint I hear from teachers is that there isn’t enough time. I understand that. I feel the same. Especially if we are thinking of using our time to create, go deep, fully understand and get good at something. However, I think what we’re really feeling is that there isn’t enough time to run from thing to thing and still find the space to do the good stuff. That is what the people I work with- educators in general- want to do, the good BIG work of teaching and learning. It’s why we got into this gig in the first place!

What can we do to ease the feeling of needing to run, run, run while still getting over the gap and on to what is next and maybe more important?

As an administrator, I believe it is my job to control the floodgates and to help keep the unnecessaries or low priorities from gobbling people up. To do that, the organizational leaders need to know and be focused on those vital few top priorities. Three is enough. From there we need to work to make sure everyone gets a chance to focus on those too. As leaders, I believe our job is to hack a path through the grass with our “three top things” machete so everyone else can move through with ease. This is good work for a leadership team. It is playing defense to win the game (always less glamorous than shooting all the shots) but essentially more effective in the long run.

As teachers, I think it is imperative to find and focus on those three big things too. Whether it is dictated by organizational goals or by a personal focus, knowing what is most important and then being able to sink thought and time into it and really get good at doing it… well that might just be a luxury in some schools. The thing is, when the organization is moving quickly and doesn’t have a set sense of priorities; it is difficult for teachers to grow, learn and change while (and this is the important part) keeping up with the day-to-day needs of their students.

As people: parents, spouses, colleagues and friends- I think we need to support each other as we negotiate this world full of work and distractions. I watch my daughter juggling that balance on a daily basis. She can Skype with her best friend Hannah in Shanghai as easily as she can tweet out to her followers about Taylor Swift’s newest song, however she is also still asked to follow the school path of my generation. I don’t see these two aspects of her life as being in opposition exactly, but it does mean she is navigating two ways of work, and that isn’t efficient. When time is of the essence, efficiently moving toward your goals is important. We need to help those around us navigate all that is part of the work now. (Strengthfinders 2.0 being my newest obsession, I wonder if taking the time to develop strengths might ease the need to do it all.)

Instead of being bumped around by all that is out there, it is time to grab on and get going on the most important “three” we can see. Change will take time, of course. But the longer we wait to begin, the larger the gap seems to be growing. It’s one thing to know it’s there; it’s another to be actively working to get across.

Photo Credit: http://preducationblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/mind-the-gap.jpg

About Jen Munnerlyn

Jen Munnerlyn is the Elementary Principal at the American School of Warsaw. Her international experience began back in 1980 when her parents first started teaching overseas. Jen blogs about her own experiences as a Third Culture Kid, the adventures of being the mother of a TCK, and about elementary education in an international school setting. Her picture book The Adventure Begins, about the first day at an international school, is a favorite among adults and students abroad.
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