By RYAN PERSAUD,
Director of IT and Innovation at International School of Curitiba
I have had the privilege of walking into many many schools over my career, all over the world, and in a variety of capacities. If there is one constant that I know to be true is the end of the year burnout and the overwhelming feeling that educators experience. No matter what the role, I have heard educators say “I am feeling so tired” when it comes to the last few weeks. From moving up ceremonies, to celebrations, to graduations, to summatives, to grading, to reports, just writing this is enough to send me burying in my shell. I will admit, I am no expert myself at pacing. I often come in the start of the year firing on all cylinders, and by the end am barely puttering across the finish line. I recently asked a teacher from our school who is retiring for some advice around this, and she commented to me that in over 30 years in education, she did not have a magic solution, and always felt tired at this time of year. So upon reflection, I have come to determine that yes, we may always have the feeling of being tired at this time of year, but there are definitely ways to make the end of year a positive and rewarding experience. Here are some of my tips:
Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
Many great writers on education and leadership speak to relationships. George Couros dedicates an entire chapter to this in his book The Innovator’s Mindset. Even though he is a huge proponent of technology and innovation, he knows that it all starts with relationships. Another leadership guru that I admire is Simon Senek, who states: “We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings. As leaders, it is our sole responsibility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organization together.” As we start to feel tired and lose focus, it is really important to reach out to others. We may feel that we don’t have time, or they are too busy as well. But taking just a small moment for a five minute conversation, can re-energize and refocus our efforts in ways we did not imagine. I love what Brene Brown says about connection:
Connection is such a deep part of relationships. Being able to feel heard and valued is so important when we are feeling exhausted, and just want someone to truly empathize with us, not just listen. Relationships drive everything in schools, especially at this time of year.
We all know that exercise is good for us. At this time of year, we probably don’t feel like getting up for a run, or going to the gym, or heading to yoga class. But exercising can be one of the best things for us to do, in order to alleviate stress and actually give us more energy to make it through. If you need convincing, here is a short article from the Mayo Clinic on Exercise and Stress Management. If you read this and are still having a hard time getting there, why not invite someone to exercise with? You can work on your relationship with that person and exercise! And keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be long. Even a short walk everyday is great for the body, mind, and spirit.
This is the tough love part of the blog post. So there are certain responsibilities that we all have and must be completed before year end. As I mentioned above, these may include report cards, comments, grading, attending certain year end events, and others. When I say accept responsibility, I mean just that. Get yourself a prioritized list and get yourself organized. This can go a long way in terms of accomplishing all of your tasks. There are lots of great apps out there to help you keep focused and organized. Here are some of my favorites: yes, I am a Google fanboy, so I encourage you to use your Google Calendar or Google Keep to keep organized. Another couple of tools that I have found useful when working in teams are Trello and Slack. Trello is like using digital boards, cards, and lists, and can really help with personal or team organization. I personally use it with my team, to keep us on track with projects. Slack is great for collaboration and can act as a hub for projects and tasks. Slack integrates well with Google too. I recently used it for a team project with group members spread around the world.
Teamwork Makes The Dreamwork
So we used to say this in elementary school right? Well it still applies. What are you responsible for or working on at the end of the year that you can collaborate on? We teach our students to be good collaborators and teammates and we should do the same. Not only does this reduce our workload, but it gives us an opportunity to work on relationships. In case you still don’t believe me, here is a great article from the Washington Post entitled Why Collaboration is Vital to Creating Effective Schools. This article cites some solid research, and I love the way it connects teamwork, trust, and relationships.
Remember Why You Are Here
It is easy to forget when we are run down and stressed why we are in the building in the first place, especially for those of us that are not in classrooms! Remember the kids! Take a moment, stop, and breathe. If you must check emails, do it on the playground, and absorb the sounds of the kids. Read to an elementary class for 10 minutes, see them, hear them, remember, we are there for them. Have a conversation with some high schoolers about a summative they are working on, or just chat with some awkward middle schoolers!
Think Creatively About Your Events
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but when you are in the midst of it all, it is sometimes difficult to take the balcony view. Move from the actual work, and step back and think about what is really going on. Here is a great article from the Harvard Business Review, speaking about this concept, entitled, A Survival Guide for Leaders. We know you are going to have moving up ceremonies, can you place them on the same day, at different times, so parents with multiple children only have to come once? Are there multiple musical showcases that you can combine? Are there any events that can be pushed to the beginning of the following year?
Consider how you can use technology to engage parents at this time of year. Like you, they are tired and overwhelmed too. What are the ways we can leverage technology to support those who just can’t get to school for an event. Consider social media accounts that your school may have and the ways events could be posted and shown there. Student blogs that showcase learning can be broadcast out, or videos highlighting student work. If your school’s social media presence isn’t quite where it should be, here are five tips to increase your school’s social media presence;
- Automate your posts
- Be real
- Make it interesting
- Be aware and spontaneous
- Don’t forget your brand
Social media can be a powerful tool if utilized correctly. It can increase your brand, engage parents, and act as a storytelling device.
This in itself may all feel overwhelming to enact. So why not choose one idea, as an area for improvement, as we head into these last few weeks. For me, my goal is to make the last few weeks the best weeks that I have had this school year. I would love to hear from others as to how you deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed at this time of year.
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