June 6, 2019

This blog post was inspired by a podcast. The podcast the Tribe of Mentors episode with Debbie Millman. I highly recommend that you listen to the podcast. The following podcast is my attempt to take one of the key takeaways from the podcast and apply it to education leadership.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Pay attention, Ms/Mr. school leader to how many times you hear one of your colleagues say. “I’m too busy”. Better yet, count how many times you say those words to someone else! “I’m too busy” is never used in a positive way. For example, you don’t hear, “I’m too busy so I can do that project”. No, the very structure of the sentence implies that the speaker is turning you down. The sentence is action oriented to be negative. Here are some instances when “I’m too busy” can be used by a school leader as an avoidance technique:

  • When a meeting is being held and the school leader does not want to attend.
  • When asked by someone to change a program or practice that will require time and effort.
  • Greeting your colleagues by saying “I’m too busy” to preemptively prevent them from asking you to do something.

What They Really Want to Say

When you hear “I’m too busy” what they usually mean is, “I’m not really interested in this (thing, project, meeting, content) right now”. A better, more honest statement is to just come forward and be honest about the reason why you don’t want to participate.

Busy is a Decision

Everyone engaged in any type of work makes decisions on what to do during the course of the day. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a veteran high school principal given to me when I started as a high school principal. He told me, “Tom, get out of the office. You can always find a reason to stay in your office and do paperwork or other “important” work. It’s not really that important. Force yourself to leave the office and walk through the halls and classrooms. You should never be too busy to do this.” My career is spent living up to this mantra. I believe that humans have control over their lives. School leaders are no different than any other human. The decisions you make to fill your day reflect your values, goals, and what you want to accomplish.

What does Your Day Say About You?

Review your typical day at work. Does it reflect who you want to become as a leader? Are there activities that should be done by someone else? How about answering this question, “Do these activities need to be done at all?” Is your daily work agenda leading you toward transcendence and fulfillment or are you filling space to look (and feel) busy? It is easier for our psyche to convince ourselves that we are too busy to do something that is hard, or requires change, or may create conflict. Avoiding these situations with the excuse of “I’m too busy” does not help you, your school or the students you lead.

Just something to think about…

About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

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