October 15, 2020

Does your life feel like this?

Is Busy a Badge of Honor?

Let’s face it, the last six months have been “busy” for educators. Our schools and communities have undergone changes and challenges that 12 months ago would have been unheard of. While adapting to these changes, students, teachers, administrators, and parents are forming new habits and mindsets to deal with the changes. The result of all of these changes is that all school leaders are exponentially busier than before COVID.

Many of us wear our busy-ness as a badge of honor. How many times today have you heard a school leader tell smeone how busy they are? If you are near a school system, you probably heard it. And the fact of the matter is it’s true…we are all very busy. We must be careful that we do not mistake busyness for forward progress.

Question to Ponder

Is all of this busy-ness helping our students, staff, and school?

Moving from Busywork to Important Work

I suspect the readers of this blog want to become more intentional about what they do during the day. Doing what is important to help students, teachers, and our community is a goal most of us strive for. There is obviously a crossover between plain old busywork and doing the work that is important for your school. Before you can make that determination for yourself, you must reflect on three things. First, what is your vision for education? Second, what is your school’s vision for student success? Finally, what are the school district’s goals for all students? Once you have aligned all of these, you can start to plan more important work in your day.

3 Strategies to Move Toward Important Work Everyday

  1. Intention: A Duke University study found that 45% of our day consists of doing tasks that are habits. In other words, we are spending almost half of our day doing tasks that are automatic. These tasks might be intellectually stimulating, but the fact that we are undertaking them without really thinking about why we are doing them is a little disconcerting. This is why intention is so important. The experiences we create for our lives (and our daily routines) can be more than just a habit. We can plan our own experiences during the day. Planning experiences for our day that will help lead our students, schools, and communities toward goals become more important than a mindless habit.
  2. Consistency: Doing the important work that leads your school requires consistency. In a world of uncertainty, there is a push and pull of forces. We are pushed by present conditions to make decisions that will impact our schools only on a short-term basis. Consistently fighting the urge to view every decision through a short-term decision-making lens expands our outlook to the future. Our decision making will become more future-focused. Consistency creates a pull toward the future.
  3. Meaning: Answer this question. “Does the work I am doing have meaning to me?” If you can answer “yes” then being intentional and having the discipline to be consistent will be easier. Not easy, but easier. Most school leaders (at least the ones I am familiar with) do not spend much time staring at their navel pondering the meaning of life…and we don’t have to. A much simpler exercise is to reflect on whether the work you do has meaning for you. The work might not be earth-changing. It may not make you rich or famous…and that is okay. The important part is that the work fills your soul. I am pollyannish enough to believe that in our current situation, all of us can find meaning in what we do!

Hang in there everybody…you are all doing important work!

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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