Renewal, Reflection, Recovery for Education Leaders

The view in my backyard

There sure is a lot to get stressed about these days…and I’m not just talking about what is happening in the education world! The bottom line is that there is so much change, uncertainty, and chaos in the world right now that it is easy to “just get by”. Worse yet, we may find ourselves sleepwalking through the day doing tasks without much thought as to why we are doing them. As I stepped out onto my back patio the other day, after a marathon session of Zoom meetings, the beauty of the Fall foliage struck me. I stared at the leaves, the blue sky, and listened to a hawk hunting in the sky above me. I gained a perspective that day that I want to share with you. It seems as if there are three “R’s” that all leaders need to consider in the days and months ahead. I am not an expert on any of these concepts that I will share with you. I am just an educational leader who has spent some time thinking about all of these things.


We here that we should take time for our personal renewal all of the time. If you do not hear it all of the time, you need to start reading more on leadership! The concept of renewal has gone from a “new-age” concept to one that is essential for effective leadership. Renewal is simply allowing yourself to NOT THINK OR ACT ON WORK RELATED ITEMS for a certain amount of time. In the education leadership world right now, it may be unrealistic to be able to unplug from your job for days. However, I bet you can unplug for a few hours. Here is what I do to renew:

  1. Walk away from my cell phone
  2. Exercise
  3. Read
  4. Walk the dogs
  5. Volunteer Coach
  6. Mentor other education leaders

This is not an exhaustive list, and I know that there are things that you do differently from me. The only important thing is that you do something to renew yourself, even if it is only for an hour or two.


What does reflection mean? Reflection is taking the totality of what you are experiencing (both professionally and personally) and understanding what is happening and why it happened. It is not an exercise to look for a deeper meaning to life. Reflection can help you gain perspective on your day to day routine. I use a powerful story to help me reflect and gain perspective. My mother passed away from cancer when she was 52 years old. I am fast approaching that age. When I stop and take time to reflect I always give thanks that I am healthy and can enjoy all that is good in this world. I view my life as a gift and what little I can contribute to the betterment of the world is a legacy of my mother. She didn’t live beyond 52 years of age, but I can live a full, happy life doing what I love. That is perspective. What story in your past helps you reflect and gain perspective?


The idea of recovery recognizes that we need time to recharge. I read that humans have 40,000 thoughts a day. We must make time to assure that all of those thoughts are not related to our work. Those 40,000 thoughts represent an inner dialogue we have with ourselves. When you think about it, we talk to ourselves more than anyone else during the course of the day! Let’s take the time to recover and do it purposefully. Turning our thoughts off completely (in a healthy way) may be impossible. However, we can try to make sure all of those thoughts are not related to work. A hobby is an example of a recovery technique.

I hope all of you have a great week!

About 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.
View all posts by Tom Butler, Ph.D. →

Leave a Reply