I have found that being a new administrator comes with some growing pains. I have not handled every situation perfectly, in most cases the errors have been ones that experience was called for, and my lack of it led to my mistake. I have had hiccups from poor strategy, bumps from poor planning and miscues from lack of organization. I have also made the odd assumption that led to me… well… you know what they say about assuming. All of the problems I have had have been fairly minor, and I continue to make changes to alleviate them and ensure they don’t happen again. But with mistakes come frustration.
This frustration I deal with is compounded by a lack of usable time and personal time, poor decisions made by our students, and other situations that I have to deal with where the cause has been outside of my control. These issues pile up, and if I had to quantify it, I would say I have been averaging 10-15 difficulties every school day. These drain me of energy, sap my enthusiasm and cause me stress.
So how do we cope with these tough moments and interactions to ensure that we continue to see the value in our work and the importance of what we do? For me it all comes back to another talk I had with my mentor from my time in Behavior Education (I am going to have to write a blog post about him, once I get his permission). He opened my eyes to this idea and gave me the tools to continue working in a difficult school with challenging kids and where I learned so much that changed my life. He taught me about Balance.
Now this isn’t the kind of balance where the math makes any sense. 2 + 2 does not equal 4 in this scenario. With my new position many of my days, the difficulties have outweighed the successes by a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio. This old boss of mine opened my eyes to creating a balance for myself when it comes to what I spend my time focusing and reflecting on. He told me that I needed to focus on the little successes, no matter how small, because to focus on the struggles only does us harm, and takes away that spirit and vitality our students are looking for every day they walk into our rooms. We were in a situation where there was a good chance less students would succeed in our program than would fail. He told me that besides being reasonable with my own expectations for myself and my students, I also had to try and celebrate the little victories that came from each day. I listened, and then I tried, and soon I found myself taking pleasure in a simple act of kindness from one of my kids. I was filled with hope by a smile or laugh, energized by brief but productive class discussions, and inspired by any moment that I was lucky enough to really connect with one of these interesting young people. After that first year, I started to develop that balance, and often found my days were far better than I would have thought before. I didn’t focus on the wrong things that would have blinded me to the great moments. Some days were harder than others to not dwell on the challenges. Some days were tough and we witnessed great turmoil and horrible moments that young people were forced to endure, but we were strengthened by our resolve built by focusing on all the good work that we had done.
So now as I start this new job, it is this balance that keeps me coming back for more. I have connected with some students who really need a connection. I have worked to support teachers, so that they are able to do those amazing things they do (also a blog post that needs to be written). And I have learned. Learned so much I have been overwhelmed at times, but I have been provided with a challenge and opportunity to learn more than I have since I was a student myself. While these moments of success may be outnumbered by the difficult ones right now, I don’t let that deter me from seeing the brief but powerful moments where I feel like I am doing a good job.
So my advice, for those who find themselves soured by a tough day, is to try and find your balance. Your job carries great power, but is not an easy one. If you had some difficult moments, be sure to leave them at the door and only put in your pack those moments of connection, of growth and of joy. Share them with your colleagues, your partner or your friends, let them grow through reflection and collaboration. Let those moments be the celebration of a job well done, and a life well lived.