Not Doing Anything Well

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by accent on eclectic

Let me start off by saying that this isn’t a veiled attempt at sympathy. I despise sympathy, I will have no pity party. I have always tried to be open and honest in my writing and that is all this is. I also believe that I can help other people by talking about my current situation.

For those of you that have read my blog, you will know that this year I was given a great opportunity to take on a head coaching position at a small college in Edmonton. It was, and has been, very exciting, made only better by the support of my school division when they agreed to give me the time off necessary.

At the beginning of the year I was flying on adrenalin, excited by the potential of my young team and the possibility of big things. I was also very excited to return to the classroom after my first year in administration, and the energy I drew from the classroom had me revved up as well. I looked at my busy schedule and thought that while it may be a little stressful, I could handle it. In hindsight, it was very arrogant of me to think that way, and I am now seeing the error of my ways.

I am not able to balance the schedule I have created for myself. To go one step further, I am not balancing my life very well right now. I am not a good teacher, a good coach, a good husband or a good brother/son. To put it simply, I am not doing anything well right now. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a TERRIBLE teacher, coach, husband etc. I am just an adequate one. The problem is that for me that is not good enough. Anything I do I want to do to the best of my ability. At this pace, that simply will not be possible.

When you take on more activities/responsibilities in your life, other sacrifices have to be made. The problem is I have made sacrifices that are not sustainable. I have not exercised, I have not been eating well, I have not gotten enough sleep and I have not dedicated enough time to my wife. What is the result?

In the past three weeks I have been sick twice, missing two practices and two days of school. I am in the worst shape of my life. My wife and I spend most of our time just getting done what needs to be done and not spending any quality time together. I am tired at work, and have to struggle to provide the type of energy and engagement in my lessons that my students deserve. I have neglected my professional learning (never on twitter) and my own reflection (haven’t blogged in quite some time). I have not felt satisfied with anything I have done, and without that feeling of pride in what I do, I have even less motivation.

Changes need to be made, and I am working to make those changes happen. Some changes will be made now, and some in the future, but I need to find balance. And that is my message. I am living proof of what can happen when balance is lost. When it comes to our profession, the teacher is the machinery, and we need to take care of ourselves. We deliver the lessons, we provide the energy and enthusiasm, and we are the sole protectors of the process for our students. If we neglect ANY of the things we need, we are ruining the most important tool for the education of our students.

I believe it is important to have more going on in your life beyond the classroom, and to bring those passions outside the classroom back into the classroom in anyway you can. But in the end if we aren’t healthy, in mind, body and spirit, none of that passion will be translated into what we do. In the months to come I will find balance, and I will write about how it has improved what I do. For now, I have work to do, and this work needs to be done well.

Who do you work for?

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by kian esquire


I have been reading about Finland. I know, who hasn’t? I have had some conversations with my principal about Finland, had some conversations with people on Twitter about Finland. There’s lots to get behind when you read about their reform, and a lot of what they have done/are doing is inspiring. But a funny thing happened every time I read an article or a blog post, or talked with someone either online or face to face about Finland. I always felt a real negativity about it happening here.

Why? I am a pretty positive person, and I am always excited about the idea of being part of change in our school system. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday about school movement within our division. We were talking about how long we would each be in the school we are currently working in. I told him that I didn’t expect to be at this school very long, regardless of the fact I think it is the best school I have ever worked in. He was quite surprised, and I told him that I was sure an opportunity would present itself where a school might benefit from my help, and I would jump at the chance at a new challenge. He was puzzled, and his opinion on changing schools stuck with me, because I think it is fairly prevalent. To many, the idea of changing schools goes against many things they hold dear – comfort, security, loyalty and routine. To many, they work for their school, but to me, I work for my school division. If my school division needs me somewhere else, doing something different, I’m in.

This got me thinking about school reform where I live. So many projects are taken on by a school, many more are taken on by a division, and finally we see reform at the provincial level. Where I see the difference between what we do and what happened in Finland was that they addressed education reform by looking at what would be best for the COUNTRY.

We don’t do this. We always seem to be competing. Competing province against province (From what I hear, state against state too South of the border) to have the best system. Division against division to be the leaders in some area, or to have the highest testing marks (BLEH!). Even school against school to be the “Best school in the division”. Yes, I am aware of how the governance of education works. Provinces handle education, school divisions report to provinces, schools report to school divisions. I am aware of this hierarchical system, but it is this system that I think stands in the way of us really making the type of change we are all ready for.

Pasi Sahlberg, an international education researcher and former member of Finland’s Ministry of Education, said this recently in his blog

Believe it or not, schooling in many countries is becoming like a market commodity. This trend is based on the assumption that competition and information are the primary drivers of improvement. The logic is very simple; competition is the driving force behind efficiency and economic growth, therefore competition between schools and students must be the best way of improving student performance, the corporate school reformers think.”

So my question to you is, who do you work for? Do you work for your school? Your division? Your province/state? Your country? I think you all know that we work for kids. We want what is best for kids, kids everywhere. If we are going to improve the system, I think it is important we keep that in mind. There is no need for competition when it comes to learning, everyone can win. If we are going to make change, the power will come from a collective push to do what is right for our students. Achievement tests, reports from the Fraser Institute (BLEH again!), school division rankings all serve to take away this power from us. How we ever let competition into this arena I don’t know, but its time for it to go.