ell rings. You pop up and head into the hallway, and all of the following happens in the next three minutes: A student approaches you to tell you that they are being bullied. A teacher is sick and has to leave early. There’s a broken door handle on a first-floor classroom door. There’s a parent in the office that would like to speak to you, and the Superintendent is on the phone. Real-life scenarios? If you are a school leader you know they are, and these types of situations happen all of the time. So how do we handle them? How do we adapt to the rapidly firing flow of information and requests that keep coming at us?
Each of us is different and each of us has our own skill sets. These are a few tips that I use that helped me in those moments. I always have a pen and paper in my hand. It’s usually my small notebook and I’ve recently switched to my Rocketbook. The smart notebook that allows you to save documents to wherever it is you would like to store them.
I always have the bell schedule and the staff schedule with me.
Utilize your secretary and delegation techniques. If someone needs to see me I’ll radio to my secretary, while in conversation with them at that moment. I’ll ask my secretary to schedule a meeting with them either later in the day or first thing the next morning. I also ask the person to check in with or see the secretary to confirm the appointment. If the meeting is important to them, they will remember to do so.
While we are here to serve and support our staff, don’t allow people to “dump their dump trucks” on you. You have to manage these requests in conjunction with all of the work and requirements that you are responsible for.
Lastly, many years ago I adopted the phrase: “I need some think time on that.” We constantly get a variety of requests and questions and sometimes the answers aren’t always that clear. Sometimes your mind is cluttered or thinking about other things and you’ll get a curveball from left field. It is ok to respond “I need some think time.” An important component of that is to make sure you either write it down or get it on your schedule to respond to that person. If you forget, that person will feel dismissed and undervalued which certainly nobody wants.
Think about these benefits when you use that statement: It allows you to step back and separate from the situation and have some time to reflect.
It allows you to pull on past experiences and similar decisions you have made. While treating every situation as new and different, you do want to have some consistency.
It’ll allow you to use your kitchen cabinet. The friendly phrase I took from my friend John, Superintendent of the Valley Central School District. Your kitchen cabinet is people you trust who you can bounce questions off of. Maybe you ask a trusted colleague their views on the situation.
It allows you to sleep on it and look at it with fresh eyes at another time. This is always good practice as it provides a time for you to reset, and maybe you will look differently at the situation with a clear mind.
Keep rolling with your work! It is this time of the year, during these cold months when we need to be extra energetic, positive, and supportive of our people. They have been grinding it, working day after day in the classrooms, so get out there and support your people but be armed with the tool: “I need some think time on that.”
Thank you for your work in schools and continue to go out and do great things for your school and community. If I can help you in any way don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @andrewmarotta21
Quote: “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”