Time to Reflect
Unlike most professions, education is composed of discrete units. Every year begins anew in late August or September. The middle comes sometime in January. The end arrives in June. And the summer months? Time to reflect, correct, plan, and renew.
As a principal and later as a superintendent, I was always a little nonplussed when people asked, “So, where are you going this summer?” As if right after the kids left, we locked the doors and came back just before school opened again to unlock them. People were often surprised when I told them I worked during the summer.
Few if any other professions have the advantage we have to step away from the daily business and take 10 weeks to prepare for the next round. What went right? How can we avoid making the mistakes we made last year? With limited resources, how can we get the best bang for our buck? What kinds of training do our teachers and principals need? How can we better keep parents informed? How can we work better with our board?
Clearly, school administrators don’t wait until summer to start thinking about all of this. Items on the summer agenda are already identified. Meetings are already set, and summer school is in full swing. Custodians are busy cleaning rooms, repairing desks, and painting halls. End-of-the-year reports need to be submitted. Schedules need to be developed; classes need to be assigned. New staff needs to be hired.
But summer does provide a certain distance that allows us to think more clearly about chronic problems or possible opportunities. The relative quiet allows us to have conversations with teachers, principals, parents, and others without the pressure of finding an immediate solution. We can read some of those books, peruse some of those websites, talk with some of our colleagues, and reflect on our own professional progress as a school administrator.
Educational battles will rage on over the summer – Common Core and Bill Gates, teacher evaluation, truancy, funding, charter schools, test scores, etc. Tune it all out, or at least turn down the volume. Those issues will still be there in the fall. Instead, think about teaching and learning. Think about kids. Think about how you can make your school or your district, the best it can be with the human resources you have. As Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to stop and reflect.”