A career in education can be a lot of work, especially if you truly care about your students. And the last couple of years have been no exception. With constantly changing rules, teaching formats, and budgets, it’s no wonder that teachers and administrators are feeling the weight of the world. As the vice principal in the South San Francisco Unified School District, Leticia Gonzalez shares her experience and expertise for fellow school administrators to avoid letting burnout get the best of you this school year. And teachers and other education professionals can take note, too. These tips can be useful in the classroom and office as well.
Tip #1 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The job of an administrator is fast-paced and packed with so many duties it can cloud your vision of the big picture–student success. Let it go, breathe, and know that it is normal for everyone to feel this way. Take it one task at a time and remember that you are making progress no matter how small the steps may seem to you. You will not have all the answers to all the questions, but you can get organized and start collecting information. Find an organization system that works for you. Write down what you need to do, create a checkbox next to it and start checking things off as you go. I usually keep all these detailed in a bullet journal by date. Writing down what I need to do helps me remember, and I can also go back and see if I have any checkboxes unchecked. Chances are if something was unchecked it was never meant to be a high priority, and I can get back to it when I have the time.
Tip #2 Tomorrow is a New Day. It says so on your Calendar.
Don’t think that you are ahead of the game just because you pulled an all-nighter at work and continued to work at home. You will not win a prize for overworking yourself. Being stretched thin will contribute to your anxiety and stress while at work. You need your best self, every day, as a school administrator. Set those boundaries now so that you are well balanced in work and home. Know that what was left on your desk and inbox will be there tomorrow, and you can pick up right where you left off with a fresh perspective. Sometimes taking a step back and leaving the work behind also helps you with reflecting on what the priorities are on your list of to-dos. And remember that there is always tomorrow!
Tip #3 Walkabout
Sometimes the best thing to do is unplug from your office and walk around campus. This is a great way to get some exercise, check on campus safety, and get into the classrooms. Doing your class walkthroughs makes you visible as a school leader, helps build connections to students, shows that you prioritize learning and instruction, and gives you a more intimate pulse for the school. Seeing dynamic teaching and students engaged is a great way to perk up your creativity too. Don’t forget that leaving quick notes for teachers on what you observed is another helpful tool that can help build relationships and give you meaningful data.
Tip #4 Don’t be a People Pleaser
It is sometimes hard to say no, but as a school administrator, you will be asked to do everything in addition to your job duties, especially if you are the only site leader on campus. It is perfectly fine to assess the situation by stating “let me get back to you on that”, which gives you some time to decide whether the project is absolutely necessary for you to do, if you have the time required to do the project, or if it can be delegated to a teacher leader or office staff member. You will be a much more successful leader if you are not spread thin, and even more successful if you prepare others around you to be successful leaders alongside you.
Tip #5 Ask for Solutions When You Hear All The Problems
Chances are you will get a plethora of complaints. Sometimes these can be quick fixes, such as a walkie-talkie call to the custodian, a quick chat with your secretary, or a call to the district office. However, sometimes your office can be a breeding ground for complaints. Try to make your office space free from the “Problem Vomit”. Meet with teachers and parents outside to discuss any matters and offer to schedule a meeting if more needs to be investigated or if the matter is private. This will also help to manage your time effectively and give you the advantage of being prepared to meet regarding the specific concern at a later date.
Tip #6 With a Little Help From Friends
As a school administrator, it will be very lonely. You will likely not have teacher friends like you once did when you were a teacher. You are now looked at as “the boss” and the side of the school administrator can sometimes make you feel like you cannot count on anyone, but yourself. This is far from the truth! Form relationships with other colleagues in your district or county. Calendar in weekly check-ins with a more seasoned administrator. Remember that this is part of your collaboration in improving as a site leader and it also helps you to gather more ideas from others’ experiences so that you too can combat anything that comes your way. Creating those mentorship opportunities is critical for problem-solving and also serves as a way to reflect and improve upon your own leadership style. It may also lead you to the next step in your career!