Glass Half Full: School’s out for the summer?
July 15, 2015
Summertime. I am frequently asked if I am enjoying vacation, the assumption being that, since school is out, we are foot loose and fancy free. Ah, if only that were true.
The fact is that the responsibilities and tasks of school administrators fall into the year-round category. We spend the first portion of the summer tying up loose ends from the previous year and the second portion putting into place the myriad details necessary to run a school: report cards, student files, scheduling, summer mailings, hiring, classroom changes, maintenance to the buildings, calendar, future events, fundraisers, room parents, volunteer coordinators, security, software updates, new student orientation … the list is endless.
The fact is, however, that time during the summer is different. The absence of students (and parents!) means we have the luxury of carving out time to focus on one project at a time, the ability to spend time with people to explore new ideas and discuss whatever is important.
When school is in session, time becomes remarkably fragmented. Few and far between are the occasions when we can sit back and reflect. The pace of any school day, while structured carefully for classrooms, is frequently unpredictable on an administrative level.
Most of us in school leadership started as teachers, and our sense of ourselves revolves around the notion that we still are. I have difficulty closing my door in order to work, because I believe it's important to be available to students, parents, and teachers.
Consequently, it's often not until everyone has gone home that I have the opportunity to focus on the specific tasks that have been on my desk all day.
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Regardless of our professions and our expertise, we all need time to reflect, to engage in meaningful dialogue, to read independently, and, yes, to kick back and do nothing.
At Lake Tahoe School, our formal working hours change a bit in the summer because I want my staff to have time to recharge their batteries and develop new talents and interests. I want to hear them talk about experiences other than those relating directly to school.
I want all of us to become students again, whether it's by taking up a new sport or hobby or re-sharpening skills for an old one. As we do this, I notice a revival of energy among us all. Gone is any sense of feeling frantic about the lengthy list of To Dos relative to hours left in a day. The fact is, our productivity usually increases. So does our collective sense of humor.
We rediscover the many attitudes and interests we share. Most important, we spend surprising chunks of time revisiting why we are in this business and what we can do to make each year the best year yet.
So, if you run into school administrators, don't ask them about their vacations; thank them for the time they are already providing for your children's improved school experiences.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.