In education it seems that whatever we do, it is never enough. Schools have taken on so many social issues trying to help kids. I think it was Andy Hargreaves who said that burnout isn’t so much being overwhelmed by demands (although that is true), it is working long hours, contributing their own money to offset budget restrictions, and still not feeling like the effort is not producing the results professionals and community wants
“You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have”
A recent article in Smart Briefs (ASCD), Principals Are on the Brink of a Breakdown “found 85 percent of school principals are experiencing job-related stress and 48 percent are dealing with burnout.” By Emily Tate Sullivan Jul 6, 2022
In recent conversations with two state superintendent organizations, the number of superintendents that are leaving is accelerating for many of the same reasons. Question: do we want school leaders to spend their time and energy on mask mandates, vaccinations, and local political arguments or do we want leaders to spend their time and energy on learning, building psychologically and physically safe environments, and preparing our young people for a changing world?
John Merrow reported years ago that 80-90% of people go into the profession of education because they want to make a difference. It is hard to make a difference when schools and districts use their time and resources to mediate social and political issues.
What can be done to keep leaders and staff in their roles helping kids learn content and the meta-curriculum?
I suggest that the meta-curriculum; getting along with others, collaborating, creativity to solve future problems, curiosity, passion for continuous learning, etc. are as important as the content acquisition measured by test scores. As Richard Sheridan, Menlo Innovations has said, ‘if a person can’t play well with others, we don’t hire them.’
Another positive program is called Habits of Mind (Costa & Kallick). There are sixteen habits that have research supporting the qualities to develop personal and professional positive traits. The reason, these sixteen habits are transferable across disciplines and are not content–specific. Highly effective people possess most of these skills.
A third possibility is Patrick Cook-Deegan at www.projectwayfinder.com This program helps middle schooler students find a sense of belonging. It also provides a program for senior high students helping them to find their passion.
Fourth, Tony Wagner wrote a list of seven critical skills several years ago in a book called The Global Achievement Gap. How about making sure we are teaching students for these skills that will help thrive in an unknown future?
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
- Agility and Adaptability
- Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
- Effective Oral and Written Communication
- Accessing and Analyzing Information
- Curiosity and Imagination
Fifth, Ted Dintersmith (2018) took a year and visited every state in the U.S. Yes, all fifty. He found schools that were attracting and sustaining learning for students. This was a broad diverse collection of schools. Don’t tell me schools can’t have a positive effect on student learning. Not easy AND it can be done.
Finally, I presented two one–hour zooms last fall for the Connecticut Association of Schools. The first one was on ‘Emotional Anorexia.’ Find my post at https://learningomnivores.com/emotional-anoxeria/ There are many more posts on my website: www.learningomnivores.com
Both posts and zooms were inspired by the great resignation of professionals and the culture that challenges even the most committed, to stay and make a difference.
Five or six years ago I read the book by Marshall Goldsmith titled, ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.‘ I recommend it highly. Here is a short summary
This book led me to a process called ‘Stakeholder Centered Coaching’ that resulted in a 95% success rate coaching business leaders. I am finding the same results with educational leaders. Consider the fact that knowledge and skills used in the past might not be adequate to deal with the challenges ahead.
We have enough certified professionals. Why are they leaving? My thought is the culture must change. The skillset hasn’t kept up with the environment. A friend and colleague, Jathan Janove said he works changing systems from ‘Compliance Cops to Culture Coaches.’ I agree and will post more on that topic later.
One additional suggestion. READ. Here are two to start with:
Daniel Pink’s book: The Power of Regret
Marshall Goldsmith’s latest: The Earned Life
As Art Costa asked me thirty years ago, ‘as a principal what are you doing to provide a mentally stimulating environment for your teachers?’ I responded, ‘I have to do that too.’ What Art said next is one of the reasons I am still in education. He said, ‘if the teachers aren’t in a mentally stimulating environment, why do you think they will do that for students?’ He was and is correct. Let’s get the culture right. It can be done. Our staff deserve it. Moreover, our kids deserve it.
Costa, Arthur & Kallick, Bena. https://www.habitsofmindinstitute.org
Dintersmith, Ted. (2018). What School Could Be. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Goldsmith, Marshall. (2007). What got you here won’t get you there. New York: Hyperion
Goldsmith, Marshall. (2022). The Earned Life. New York: Random House
Pink, Daniel. (2022). The Power of Regret. New York: Riverhead Books
Sheridan, Richard. (2018). Chief Joy Officer. New York: Portfolio/Penguin
Wagner, T. (2008). The Global Achievement Gap. New York: Basic Books