Advice from a Veteran… not what I expected, but what I needed.

It had been a trying week.  Truancy meetings, parent concerns, discipline incidents both large and small… may not sound out of the ordinary for an elementary administrator but the pace at which each situation came at me… picture Frogger.  frogger

But in this version of the game, I’m not avoiding the traffic, I’m inviting each bus, car and taxi into my office for a conversation.  The traffic just wouldn’t let up.

Friday arrived and per our usual, the family meets up at the little league field for one or both boys’ games.  Josh and Jacob both play with a grandson of a veteran, retired administrator I’ve known since starting in this district, Tom.  Not only had I invited all the traffic into my office, my brain, my heart, but now I was carrying it around with me to the ball field and into my weekend.  I needed some help.

I gave Tom the short version and quipped, “When I can leave work at work, I’ll have figured out the secret!”  He chuckled.  And rather than waxing sagacious, bestowing words of wisdom on my newbie self, Tom told me a story.  An admin he’d known years ago, his house burned down, his father-in-law had a heart attack, things were rough.  Back at school after a few days away, a parent approached to offer her condolences, tacking onto the end of her sentiment, “and what are we going to do about the low 3rd grade spelling scores?”  Right.

I appreciate that Tom knew I didn’t need a pat on the back, poor you, administration is tough.  What I needed to hear was a story, a ridiculous, real-life story.

When we stop taking our work home, we stop caring.  When our work gets into our heart and head, we’re at our best, doing our best for kids.  The ‘trick’ lies is retraining my focus onto my family and my own children when I get home.  Work, school, staff, and 400 other people’s kids can’t be allowed to cloud my own lens as a mom and wife, friend and neighbor.

It doesn’t mean I care an iota less.  It means I’m accepting that educators don’t have on/off switches.  But my goal is to let all the Frogger traffic go by me when I head home.  I’ve made it across the road, and all those cars, taxis and buses will be awaiting me when I return on Monday.  And better yet, I’ll be a renewed, energized principal ready for anything!

Video games as stress-relievers… that’s for another post.


2 thoughts on “Advice from a Veteran… not what I expected, but what I needed.

  1. Great post Catina. Leaving work at work is certainly a challenge for principles. I also find it challenging to handle the emails I get at night and on the weekends. You have the right idea, what’s the alternative, not caring enough? We both know we can’t do that!

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