The final term of the school year is a crazy, busy time in schools. End of year events, final assessments, end of year reporting, class allocations, timetabling, budgets and planning for next year swamp us at a time when our energies are low and many of us feel we are running on empty.
It is important to finish strong, just like we started the year! Whilst our reserves may be running low it is vital to remain focused and finish the year well.
At this time of the year we are more likely to be sensitive, ‘thin skinned’ and emotional because we are run-down and in need of that well-earned break. We shouldn’t be surprised. The same thing happens at this time, every year. One of the most significant factors is how we respond to the challenges we face at the end of the year when we are running low on reserves.
It is important to remember that schools are people places. Throughout the year, we have worked hard to build trust relationships with students, parents and colleagues. Saying or doing something ‘dumb’ at this time of the year, when our reserves are depleted, will undo all of the good work that we have done throughout the year to build those relationships. A harsh or insensitive word to someone can undermine our credibility and our reputation. It is important to be aware of our moods and on guard that we think, before we act.
Monitoring our self-talk and our sensitivity are particularly important at this time of the year. We are far more susceptible to allowing irritations that would not normally have an effect on us, to get to us. Our resistance is low and we are vulnerable to both attack from outside and making poor decisions. Now is the time to watch our words, resist the temptation to ‘shoot from the hip’ and make decisions on the run.
Remember back to the start of the year. Most of us started the year with energy, vim and vigor. We were rejuvenated by the Christmas break and were ready to put all of our energies into being as effective as we possibly could. It is when times are tough that reputations are truly made.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO Amazon
Much of our credibility in the eyes of others is based on results. Not just academic results but our ability to complete our projects, meet deadlines and follow tasks through to completion. The old adage ‘beginners are many, finishers are few’ is worth remembering. The final term each year is always crazy busy. However, it is essential that we focus, use our time well and sustain our efforts on the things that matter most, right through until the end of the year.
Stephen MR Covey talks about when world-class marathon runners ‘hit the wall’ and they feel like they can’t go on any further, instead of focusing on their exhaustion and how tired they are feeling and going into the ‘survival shuffle’, they lift up their head and pick up the pace. I believe this is a vital mindset for staff in schools at this time of the year. By picking up the pace, you are really saying to yourself that you’re not just going to finish, you’re going to finish strong!
It has become a tradition in our Happy School program to republish the article ‘Finish Strong’ at the beginning of November each year, to remind staff about the impact that something we say or do, can have, especially at this time of the year. Make ‘Finish strong’ your mantra.
About Steve Francis
Steve Francis is an expert in the complexities of leading effective schools. He works with school leadership teams and staff across Australia and New Zealand to optimise their schools. Steve has been recognised as one of the top 50 most influential educators in Australia. He is the author of four books and the creator of the Happy School program. Over 700 schools subscribe to receive his weekly articles on improving staff well-being and engagement.