Educators are seriously struggling with the demands being piled upon them. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say many of these dedicated professionals are breaking. And I’m not entirely convinced most school leaders are confident in their ability to help.
You can only fill a plate so full before it breaks the person carrying it. With this in mind, I wanted to help by compiling five real-actual things principals can (and should) do to help.
5 things your plate wants your principal to know:
But don’t listen to me because I’m an inanimate dishwasher-safe object. Listen to your teachers when they talk about why this balancing act is so ridiculously hard. Listening alone is not enough, but it really does make a difference.
It can be difficult to remove something from me (especially dried-on ketchup and day-old casserole). However, explicitly emphasizing what matters most can empower teachers to manage their limited time more effectively. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
If you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves to do the dishes, then stay out of the kitchen. Work with your team to help lighten the load whenever possible. If your school or district require surveys or paperwork, try to provide time embedded into previously scheduled meetings to complete the extra work.
As a founding member of the "clean plate club," let me be the first to admit how unrealistic it seems to attain a clear (or semi-manageable) plate. However, it’s completely possible to start by removing one duty, burden, or barrier from your teachers’ plates. And starting with one builds momentum…just like doing the dishes.
Of course, you should be treating me like your grandmother’s fine China. But you better be treating your teachers’ time with the same care. Do everything in your power to avoid adding superfluous tasks and things that don’t directly impact students’ lives to their day. And if you must add something to me, please include teachers in the process. When they understand why something is meaningful, they're more inclined to shift things around to make it work.
The strategies above are no joke and this topic isn’t either. The culture of your team depends on your ability to see where people might be struggling and to respond with genuine care and intentionality.
When I wrote my latest book, Reclaiming Our Calling, I dedicated one of the chapters to “letting go” to create space for the work we know matters most. I also included a "Let Go" list to help you or your team own your plates like a boss. The template below isn’t just for tasks and time-drainers…it also helps with mindset and letting go of ideas that might be cluttering our work.
I hope the ideas and template above are helpful. And I hope we can work together to get collectively better at supporting our teams and schools in this work we get to do together.