Why thinking is as important as doing
Schools need to stop worshipping at the alter of busy. Here are tips to carve out time for reflection. (521 words)
Life in schools is fast paced
There is always something to do. We can also worship a little at the cult of busy.
‘I’ve got so much to do.’
‘I have to plan for x.’
‘I have to meet y.’
Some school leaders can see it as a mark of importance and effectiveness that they are always busy breaking up fights or never in their office or always on patrol.
These things are important and presence helps staff morale- it is right that senior managers are visible but sometimes busy gets in the way of real work. We aren’t paid just to be corridor security or similar. That would make us very overpaid.
Busy can stop reflection and reflection is where the real learning, planning and improvement takes place. I’ve found this at each stage of my career so far, as a new teacher, as a head of department and as a senior manager.
If you are always ‘doing’ where is the space for review? For evaluation? To plan for the future?
Recently, I had a really useful planning session with an team in an area I’m responsible for They led it but I sat in and took notes, while asking questions they’d not considered. I suggested we move to another room -away from kids- and we got 1.5 hrs of planning done which has helped them consider their course for the next 1-2 years.
Previously, when I mentioned reports that I’d been reading or studies I’d come across, I used to have a colleague who would say,’I don’t have time to read that.’ The implication being (even if subtle) that they were busier than me and that wider reading was a luxury.
I’d say if we are serious about improvement we don’t have time not to be aware of the wider world beyond our organisations. Busy is not effective. Busy is just busy. Sometimes it’s possible to be busy for weeks on end and realise you haven’t really moved forward with anything. I had that sensation a few months ago and didn’t like it so changed a few things.
Here are some tips for blocking out time to think.
- Block out 1-2hrs of time on a regular basis. Weekly, fortnightly, monthly, half termly. It doesn’t matter as long as you just stick to it.
- Put it in your diary. Let colleagues know you will be unavailable at that time. If you use Outlook, or similar, schedule it as a meeting with yourself.
- Work somewhere other that your usual place. That will ensure you don’t get distracted. The world can do without you for 90 mins. As a class teacher I used to go to the back or a colleague’s room with my headphones in- nobody minded.
- Have a clear purpose for your session – 1 major thing you want to achieve by the end of it. This will make it focused.
So the next time you find yourself rushed off you feet consider are you running to move forward of just jogging on a treadmill?