As a teacher and perfectionist, I never felt that there was enough time to do everything that was needed to address student concerns, to perfect my lessons, get my grading done as quickly as possible, or to be involved in as many coaching and extra curriculars as possible, all activities that are priorities for most educators concerned with student growth and success. I didn’t fully understand that this feeling would be even more intensified as a new school leader.
When we feel like there are more important things to accomplish than hours in the day, a big question that new administrators have is how does one prioritize when everything is a priority? What’s the most important to do first? How does one invest the necessary time into what’s important when there are many other “squeaky wheels” attracting your attention?
One of my favorite phrases is “time spent upfront is time saved in the end.” I don’t recall if that is something that someone famous/important said or just me, but it has proven to be true. An administrator can spend 24/7 being “reactive” or “putting out fires;” often, though, some time spent prior to now on that particular issue would have saved us from having to “put out fires.”
For example, as an administrator, you will constantly be helping different members of the school community to solve issues related to student learning. Often times, a parent who is passionate about her child’s learning will contact you, hoping for an immediate action or solution. A mistake that is often made just out of inexperience, being overwhelmed, etc., is to try to solve that issue with the parent right there and then. However, prior to that happening, taking the time to gather all the appropriate information and perspectives, i.e. talking to the student involved and the teacher, is vital to a solution to the problem that will more likely work through the different concerns of each person and provide the solution that’s most likely to be effective and agreeable to everyone. Clearly, this is more time spent initially on the matter. However, if the administrator solves the problem with the parent initially and then finds out additional information from the student or teacher that impacts the situation, more time is spent fixing it and explaining to the parents why there are additional items needed to consider the appropriate course of action. This is just one of many circumstances that require thought prior to a decision being made, whereby that thought or reflection may take more time initially but will save everyone’s time in the future.