By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
Bonnie Iglar teaches in an elementary school that contains four kindergartens. The early childhood teachers have been informed that next year the school will be adding a young 5’s program to meet the needs of the youngest kindergarten children. At this time, the teacher for that assignment has not been chosen. No indication has been given as to who that teacher will be. The teachers in question have been informed that the decision might not be made until right before school begins in September. Uncertainty reigns. Have a great summer.
The teachers in a large public school system had been well aware of the need for obtaining continuing education credits. They know that their certification renewal and salary increments are tied to obtaining a specified number of credits in a clearly defined time frame. Enter the new policy. Henceforth, no continuing education credits would be allowed for staff development during school days. Those credits would have to be earned on the teacher’s own time. Not to worry. The school just announced they would be offering professional development opportunities over spring break, during the holiday break, and in the summer, with dates to be announced as programs are scheduled. What do teachers do who have already scheduled vacation trips and summer jobs to supplement their current income? Uncertainty abounds.
This year, Edmundo Abreu taught Freshman English and English Literature in a suburban high school. Another teacher who also teaches English and Spanish is returning from a two-year leave of absence to work on a higher degree. Edmundo was recently told that he might be assigned to the junior high next year. Another option under consideration is for him to do a half-day of teaching at both sites. That decision will be made later. Have a relaxing summer dealing with uncertainty.
It would be nice if staff assignments, building shifts and staff development opportunities were clearly set before the summer break. Yes, it would be nice. The reality is, many professional educators are about to begin their summer without having the answers necessary to plan their summer and prepare effectively for the beginning of school in the fall.
What are concerned educators to do? How do they create a relaxing and productive summer with uncertainty staring them in the face? How do they take control and feel empowered when they have little power over administrative decisions and appear to have no control?
The following suggestions may be of help.
1. Do what you can to state your preferences clearly and respectfully. Ask for what you want. Administrators are not psychic. You do not have a glass head. They cannot see in there and read your mind. If you don't speak up for you, who will? When you ask, make it a preference rather that a demand.
2. Realize some issues are out of your control. That being the case, take control of what you do control. You control how you do—or don't—manage your own mind. Take control of that issue, and exert your power where it can be extremely effective in creating a positive summer experience. Purposefully manage your own mind.
3. Intentionally decide whether to look for the doughnut or the hole. People who look for the doughnut look for what is there for them rather than looking for what is not there. They see possibilities, positives, opportunities, and excitement. People who look for the hole see negatives, harm, danger, and tragic outcomes. Regardless of whether you look for the doughnut or look for the hole, guess what you'll see? That’s right, you'll see exactly what you are looking for.
4. Accept that what is, is on an emotional level. If you find yourself thinking that "it" should be different, that "they" should know better, that it isn't fair,you're emotionally resisting and mentally fighting what is. The fact is, it is what it is. Dealing with the current situation on a physical level can best be handled when you emotionally accept your present-moment circumstances.
5. In addition, stop using your mind to "should" on people. Yes, they should have known better. Yes, they should give you more warning. Yes, they should realize how this affects you and the students. We agree with you. They should have. Guess what. They didn't. All the shoulding in the world isn't going to change what is. All you get from shoulding is getting to be right in your own mind. When you see yourself as right, it justifies your anger. And you get to carry that anger around with you all summer.
6. You can see this situation as awful. You can see it as unfair. You can see it as disgusting. Or you can see it all as perfect. Yes, we actually said that on purpose. Perfect. You might be wondering, "How is it possible to see it as perfect?" It is perfect for helping you practice your mind skills. It is perfect for giving you data you need to decide whether or not to begin a new job search. It gives you the perfect data to take to your union for consideration in the next bargaining session. It is the perfect time to request a building transfer. It is the perfect time to consider retiring.
7. Make a BE choice. Decide how you want to BE this summer. Do you want to BE grumpy, happy, curious, excited, eager, frustrated, or some other way to BE? Don't settle for whatever feeling just comes over you. Choose a way to BE consciously with intention. Check in every once in a while to monitor if you are still BEING that way. Adjust if necessary.
8. Look for the gift. Gifts sometimes arrive in our lives wrapped in unfamiliar packaging. This situation might be gifting you with time to think about how you really want to be as a professional educator. A new administrator who has similar beliefs to yours about educational philosophy might be showing up disguised as a building change. Maybe the opportunity to go to Chicago for a professional development program is headed your way. A gift could be a realization that this is the perfect time to begin work on your master's degree. Stay alert for the gift that could be coming wrapped up in what you are now seeing as unpleasant circumstances.
9. Stay present. Worrying, wishing it was different, and what if-ing aren't going to help. These activities will only sabotage your present moments and create stress and anxiety. "What if I don't know about my assignment until the last day?" "What if my Florida spring break falls right when they are offering the continuing education credits?" "What if they expect the young 5's to be reading by the end of the year?" What ifs rarely occur. Know that if they do occur you will be able to handle them. You have handled educational challenges before. You can handle this. Notice the worry. Notice the what if. Use it as a signal to return to the present moment.
10. Remember, it is summer. Lean into it. Lighten up. Charge your battery for another exciting year and an opportunity to once again professionally and effectively handle whatever comes your way.
Do you want to deal effectively with uncertainty? Claim your personal power. Manage your mind to achieve your desired result. Control what you can control. Choose peace. Smile a lot.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for their newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com.