November can be a time that spirits lag in schools. Everyone seems to be tired and cranky and people start to get sick. The honeymoon is over with more challenging students. Parent conferences and/or report cards consume time and energy. Gray clouds and less daylight can play a role. And the tone of this year’s election certainly did not help.
In speaking with principals over the past couple of weeks, I have been struck by how many are dealing with issues emanating from a person or team who seem to wield undue influence on the overall climate and morale in a school. What is it about November that brings out the “nattering nabobs of negativism” (with apologies to William Safire, who coined the phrase for former Vice President Spiro Agnew)? And what’s a harried principal to do?
First, help everyone (including yourself) keep things in perspective. Name the issues – the challenging class, the unreasonable parent, the student in crisis, the new writing program. Most of all, take time to listen and acknowledge the feelings behind the issues.
Second, no matter how unfair or unreasonable the negativism may be, stay positive. Work hard to keep your game face on. Your body language and demeanor help set the tone for others. As Julie Vincentsen wrote in an earlier MESPA Blog, you are your school’s “storyteller in chief.” Control the narrative and focus on the positive.
Third, find a support network - both in and outside the school. Enlist those on your staff who support the work or change you are trying to move forward. Support and empower those who bring a positive demeanor to school. You don’t have to do it alone. Find someone outside of school to talk to – a colleague, a coach, a support group (in-person or on-line). Need help finding a network? Contact us in the MESPA office.
Finally, do something fun. The short Thanksgiving week provides an opportunity to catch our breath and regroup. Take time to enjoy the traditions in your school.Whether making stone soup, supporting a food drive, or simply having a dress-up day, most schools have uplifting traditions during Thanksgiving week. In this week’s MESPA Blog post, Brenda Maurao quotes Barack Obama:
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.”
Wishing you a restful and restorative Thanksgiving and a plenitude of palpable positivity when you return!