In anticipation of an upcoming academic year, there are routine items that must be planned and in place prior to the opening of school. While the usual suspects include schedules, homeroom assignments, transportation stops, policy updates, instructional targets, and the securing of both human and material resources, I challenge you to step beyond the mundane and plan for something that is often a mere afterthought. Be intentional and consider the notion of planning for “J” in the upcoming school year. You may ask, “What is J.O.Y. What does it have to do with planning for a school year?” Most consider joy to be an expression of great pleasure and or happiness. Satisfaction. Pride. Can you imagine the kind of learning culture you can create when it is grounded in J.O.Y.?
To take this a step further, I challenge you to consider breaking joy into these three key support components:
J is for Journey
O is for Opportunity
Y is for You
Let’s begin with the notion of a journey. An academic year typically begins with instructional targets in mind. The traditional plan to meet these targets includes a multitude of lesson plans on how to identify student strengths and weaknesses while continuing to adjust the plans on how to best reach the identified goals. How awesome is it when one faces a journey grounded in strong relationships where one is happy, feels supported, challenged, and makes connections along the way. This notion of a journey applies to those who are professionally learning as well. When we provide differentiated professional learning opportunities to our teachers, they feel more supported and are often more effective in the classroom. When this is done for our leaders, they tend to lead with more passion and positive outcomes. When professionals experience support, challenges, and connections along their professional journey they begin to experience satisfaction and pride in their work. In other words, they too begin to experience joy.
For many, schools are a place where opportunity awaits. It is our schools and classrooms that often foster the opening of a door to new ideas and concepts. While learning targets abound, so too does the opportunity to help shape a different way of thinking, establish new habits, and foster fresh and unique perspectives and new understandings. This might come in the form of exploring a new microscope or the latest technology. Perhaps turning the mere page of a book opens an opportunity for a new adventure. Meeting others from different cultures and backgrounds can be an opportunity to make new friends. Sharing conversations and ideas together helps to meld teamwork and problem-solving so critical to our future. All of these create opportunities for one to experience satisfaction and pride along the way.
Being an instructional leader is one of the most humbling acts of service. When you commit to the responsibility of leading others, you make a commitment to help them grow. In order to do this, you must be willing to reflect on yourself and ask those you are leading to do the same. It is imperative one steps back and prioritizes themself.
This may include committing to building a routine that includes time for yourself. Whether you embrace exercising, meditation, reading, listening to music, doodling, or taking a walk in nature, remember to take care of yourself. Examples include the following:
- At the end of each day, revisit your calendar and check off the day’s accomplishments as you preview the day ahead.
- Set a personal goal to read a chapter of a book each evening before bed.
- Limit your screen time as the evening progresses.
- Drink a glass of water instead of wine.
- Wind down your day with calming music.
Being certain to take care of oneself opens the opportunity to lead. When you remember to take care of “you” it will ultimately allow for the opportunities and the journey ahead to be one of joy.