Well this is interesting. I wrote the first version of this blogpost on May 28, 2018. Rebooted it with some new thoughts on June 1, 2019, when I was transitioning into a new role but was the same person and educator at my core. And here I am, on May 20, 2021, returning to it once again. We are nearing the end of what is clearly the longest school year in the history of school years, and again I’m thinking about my JunePile and Positive Impact. So, this has become a little log of what runs through my head as an educator at the end of the school year. Perhaps your thinking is similar.
May 28, 2018:
It started when I was a teacher. Every year, every May, there would come a day when I would just start tossing things in a pile to deal with “later”. Later meant after the last smile was shared with a student, after the last grade was given, after Field Day. After the last day of school. I never knew when the day would come — just one afternoon I would realize that there were only a few weeks and lot left to do with my class, and I could only spend precious time on papers, projects, and tasks that would really mean something to my students. The rest would have to wait until school ended, in June. The JunePile.
It continued when I was a principal. I tried to keep an organized office, so the JunePile became a JuneBox which was stashed under my desk. And if something wasn’t important to others before the end of school, well, then, it wasn’t getting done until everybody went home.
Of course, now, most of my JunePile is electronic — more of a JuneList, if you will. And as an assistant superintendent, I have many projects that are best done in the quieter summer months, anyway. But nonetheless, the habit continues. I’ll get very stressed about how quickly the end of school is coming, and one day will breathe a little sigh of relief when I remember that there are SOME things on my list that don’t have to get done right away. And anything that won’t directly affect students, families, or staff gets put in the JunePile to be dealt with after the school bus pulls away for the last time.
The end of the school year is always such a rush, isn’t it? Educators are amused when folks who have not devoted their lives to school ask in May, “So, is school winding down?” Winding down? Winding DOWN? Hilarious! School does not wind down. We run like crazy to the edge of the cliff, and try very, very hard not to fall off of it. That’s it, and everyone who lives by the rhythm of school knows it.
But that last day of school WILL come, and then indeed it will be time for me to dig into my JunePile. This year I’m wondering, though, why am I even considering doing things that don’t have a direct impact on students, families, staff, or other administrators? So, perhaps my primary responsibility on my first day after school lets out should be to cull the pile, continuing my commitment to spend time on work that is important. Yes, there is filing that went undone this year, and I’d eventually be sorry if I couldn’t find something I need. Ok, I’ll crank the music up in my office and file. But I’ll hold myself accountable for ensuring that everything else enhances the work or life of someone, or supports my own learning and reflection.
Truth be told, writing this blogpost was indeed in my JunePile. It definitely did not have to get done prior to school ending! But then it was Memorial Day weekend, and I had some time, and was in the mood for reflecting. So I went for it.
Of course, summer is much, much more than a time to catch up with work. For me, it is also reading in a hammock and walking after dinner with my husband and exploring Chicago neighborhoods with my daughters and going to Botanic Gardens with my parents and eating on a patio with friends and completing the Summer Challenge at my yoga studio and if I’m lucky, some traveling. Many years ago, inspired by a Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich (or perhaps Eric Zorn? — I cannot find the column, I’ve tried!), I was motivated to capture my summer memories by buying a pack of notecards, numbering and dating them, and every day of the summer writing down at least one summer activity that I enjoyed that day. I still have those cards in my nightstand, and occasionally use one for a bookmark, finding peace, adventure, or luxury in a summer memory. I just pulled one out; it reads, “7/3: Getaway to Wisconsin — Lazy Nap, Lovely Anniversary Dinner, Movie — Spiderman!”
And there you have it — those summer pleasures are what really belong in the JunePile. So, what’s in yours?
June 1, 2019:
So, why bother to repost about the JunePile? Well, because a lot has changed for me. I am an educator, leader, and learner in transition, and that has somewhat changed my JunePile. A few months ago, I was offered a new job, and thus am transitioning out of the position of Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources in one school district and into the position of Superintendent in another school district. 1 transition is actually 3 transitions:
# 1 I am transitioning into my new role with new administrators, central office team, Board of Education, teachers and staff, all with the help of the generous superintendent who is retiring.
#2 I am transitioning all of the projects and responsibilities (and physical stuff) of my current role to the wonderful administrator who is taking over as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources in my current district. And HE is currently a middle school principal in this district, so…
#3 We hired a new middle school principal, and the two of THEM need time to transition.
All of this takes an enormous amount of time. So, what am I doing on a rainy Saturday morning when I have 100 transition tasks in front of me? Writing a blog post! But the writing is purposeful, as truly it helps me to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. And what is that Main Thing? Positive Impact.
About two weeks ago, I was having a pretty hard day. And at the end of that hard day, my response was to realize that I only had 20 work days left before turning in my keys and ID, taking a glorious two week vacation, and starting my new job. Now, I’ve never been a person to count down to the end of something — for me, that’s just never felt like a positive way of looking at time. However, once I DID, well then, I KNEW. And I realized I would keep counting down, which caused me to understand that I needed to attach something meaningful to the countdown so that the passage of time would be focused positively.
Thus… Days of Positive Impact
Every day, starting on Day 20, I’ve had the countdown in my calendar with that label (so, yesterday said 11 Days of Positive Impact). And at the end of the day, I create a list of all of the people or situations that I think/hope I’ve positively impacted that day. I recognize that I’m letting myself be kind of vulnerable here, announcing this strategy — depending on who you are and how you roll, Days of Positive Impact may seem a little “woo woo” and dorky. Don’t care — it’s how I roll.
Last year at this time, I wrote about the importance of culling the JunePile, and knowing that I should only do the things that have a direct impact on students, families, staff, or other administrators. I knew I needed to cull the pile, continuing my commitment to spend time on work that is important. Well, friends, now that I’m leaving my job, that commitment is ever more important. It would be very easy to focus on details that are not meaningful. I could make myself crazy by crossing every T on things that won’t help anybody, that will just allow me to feel finished. I could worry about all of the projects that I wanted to do in this job but just couldn’t complete or even start. There are many! But I’ll leave those for the new guy.
So here we are. Monday will bring 10 Days of Positive Impact. 10 days left. I can spend them on work that will help the organization and people around me, or I can spend them on busy-ness. I know how my time is best spent. Yep. Time to get to work!
May 20, 2021
It has been roughly 14 months since we closed our school buildings due to a pandemic. It has been roughly 3 months since we reopened our school buildings for hybrid learning. It has been roughly 2 months since we opened our doors for as many students as wanted to be onsite.
We have published… maybe 5 plans for schooling? I’ve lost count, really I have. I have forgotten exactly how many times I’ve stood before my school board with my amazing team to describe what school would look like next.
We have given up on the idea that the directives that we have to follow and make reasonable for our setting will be the same directives that we’ll receive tomorrow. We have given up on the idea that what happened before will substantially inform what will happen next. We have given up our egos — they didn’t serve us anyway.
It has been 9 months since I had shoulder surgery. It has been 4 months since I fell and broke my arm — same arm! I have been to exactly 65 Physical Therapy appointments since September. I know this. I just counted. I went on my birthday. I went this afternoon. I’m going again tomorrow.
But also… when I look out my office window in the middle of the day, there are now fifth and sixth graders hanging out at the picnic tables in the sunshine. Our exhausted teachers continue to show up physically and emotionally for our students every single day. Our weary parents and guardians appreciate so much more about teaching now that their living rooms/bedrooms/hallways have been classrooms. There is, I think, more gratitude than grief just now.
And also, I’ve added yoga back into my routine. It hurts, a lot. It feels great, a lot.
And also, it turns out that when you give up ego, you gain trust.
So back to that JunePile. It is huge! But also, it is shared, much more so than ever before. It isn’t mine, it is ours. And we’ll get through it, and toss what we don’t really need to do at all.
And the Days of Positive Impact? Well, there are exactly 8 days of school left. So, I just wrote 8 Days of Positive Impact on my calendar for tomorrow, and 7 for Monday. Days of Positive Impact. There’s no time for anything else than that.