60

60 Days In

Jen Robinson Education, Elementary, Teacher Leadership, Uncategorized

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No, this is not the reality show 60 Days In, a tv series that follows seven individuals as they volunteer to go undercover spending 60 days as inmates in the Clark County Jail. Their goal is to obtain evidence of questionable or illegal activities within the jail that might be missed by the correctional officers and surveillance systems. Early this year I posted a blog The Broken Principal and outlined several changes I was committed to making in an effort to be a human being, not a human doing. This is my 60-day check in and you are my accountability partners.

So here is where I am:

  1. I will only stay late when I have a pre-planned meeting or an emergency. Most days I stay until 4:00 or 5:00. When I leave school, work stays there and I go home, spending time with my husband, dogs and friends doing things I enjoy. So for the most part I have been leaving school between 4:00 and 5:00 with a goal of being home by 5:00ish. I do not necessarily leave work at school. I found that spending about 30 minutes on work when I get home helps me focus and not end up consumed in it – just enough time to reflect on the day and make a plan for the next day.
  2. On holidays, my work stays at school. I am not so sure I can leave my bag there, not just yet. Holidays are meant to be spent with family, dogs and friends. This one is tough for me, a holiday or extra time away from school often creates a space to ground my thoughts and get some work done. So right now I am still working on, struggling with this one, trying to figure out a balance.
  3. I will power down my phone and computer once I leave school. Any emails, other than emergencies will be answered the next day. My down time is important and cannot be consumed by work. I will take time each evening to answer reflective questions to evaluate my day and begin to plan the next day, taking time to visualize interactions and conversations, clearing my mind to sleep. So, since January was a bust I really thought about how I could approach this a bit differently in February and March. At the beginning of each week I plan out my calendar, schedule walk-throughs, meetings and observations, etc. I thought about how I might reflect and be more aware of what is most important to me. To start each week, I write down the following five questions to revisit during the week: What is my definition of success? How can I be a better leader? What new skills would I like to develop? What do I need to stop doing? What do I stand for? Sometimes I revisit them throughout the week, other times I reexamine them as I am rewriting them for the next week. I just found it important to have a focus for the week. Sometimes depending on the week, the moon, our parents, our scholars, or life, it is easy to lose focus of the important work we do and what it means to be a human being, not a human doing.
  4. I will plan time for things I enjoy and I do not let work take that time away. Every “school day” morning I wake up at 4:00 and run with my dogs. They keep me present and focused, otherwise we get tangled up and that never ends well. On the weekends, I plan longer runs or hikes to stay active. This helps me get out of my head and start the day with a positive attitude and reduce stress. This continues to be the easiest for me. When I am running, I am more aware of my surroundings or completely oblivious. Typically, I run early and it is still dark, but this past week I have run a bit later. A duh moment, this morning – I noticed large boulders for the first time along a half mile stretch of the sidewalk. I would imagine they have always been there, however this morning was the first time I noticed them. Maybe I am not as aware as I would like to think I am. With the Arizona weather quickly heating up, I have enjoyed the cool mornings while noticing the fresh aroma of the Palo Verde and Desert Willow trees in bloom. True story – I know who still has their Christmas lights up. For the record, I consider green porch lights to be left over Christmas lights.
  5. I will practice meditation in the morning to quiet my mind allowing me to begin each day relaxed and focused. I will begin to notice what I am grateful for and anticipate things that are yet to come like new possibilities and new connections. I am happy to say that this month I have started to meditate each morning. I found an app called Headspace which offers a daily ten-minute meditation session. It has helped me slow down, worry less, and quiet my mind, giving me space to map out my day. I have the app set to send me reminders during the day which are simple quotes and words of encouragement. These gentle reminders tend to come at just the right times during the day to help put things into perspective. 
  6. I will help prepare three Blue Apron meals each week with my husband. I will be fully present and enjoy our time together learning new ways to cook kale or beets and realize that we really do enjoy cod and catfish. Maybe one day we will actually prepare the garlic as instructed and not use the garlic from the jar. Nailed this one! And we still use the garlic from the jar and even expanded to minced ginger in an effort not to dirty every cooking utensil for every meal. We continue to expand our kale and beet dishes, which just sounds wrong. I have come to realize that there is no easy way to prepare beets without it looking like a massacre in the kitchen.
  7. I will focus on being a human being, not a human doing. I will ask questions and stop to listen for responses. I want to learn about the people in my life and who they are and I will have the courage to be fully present. This one has been hit and miss. Somewhere between day 45-55 this was an epic fail, however as I stop and reflect on my progress, I decided to continue forward and not let the set-backs derail all the forward progress. I came to realize in the past I would let the derailing define me and spiral back into bad habits. But now I give myself permission to have a set-back or sit a day out and then continue on this journey. I continue to be more organized at work (most days) and schedule everything into my calendar. This gives me the space and time to complete important work and set other goals. Then quite honestly some weeks just kick your butt and I have to cancel everything I had previously planned and look for options to reschedule and readjust other weeks. Right now, for me it is a matter of recognizing that sometimes we have no control over what is happening around us, but we can control how we respond and how we move forward.
 

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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  • kbuffett

    This was such an interesting post to read! As a student myself, I often don’t consider the pervasiveness of school-related things in the life of the educator. I am also glad that you have chosen to share your journey with us on this blog.

    I particularly like the phrase “human being, not a human doing.” I think a lot of us are guilty of doing this. As you mentioned in your post, time at home should be spent with loved ones and it should be (relatively) un-stressful. Setting goals like the ones you have mentioned here (and being held accountable for reaching them) is incredibly important for your mental, emotional, and physical health.

    I look forward to reading your future posts!! Best of luck to you.

  • Beth Maloney

    I’ve been dying for an update on your progress, Jen. You are doing really well! Keep up your hard work. I can’t wait to try Headspace. Thanks for the recommendation and thanks for sharing!

  • Danielle Brown

    I appreciate you reflecting with us! It’s so neat to see the progress you have made and the honesty is amazing! I commend you for making a comprise on leaving all work at work. I know its my reality that some work has to come home with me, but I like that you limit it to 30 minutes and you make the time focused! I can learn from that!