This is not a drill! The oxygen masks have been deployed and you are being urged to put yours on. The demands have always been great and they seem greater now than ever. In addition to opening schools amidst a global pandemic, school leaders are called to lead with excellence. They are called to empathize with staff and families, empower their staff members, create schedules that support virtual and face-to-face learning, consider safety protocols, all while keeping the main thing, the main thing… student learning.
Many of you are familiar with the airline safety instruction in the case of an emergency or depressurized cabin. Flight attendants remind passengers to put on their oxygen mask first, before assisting others. Often, in the case of an airplane emergency, passengers only have seconds to get their masks on before suffering the consequences of a depressurized cabin. They have very little time before experiencing dizziness, mental confusion, or worse. Suffice it to say, one can better help once their oxygen mask is on.
Looking through a similar lens, school leaders are navigating turbulent times in society. You are called to serve others. Decisions are swift and change at rapid speed. While Ed Leaders are not bracing for an emergency landing (you did that last spring), you are in the middle of high stress and high demands. To continue to serve effectively, you must maintain a clear and calm mind. In order to effectively serve others you must grab our oxygen masks and get to work.
What does that look like for you? Consider the work of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL, 2020). While created with students in mind the life skills embedded in the social-emotional learning competencies are required for any human to thrive. As you reach for your oxygen mask, consider the following self-coaching questions to identify what you need most:
Self-awareness - How in tune are you to your emotions? Do you give yourself permission to feel? How do you respond to your emotions constructively? Where is your self-confidence (particularly in stressful times)? Are you comparing yourself to another leader or recognizing your own strengths?
Self-management - How do you respond to your own stress? Have you set expectations for yourself that may not align with your season in life? Have you set personal self-care goals? Do you intentionally plan them into your week?
Social awareness - Have you invested in positive social relationships outside of work? Do you intentionally make time to engage in fun or relaxing social time?
Relationship skills - Who is in your “square squad”? What intentional decisions do you make to foster or nurture the relationships in your life? Who is your support system? Do you engage with them?
Responsible decision-making - What intentional decisions can you make to ensure you take care of you? When do you decide to say “no”?
The chart below offers a few “oxygen mask” suggestions to support you as you continue to serve with grace and excellence. You can do this… but first - grab your oxygen mask!
CASEL, 2020. https://casel.org/core-competencies/.