The Answer Isn't More Time
Over the weekend, Washington, DC where I live got hit with almost two feet of snow. For days, we were snowed in.
Streets were a mess, schools were closed, and newscasters warned us repeatedly to please just stay home.
After a few weeks of traveling, I welcomed the break. I slept in, sipped cocoa, and even finally cracked open an adult coloring book I’d received for Christmas. It was great to slow down for a few days.
But, a few years ago, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the snow day quite the same way.
A few years ago, I would have rejoiced at the snow, not because it meant a leisurely day at home but because it would have given me a chance to catch up on my teacher evaluations.
Can you relate?
When I was a new administrator, I wanted to do a good job, make a real difference, and be a true instructional leader. I knew that the best way to do that was to give teachers great feedback in a timely manner.
So, I carefully created an observation schedule, tried to visit at least ten classrooms a week, and spent hours laboring over my post-observation feedback trying to make sure that I asked thoughtful questions that provoked true reflection, wrote balanced reports that sandwiched a powerful suggestion between judicious praise.
But all that takes time, and with deadlines looming, soon I would be up late at night, coming into the office on weekends, and wasting perfectly good snow days, trying to get everything done.
Over time, it became less and less about providing quality feedback and more and more about getting the paperwork completed by the district-imposed deadline.
I hated the highly scripted and meaningless feedback that complied with the rubric but actually didn’t change practice, but I thought I had no choice. If only I had more time.
One day, I was working on a post-observation conference write up when I got angry. I knew that my feedback was not going to make a bit of difference in that teacher’s practice. I’d be surprised if she even read it. And frankly, I wouldn’t blame her.
This is a complete waste of time, I thought angrily to myself.
Then it hit me. It WAS a waste of time. Not the teacher evaluation system itself – I believed that giving teachers feedback was critical. But the WAY I was engaging in the process – complying with the policy rather than making it truly meaningful – was a complete waste of time.
In fact, mere compliance is ALWAYS a waste of time.
That thought changed everything.
Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work facing you.
Maybe you’re buried under a pile of grading or a stack of teacher evaluations waiting to be completed.
Maybe you’re wasting perfectly good snow days plowing through a backlog of work.
Maybe, you’re sick and tired of feeling like you don’t have enough time to do the things that are really important.
I’m going to say something that will sound really harsh but hear me out
Your problem isn’t that you need more time. Your BIGGER problem is what you’re doing with the time you have.
You see, we’re all doing things that don’t feed us, don’t feel meaningful, and don’t actually help us make the difference we want to make in our students’ lives. We do them because it’s expected, or because we’ve always done it, or because it’s required.
But, if it isn’t important, if you’re only doing it out of compliance, it’s a waste of time.
So this week, I want you to think about how you’re using your time. What are you doing out of compliance? Then I want you to tell me, “What’s the biggest waste of your time?’
And stay tuned for next week’s post where I am NOT going to show you how to save time. I’m gonna show you how to multiply it.