You Can Close the Door (Sometimes)


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by brad montgomery

Many school administrators (as all educators) feel an extreme time crunch and are unsure of how to get done all the things that they need to get done in the day.  When I have suggested that blogging should be a part of the work that they do, not only because of the transparency that it shows in their thought, but also because it helps them connect and reflect on their learning, many of them laugh at the idea.

“There is simply no time.”

To me, reflecting as an administrator is not an option.  I believe that doing it through a blog or openly is better as your learning can help others, but reflection is vital to learning.

The majority of schools that I have visited have “DEAR” time (Drop Everything and Read) embedded into their day, but how many embed time for kids to just write and reflect? So if reflection is an important part of what we do as educators then why do we have such a hard time to actually do it within the confines of our day?  Shouldn’t this be a part of what is happening in classrooms?

So what if once in awhile, or even scheduled in our day, an administrator actually closed the door, and just reflected.  If we told our teachers that we have to take time to connect and reflect our learning, would they see that as a negative, or would they see something that you are trying to model? Collaboration is essential but don’t we need to be able to bring our own thoughts and learning to the table?  Yes, administrators should be accessible and have a door open most of the time to be welcoming to their school community, but sometimes, isn’t it important to just take some time?

In the article, “Stop Being A People Pleaser”, the author discusses that our door does not always need to be open:

Many managers feel guilty about the fact that they’re in so many meetings so they develop the mindset that “I’m a bad manager if I don’t always keep my door open when I’m in my office.” But this can lead to every spare minute between appointments being filled by people walking through their door eager for attention. In turn, all of their own work needs to happen in the evenings and weekends, which then leads to a cycle of guilt about being a bad spouse, parent, or friend. If this sounds like you, the escape route is to change your standards for what it means to be a good manager. This then frees you to set better boundaries and get more work done at work. For instance your mindset could be: “Part of being a good manager is demonstrating the importance of focusing on high priority work. I can keep my door closed during certain times of the week when I need to get things done without guilt.”

So I guess my question from the above quote is, is taking time to reflect high priority work? 

16 Comments

  1. Well put. I have found that blogging as a reflective practice is one of the most useful things I do. It really helps to clarify thinking and It provides a springboard for discussion with the staff who take time to read it. Using it as a Professional Growth plan is proving to be very interesting, and serves to keep me focused on the goals I have set for myself.
    I try to blog once or twice a week, and usually don’t find it takes too much time.
    It’s definitely an investment that is worth the time spent on it.

  2. Reflecting is very important, and something that I ask my teachers to do as a part of their professional growth plan. Your thoughts here George have forced me to evaluate the time I spend reflecting. It actually has decreased significantly since I became a principal. My first step is to determine how to incorporate it into my week, because it is a great self discipline to develop. (Especially if you are asking your teachers to do it!)

  3. Wendy Claussen

    Excellent! We ask our future teachers to become reflective practitioners as they go through their education program and they often ask us WHY? In addition to being INTASC standard 9, your post will greatly support my response to them…thank you!

  4. I completely agree. Blogging as reflective practice has revolutionized my learning. And yes, we should be taking time to think deeply at work. One of my January resolutions was to build in time to read at work, and so I have been reading and reflecting for at least 30 minutes a day (most days). It has actually really helped center my thoughts and ideas as I plan for meetings, professional learning, or just long-term goals. When I was working as Assistant Principal, it was really easy to fill the day with all the nuts and bolts of the job, so one of my rules was that I had to start the day with deep, meaningful work. I still like to come in and tackle the bigger picture before getting caught in all the situations that arise as the day goes by. Thanks for sharing this…the other side of reflective blogging is that we get to learn from each other.

  5. By establishing an ‘open door office’ I have also earned the trust that when the door is closed, it is for a reason – not necessarily a bad reason, but an important one!

  6. Reflection is one of those highly important but utterly un-urgent tasks that gets pushed aside by anything urgent, be it important or trivial. It’s one of the key steps in a solid learning process for children and for adults. And if you’re not a learner, why are you still in school?

    As a principal or school leader you need to be able to manage your office time well enough that you can spend one or two days each week “out on the playing field” with your teachers. If you can do that, then no one will be barging in to see you…they’ve gotten their fill of you already! Closing your door puts you in charge of your time, instead of being at others’ beck and call. However, you do have let people know why you are doing it, and you do have to be out there often enough that they can see you and know that you’re not just a desk-weenie.

    Do it!

  7. Well put. I’ve tried to shut the door a few times in the past but it always feels incredibly strange. In fact, there is such an open door policy here that when the door is shut it often get knocked on. Perhaps worth another shot. I like the whole Idea of blogging as part of the day as being a reflective practitioner is a key part of our jobs.

  8. Darren Mitzel

    Yes, shutting the door is imperative once in a while and not just when I’m out of the building. I too have established an open door policy (along with all my lights out) and all my staff have respected the freedom to speak is there if need be. I have tried to sit and be all creative and intellectual in my posts or responses, but even with the door open and no one around, it is still somewhat distracting. Much like my household, with two kids running around and renos to do, school is pretty much the same. I admit the time is there to blog/post on a regular basis, but the thought provoking ideas could be so much more if I did…close the door. Will have to give it a try. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. Karen Austin Ed.D.

    Thanks for reminding me to do what I do consider a priority. I do reflect daily, sometimes alone, other times with my principal. What I must focus on is making it a practice through blogging and more transparent with my colleagues. I do close my door at least twice a week. I found I helps to find the “right time” to do this really helps!
    Karen Austin

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