Sunday, October 6, 2013

Balance, Renewal and Sharpening the Saw

For several years I've tried to get more balance into my life.  I realize it's important to find time for the physical (doing more exercise, eating better), mental (reading and writing), social (service) and spiritual (values) as well as just working.  Sharpening the saw means taking the time you need to look after yourself - you are the greatest asset that you have and so you need to invest in yourself.  This year I've tried to build in time for Hindi lessons, blogging and taking part in and facilitating online workshops (mental), Bollywood dance and yoga (physical) and am considering ways in which I can give back more to the country that I'm living in (social).

When I started re-reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People I did so this time with the view of seeing whether these habits could be applied to organizations as well as people.  In fact sharpening the saw certainly can, as schools need to consider the economics (physical), how people are treated (social), how people are recognized, developed and used (mental) and the way you can find meaning by contribution to the organization as a whole (spiritual).  Stephen Covey notes that "there is an intrinsic security that comes from service, from helping other people in a meaningful way.  One important source is your work, when you see yourself in a contributive and creative mode, really making a difference."

Great schools, I think, consider the balance between these different areas.  I think my school does a particularly good job of this.  However when a school neglects any of these areas then there is a negative impact on the whole institution.  Instead of unleashing a creative and positive energy, teachers who feel they are not valued in any one of the 4 areas feel frustrated and this inhibits growth and productivity - energy is spent staying in "survival mode" which is a complete waste and hurts both the teacher and the school.

Effective schools, therefore, focus on renewal, empowering teachers to grow and continually improve, even if this growth is away from the school itself.  While it is certainly my intention to stay at my current school, I was heartened to read, shortly before our Fall break last week, that our leadership team is committed to making sure that anyone who wishes to transition out at the end of their contract will have multiple job offers and will have signed a contract with a new school before December without having to attend a job fair.  Our administrators want to work with those teachers who have decided to move; they want to use their contacts to reach out to other great schools and be our champions.  I've worked at schools before that have given a bonus for stating intentions to leave early (before October) and ones that give a bonus for re-signing a contract for those teachers who want to stay - mostly as a way of helping the school itself with its recruitment process.  In contrast I've worked at other places that have refused to give written references to those who wanted to leave, refused to let teachers take with them copies of work they had created at the school, and who basically had the attitude "you leave with nothing - not even our good wishes."  ASB is truly exceptional, however, in its attitude towards helping exiting teachers to find positions in other excellent schools around the world.

During this past week's holiday in South India I've been renewing my energies, sharpening the saw and preparing for my role as a Learning 2 Leader at the Learning 2.013 conference in Singapore next week.  And I've been reflecting once again about how life has a purpose, about how things are meant to be, and about how blessed I am to work in such an amazing and supportive school.

Photo Credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy via Compfight cc

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