I am a Canadian, and a hockey fan, which probably isn’t very surprising, but it is necessary for me to tell you that so you get the analogy here. As a hockey fan (Go Canucks Go), the 82 game season is a long one, and we tend to take stock every so often to see how our team is doing. About the 20 or 21 game mark of the season it is inevitable that you will here a hockey broadcaster talk about “The Quarter Pole”. The idea is that the season is 1/4 over and it is a logical time to reflect on how the team has done so far, and how the rest of the season will go.
In my first year as an Administrator I just recently passed the quarter pole, and I am more than 1/4 done my “Rookie Season”. Today, as I walked the halls of my school and reflected on how much I have experienced, I realized this monumental feat (it feels that way to me) and thought it would be a great time to reflect here on what has transpired for me so far. While only about 3 months on the job, I can definitively divide this time into three distinct phases.
When I got to work in mid-August, I was really looking forward to getting started. My Principal and I had a lot on our plate, but it was really just the two of us, working our butts off to get the school ready to open. She lined me up with a number of tasks and I completed them with enthusiasm and energy, so ready to put my mark on everything within the halls of our school. The job was hectic, the hours were pretty long, but to be honest it was pretty easy. I like working hard and being challenged, I know I am usually able to do a good job, and I enjoy helping people. With each item on my to do list finished, it was usually met with praise and thanks from my Principal, and it was easy to feel like I was doing a great job. This period lasted for about two weeks…
Wow. It hit me like a ton of bricks. First the teachers showed up, followed shortly after by the students, and soon things were unraveling for me in ways I never saw coming. It started with panic. I really didn’t know where all this was coming from and how I could possibly handle it all. Then came the fear. I really started to think I had a made a big mistake and was afraid I couldn’t possibly make it through the whole year. Frustration seemed the only constant, as each new scenario provided opportunities for me to show just how inexperienced and inept I really was. The final emotion was a feeling of despair, as I looked ahead to a calendar filled with so many days that I would have to drag my sorry butt in to work, miserable and ready to give up…
Then all of the sudden, I came out of the storm and I’d have the odd quiet day. No kids in the office, no parents calling upset with me, no teachers pointing out something I had messed up, just a really mellow day. I had time to attack the mountain of paperwork on my desk, have the odd cup of coffee, eat my lunch before 4pm, and simply feel like I could manage the day. Relief almost feels like an understatement when I look back on it. Just in the past couple of weeks I have noticed that instead of having the odd quiet day, we’d string two or three together. In fact, it wasn’t that the days were perfect, but that I was able to manage the difficult situations without too much stress. The amount of interactions that have caused me stress are dwindling, mostly because I am finding situations easier to manage. One of my mentors called it “Growing Your Teflon”, and told me that over time I would just learn to let things slide off my back without even bothering me in the slightest. I must be putting on a few layers of the Teflon, because the realization that I CAN do this job, and that I WILL enjoy this job has arrived in the last few days. It feels great.
It has only been three months, just past the quarter pole in my first year, but what I have learned, what I have experienced and the emotional roller coaster I have been on make it almost impossible to believe that it hasn’t been five years. If there is one fundamental change that I can say has happened, it is definitely that my mindset has changed. When I look at the 7 months ahead, I actually am excited again, and I can’t wait to see how it goes.