Making The Most of Your Time

I have two competing views about educational research:

  1.  that we spend far too much time and money researching aspects of the educative pursuit that have little or no impact or meaning.  No more studies about homework please – the truth is already known.
  2.  that when we find relevant and confronting truths within our research, that we turn away from them.  In fact, I’d contend that no industry out-does education when it comes to ignoring its own findings.

We do this to our own detriment.  A 2009 study by Stanford University uncovered some evidence that we’d be foolish to ignore when it comes to how School Leaders spend their most precious resource … time.

What’s immediately astounding is how thinly spread our School Leaders are.  Let’s be honest here about the reasons that expressions such as, “if you stand for everything, then you stand for nothing” came about.  I’d contend that if there’s nothing that School Leaders are spending more than 7% of their time on then the whole concept of ‘core business’ is something of a furphy.

But what’s more alarming is just how our School Leaders are spending their time.  Among the most time consuming activities are:

  • Records and reporting – 6.99%
  • Managing resources – 5.99%
  • Transitioning between activities – 5.24%

Yes, you read that correctly!  Our School Leaders are spending more time moving from one activity to the next than they are on what they consider to be central to purpose.

Of the activities that are being compromised for the above priorities are:

  • Discussing Students with Teachers – 0.44%
  • Engaging in Self-Improvement and Professional Learning – 0.32%
  • Implementing required Professional Development – 0.05%

In most examinations of a problem, blame is entirely unhelpful and in this case it’s acutely so.  This isn’t something that our School Leaders are choosing for themselves.  I don’t blame our School Leaders for these results … not one bit.  In fact, I both sympathise and empathise with the sweat and frustration these conditions create.

But how does it change?  How do we not flip the data, absconding from our professional and administrative responsibilities, but improve it just a little bit?  How do we move the needle from administrative avalanche marginally towards student-centred change leader?

It might actually start with you saying “No”.  We train people how to treat us and bureaucracies have been piling more onto School Leaders for eons, perhaps just because we so readily say Yes.

I’m not advocating for the kind of No-saying that a four-year-old in a tantrum deploys.  It’s far more cunning than that.  This is about selecting your first No carefully, to train your bureaucracy to treat you just a little differently.

Let the era of the subtle, carefully selected No commence.