Why Summer is a Perfect Time for Reflection

Do you feel yourself unwinding? That’s the gift of summer vacation, when the days are long, the evenings are warm and sweet, and you can give yourself some time to breathe. When I say breathe, I mean those deep, slow breaths that fill you up and leave tension behind.

It takes most of us, whether in education, manufacturing, service or the corporate world, some time to really relax. Our current reality is so focussed on being busy and rushing here and there that our bodies, minds and souls are wound up tighter than a two dollar watch.

But when you’re ready, this is why now is the perfect time for reflection.

  1. You’ve got the time. Reflection isn’t about a quick recap of what went well or not. You need to go back through your year and write down the important events: meetings, conferences, or conversations that had an impact. A year in review takes time to create. You might take a large sheet or paper (digital or analogue) and divide into quarters or months – note the events and then reflect. What happened? What did you learn? Then step back, what patterns do you see?
  2. You’ve got the mental space. Our brains are amazing. In the book Your Brain at Work by David Rock, you learn which parts of the brain do different kinds of thinking. When we’re in the midst of work, we often don’t have the mental space to devote to full reflection. Your brain is at its best early in the day after a good night’s sleep. Why not put time aside for 30 minutes to reflect. What do you do well? What do you need to learn next? How will you get better?
  3. You’ve got the energy. Reflection is thinking and thinking takes effort. Sometimes a lot of effort! Your brain can get tired and distracted during the year. When you’re on vacation, you might go for a walk or a bike ride because you have more physical energy. (Although keep in mind that exercising throughout the year will give you more energy) Your review of important events isn’t only about what went well. It should also be about the feedback you received. Whether you asked for feedback or not – and I encourage you to always ask for feedback – people give it to us through their words and actions.  With your renewed mental energy, reflect on feedback. What is it really telling you about yourself? Do you have some blindspots? If you want to go further, I recommend the excellent book Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.

I’m taking time this summer vacation to reflect on my interactions with vice principals and how I might support them better, as well as the structure of school visits. I also want to think about my current leadership inquiry: to work with principals and vice principals to reflect on how their identities intersect with their leadership styles. Yes, these are weighty topics – and I have the time, the mental space, and the energy.

What about you – what will you reflect about?

Just Stop Using “You Guys”

It’s time for me to write this post, since I’ve been thinking about it for over 10 years. I kept hoping it would catch on. It hasn’t. So here goes…

I wish everyone to stop using the term “you guys” when referring to a mixed gender group of people. I get why people use it. It’s cool, quick and casual. It rolls off the tongue. And yet, it excludes.

This isn’t a new idea. Just a brief internet search turned up a couple of articles, one from 2005 and another from 2015. Both make the argument much better than I could. It’s basically this: using a male term (yes, “guys’ is a male term, not a neutral one) to describe a group of people that don’t all identify as male is sexist.  There, I said it.  This may seem ridiculous to some. I can hear eye rolling from here. After all, it’s not the most offensive term out there. Still, when I think about the power of language to help or to harm, I don’t find “you guys” helpful. To me, it represents a creeping line of a male-centric view. I’d rather use a term than includes everybody.

Photo Credit: DaveBleasdale via Compfight cc

What to use instead? Here’s a list of words I’ve used and that also appear in this  article 40 Gender-Neutral Alternatives to saying “You guys” by Kim Z. Dale

You

People

Y’all

Folks

Friends

There are more – maybe you can share with me?

Microaggressions: They’re Real and They Hurt

“Where are you from?”

“I guess you wear the pants in the family.”

“You won’t have the natural authority to be a school administrator, so maybe you should think about a different career path.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the term microaggressions and wondered what it means. Maybe someone has brought it to your attention at work when speaking about the systemic barriers that marginalized groups face and you’ve thought, “Really?” I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought it was some new, trendy term. I woke up after Shakil Choudhury explained it. This video clip helped: How Microaggressions are Like Mosquito Bites – Same Difference

This term resonates with me, even though there are a few research and scientific criticisms of it. While the anti-racism and civil rights movements have gained some momentum, there’s still so much work to be done.  Systemic racism exists in our society.

If we deeply examine our thinking, we can see that every single one of us is biased and conditioned to believe things about groups of people. This might come out in our inner opinions about others or even in the casual remarks we make. We may not intend to hurt others, but the reality is that our words can really sting. They can give the subtle message that you don’t belong. That you’re not good enough. That you are “other”.

Changing this is hard. As with everything, the first step is a willingness to hold the mirror up to ourselves and understand our biases. That’s difficult work, but so worth it. Engage a friend who is willing to be honest with you. Listen to others’ reactions to what you say. Try not to be defensive.

I’m still on this journey and I’m sure I make mistakes.  What about you? Have you experienced microaggressions?

1 2 3 48