The Reflection Pool


My #oneword post for 2016 is here, just before the end of January, which I’m rationalizing as being better late than never. My 2015 #oneword was change, and it seemed to influence what actually happened in my professional life.  I experienced many changes including new colleagues on our senior team and new trustees to work with. The year culminated in a new district structure for school support and leadership capacity building and 12 new schools to work with. These exciting changes full of potential have led to think about a very different word for 2016. I hope it influences my life as much as the word change did.

IMG_0018Wayne Joudrie, a connector and leader, recently shared the book essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown. It has inspired my #oneword for this year: ESSENTIAL.

I’ve always believed that we as a western society and by extension, me, do way too much. Whether it’s in our personal or professional lives, it’s a badge of honour to be super busy (see Dean Shareski’s great post on this), to not get enough sleep or to be behind on emails. Some people I know seem to take pleasure in telling others how many emails they get in a day. I have to be honest, this doesn’t seem right to me. We need time to think, to reflect, to breathe, to sleep.

Then there are the initiatives. This might have become a dirty word for some. In education, we see a lot of top down initiatives in all areas. Ask any teacher, principal or superintendent and they’ll shake their head knowingly, maybe roll their eyes, and rhyme off the various initiatives that have come down in the last few years. To be fair, every year people admit and agree that maybe we’re trying to do too much and be everything to everybody, but then the flood waters rise and wash back over us.

So I want to figure out what’s essential. I want to know what’s more important than anything else and focus on that. And I want to say “no” gracefully and courageously.

Do you know what’s essential for you?


11 thoughts on “ESSENTIAL – #ONEWORD for 2016

  1. I commend you, Sue, on your one word, and I really hope that you find what’s “essential” (and share your thinking throughout the process). I’ve never been the best at saying, “No,” and even today when I wrote to say that I didn’t want to take the lead on something — as I don’t think that I can (or want to) balance something else right now — I felt guilty in doing so. Reading your post now, I’m trying to decide if that was a case in deciding what’s essential (most important) to me (and also, in some ways, to my students), or if by sharing some of the other things that I am up to, if that was a case of broadcasting that “badge of honour in being super busy.” I didn’t think that it was, but now, I’m not sure. Maybe that’s just the “guilt” talking. I wonder if determining what’s essential also means getting rid of those guilty feelings as we figure out what’s most important to us, our families, and maybe even our schools and students. Hmmm … your post is giving me a lot to think about.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Aviva. For me, it’s not about guilt – don’t we all deserve to focus on what’s essential. I’m thinking you might enjoy the book at some point…

      1. We definitely do, Sue … but that little guilty voice in my head sometimes makes this a challenge. I think this book could be worth a read. You definitely have me thinking a little bit more on what’s “essential.”


  2. Your word and post were worth the wait, Sue. The book sounds intriguing. What I like most is how you are modelling the importance of the balance that is needed in a busy world. I struggle with always wanting to be compliant with every initiative and checklist that comes along but I don’t value all of them and my divided attention only garners mediocre (at best!) results. When I reflect, there really are few essentials to our roles in education: all the rest are just nice add ons. Thank you for that reflection. Doing better with less of busy and more of the essentials is a good goal to strive for.

  3. Hi Sue,
    A wonderful blog! I agree that we need to focus on the essentials. As you mentioned, it is challenging to find what is essential. I also think that we all reflect in different areas to enhance our practice. We all have different essentials, and there is so much talent in our Board. I also like the implications into our personal lives too. Lastly, I feel that “no” is not necessarily a bad word. We have to understand various perspectives “no” could mean “not right now” “it’s valuable but not on my radar” “I support you.” You have given much to think about and I look forward to hearing how your one word develops this year.

  4. #oneword is an awesome concept. Einstein is credited with saying, “Not everything that counts can be measured, and not everything that can be measured counts.” Determining what is essential reflects what matters, what really counts. I wish you steadfastness in your pursuit of the essential.

  5. I have been thinking about this ever since I read your post. What is my #oneword? I have thought of fearless, goals and kindness. In the end I picked kind. The verb kind, instead of the noun kindness. That’s my #oneword. Kind.
    Thanks for making me think. Really think.

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