Diligence & Drinking from the Firehose
Yesterday was one of those days when I barely used my chair. We started a school-wide assessment on the computers, had two different meetings about a high-needs student, and had about 50 other things going on. I grasp the concept delegation, and wasn’t even directly handling most of what was going on, but it was still a whirlwind day. I left my briefcase in the car and didn’t have a chance (or a reason) to go back and get it. When I got home, I had 62 emails to deal with, which I did before bed.
All this has me thinking: This is an incredibly common experience for school leaders. In fact, it’s the reality more often than not in many of our schools. Given this situation, what does high performance look like? What does professional practice look like when the professional in question is slammed all day long?
If I were to have the opportunity to ask Atul Gawande, I think part of his answer would be this: diligence. Having systems in place, and using them faithfully, to ensure that what needs to happen actually happens, even under conditions of high stress. Using my to-do list and calendar, as well as carefully pre-thought practices for things that come up such as discipline incidents – that’s what will ensure that I do my job well even when I’m under stress.
The fact that emergency rooms operate smoothly and save lives each day, despite the chaos that rolls through their doors, tells me that this can be done. Gawande’s work reminds me, though, that personal heroism is not the answer; being prepared and committed to doing what we know (ahead of time) is necessary – that’s what makes the difference on “firehose” days.