Every once in a while, a student asks me what a typical day looks like for me. This is probably one of the hardest questions that I get asked on a regular basis. It’s because I seldom have two days that look alike and defining typical is just pretty tricky.
Sometimes my days are filled with meetings with administrators, teachers, parents, and community members. Other times, I’m visiting other Jewish agencies or synagogues or maybe walking through classrooms. I might be attending one of our programs or a program at another organization. I could be schmoozing with parents in the hallway or meeting a potential donor for the school. I even might be having some quiet, productive time in my office. The predictable lack of consistency in my daily schedule is one of the things that I enjoy about my job, but it does make defining typical difficult.
This week, I got to do something that was different from the routine that I just described. Throughout this year, I have been working with an experienced former Head of School who serves as my coach. We chat weekly via Google Hangout and discuss various challenges that I might be dealing with or talk about what might next steps be for a particular project. It is an opportunity to stop and think a little bit about how I am doing my job and what needs to happen for me to continue to be successful. Those conversations give me a short amount of time each week to be reflective about my practice.
With my coach in town, I had the opportunity this week to shift into that reflective mode for about 36 hours. We sat with a variety of people, looking back at my first year and looking ahead to next year. It was a chance to think deeply and to spend quality time talking about intentions behind actions, trying out “what ifs,” and see what progress has been made on the school’s goals.
Being reflective means starring in the mirror (figuratively, of course) and seeing all of the warts and the beauty. It means taking time to understand what worked and how you know that something worked. It means conversations about what to do differently if I had the opportunity to try something again.
Reflective practice is about understanding what caused this to occur and deepening my understanding of how our school works (and sometimes doesn’t work). It means asking, “What would need to be true” for changes to happen.
There were times that I wanted to stop the conversations and check into my e-mail or be able to mark something off on my “to do” list. Each time that this happened, I reminded myself of how important having this time is and now that my coach is safely back at home, I am realizing how valuable the time was, and perhaps, how short it really was.
The takeaways from a reflection aren’t always major “a-ha” moments. Some things that I learned will take a while to process while others, hopefully, will have a more immediate effect. A lot of our conversations focused on the behind the scenes processes that keep the school running. Others included conversations about recruitment and how to better share the incredible Schechter learning experience. Plans for next year continue to evolve. This week’s conversations were part of that process and my goal as Head of School has been to keep you abreast of how we are moving forward and I pledge to continue doing that.
Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School