As a principal of an elementary school, I am a leader. One of the many responsibilities I embrace is ensuring our teachers’ buckets are filled. During the spring, the buckets need to be filled faster than any other time of the year. Our teachers are knee deep in the trenches. State testing, end of year conferences and looming end of year to do lists are just the tip of the iceberg. As a leader I recognize adding one more thing to the plate could lead to the plate crashing to the ground. It’s that time of year. Hence the reason the buckets need to be filled.
As the school days come to an end and I retreat to the office for “my work” to begin, I find myself looking around wondering, “Who is going to fill my bucket?” I spend my days filling buckets. Giving my time, willingly to parents, students and teachers who need to talk, need someone to listen or just need my help. When the buckets are filled, who is going to fill mine? As I stare into the mirror asking myself this question, it does not take long to find my answer. I am in charge of my bucket.
As spring has sprung for school leaders across the country, it is important for us to remember to fill our buckets. As leaders, it would be unrealistic to think we can fill the buckets of others if our own bucket is not full. Full buckets, fill buckets. How do you fill your bucket?
Here are ways I fill my bucket, lifting myself up to recharge, so I am equipped to fill up the buckets of others.
Let’s be honest this is easier said than done, this time of year but it needs to happen. Start small. Tonight I simply left my phone in the closet for an hour. In unplugging I was able to let my mind wander. I was able to sit on the couch with my wife, just enjoying a TV show without the distraction of work. I was not worried about the email I had to check, drafting a response that could wait until tomorrow or reading an email late in the night, which could potentially keep me awake longer than I needed to be. Unplugging may not make the to-do list shorter, but it does refresh my mind allowing my bucket to be filled.
Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Schedules are full right now. ARD meetings, end of year teacher conferences, interviews and school events. Yes, there is plenty going on. Despite the full calendars, finding time for friends and family is necessary. As a father and husband the balance can be a struggle, but I make time. Tomorrow morning is “Donuts w/ Dad” day at my son’s preschool. There are a number of things I could accomplish if I went to work before this event, but I am choosing to fill my bucket in the morning. I do not ever get to take my son to school, but tomorrow I am. In year’s past I have found a reason why I need to go to work first and just meet him at school, but the longer I lead, the more important it becomes to fill my own bucket. Honestly, I think I am more excited about tomorrow morning than Cooper is. Just to be sure the bucket isn’t empty at the end of the day, I scheduled time to have dinner with friends. The day begins and ends with filling my bucket, increasing my capacity to fill the buckets of others.
I realize this may be a dirty word for some, especially this time of year, but you can just as easily replace this word with a hobby you enjoy. I happen to enjoy running and making it into the gym, so exercise helps fill my bucket. It may be an early morning run or taking advantage of a morning meeting and sneaking in a work out before it. It could be a run at the end of the day, simply to clear your head, helping to process the day. It really does not matter where you make the time, as long as you make the time. Healthy body leads to a healthy mind. A healthy mind leads to a full bucket, letting you fill the buckets of others.
As a school leader you must lift ourselves up. We must fill our own buckets. We are the example we want to set for the parents, teachers and students we lead. In lifting up ourselves, in filling our own buckets, we are better equipped to lift up others, filling up their buckets.
I would love to hear how you fill up your bucket, so you can fill the buckets of others.
May the bucket filling commence.
Matt Arend is an Elementary Principal (KN-5) in Plano ISD in Plano, TX. As the principal at Sigler Elementary, Matt models servant leadership through working side by side with teachers, never asking anyone to do something he is not willing to do himself. It is through this intentional approach that relationships are cultivated leading to transformed learning experiences across the campus for students.