As many schools in the northern hemisphere come towards the end of a long school year, frustrations and tiredness can mask all of the good things that may have been achieved.
Certainly, in International Schools and most other schools, the end of the year is a tough time, as both staff and students can move on to new locations. It can be tough listening to those leaving as they talk about not only new opportunities but things that are not ‘right’ in your school and what needs to be improved. Furthermore, many people who are leaving support each other by discussing the school’s faults to affirm their decision. Additionally, some of our colleagues moving on no longer commit to their work in the same way, which means that others have to pick up the slack, so to speak. This can be hard to take as a leader, as you keep working hard to finish the year on a high and prepare for the start of the next.
The end of the year can also be made difficult for school leaders, as you have to stay on past the last day of the term, having meetings, making orders, finishing the timetable etc, before you get to have a break yourself. This is sometimes forgotten by teachers who are winding down and ready to take their break. Furthermore, you can have your teaching staff working towards their end of term deadlines and work needs to be completed before they work out the door. This can create huge stress as the demands at this time of year can be quite high.
Of course, education administrators get paid more and this comes with the job but nonetheless, all of this can be very difficult to deal with. Subsequently, we can get frustrated and tensions rise. The hardest part of all is deciding whether something needs to be said in response to what is happening. As leaders, there are a number of things we can consider before deciding to speak with a colleague about a particular issue that has become apparent towards the end of a school year. As leaders there are a few things that we can do to get through what is a difficult and awkward time:
- The most important action we can take is to think about all the good things that have taken place in the school year, all the successes that have been achieved. This should ground us knowing that we are making progress and having a positive impact.
- Have exit discussions rather than exit surveys, or use both. The downside of an exit survey is that it can be seen as an opportunity for leaving staff to ‘vent’. Many of the comments that are given in an exit survey would benefit from further discussion to help leaders understand what the problems are and also serve as an opportunity to celebrate the good things including wishing a colleague well, as they embark on a new job.
- Decide how big the problem is and whether it is worth having a difficult conversation about. Having difficult conversation can either clear the air or end up with staff leaving on bad terms with you, which they carry over into their next job. Sometimes it takes greater courage not to say anything.
- Take the higher ground if there are tensions between yourself and leaving staff, acknowledge them for any positive contribution that they have made in an effort to have them ‘work’ right up until the end of the term. It can show also a level of emotional maturity that you are in control of any frustrations that you may have.
As you bring your school year to a close bear in mind the above and things may just be that little bit easier.