Stop being upset when you cannot do it all

shutterstock_108002006I know I worked hard in my last school. We did some great things, made wonderful strides of progress and had some fantastic moments.

Nevertheless, one conversation I had made me feel like I had not done enough. That conversation happened one afternoon when I met with the person who was coming to replace me.

My experience that day made me think that this happens a lot. It is your time to go, time to take on a new challenge. You hand in your resignation and spend the last few months getting things set up for ‘the next person’ to transition smoothly into your role. You think to yourself, the next person will have it better than I had it. All those hours I have spent building this up, this should be easy for them.

Then the reality hits. Your replacement is coming to visit and you will spend some time with them showing them the ropes and all the great things that you have in place for them. When you begin to go through things, questions surface, do you have this or do you have that? “Oh we have that in my school,” the next person mentions. It only takes a few questions and one or two comments to reduce you to the point that, this next person has absolutely no idea of where you came from, the journey your school has been on and you are beginning to take a dislike to them. You feel awful, almost like you have failed. You were not able to accomplish everything you wanted, or that which is needed, and there the next person right there to tell you about it.

It has only been by taking a step back that I was able to let this upsetting moment go. The next person does not really want to know what you have been through and, perhaps, nor should they. The future is now the focus and you’re not going to be a part of it, so it is time to let it go. You, yourself, know what progress has been made, as do the people you have worked with throughout the journey. Forgive the next person, they are looking towards what it can be from here on in. You may have a tinge of sadness that you cannot be a part of it anymore.

If you have led properly, however, the culture will be there and will ensure that you have made a lasting difference, despite the fact that there is always room for improvement. The next person, if they are any good, will point out what work is still to be done and you will most likely agree with them. They did not mean to cause offense; our work in schools is never complete and we remind ourselves that, despite our best efforts, we cannot do it all.

Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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