As a new, but extraordinary, school year gets underway in the Global North, we want to remind board members of the lives their heads of school find themselves living. Education is one of the most rhythmic and cyclical of industries. The start of school, grading periods, sports, exams, theatrical productions, and, of course, graduation ceremonies occur at the same time every year. Until they don’t, such as last spring and now.
A recent study by McKinsey found some factories running at 90% production capacity with only 40% of the typical workforce. Much the same is true of schools. Even though we are not in person, every school is keeping a facsimile of learning up and running while teachers and staff learn how to work without face-to-face contact. Heads tell us they are working vastly harder and for more hours per week than ever. As one head said, his partner at home says she sees him less now that he works from home than when he was in his on-campus office.
This is a recipe for burn-out, plain and simple. Days, even weeks, spent at multiples of the usual effort are possible; months and years are not sustainable for ordinary mortals. We don’t have a solution, but we do have three recommendations for boards to prevent a crisis for the world from turning into a catastrophe for your school:
- Recalibrate your expectations for success–the world has changed and the way you measure school performance should as well;
- Don’t try to “fix” your head’s stress–instead ask what support management needs from the board now and as the crisis continues to evolve;
- Double-down on your advocacy on behalf of the school–relentlessly support the work that administration and faculty are doing to keep school going; remind complaining stakeholders that this is not business-as-usual because these are not the usual times and to reset their own expectations.