As the new school year is approaching I recently sat down to write my to do list for in-service week. Let me just say, there is A LOT that I need to get done in the next 2 weeks. As I was contemplating how I am going to complete all of these tasks in order to be prepared, I began to get peppered with emails, texts, and phone calls from teachers and my supervisor asking very specific questions about the very tasks I was contemplating. “When will the report card be completed?” “When will the new assessment document be done?” “What exactly will that document look like?” “I need to know XYZ so I can start on my lesson plans for the next 3 months.” AARRGGHH! These simple and seemingly innocent questions immediately put me into panic mode! How am I going to get all of this done? I can’t even answer these questions at this time! I am going to look like such a failure! Then, I took a breath, and realized that I had not set clear expectations about when these tasks would be done. In my eyes, these tasks would be completed by the first day of our in-service training. In the teachers’ and my supervisors eyes, they wanted the information BEFORE in-service. Since our in-service trainings are going to include these documents there is no reason they need access until then.
Managing Overachiever’s Expectations
We have a lot of overachievers (which is usually great!). If a lesson plan is due 2 weeks before it is implemented, they will turn it in 4 weeks in advance. If we are going to be teaching about community helpers in March, they want to know who the guest speakers will be before the Christmas break!
For these types of employees I try to set very clear expectations. If they are waiting on me for a document or instruction I try to be very clear about what MY timeline is. I do not introduce anything new and expect them to implement it immediately. If they are waiting on me to create a document or give them instruction, I try to be very clear about what date they can expect it. I will also explain the reasoning of choosing that date. It gives me time to create the document, distribute the document, instruct them on how to use the new document, answer any questions, while also giving them plenty of cushioned time to implement to document.
Occasionally, I will have someone try to push the timeline in order to satisfy their desire to “stay ahead”. I remind them of the timeline that was set and let them know that I will be glad to answer any questions after it has been distributed and they have received instruction. In the past I have tried to accommodate those needs by answering questions or sharing a partially finished product before I am ready to do so. This has caused problems in that I look unprepared and unprofessional. If I have to make any changes to the document then it appears that I am unpredictable, and negatively affecting the teachers in now they ALSO have to make changes. I learned NOT to share a partially finished document, or to answer questions until I am sure of the end product.
It can be hard to resist the pressure to conform to other people’s timelines, especially those that are persistent. Stick to YOUR timeline unless it is appropriate to move it up for some compelling reason. You will be happier, less stressed, and so will your teachers as it takes away any sense of unpredictable timelines.
As you approach the new school year, are you also feeling overwhelmed? Share your tips and stories below!