One of our favorite phrases in education is that new things are, "like drinking water from a firehose." I think the analogy is a favorite because there are a lot of instances where an educator steps into a situation and faces demands that are not only instant but high in quantity. Are you a teacher in a building with a new principal? Give them time, it's like drinking water from a firehose right now. Got a new superintendent? It's like drinking water from a firehose. Maybe you are the new principal or the new superintendent. Believe me, as someone who was a new principal last year... it's like drinking water from a firehose!
While the analogy is a good one and can apply to so many situations, it can be just as overwhelming to hear that. The question is, how do we turn the constant stream into something that is usable? I'm no firefighter (and my thoughts and prayers go out to the ones in California right now who are battling blazes), but I imagine that the way the water from the firehose becomes productive is by managing the pressure and the direction. As educational leaders, what can we do to manage the pressure and the direction of the information, demands, and initiatives that are coming at us?
Managing the Pressure
One easy way to manage the pressure and volume of everything coming at us is to choose what streams we will pay attention to and give priority to. Demands can come from lots of different directions, but which ones help us to meet our core mission of helping all learners achieve at high levels? Additionally, while lots of things are important to address, knowing that I/you do not have to manage the pressure alone is probably just as important. When a crew comes out to put out a fire, there isn't just one person manning the hose but many. In education we have a pretty large and pretty reliable crew, and knowing who is on your team and what their strengths are can help us manage the pressure.
Managing the Direction
High flows of water pointed in the wrong direction can be very damaging therefore, pointing our energy in the wrong direction can be the same. So how do we use everything coming at us and redirect it to become useful for our learners? Having a team that can help set priorities and having thought partners are an essential part of the equation. Having focused, targeted conversations about what we are going to do to improve our schools and outcomes for our learners is vital to our success. As we accomplish targeted objectives, are we paying attention and are we moving our focus to the next area that needs attention? Trying to accomplish everything at once means we can't have focused energy and likely means we won't really accomplish anything.
Today in particular has been a "firehose" day in my learning. I can't wait to get back to my campus to assemble the team, identify our targets, and accomplish our objectives.