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It’s easier to keep up than to catch up

March 9, 2009 | Time Management | RSS 2.0

Hi.  My name is Chris, and I’m a procrastinator.  (They say that admitting it is the first step to recovery!)

I have a tendency to let papers get to be a stack 4 inches high before I start grading… and then looking at a 4 inch pile gets pretty disheartening.  I should know better – I learned the lesson at Basic Training.

While at Basic, we were assigned into ability groups for some morning runs.  I was one of the faster people in my group (full disclosure: it was a pretty slow goup, so that’s not saying much).  As a budding young leader, I was often in the rear of the formation encouraging the weaker runners and stragglers.

When people started getting tired and wanted to drop out of the group, my job was to encourage them to stay in formation.  The farther back they fell, the harder I encouraged; fall farther behind and it’s tougher, both physically and psychologically, to cover that gap.  Better to put your mind to keeping up, rather than have to deal with the extra stress of catching up….

Now if I could just remember that as soon as I collect an assignement!

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5 things to say before separating from your students

March 6, 2009 | Field Trips | RSS 2.0

Last weekend I had the pleasure of escorting one of my gymnasts to the state championship meet.  When the coaches met with the girls, we had two “B” rules for them:  use the Buddy system, and no Boys in their rooms.  (Of course my gymnast was the one who went ga-ga for the wrestlers there for that tournament).

Anyway, being off-campus with students made me think – “Do these girls know what to do in case of an emergency?”  That thought led me to recall the 5 Point Contingency Plan we used in the Army.  If you were going to separate from your unit (something that Civil Affairs does quite a bit), it was important that both your team and those staying behind understood the following:

  1. Where you are going

  2. Others you are taking with you

  3. Time you expect to return

  4. What to do if you don’t return

  5. Actions to be taken if you/they make contact with the enemy

This outline was drilled into me head by crusty old Sergeant First Class Jackson, who spent much of his early military career in the Air Cav.  He was my battalion’s supply sergeant, but I learned more about leadership from him than any of my “official” leadership schools.

Obviously #5 needs to be modified for the civilian world – but we can say “in case of emergency” instead of “make contact with the enemy” and it will still meet the same need.  This template is a great thing to use on field trips where kids are allowed out of sight of faculty.  Hopefully you’ll never need to actually implement the information in steps 4 and 5, but better to be ready and not need it than the other way around.

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Are you taking care of your support staff?

January 29, 2009 | Professionalism | RSS 2.0

There’s a tendency for some in the military (espcially those in the combat arms like infantry or armor) to refer to support personnel (like finance or supply) as REMFs (Rear-Echelon Mother F*****rs). 

In case you couldn’t tell, it’s usually a term of derision.  The infantry volunteered to go kill the bad guys, and for some reason many feel the need to look down on those who volunteered to deliver the bullets.

If there’s one thing I learned on deployment, it’s take care of your supply guy (or girl)!  Similar to the old TV show M*A*S*H, where Radar O’Reilly worked magic to get items that the unit needed, my supply sergeant was a magician at working in (and when necessary around) the proper channels to get the equipment we needed to perform the mission.

Fast-forward to my high school – I’d have to say that most of our staff is pretty professional about things like this, but I still run into a few who treat our secretaries, custodians, aides, etc. like dirt.

That’s the wrong answer!  Those folks exist to make our jobs easier.  Imagine having to clean your classroom every day, or stuff envelopes every time a mailing is going out.   What would happend to your job satisfaction if you had to refinish the floors in the summer and shovel the walks in the winter?

A few years ago one of our students organized “Custodian Appreciation Day.”  It’s kinda sad that a student had to do it – I don’t think it ever honestly occured to any of the adults. 

Now I make it a point to have little Christmas gifts for the support folks, to give them a heartfelt “thank you” when they do their job.  Living alone, I often have leftovers when I try a new recipe.  If it’s feasible, I bring some in to share with these women and men who make my job that much easier.

What are you doing to take care of your REM…er, your support staff?