Balance and the importance of self-care in our daily lives

Two phrases we hear often in not only education but in the work space as a whole as well as throughout society are balance and self-care. Its so easy to go into rabbit holes of work, work, work, and nothing else if we let it consume us. We always have to be sure we make a valiant attempt to strike the right balance between work productivity, life, self-care and making sure are personal connection needs are met,

One of the things that struck me often, especially before the Covid-19 pandemic completely upended our collective worlds in early 2020, was how “great” I was at maintaining a “work-life balance.” Every day I would cut off from from the outside world almost entirely while at work. As soon as I left for the day a switch seemingly occurred, I was done. Able to focus almost exclusively on friends, family and myself for the rest of the day, weekend, etc. I’m very accessible at work — all stakeholders have my direct number — but it was wide known not to contact me unless an emergency after work hours. I had this down.

As the pandemic rolled along and our lives changed to a work from home model and gradually in person then fully in person throughout the 2020-21 school year, I started to read more about moving away from this “work life balance” model and instead thinking of balance as an ongoing circle. This has been something I’m striving to do, and self-care is woven in.

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210302-why-work-life-balance-is-not-an-achievement

https://www.fastcompany.com/90641070/work-and-life-arent-opposites-and-balance-is-biased-heres-why

This TED Talk really spoke to me. It was filmed just as vaccines started to rollout in early 2021 and we were about a year into the pandemic. Our lives had totally shifted. How do we focus on building capacity in others? Instead of taking on so many tasks ourselves embrace those around us. Share. Lead by example. Shift. All the adjustments that have been made as school leaders from the beginning of the pandemic, ongoing and throughout — wow. Mind blowing in retrospect. What did we learn? How did we adjust? How are we better? How will we maintain balance going forward?

For me personally, I dedicate time and space 6 days a week for self-care in the form of fitness. 30-90 minutes daily. If I have plans in the evening I’ll get up earlier in the morning and knock it out. Must be a priority. For both my physical fitness and overall well being but also time to completely disconnect from the outside world. Excuses go out the window. Just do it.

I also devote time and space several days a week for friends and family. Uninterrupted and again, disconnected. The personal connection time, no matter how busy we get, it vital. Also is completely focused and connected on the person (or people) not our devices.

Time and space for hobbies for me its been walks 2-3 times a week alone or with a friend enjoying the community, nature, the area and fresh air. Refreshing. Also, listening to music, specifically my love for vinyl a few times a week. Losing self in music can be so beneficial. Blogging, writing and taking time to read a book for pleasure can also give great joy. Find hobbies that bring you joy, relaxation and a brief pause from the day to day grind.

All of these forms of self care are also intertwined in our balance and something that is so beneficial for our overall well being.

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/naomi-osaka-allyson-felix-talk-210616238.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/self-care-4-ways-nourish-body-soul-2017111612736

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201812/self-care-12-ways-take-better-care-yourself

We always have ways to stop, pause and reflect. This was an area I struggled with for so long. Now I focus on daily — a priority. All around. Balance. Self-care. Mid-2021 and beyond. How are you doing? Real talk. You are 1 of 1. Limited edition.

One year later.

One year ago today. My world changed. The lives of my building colleagues changed. My lives of my district colleagues changed. The lives of my friends, family and neighbors all around our community, state, nation and world changed. Dramatically. One year ago today the world started to shift rapidly in response to Covid-19 which had just officially been named a pandemic by the WHO.

In the past year like so many people within education and all walks of our community, state and nation I have learned, grown and adapted so much. Shifts are ongoing throughout the pandemic. A natural planner, I’ve had to shift. One day at a time. Focusing on circle of control ongoing. Leading with grace, listening and understanding always even if its hard to focus on the positivity myself often — always focus on those silver linings just as I’ve been doing the past year even more than usual.

We now have three approved vaccines which truly is a modern medical miracle. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Our return to normal will not be the same as pre-Covid it’s becoming more and more clear.

When we do return to a world without masks, social distancing and mass gatherings again what value adds will be bring from this experience.

Slowing down, reflecting, a deeper respect of self care in the form of diet and fitness while working smarter ongoing are some of my main take aways. I have no doubt I’ll emerge a better person professionally, physically and mentally. You?

This past year has been extremely challenging for everyone especially our front line workers, medical personnel, educators and our elected officials who have had to make difficult, often extremely challenging weekly, sometimes daily decisions throughout the ever-changing landscape of the global pandemic. Offer grace. Lately it seems we’ve drifted away but remember we’re all in this together. Let us aim to emerge better – together.

Turning the page on 2020 — flipping to 2021

2020 was a tough year. This is no front page news. Professionally, personally. For so, so many. Myself included.

Throughout this past year I have been determined to focus on almost entirely two things — “silver linings” along with circles of control, concern and influence. (For more on this see the clip of Dr. Covey below)

What do I have control over? What has gone well this year? What are the main silver linings of the day? Week? Month? Year? They are always around – focus on those.

For me my parents recently retired near me. In the past they were several states away and if I was lucky would see them 3, maybe 4 times a year. Now, not always in a “normal” manner I’m able to see them weekly which has been such a blessing in general but especially during a pandemic when in person interactions are at a minimum often.

At work we’ve gained two outstanding educators to our administrative team and several new faculty members who are have fit seamlessly into our lineup and are going above and beyond daily during these challenging times.

I made a goal at the start of the year to go above and beyond with fitness and while the significant shift I knew I needed was expedited by lockdowns early on in the pandemic I’m forever grateful. Having fitness in my daily life again and at a deeper level than ever in my professional life has helped so much not only with my health but also providing daily motivation, peace and balance.

Those are just a few of the truly significant “pros” of 2020. I could go on and on. Appreciate what we have, what we’ve gained from these experiences and how we will add on to this for the new year and well beyond.

Resolutions seem to have more importance to people now more than ever as we leave a year that putting it mildly disrupted our lives and forced us all to significant adapt to sizable shifts within our daily living. When we make them (if we do) it is important to be both intentional and realistic by choosing targeted resolutions that will lead to happiness. This recent article in The Atlantic gives outstanding perspective on this very subject.

Happy New Year! Make 2021 truly great or not. The choice is yours.

Navigating social media during challenging times and lessons learned from a pause in usage

In the months since I last blogged our collective lives have changed even more. COVID-19 remains with us and without a vaccine continues to alter our worlds. In the wake of the recent deaths of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor on top of years of racial inequities outrage sparked nationwide and even globally. These events have resulted in rapid idealogical shifts along with much needed conversations and in many cases action to lead toward real movements to confront these inequalities all across the nation. By far the positives of people trying their best to become better allies, supporters and friends while deepening overall understanding, learning and growing within the ongoing work was evident throughout social media.

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https://sports.yahoo.com/a-changed-world-mlb-managers-explain-how-they-are-leading-clubhouses-after-george-floyd-coronavirus-003336144.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/11/ceos-unveil-plans-against-racial-inequality-after-george-floyd-death.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/16/world/meanwhile-in-america-june-12-intl/index.html

https://www.wral.com/books-for-kids-to-help-spark-conversations-about-race-justice/19128212/

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/13/us/changes-from-protests-george-floyd-trnd/index.html

We all are living in very anxious times during these times of such uncertainty. Since the pandemic rocked the world in March our lives have drastically shifted. We’ve had to collectively shift our day to day lives as we all navigate living with a global pandemic.

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When will there be a vaccine? How and when will large in person concerts and sporting events return? What about schools? When will we have more normalcy in our world? So many questions. So much unpredictability. Social media can assist with the pandemic at local, state, federal and global level when reliable information/sources are utilized.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

Social media is a great and powerful tool. It’s been a significant part of my life for well over a decade, especially Twitter. I joined the platform nearly a decade ago and had so much impact on my life even once blogged about my entry into the Twitterverse.

I’ve always operated all social media platforms under the mindset of using Facebook and Twitter for good. During these often unstable times this is especially true.

However far too often we see users not abiding by this. Actively complaining, engaging in unhealthy/productive conversations and not abiding by social media etiquette best practices. What value is added by utilizing social media platforms in such a way?

The above mentioned activity became so toxic recently in my own social media circle that I voluntarily cut out all social media for over a week. Logged off my laptop, desktop, all iOS social media apps. Done. Didn’t think about it for over a week. Life went on. The break from the negative energy was refreshing, honestly. I had so much more of my day left. I lived my life completely removed from the social media bubble. After a week plus away I was rejuvenated.

Below are some sound resources on social media best practices.

https://www.houstonpress.com/news/4-rules-of-twitter-etiquette-to-follow-immediately-11271695

https://wlstraininginc.com/social-media-etiquette/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-facebook-etiquette-rul_b_9425740

https://topdogsocialmedia.com/twitter-etiquette/

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We are living in very trying times as a society. We all deal with stress in a variety of ways. Be mindful of who and what you represent. Your words matter. Pause and reflect before you post.

 

 

Navigating a rapidly changing landscape in career and life during COVID-19

 

It’s amazing to think of how quickly our worlds both professional and personal have changed in the last few weeks alone. Interacting with teachers, students and my administrative colleagues in the building was a daily thing. Wrapping up observations for this cycle, visiting classrooms, conducting various meetings, etc. was the daily norm. Little by little cases of COVID-19 popped up in other parts of the US, then North Carolina then right here in my beloved Wake County. District meetings started to cancel, then sporting events, then, like the entire nation now, our district canceled as a preventative measure.

Teleworking. What was that? Legit has never heard that phrase a month ago, even a few weeks ago. Now – after two weeks of teleworking through Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc. it’s the “new normal” as much a part of our lives as “social distancing” which also was a phrase that’s rapidly become part of our daily lives.

What has been amazing through all this is how rapidly, and effectively we all, especially within all walks of education have adapted to this swift change. Teleworking, utilizing Zoom to meet with grade level teams, district level leaders, smaller groups of educators, etc. daily to make sure we’re all on the same page with upcoming district roll-outs of distance learning and checking in on one another for some “face time”

This entire now two week plus experience above all has really put things into perspective. Life, family, our work, etc. Lots of time for pause and reflection. During the hustle and bustle of the “normal” work flow these things are easy to overlook.

Our teleworking schedules are often sandwiched with tv updates from our local and state leaders with advice and in some cases even closure announcements of various types of business and local/state “stay at home” orders from our Governor and county commission chairman. Our Governor and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary are on tv daily in one way or another providing guidance to the people of our state. CDC task force experts do the same daily at the federal level. These are truly unchartered territories for all of us young and old alike. We are all in this together navigating through times unknown.

 

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So much has happened already and so much is yet to come as this journey continues both personally and professionally. One thing helps more than any. Check up on friends and family – your colleagues. Even a quick phone call or text if you can’t Zoom. We are all in this together – better together. These are uncertain times but thankfully we have modern technology to help in at least somewhat weathering the storm that has come and what is undoubtedly ahead.

Sometime in the next few months when things are back to “normal” we will look back on the moments we are in now and be even so more thankful we followed the guidance of the CDC, our elected officials and all went above and beyond for the overall well being of our society.

Grateful. Celebrating the awesomeness all around us.

I fell off the blogging wagon. Again. Sigh. Back on — here we go…

On this Thanksgiving we often reflect on our blessings we have in our lives. I have so many — a loving family, two of the most amazing parents who have instilled so much in me, connections within education policy and the local and state political world who continue to make me better all-around and build capacity, a circle of friends from all walks of life who share a tight bond with me, the list goes on.

I’m focusing today on the school community. 2019 alone. Nearly halfway through the school year and things have already shaped up to be an amazing school year. I’m so blessed to work with one, if not the best, administrative teams in our school district. I learn so much from my three administrative colleagues daily — we truly make each other better daily.

As their grade level administrator, I expect a lot from the teachers I lead. They know I’m right there with them every step of the way — expecting them to go above and beyond while taking risks throughout. I model by example often with the latter. They all rise to the occasion day in day out which is why I truly celebrate them so often in a variety of methods — notes, Twitter shouts, verbal praises in public spaces, etc. Be intentional — and always authentic.

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I’m grateful. Grateful to not only work along such phenomenal school leaders but also so many teacher leaders willing and often requesting to go well above and beyond the call of duty. My kind of people. Positivity. Grit. #TeamKidsFirst . They all go such a long way. Celebrate ongoing and as always in an authentic manner.

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Celebrate successes. Faculty and students alike. Positive praise, ongoing communication in a variety of methods to parents, faculty and students are powerful. Be intentional, reflective and authentic. Celebrate success. Ongoing.

I have much to be grateful for. Legit. I’m lucky. Even luckier to work with so many truly amazing people who push me to #BecomeBetter and #StriveForGreatness daily. Blessed.

Authentic education advocacy. Take the risk.

In this blog space I post about three things with a fair amount of consistency – authenticity, taking risks along with the ongoing importance of adding value to ourselves and others.

I also post about the importance of educators advocating. In North Carolina, where the vast majority of funding for public education comes from the state level, I would argue, is even more important than many states in the nation due to our funding structure. Below is a link from the local NPR affiliate that takes a deep dive into public education funding in North Carolina.

https://www.wunc.org/post/10-questions-understand-school-funding-nc

Living in the Triangle, we are blessed with having fairly easy and ongoing access to our state legislature (North Carolina General Assembly), ongoing news coverage specific to state government and the ability to have discussions with house and senate members.

The past two years, educators from around the state have gathered in Raleigh to rally for increased per pupil spending, pay increases to our classroom teachers, school administrators, support personnel, etc. as well as more overall support and genuine respect for public education in general from our state legislature. These events have been very well attended and covered both at the local and national level.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229849024.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/01/us/south-carolina-teachers-protest-may-1/index.html

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While the majority of those that attended the May 1 event (and similarly last year) teachers made up the lion’s shared of those “in red.” As a school administrator, I proudly stood by the teachers I support in and around the school on a daily basis who were downtown doing their part. I did this last year and I did it again this year as well. Never a bit of hesitation. https://brendanfetters.com/2018/05/19/20000-nc-educators-marched-now-what/

While I was so pleased with strong turnouts, a well organized event by NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators — National Education Association affiliate) both years I was very disappointed with the lack of educators wanting to go inside and have meetings with members. It is not a secret that I spend a few hours, afternoons and even days sometimes at the legislative building downtown lobbying members of both parties for increased education spending, support in the form of the annual budget, bond proposals for new school construction, etc. I know my way around Jones Street and the halls of both the NCGA and legislative office building pretty well at this point after several years of education policy involvement.

 

A lot of educators are fearful of going inside the legislative building. Fearful of having discussions with members about their profession. This is an unspoken level of discomfort that goes beyond just education – to the general public as well.

I recently had coffee with my state representative one Saturday morning. She asked how the ‘Day of Action’ went. I articulated my concern that so many of my brothers and sisters in education had little to no desire to join me in post-rally meetings even though I had done the legwork of setting up several meetings with key house and senate meetings after the event. Rep. Adcock made it very clear the importance that constituents realize that members are not experts in all walks of life.

Who knows what’s best for the needs and concerns of a family farm in eastern Wake County the best? A farmer who is working ground in that specific region. Who knows what’s best for a hospital in rural western North Carolina? A nurse or doctor in a hospital. rural western North Carolina. Who best knows the needs of K-12 education in their specific area of the state? A teacher or school administrator in that member’s specific area of the state.

Our voice is powerful. Our opinions matter. Do not assume that we are insignificant in the decisions going forward. As I’ve blogged about it the past we have power at our fingertips – utilize these resources and run with them.

https://brendanfetters.com/2017/12/17/get-informed-leave-the-sideline-take-a-seat-at-the-table/

Rallies can be powerful – authentic conversations with people making policy decisions directly effecting our profession are even more. Take a risk. Add value to you, your colleagues and the profession. Advocate.

 

 

Being genuine in all walks professionally and personally – wrapping up 2018-19

I haven’t blogged much this school year. 4 times to be exact. I’ve fallen off the blogging “wagon” – I’ll own it. No excuses. My last post was New Year’s Day.

The 2018-19 school year has been very rewarding. Plenty of challenges, growth opportunities and inspirational moments galore mixed in. I’ve also backed off on my tweeting lately devoting more time to diving deeper with supporting students,¬† teachers, support personnel, school community¬† while advocating at the state and local level for public education at an increased level.

I’m back. Back to blogging. Back to picking up the “twitter game.” On Twitter there is often a lot of talk. Many educators are strong at sounding fantastic behind their keyboard or phone. A lot is sincere but also all too often superficial. Self promotion masked as “best for kids” and “best for education.”

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Allow me to catch up. As articulated in an earlier blog this school year it is vital that we lead intentionally by showing genuine gratitude for those we supervise daily. For me this year it included a group outing over the Holiday season to a hockey game, joining up at the ‘Day of Action’ education rally downtown Raleigh with teachers (see above), showing authentic appreciation beyond Teacher Appreciation week gifts (below), etc. The list goes on.

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For me, I have been determined daily to be present. Rarely in my office. Intentional at being present in the hallways and in classrooms. Daily. Students are never saying “Mr. Fetters is here…” or teachers asking “Do you need something?” My presence is part of the daily flow for the teachers I serve. This is true no matter how stressful or busy the day is – you make time. My presence in classrooms should never be anywhere near limited to teacher observations. Ever.

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Being visible and getting to know the staff you directly oversee is vital. Everyone has a story. Get to know the gist. This includes students just as much.

 

Be yourself. Be authentic. Build capacity in others. Work smarter. Share your space. #BecomeBetter together.

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Be yourself. Be honest. Be true. Be genuine. Authentic.

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School administrators – work with your team to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone to be the best leader you can be. For the sake of the students, staff and school community. #StriveForGreatness. 2018-19 was a fantastic ride and sure am looking forward to what 2019-20 brings.

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#OneWord2019: Inspire

The holiday season is behind us. A new year has started. As I relax watching the annual NHL Winter Classic following a productive walk around the North Carolina Museum of Art trail earlier today, I’m pondering the year ahead.

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In life both personal and career there are always goals. Goals within leadership, health, prosperity, family, friends, etc. I want to increase capacity within others. I want to continue to lead with passion to strengthen others in significant ways. I want to inspire. Far beyond my infamous #SundayInspiration quote tweets.

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The framework has been set: https://brendanfetters.com/2018/02/17/relationships-relationships-relationships-the-foundation-for-all-aspects-of-education/

The results of that capacity evident: https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/1075524399716069376

https://brendanfetters.com/2018/12/23/shifting-from-thanks-for-all-you-do-to-genuine-gratitude/

https://brendanfetters.com/2018/12/02/adding-and-receiving-value-from-those-around-us/

New year. New challenges. New Word. Inspire. Push those directly and indirectly to be the best that they truly can.

The music and lyrics of the legendary country singer and songwriter David Lee Murphy perhaps put it best in his 2004 song, Inspiration. Something we all should aspire to do: inspire others.

 

Shifting from “thanks for all you do” to genuine gratitude

“Thanks for all you do.” This has to be one of the most over-used and superficial phrases of “gratitude” uttered in our society today. Personally, I’ve long despised this phrase – with a passion. Why? For starters this is so ridiculously vague. It’s not personal, specific or even meaningful.

The Holiday season is upon us. A time for showing gratitude. How do we show those that we serve, work with, co-exist in this space that we genuinely care?

At my school, our administrative team is divided by grade levels. This school year, I knew very early on in the year I was blessed with an extremely special group of educators. Often and ongoing I let them know I cared deeply in a genuine way for each of them. Daily rounds, often leaving notes, sending a tweet or a quick “hey, I really liked —- within your lesson today,” etc.

I truly went above and beyond for them daily the entire first semester. My office was rarely occupied most days because of my strong presence around the building – especially within learning spaces.

As Thanksgiving came and went I was determined to do something special for this far beyond “thanks for all you do – happy holidays” type lines, candy, cards, etc. Purchase Starbucks? Nah, already did that last year. Dinner? Nah, not unique enough. Then an advertisement came on our local NBC affiliate in the Raleigh-Durham, NC market for the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team. Bingo. That was it.

Immediately I made up my mind. I was going to call the Hurricanes organization in the morning and inquire about group tickets. No backing down. After discussing this with my boss and thinking on it a week after getting a price quote from the ‘Canes sales rep. I made it happen.

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Last weekend, over 15 educators and some of their spouses enjoyed fellowship, laughs and most of all staff bonding over the world’s greatest sport (in my humble opinion) it was simply magnificent. Yes this was a huge investment both time wise and fiscally but it backed up so much of what I constantly say and do over and over. The teachers I serve truly matter greatly and I was determined to demonstrate this. Truly priceless.

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When you tell someone “you’re significant” and “you matter” are you being genuine? Is there authentic meaning behind this or are you giving more of a “thanks for all you do” answer. Words matter. Actions are greater.

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This holiday season and ongoing strive to always demonstrate authentic gratitude in your actions no matter the situations life throws our way.

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Receiving a holiday card like the one at the bottom of this post with such genuine words on it from the above referenced people makes it all worthwhile after all.

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