Settling into a Pace

By David Robertson, Leadership Team & Cohort 7 Mentor, Warsaw Community Schools

In my former days, I ran both track and cross country in high school in college. While I was most certainly not the fastest runner, I enjoyed the sport for a variety of reasons. In college, our cross country races were 5 miles long. The highlight of my race was typically the start and the finish! I liked to go out strong, and the rush of the final push were usually my best moments. The in-between was not always as fun and I often
struggled to get through that section.

I quickly learned that the key to success was not only going out strong, and finishing well, but also settling into a good pace in the middle of the race. There is an art to finding the right pace. One must be going fast enough to reach one’s goal, but not so fast that you run out of energy before the end of the race. It’s easy to get it wrong, but the best runners understand their own style, strengths and weaknesses, the tendencies of their opponents, and they find a pace that puts them in the best position to win. In racing, often the start and the finish get the most attention, but the race is often won in the middle.

It’s hard to believe we’re in our 8th week of school! There were times this summer when I wasn’t sure we’d make it this far, but by all accounts, this has been a smooth start to school. It hasn’t always been easy, and certainly not normal, but overall, somewhat smooth. We now find ourselves at a place where we must “settle

into a good pace.” The start of this year has had a lot of attention. We know the end of the year will also be eventful, but the key to maximizing our success this year will be finding the right pace. This year finding that pace will probably be extremely challenging.

So as we finish our first quarter and start to look forward to the next, there are some things to consider when reflecting on the right pace:

  1. What’s working well with covid protocols? What do we need to make sure we keep doing in order to keep our schools open in person?
  2. What’s the stress level of my team? Are we able to sustain this energy as we head into the fall and winter months? If not, what adjustments need to be made?
  3. Are there goals we feel like we can go after because we’ve got a handle on some of the early challenges? What do we want to move forward in the next 30, 60, and 90 days?

There are many other considerations when we think about the pace we want to settle into here in October. The most effective leaders understand that there is a rhythm and pace to the school year and they understand how to adjust that pace based on the current needs and situation. The right moves can be made at the wrong time and effective leaders understand it’s not just what we do, but when we do it that matters. So as we settle into our pace for this year, remember that this school year is a marathon, not a sprint, and finding the right pace is key to success for our students, staff, and selves!