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President Rob McFee: “What are Your Strategic Priorities?”



Winter break is the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel—a hard-earned, well‑deserved break, a time to recharge our batteries. Non-educators do not understand how this time is so vital to our mental health and the health of our students. Students will use this time to reconnect with friends, stay up late, go to the movies, and play on their game systems late into the night. The rest of us will sum up winter break with three words: leave me alone!

I’m kidding, of course, mostly kidding anyway. Some of us may use this time to plan future lessons, to grade papers, or to work on professional development. I am simultaneously in awe of you while also having feelings of hopeless inadequacy in myself! However, I will quickly get over it knowing that I also have plans to use this time wisely.

My first strategic priority this winter break is to be able to squeeze every ounce of sleep out of my pillow as I can. I plan to sleep in late, go to bed early, and, please do not judge, I may have several naps scheduled. I also look forward to the opportunity for a few impromptu naps where I will just go with the flow.

My second strategic priority is to keep my self-expectations very low and attainable. I intend to wear nothing but sweatpants and long sleeve t-shirts during this time of relaxation. Some days, it may be the actual same sweats and t-shirt from the previous day—again, no judging please! For the actual big event where family comes over, I will at least put on a clean t-shirt and maybe even socks. If they truly love me, they will understand.

My third strategic priority will be to avoid people (other than family) as much as possible. I may or may not answer my phone, but please don’t be offended. After two years of frantically putting out fires everywhere we go, some well-deserved time away from the chaos has been well earned. Our brains have been conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs to jump every time that phone rings. We owe it to ourselves to simply unplug, at least for a short time.

My fourth strategic priority will be to keep all decision-making to a minimum. Psychology Today reports that normal humans make about 35,000 decisions per day. Acknowledging the fact that educators are not normal humans, I believe we can multiply that number by a factor of 12 as a median number of decisions made during a school day. With this in mind, the biggest decision I plan to make over winter break will be whether to watch my Netflix movie from the bed or my recliner.

My fifth and final strategic priority will be to harbor absolutely zero guilt. I will look at that bag in the corner of my office with all of those papers to grade. On the very last day of break, I will still be hoping for a miracle that those papers will grade them-selves, but I will not feel guilty in the least when I open it up that first day back and see them still waiting for my attention. After all, I have been here many times before.

These five priorities for me are to help facilitate my ultimate goal. That goal is to return from winter break and come back to school with a renewed energy and appreciation for what I have been privileged to do for over 30 years. A career where I get to work with some of the best professionals who are so giving of themselves. Where I get to make a difference in the lives of my students. A difference that will stay with them far into the future. By the time you read this, we will be back to the noise, chaos, and constant multitasking of a typical school day. I hope your break was everything you hoped for! Me, I am just now turning on the ringer on my phone.

NEOEA, together we are strong!

By Rob McFee, NEOEA President

Published in our Winter edition of News & Views

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