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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lord, Lift Me Up

My mind is sinking deep
and deeper into thought.
For lack of light or sleep
or dreams I’m caught
it seems in a soggy bog
above the boot and sinking
slowly as a melancholy fog
rolls round my thinking.
Helpless tugging at one leg
drives the other deeper down.
“Lord, lift me up,” I beg
for fear I’ll drown.
© Copyright 2007 Patterns of Ink

Have you ever been so “spent” mentally and physically that you can’t quite bring an emotion to the service? Your mind is looking for something to hold on to—not something to think about, just something to grasp long enough to remember what matters. Have you ever felt so weary that you can’t decide whether to laugh or cry, but you’re too tired to flip a coin? It’s been one of those weeks for me.

Here’s the strange part. It was a great week—a fantastic week!

I rarely talk about work here at Patterns of Ink. You know from my header that I’m a school administrator. I love my job— It’s my life, my ministry. There are times when the demands of sitting an arms length from “where the buck stops” is hard. There are days when petty issues must be looked in the eye—sometimes without blinking…sometimes with tears. This week held none of that.

There are natural highs and lows in life, and we’ve all learned to ride them out, but when highs and lows come at the same time—in the same moment—it spins your head. Not a gentle spin like a child’s pinwheel in the breeze—that would be tolerable. It’s the spin that happens when the kid sticks the pinwheel out the car window ‘til it takes off from his hand and falls broken in the ditch.
That’s how I felt Wednesday night when I couldn’t sleep: high, low, head spinning until finally when it stopped, my thoughts seemed detached from reality. I was simply spent.

I’m fine now… I really am. I was just exhausted from an on-going process that came to a head this year called “re-accreditation.” Our school is endorsed through a well-known school accreditation agency. Improvement is and should be a non-stop process, but every few years accredited schools must prove their endless improvement and validate an honor earned by only about 10% of the schools in our region. This was that year and week.

For nearly two years, we’ve been jumping new hoops and cranking out countless reports in preparation for a three-day “audit” from a team of six accreditation officers whose job it is to verify that your program is as good in real life as it has described on thousands of pages. I was interviewed six times on various topics. They were truly pleasant exchanges. Most of my staff was observed more than twice and enjoyed the opportunities to shine.

The guests studied everything from playground slides to personnel files, from philosophy to policy, from standardized tests to state standards, from budgets to books, from food to facilities, from demographics to drills, etc. etc. ad infinitum. It was a thorough process but not heavy-handed in the least. It was "iron sharpening iron," at its best. Still, the visit was understandably stressful.

Wednesday after school, the visiting team gathered our staff and board together to read a long list of hard-earned commendations as well as a mandatory list of “recommendations.” The latter were helpful reminders to continue doing or to perfect measures already in place, so I can honestly say I felt great about the full oral report. Since we were given nothing in writing, however, and the since official decision does not come until June, my faculty and staff who worked so hard and long for that moment... could not do what teams naturally do upon victory—shout for joy!

It was like a gymnastic team event in which they all excelled and “stuck their landings,” but the judges gave kind verbal remarks and left without holding up their cards. Those are the rules of the process. I understand (because I've served on such teams).

That night when I thought I'd sleep like a log, I was sinking in the bog described above. The next morning, I knew my staff did not deserve a coach with the “Charlie Brown blahs," so I called a brief stand-up meeting around a table full of fresh bagels and told them that we may not know the official news, but I'm not waiting until June to tell them they did great and everything was a huge success.

An hour or so later, when the chairperson of the accreditation team emailed me to say we had done “an exceptional job,” I passed the good word along in a note and added these thoughts of my own:

“Having been involved in this process on both sides many times, I can honestly say… I have never seen a school better prepared; never seen the visiting team more hospitably treated and more favorably impressed; never been more convinced of our mission; never seen a school shine brighter; never been more proud of our students, faculty and staff; and never had my eyes well up with tears as I type a [memo] ... but they are right now. Well done!"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you needed the weekend. Even when you love your job. There are times when you need to set it aside. That was a nice note to your teachers.

31/3/07 8:52 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

That must have been a very stressful experience. The fact that there was not the closure you wanted must have added to the stress tenfold.

Whenever I have experienced so much stress that it drains me completely, I turn to the TV and some silly sitcom and I go into a vegetative state for a while. Sometimes TV's are nice to have around for that purpose.

Yes, that was a nice note you wrote to your staff and teachers.

31/3/07 10:19 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

It sounds like the accrediting body is following all the rules but it also sounds as though they tipped their hand to you to let you know what a fine job did. When the final results are in I'm sure there will be some congratulating to do.

Thanks for your always nice comments over at my blog.

31/3/07 10:39 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

What a great administrator you must be, to give your staff such credit like that. I hope you're enjoying your weekend. It looks as if you well and truly deserved it, after all those lows and highs.


1/4/07 12:57 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It's true about setting work aside. Sometimes my wife is concerned that "blogging" is too similar to my office work (because I'm at a computer), but actually personal writing in quiet hours at home is a complete change of pace. It's cathartic.

You hit the nail on the head. No closure. One of my staff said, "The process clearly makes us better, and three days were great, but they kind of ended with a thud." I understand the rules, and like J_G said, they were kind enough to tip their hand repeatedly. (And yes, I did watch some TV--Thursday I watched some of "The Office" marathon, and Sat. I watched the final four, and "The Bird Man of Alcatraz" on AMC. =)

With your background, you understand rules and regs. You're right, they more than hinted that our re-accreditation is secure.
My daughter's wedding is a few days after the "official word" arrives in late June, so I'll have a venue to tell most of the staff (if it occurs to me on that day =)

I don't know about "great" but I am very proud of my team. Here's the great new. I not only have a weekend--It's our Spring Break! So we have the whole week off. I have some office things to do, but it will be a huge change of pace. If I have more posts than usual... that's why.

1/4/07 8:10 AM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

If you did not care then you wouldn't have expended yourself so much. It's a measure of your love and passion for the job. Enjoy the weariness with satisfaction but also take time to re-power. God bless.

3/4/07 5:07 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

"Enjoy the weariness"
I've never thought of it that way, but you're right. When you "spend" yourself on something worthy there will be less "weariness in well doing." After a few days of rest and Spring Break, I feel great.
The weeks before the accreditation visit,I had been writing, reading and reviewing "policy" and "worst-case-scenerio" drills... all while regular school stuff was going on each day. When the time came to let it go, my mind's grip on all that stuff couldn't relax.

3/4/07 12:28 PM  

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