We have previously alluded to the fact that the day after a crisis is one that should be met with intentional foresight and a strategic plan. Although the logistical and emotional aftermath of a crisis can be taxing for a school leader, we know that stakeholder perception quickly becomes a school leader's reality and without a thoughtful plan for how to move forward and recover from a crisis, the post-crisis impact can quickly be exacerbated. It is worthwhile for us to explore the day after a crisis, and how a school leader might navigate the day from start to finish after an emergency situation.
Before the work day
Before the first school bell ever chimes for a school leader, his or her work day begins. It is at this point that I emphasize the value of a morning ritual that a leader can rely on and routinely follow post-crisis. Starting the day with a sense of normalcy and routine can immediately put the leader in a mindset that allows for flexibility, adaptation and problem-solving throughout the course of the day. If you do not already have a morning ritual, the Morning Miracle has been transformative in my professional life as a school leader. You can read more about the Miracle Miracle here. In general, I recommend that any school leader does the following prior to ever stepping foot on school grounds:
During the work day
This is where your morning ritual and preparedness pay off. You come on to campus and you are going to be bombarded. As you leave your vehicle, you are slamming that car door on your peace. Knowing this ahead of time is half the battle. Your time is no longer going to be your own.
If you have planned ahead, you have already communicated with your office staff. They know and understand their roles, and how they can support you as you start the day. It might be a good idea to briefly meet with them, however. Remember, they most likely went through this crisis with you, too. Reassure them, clarify information, and make a plan to reconvene after the morning rush. These are your gatekeepers. Their ability to perform well can make or break your morning.
At this point, you continue to execute the previous day's plans. You might be holding a staff meeting to apprise staff of new developments in the situation. You might be greeting students and waving at parents to be a visible presence as students enter the gates. You may have a morning meeting to follow up with local law enforcement. Whatever your plans, take a deep breath and remember to hydrate as you navigate questions and try to maintain an aura of calm.
Somewhere around mid morning, you are going to start to wear out. This is a good time to re-enact elements from your morning routine. You may need to grab a colleague and take a quick walk around the building perimeter. You may want to close your door for a moment and turn off the lights while you do a quick 2-minute meditation or re-centering activity on an app. Some find it necessary to hit up a local drive-thru, not because you need a big greasy burger, but because you need some space to come back to work and do the job that needs to be done. At any rate, find a strategy that works to help you re-center and re-engage once fatigue sets in. Your staff and students deserve this from you.
Finally, be present on your campus. This is a day to be out and about as much as possible so that people can see you and glean from your calm, collected demeanor. Check in on teachers on their preps, or open your office for pop-ins for the afternoon. Sometimes just your presence is enough to change the atmosphere of a room.
One last closing thought. As you go throughout your day, it is often helpful to have an accountability partner with you to proof your written communication, bounce an idea off of, and remind you of your own self care. We are often good at doing these things for others, but we can forget that in a crisis, we need someone to do these things for us. It isn't a weakness to reach out and ask for help - it's actually a form of strength. It will help you to have a buddy to conquer the day with who can keep you in check and allow you to care for them in the nurturing way that you most likely already do so well.
This is just Day 1 of a post-crisis event. Tomorrow we will visit what the coming days might bring, and strategies to consider as you move forward and bring closure to your campus.