Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 19 - Pick your battles

A useful life lesson, is that you should always pick your battles.
Pick the battles that you stand a chance of winning.
Save your energy for those.

You could apply this lesson to teaching, and to how you expend energy on the students that you can 'turn around' (if it's possible to detect such potential). Perhaps that's the wrong way of looking at it. It's a matter of creating situations where those students who can see the point, will be given the tools to improve themselves, and of creating the tools by which they can do this.

For me, one of the hardest lessons to learn, has been how to work alongside colleagues and learning how to pick my battles. As the son of a teacher, I've been intensely aware of the humanity and human failings of educators for my whole life, but I wasn't prepared for colleagues to have such different (and entrenched) ideas about how to educate, how to research, priorities within HE, how to conduct meetings, what team work actually means, etc. I have left meetings where I've felt like bursting into tears, had shouting matches with colleagues, been icy and short, and (on one memorable occasion) had a former line manager threaten to send an entire confidential email chain on to a colleague that it concerned, so that they could submit a complaint to HR using the emails as evidence...

I've found the personal (and where the personal becomes the professional) interactions of collegial life to be one of the biggest challenges of the job in many ways. A counsellor I was seeing to help with depression, a few years ago, told me that I couldn't set the terms by which my colleagues lived their lives or taught, and that I couldn't expect them to live according to my standards. This was a hard lesson to learn. I had to accept that my standards weren't necessarily universal and correct. I still have a bit of an issue with that and, to be perfectly honest, I'd have to say that even now I only accept that other people have to be allowed to be wrong, but that's the stubborn emotional side of me; the intellectual side of me understands (at least I think so) and analyses the scenario more objectively.

I have learned that there are battles that can be won, and battles that are never ever going to be won, at least in the current circumstances. There is no point in tilting at the same windmills over and over again, and then being surprised when the result is the same. That raises stress levels, and only ingrains the problem with both parties. With every person you have to deal with, and with every category of topic that must be discussed, there will be the right time and the right environment to raise the subject, if it is a subject about which a meaningful discussion can be had. It is part of your job as a successful colleague and team player to learn to appreciate and anticipate this.

At the end of the day, you will have colleagues that rub you up the wrong way, but remember that you are rubbing them up the wrong way as well. Learn to pick your battles - the ones that are worth winning, and the ones that can be won - as well as learning to pick the battlefield and your allies for that battle.

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Blogger clareyhails said...

Learning to choose your battles can be applied to every aspect of life... I'm still learning!

10:41 PM  
Blogger harmonyharmony said...

Absolutely! I'm beginning to see my energy as a finite resource which I can channel towards something, or reserve it in order to channel it towards something else. A pointless expenditure of energy means less energy to expend on something worthwhile.
It's a bit like processing power for a computer I guess. When you have a lot of apps open, your computer runs slower.

11:06 PM  

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