Tips for School Administrators to get a Good Night’s Sleep

One of the most frustrating things about being a school administrator for me is the fact that my work is never done. I know lots of people will say that about their work, but for us, I believe this is true at a completely different level.

This was particularly true when I worked as a building administrator. As a Vice-Principal of a 4A High School who was in charge of discipline for 9th , 10th, and 11th graders as well as being in charge of special education for the entire building, the list of what I failed to accomplish was always much longer than the list of what I actually got done each day.

Most days I didn’t even realize the scope of what I didn’t get done. UNTIL I GOT INTO BED. Then EVERYTHING I didn’t get done immediately rose to the conscious level of my brain. And then the stress would begin. Crap, I have to remember this tomorrow. Are you kidding me? How did I forget to do that! Is it too late to call that person now? (Yes, it is midnight now!) So, not only am I an incompetent can’t-get-anything-done stress ball, I am also now too tired to function.

I had a particularly bad time with this one year; I think it was the year we got the 10% cut in the middle of the year and a major employer announced it was leaving our town. And, truly, it seemed like the adults I worked with got stupider in their decision making with students every day. And any amount of sleep for any amount of time was non-existent for me.

At the same time, I had this idea to give a personal note to every staff person in my building. I had done that when I worked in a previous building and I knew that behavior celebrated is behavior repeated. Since this was something I wasn’t getting done, it ended up being something that I thought about as I went to sleep.

I started mentally going through each staff person in the building one-by-one, thinking of what about them I appreciated so I could start crafting these letters. Well, it didn’t work very well because I kept falling asleep right away. So, I realized that if I make myself think positive things about the adults I work with every day, I fell asleep and stayed asleep. I could sleep if I made myself think differently and all of us control the way we think! I have suggested to some stressed out teachers to do this same activity, but do it with their students in mind. What about each child do I appreciate?

As the years have gone by, I have found this strategy to be hard to maintain because I only have so many people to think about in my life. In the same vein of thinking, I decided to try and fill my brain with mundane thinking that will require my brain to work, but won’t trigger stressful thoughts. I have used things like thinking of every movie Meryl Streep has been in, or all the Academy Award Best Actor winners, or every town I have ever spent the night in, or the top 20 books I have ever read. As soon as my brain is occupied with this task, I fall asleep.

As educators, we tend to be people who take care of others and don’t always make taking care of our own selves a priority. Always remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you really can’t take care of anyone else. So, get some sleep, it’s important!!

(March, 2016)