When in Rome … rising above the rabble

A friend of mine is facing a serious challenge. As a teacher, she loves to engage and challenge the young minds in her class – and she’s good at it. What she’s not good at is admin. It just isn’t her forté. As a result, she is often at loggerheads with the school management. It’s a sad state of affairs, because it impacts her ability to do the part of her job that she’s good at and saps all the joy she has in her work. This as my advice to her, and I found it helpful for me, too.

The thing to do is to rise above it. Don’t let the petty politics get you down, because if there’s a problem, it’s their’s. Unless they specifically ask you to change something, they haven’t shared the problem with you, so it’s not your problem. You can’t be part of the solution if they don’t invite you to, which is their loss if they resent or begrudge something you’ve done (or not done). But don’t take on other people’s problems. You’re not responsible for any other adult.

The truth is that we implicitly condone 100% of the behaviour we tolerate.
By tolerating behaviour, we teach people how to treat us. I think you are doing what you love to a very large extent. Every job has it’s unpleasant bits. Where you are, those unpleasant bits take the form of petty politics and unreasonable admin loads. That’s why it’s so much better to focus on the bits that make you happy, and do the basics everywhere else. Doing the basics is quicker than giving your all in every area. That means you can deliver on others’ timelines. But you simply can’t give your all in every area. You’ll burn out. Admin is much less important than teaching, so give it the focus it deserves and quickly get it out of the way, so that you can focus where your talent and passion really lie.

If you let the system get you down, no one wins. Not you; not the kids; not even the people running the system. But the kids do lose, and perhaps you will, too.

What works for me
I now give about two days a month to admin, plus about half an hour a day. Then I split my time: half for paying work (in your case that’d be the actual teaching), a quarter for our own marketing (that’d be your painting) and a quarter for research and brainstorming. That works really well. That way, I deliver my admin and billable work on time, but I also feed my mind and develop my business.

Feeling somewhat alien
Sometimes, it’s virtually impossible to even begin to understand what drives another person to behave the way they do. I remember what it was like as a kid: having to learn how to be like other people. How to think, speak and behave in a way that came naturally to everyone else (or so it seemed) yet was incomprehensible to me, and could only – at best – be mimicked. It’s a full-time and exhausting job, and I can see her going through the same process.

We want to have it “all together”, as those around us seem to do.

I think we tend to assume everyone else is fine and coping all the time, when the truth is that no one is. Everyone, at some stage, accepts the current state as a baseline and chooses to move forward as calmly and effectively as possible.We exhaust and deplete ourselves by trying to be as perfect and together as everyone else is, instead of accepting that we’re not, and neither are they. When we accept that truth, make allowances, and live within it as best we can, we begin to achieve true greatness.

It’s a greatness of spirit rather than of accomplishment. 

When others don’t understand our thoughts, actions and motivations, that’s okay. It helps to think of it as a disability: not being able to understand is a disability. They can have our sympathy but not our resentment. And in fact, it’s their world. We’re the visitors, so the onus is on us to get by, to make ourselves understood. When in Rome …

Romans 15:4  “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

– By Vanessa Davies – daily discovering Joy on a Shoestring.

What would you have said? I’d love to hear from you.

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