The graveyards are full of indispensable men. Charles De Gaulle
I will not be governed by the tyranny of immediacy. - Mary Anne Radmacher
I'm heading off for SE Asia tomorrow. I'll be speaking at one of my very favorite events, the NESA Spring Educator's Conference in Bangkok, and then head to Laos for a few days of sightseeing. And I am going guilt-free.
I encounter quite a number of school administrators who do not take their allotted days off. In fact some even brag about it. While I don't know of any studies that would back this up, my sense is that they are doing both themselves and their institutions a disservice by not getting away as much as they can.
Time away from work should be a means of gaining perspective - about one's job, about one's society, about one's life. Travel, especially international travel, has always made me more appreciative of my own country - especially when politics make one easily cynical. Visiting other schools or hearing from other educators has always made me more appreciate of my own district - or given me ideas for change. Even when travel is not involved, days away from work are a good time to do a little introspection. Am I defined primarily by job or am I a person outside of work as well? Do I have friends? Can my family stand to be around me? Do I have activities that keep me occupied - physically, mentally, and spiritually - when work does not? Anyone facing either retirement or a pink slip ought to be asking these questions very seriously - and practice not having a job a few times a year.
One's place of work is also weakened when "the boss" doesn't take time off. One of the ironies of being a good parent and of being a good teacher has always been that the more effective you are, the less your children and your students need you. That's also true of being a good supervisor or leader. If you have empowered your team, you do not need to carry your phone to the beach or into the mountains or to your favorite fishing spot. Good supervisors give those in the department practice in making good decisions and in being held accountable for those decisions. When the day comes, and it will come for everyone, that the district needs to get along without us, good leaders know that the culture, the vision, the practices they have built will continue if those things have been collaboratively created and consistently practiced. And that one can truly "take time off" and escape what Radmacher in the quote above calls "the tyranny of immediacy" - the need to be on call 24/7.
Pure rationalization? Public display of senility? Maybe. But I am packing my rolly-bag tonight anyway. See ya in Thailand.