The following blog was contributed by Jill Annable, executive director for academic excellence at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).
“Trust. You do not have to know it all.” The words startled me. I was merely stepping out of noon Mass alongside an NCEA member superintendent while on a diocesan visit. The pastor stopped us in our tracks, pointed at me and said those words: “Trust. You do not have to know it all.” He felt it on his heart to tell me and I was reminded that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in this way if we are willing to listen. I did not personally know him and he was unaware of my visit, but his words were exactly what I needed.
Days later, I am still reflecting on its truth. For the past 15 months, we have each felt the pressure to know a little bit of everything, in fields well beyond education, in order to serve the families of our schools. For all of us collectively moving at this cheetah’s pace, what comes next?
We rest. We pray in thanksgiving. Reflect. Rejuvenate. Unable to slow your brain and unsure where to begin? Let’s focus on three strategies:
1. Put up the email vacation responder.
We all know you didn’t take any family vacation last summer. Instead, you were likely on weekly calls with your county health department and speed-writing a pandemic plan. You delivered a successful school year full of meaningful family partnership and academic excellence. We all recognize you cannot actually walk away from your inbox for eight solid weeks, but you can give yourself the mental permission to use an email vacation responder. Looking for an example? Try this one adapted from Michele Watson, principal of Holy Spirit Catholic School in Overland Park, Kansas, which reads:
We are all on a well-deserved and most needed summer break. Our summer hours are ___. I will be responding to email and voicemails intermittently throughout the summer. If you need something outside of our summer hours, please call ___.
It’s hard to argue with its honesty, and its message still attends to its recipients. Encourage your faculty and colleagues to follow suit.
2. Read for pleasure.
Last summer, each hour brought a new layer of crisis that seemingly required immediate reaction. We constantly scanned news feeds and obscure education blogs. In contrast, what’s on this summer’s reading list? In light of its five year anniversary, come back to encyclical letter Laudato Si’ while lying in a hammock. Ponder Philosophy 101 by Socrates for a few minutes each morning. Indulge in a mindless fictional summer mystery with your toes in the sand.
And if you must, read specifically in relation to your ministry in Catholic education. The NCEA bookstore has you covered.
3. Don’t know everything.
Hide your phone for the night. Eat outdoors. Sleep in. Skip the beauty routine. Laugh. Dodge the nightly news once or twice. Take the long route on a walk. Read the extra bedtime story your grandkids beg for. Order the double scoop. Most importantly, rejoice in the acceptance that none of us were called to know or do it all. And when the slower pace is difficult, turn to the Lord for help. Consider Psalm 139:4 as a good starting place: “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, You know it all.” Let Him carry you.
In time, the sounds and smells of back-to-school will trigger us back to the pace we know and love. Meanwhile, in this moment of pause and deep breath, we are reminded that none of us are useful to His work in Catholic education if we are tired and weary. Thank you for delivering one of the most remarkable school years to date. Enjoy the blessings that summer brings.