I worked with a funny, irreverent, smart-as-a-whip teacher once who called February and March in schools “FARCH.” I must admit that when I first heard her say it, I laughed really hard and winced in pain at the same time.
It’s funny because if you say it out loud, “Farch,” is an onomatopoeia: it sounds the way February and March often feel. This one word sums up the long slog to Spring Break. And Winter break seems far behind, so it’s Farch. Here is Seattle, it’s dark and drizzly with a few stunning sunny days thrown in but it can get pretty gloomy. Farch.
And I wince because psychologically, I cannot accept surrendering 8 weeks of the school year to “just getting to Spring Break.” Yet I see so many teachers trudge through the halls, muttering “Farch.” Well, my giddy optimism about life just won’t bend to the idea of “Farch.”
But if “Farch” is a reality at your school, as a leader you can set a better tone. Not by saying nice things or writing tons of notes (although genuine praise is always welcome) but by planning out February and March and creating focus for yourself and others.
Some ideas include:
Make sure every meeting has a check-in. A formal meeting check in (fist of five, thumbs up or down, or a more complicated 1-10 check in) normalizes discovering how people are doing. Take note of those who publicly show difficulty and follow up with care.
Make every meeting a learning experience. If you are using meetings to review details, consider doing a weekly email or video instead and use the time to learn together.
Do Less. If there are too many initiatives going at your school, consider taking something off the table or prioritize. AND make it well-known to the faculty and staff that you are thoughtfully choosing to do less. It shows responsiveness and focus on the part of the school leadership. And, if a school has too many things happening, it’s hard to see what is going well!
Talk about teaching and learning. Yes, all the details matter. So designate time that details will be covered but always make the bulk of your time to talk about teaching and learning.
Profile others, If you have team leaders, department heads or instructional coaches who can take the lead, help them to do that. Notice I said “help them” not “let them.” We all know that planning effective time with faculty is difficult so you need to stay involved and support.
Have some fun! If you really need to change the mood, do something at a faculty meeting that helps blow off steam. Like showing funny movie clips about school (School of Rock, Billy Madison, Despicable Me, or even Schoolhouse Rock), play Zoom Pictionary, or have a dance party.
It’s not too early to think about how you are going to combat “Farch” because you don’t want it to start creeping up. Call us if we can help you create a positive Winter to Spring plan for you and your school.