Change · Climate · Culture · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

When The Ball Finally Drops

I was sitting in the car on my way to a doctor’s appointment this morning desperate, mentally willing my blood pressure to lower. I had a deep feeling of dread in my stomach. The moment that I knew was coming for the last few months had finally happened. Right before I left for the doctor’s appointment, I had found out I dropped a ball.

It wasn’t a large ball by any stretch, a medium one maybe, but the first major one I had dropped since being in my new role. I guess going into my third year, that’s not too bad, but I needed to get bailed out by my network administrator…while he was on vacation. And while I get along smashingly well with my network admin, his last words to me before he signed off were, “Try not to break anything.” Yea. It was a seriously stupid move on my part. He was very, very patient with me, which is a true testament to the amazing, working relationship that we have formed over the last couple years because believe me when I say, at that point he could have easily made me cry.

There has been a perfect storm brewing around me lately. I’ve been feeling it for months and have even spoken to my close group of friends about it. I have been saying yes too much, and I have had more and more balls in the air lately. As a result, I’ve been doing stuff halfway, and I know halfway is probably a compliment to my work. I was working hard. Always working. Continue to say yes. Put in more work. I do a fantastic job at preaching balance and a terrible job at finding it.

And the minute I try to find balance one of the balls drop because I feel like if I don’t keep working, something won’t get done. And I’m right, it won’t. What I’m trying to determine is how much it matters if it doesn’t.

Why was I going to the doctor? Stress. Oh, the irony.

I struggle with finding balance. I try to be everything to everyone. And I do really believe in balance, truly. It’s just that I wish better things for everyone else than I do myself. That’s a problem and I know it.

But one of the issues that I full on caused myself (besides consistently saying yes) was that I took this new role and was trying to push too much change. It annoys me how slow education moves and the benefit of working in a small district is how quickly the ship can be righted. However, I have been pushing my department too far too quickly. We have revamped the way we hand out devices to elementary and middle school, we reworked the Parent & Student Handbook, implemented a new way to follow our department strategic plan (along with writing one to begin with), implemented a completely new inventory system, I updated job descriptions and implemented a new system of evaluation, we went single sign-on as much as we could, refigured devices and pulled back on purchasing, pulled all old devices, implemented a device refresh, redid our district website (coming soon)…I could go on and on, and this has all been in two years. Even though I believe that our department, overall, has a positive climate, I have stressed out one of my members to the point of tears. Basically, in my quest to get logistics changed and procedures in line so I could really get to the heart of student learning, I have lead my team down a path where we were going 1000 miles per minute. I’m impressed they still allow me to lead them.

I do this to myself sometimes. Like that feeling from when you were a kid and you tried rolling down a hill and you can’t stop. The one light in the whole situation was that I found how quickly my team could rally to turn the tides on a mistake. And when I had to email my programmer, also on vacation, to do something for me asap to right the wrong, I apologized profusely for bothering her on vacation. Her response was, “You’ve done so much for me, it’s the least I can do.” I get that we all make mistakes, but my biggest error lately is not only working myself to death but dragging others along with me. Some changes aren’t immediate, and being cognizant of the way your actions affect the people around you is so much more important than a new inventory system or website. We have developed the culture in our department that when we make a mistake, we say we are sorry and we try again the next day with a clean slate. I guess I’ll be taking advantage of this belief system this time. There’s nothing that will stop you faster from rolling down the hill than hitting a tree. It hurts and you feel embarrassed, but you get up and dust yourself off and keep moving forward.


slow down

4 thoughts on “When The Ball Finally Drops

  1. Thank you for sharing such honesty! We all struggle to find that balance. I, too, get frustrated by the slow-moving changes in education. It’s powerful that you are able to slow down enough to realize how fast you have been going and to give others time to catch up, while you (hopefully) take care of your own health.

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  2. Hey Mandy,

    “I struggle with finding balance. I try to be everything to everyone. And I do really believe in balance, truly. It’s just that I wish better things for everyone else than I do myself. That’s a problem and I know it.”

    As I read the part, “than I do for myself”, I thought to myself, I’d bet that she thinks/feels like doing these things, wishing better things for everyone else, is going to bring her better things for herself.

    I think I’ve felt the same way, or something close to it. When I was balancing raising kids and having a family life with pursuing my career goals, I realized I wasn’t really ‘present’ in either place. My mind was always drifting off to one of the balls in the air. .. had I remembered to,,, (fill in the blank)…? Or the phone was ringing and it was one of my kids asking me when I was coming home because…. Sometimes it showed up in forgetting to unplug the coffee pot (before they auto shut off). Or had I remembered to pick up (whatever) and drop it off (wherever it needed to go)?….Other times it meant that I’d wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and checking my email to see if I’d done whatever had woken me from my restless sleep.

    Lately, my hurdle has been putting family life first and letting go all of the fun work stuff I love doing… like going to an Edcamp whenever I can… or just reading my heart out until late into the wee hours… contemplating what/how I could implement it at work. I know my family is enjoying my ‘presence’ but truth be told, it’s hard work putting my work aside….

    Even now, with my children grown, when I should have ample time to drench myself in my own passions, people wonder why I want to continue to work when I could be doing ‘other stuff’ (aka, retire.) The truth for me is, and maybe for you, we love what we do. I mean, we really love what we do. It challenges us, tweaks us, teases us, taunts us, plays with us and sometimes, it even satisfies us.. but only momentarily… because we then find a new hill to climb…

    I guess I’m trying to say, please……give yourself a break and take a long, well deserved breath. Stop beating yourself up. We all fall short sometimes. (You know the saying, it’s what you do when you get back up that matters…) Believe me, there are plenty of others who will get in line to take a swing at you. So… I’ve changed my perspective from ‘work-life balance’ to being my own ‘champion’; championing myself for whatever it is that I’m engage in. This way, I get to celebrate whichever place I’m in because I’m being the best can be at that time.

    Chin up. Eyes on the prize. One foot in front of the other. You rock. And don’t let anyone, not even yourself, tell you otherwise.

    Happy Fourth!

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    1. Chris, you’re so sweet. I just love reading your messages. I love what you said here, “I’ve changed my perspective from ‘work-life balance’ to being my own ‘champion’; championing myself for whatever it is that I’m engage in. This way, I get to celebrate whichever place I’m in because I’m being the best can be at that time.” That’s an amazing way to look at things and I’m definitely going to give it a try. Thanks for reading and responding!

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