Every week, EPIC Superintendent Bart Banfield explores topics related to education, learning, leadership and more. Be sure to check back each week for the latest.
At EPIC, we have a motto that “school can be different,” which is one of the foundational principles we hold most dear. There has never been an educational model like ours in Oklahoma, and it’s been successful because it allows our students and families the flexibility to build a school schedule that works for them. Yet make no mistake: doing things differently can present its own set of challenges, namely how to self-regulate, manage our time and strike the right school-life balance.
Growing up, most of us went to a traditional school, attending classes Monday through Friday from roughly 8 to 4, with a little homework in the evenings. That set schedule carried with it an inherent structure that allowed for a traditional school-life balance. However, the flexibility that EPIC families have is, well, different. It’s a challenge many of our teachers face, too, and it requires a level of discipline and deliberate planning to be successful.
We all struggle with the school/work/life balance dilemma, especially as technology continues to make it possible for most of us to do our work from almost anywhere at any time. Because of that, I have, over the years, developed some guidelines that have helped me. Maybe they will help you, too.
It’s no secret that being the superintendent of the state’s third-largest public school system is more than a 9-5 job. Twelve-plus hour days are not uncommon. That said, making time to spend with my family is important. Connecting with them keeps me grounded and reminds me as important as my job is to me, my family is important, too. Their love and support is what keeps me going when a tough day at the office takes its toll. Sometimes, this can be as simple as a family dinner.
I also find that taking time for myself and self reflection is important. For me, prayer and exercise go hand-in-hand in this regard. I also begin each day by reading, listening to podcasts and other things to strengthen my personal development. By feeding these parts of myself, or ‘sharpening my saw,’ I am able to give the leadership and support to others in my life.
Many new EPIC teachers and families have shared with me that having set work hours, observing their natural “peaks and troughs” throughout the day and adopting a ‘work-smarter-not-harder’ mindset have been ways they have found success operating within the EPIC model.
My advice for EPIC families is to incorporate strategies in the home that perpetuate school/work/life balance and that set children up for success. Even amid the freedom and flexibility, you can also have structure and schedule. You can be goal oriented and also make time for play and pleasure at the same time. Purposeful balance is the key.