Making Professional “Me” Time For Innovation, Deep Thinking, and Personal Development

"me" time
(Image credit: Pixabay)

In the fast-paced world of educational technology, IT professionals find themselves perpetually inundated with tasks, demands, risk management, crisis mitigation, and other challenges. From troubleshooting technical issues to managing complex systems and budgets, their days are bustling with little time left over for the kind of deep thinking and innovation that drives progress in the field. 

These school district employees are responsible for the very foundation of the educational institution’s technological infrastructure, and they play a crucial role in impacting the teaching and learning process. However, the need for more margin – more breathing room in their days and in their lives – has become increasingly apparent. 

Making Professional “Me” Time 

I left a corporate IT career after ten years to serve in public education and never looked back. After being a public school technologist for the past thirty years, I will retire this year from serving students and teachers to the best of my ability in the same central office of the same school district nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains in beautiful Eastern Tennessee.

I have often talked about one day writing a book about the many best practices that exist in both the private and the public sectors. One thing that I believe the corporation I worked for did much better than the field of education was making time for me, as an IT professional, to grow, learn, and expand my knowledge base within the confines of my regular work schedule. In addition, any continuing education, including advanced degrees, workshops, or conferences, was encouraged and funded, fully or partially. Imagine my surprise when I first questioned the school district human resources team about continuing education cost-sharing opportunities and was told there were no such options! 

The same goes for “thought time” built into the work schedule. As a corporate IT employee, it was acceptable to take a few moments during the workday to read and reflect on an industry article or seek the advice of a colleague about a software tool. 

But if I wanted to do this in my district, I had to be intentional about creating these professional learning and development opportunities. 

If you’re an education IT professional, here are a few suggestions:

  • Seek out other like-minded colleagues and professionals for collaboration, brainstorming, and thought partnering. 
  • Attend conferences outside the district and seek out workshops, training events, and other opportunities to learn and grow. 
  • Sign up for professional publications and spend time vetting articles and ideas. 
  • Schedule time in your calendar outside work hours to conduct research on emerging trends and technological advances. 
  • Spend time at home reading professional journals and books to stay abreast of the rapidly changing technology field. 

Corporate America careers can be demanding and exhausting, but so can public education jobs. It is almost unimaginable to me when I consider the changes I have witnessed during my own career in edtech. 

If I could leave public school districts with one piece of advice as I retire, it would be to build in time for innovation, deep thinking, and rejuvenation for your people. They need some margin in their professional space. Not only will your employees be happier, more productive, and more content, they will likely be healthier as a result. That must be win-win! 

Beverly Miller was the first IT Director for the Greeneville City Schools in Greeneville, Tennessee, a role she held for 17 years before being promoted to Assistant Director of Schools, a position she has now held for 9 years. She is passionate about providing best-in-class tools backed up by extraordinary customer service and support to the people she serves and leads.