#TBT: Handling Difficult Times: Why You SHOULD be in Crisis Mode

At this time of year, educators can often feel as the end of the school year cannot come fast enough.  Also, it seems as though the end of the year is coming way too fast.  One of our many contradictions in education.  In this week's #TBT post, Nathan Eklund discusses "Crisis Mode" and why it is okay to embrace it.

“Sorry I didn’t return your call, but we’ve been in crisis mode.”

“We’d love to [fill in blank with something thoughtful and productive], but we’re in crisis mode over here.

“I know we need to focus on [fill in the blank with an absolute necessity], but we can’t since we’re in crisis mode.”

We’ve all heard these sorts of comments. We maybe have even uttered them ourselves. The overall notion of “crisis mode” is simply part of our cultural vernacular. But the more I hear it, the less convinced I am that we’re generally using the term correctly. In fact, I think we’ve completely lost sight of the difference between “crisis mode” and “panic mode.”

“Crisis mode” should actually be a positive thing. An actual crisis should trigger a host of strategic, thoughtful, and immediate responses that are entirely focused on the crisis and our survival of it. When my house is on fire, I most definitely want the firefighters to be in crisis mode. If I’m having a heart attack, by all means – please go into crisis mode on my behalf.

But please: do NOT go into panic mode.

If a plane is crashing, the passengers are in panic mode. The pilots are in crisis mode. The difference between the two is astonishing. But for the most part, I think I see people using the term “crisis mode” to describe behavior that has much more to do with panic. In fact, the idea that we’re in a crisis too often gives us carte blanche to behave in a whole range of manners that are counter-productive, sometimes rude and boorish, and seldom beneficial to getting ourselves and others out of the crisis itself.

If you really are in crisis mode, then you should be responding like a pilot. Your heartbeat should actually be slowing down. Your breathing should be deeper. While the noise around you increases, you grow more focused. While everything around you seems to be losing control, you should be gaining it. And by all means, please don’t run out of the cockpit screaming, “WE’RE IN CRISIS MODE!”

If you’ve confused “crisis” for “panic,” it’s time to slow down and begin a series of purposeful interventions directed at ameliorating the stress. This is what mature people and organizations do. They calm down chaos. They swim against the tide of panicky shenanigans and act reasonably. And they by all means, know when it is the right time to be in crisis mode.