Saturday, March 11, 2017

One Month Milestone: Context Kicks Into High Gear

Exactly one month ago, I stepped out of a 4th grade classroom into the world of instructional leadership. Transitioning from a campus to an educational service center has been a seismic shift, and I recently told a friend I feel like I was dropped off on an unknown planet called ESC 11. Slowly, but surely, I'm starting to feel less like an alien, and although discomfort has been my daily companion, I keep putting one foot in front of another. 

Several colleagues have inquired as to why I chose to apply for this job, and if I am honest, I'm still trying to figure out the answer. For the last few years, I've felt restless and hungry for a new challenge. After multiple failed attempts at convincing leaders in my former district to launch some type of hybrid teaching role in which I could keep one foot firmly planted in the classroom and simultaneously hone my leadership skills, I temporarily let go of my long term career goals and decided to risk a new professional adventure. The timing of my departure has caused intense angst, and although I continue to wrestle with perception control, I get to practice one of my favorite mantras, "What other people think about me is none of my business." 

The deeply held belief that nothing happens in this world by mistake keeps me on the prowl for purpose, and after four weeks on the job, I'm starting to understand the immeasurable value breadth and depth of experience bring. Yesterday, during a conversation with one of our digital learning team leaders, I discovered how everyone's path to education looks different, and these varied journeys have the power to reshape and revolutionize education. This particular individual had started his career as a marine, became a corporate trainer for engineers, and after failing to effect change as a school board member, decided to go back to college later in life to become a teacher. He spent a few years in an insanely innovative 4th grade classroom and eventually landed at the service center.  

In contrast, I've spent the last 16 years doing the same thing—teaching 4th grade. Sure, I've switched campuses multiple times, limped through a brief year as an instructional coach/interventionist, and served on a plethora of campus and district committees. But ultimately, my experiences are limited. I know how to be a 4th grade teacher, and although my administration nurtured my leadership abilities and I raced after research and professional development with abandon, I'm beginning to realize the narrowed lens I've viewed the world through. Similar to when I graduated from high school and left my tiny town of five hundred people for the big city, my perspective is broadening, and it's scary as hell. I'm trying to remind myself my path has been different, not less. 

Thanks to the
wisdom of BrenĂ© Brown, I know comparison steals joy, and my intent is not to draw unhelpful parallels. Instead, my top strength of context is kicking in, and I am trying to make sense of where of I've been so I can better understanding where I'm going. I'm grappling with enormous change, and part of my process always includes a deep desire to answer the elusive question, Why? I do not want to minimize the value of my time in the classroom, because there is nothing more important that serving students from the front lines. Now that I am no longer living in the trenches daily, I struggle with guilt and I feel like a sell-out. I wonder if army grunts who eventually move up in rank experience a similar emotional tug-of-war?

As I continue to walk this unsteady path, I feel certain more will be revealed. Amidst these fears, the future feels bright and promising, and I am enjoying the variety and unexpected surprises I discover in each new day. With a shaky voice and rattled confidence, I'll keep showing up for this new role. Experience is the best teacher, and as my professional world view broadens, I will hold on tight as the winds of change blow and perspective slowly emerges. 

This afternoon, with my husband as my wingman, I will join a group of new colleagues at a local brewery. We will laugh, connect, and expand our circles. Chris has been instrumental in helping me spread my wings and fly, and his risk taking nature makes me feel braver than I actually am. I appreciate his patience during these trying times of uncertainty, and without his support and influence, I might have stayed a safety girl my whole life. He's my rock, and I am grateful. 

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