My mentor and friend, Tamara Konrade, looked at me during a recent coaching session and explained to me why I feel so passionately about relationships...she said I was all about connections. She said that I want to feel connected to others and I want others to feel connected to me.
She's absolutely right.
(It's always interesting when someone holds up a mirror to your soul. In that moment, you truly learn something about yourself.)
As I flew to the National Principals Conference a week ago, I couldn't wait to connect with the people I've been talking with for two years. I knew they understood my career and my passion, but what I wasn't sure about is if we would connect as well in person as we do on Voxer. You see, I may seem outgoing with a big ol' smile on my face, but I fear rejection. I fear that we won’t really connect. So, to say I was nervous and scared might have been the understatement of the year. (Can you say #middleschoolmemories)
Luckily for me, I had nothing to fear. We all greeted each other like we were long lost friends. We had moments where we laughed until our sides hurt. We had passionate conversations about what our students need to succeed. We even challenged each other's thinking.
It was epic!
Moral of the story:
When I started my journey as principal, I knew it would be lonely at the top. What I wasn’t prepared for was how lonely I was when I got home. I have wonderful friends, but I inadvertently pushed them away by either talking about my new situation or not saying anything at all. I needed to talk and I needed support, but I didn’t want to burden anyone with the rush of change I was dealing with. Even with my husband, he either gets one-word answers about my day or he ends up listening to me for an hour because I just can’t stop talking. When the floodgates open…watch out.
Fast forward to last Saturday night…
I was at home catching up on Voxes from the Mom Bloggers when the thought occurred to me that these ladies have walked me through the last year and a half of my life. They may know more about my days than my husband does. They know when I’m happy…they know when I’m sad. We even joke about how we are living parallel lives when we experience similar days or situations.
What is hard to explain to others is how you can be friends with someone you may have only met once or not at all. How do you build a friendship with someone by just dropping voice messages in an app? The only way I can explain this is by sharing some of the things we have encountered as a group:
Every day, we go to Voxer to:
These ladies have helped me not feel so alone. They tell me the truth. They challenge my thinking. They make me a better mom, wife, and educator. I will forever be thankful for their support and their friendship.
I was at an Eric Church concert last Friday night with my family when he played the song “Three Year Old.” Before he sang, he talked about his two boys at home and how much they have taught him. As I listened to his lyrics, I couldn’t help but think of how much we have forgotten that we knew when we were young. We've forgotten how to do some of the simplest things....
Last year, I picked transformation to help guide me through 2016. As I look back, I can’t help but see how perfect it was for me at the time. I was in my first year as a principal and everything was new. I was learning my new role and was trying to figure out how to navigate the new terrain while also learning who I was as a leader. It was very much a year of transformation.
Feeling a bit more secure in my role, it’s now time to focus on new goals. If I’m being honest, everything outside of work seemed to get put on the back burner last year. My health, my family, and my friends were all in survival mode. I feel a lot of guilt about that, but I also know its just part of growing. I feel like my professional life needed my full attention, but now I see all the areas of my life that I was just doing enough to maintain. It’s time to shift my focus.
That brings me to my one word:
Synonyms: flourish, succeed, advance, rise, grow, blossom, prosper, radiate
Work…While I feel like I finally have a handle on most of the ins and outs of school, there are days that I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. While I know there will always be those days, I want those days to be few and far between. It’s time to advance my knowledge in the areas of trauma sensitive schools so that I can help my students flourish.
Health…I have battled hypothyroidism for 14 years and so far it has won far more than I have. Between the low energy, slow metabolism and the 50 other symptoms I won't bore you with, it’s been something I’ve just been surviving the last couple of years. However, I start 2017 with an amazing nutritionist, a couple of accountability groups, and a can-do attitude! I hope to soon say that I am not just surviving…I am thriving!!
“We’re here to connect. Love, time, death. Now these three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time and we fear death.”-- Howard Witt
This is a quote taken from the first few minutes of the movie, Collateral Beauty. During this monologue, Will Smith’s character is talking to his staff about their “why” in life. As I watched the movie, the message is one I couldn’t wait to come home and share with my husband. It’s one that I knew I wanted to write about. How could I not? It’s meant to reflect over. It’s meant to start a conversation…. especially during a time of the year when we look back and reflect.
During 2016, we all feared death:
“Just be sure to notice the collateral beauty. It's the profound connection to everything.”
Sadly, death has been a part of my 2016. The losses were tough to take and I can’t always make sense of it all. All I can do is look for the collateral beauty during those times of mourning.
We all wished for more time:
Don’t we all want more time? At one point, the character of Time talked about how time is endless but that we humans have to measure it to make sense of it. While this is very thought provoking, what matters most is to remember that time is a gift. I no longer wish for time to fly by. I’m trying to savor every moment and every stage of my life because the years seem to be going by faster. Time has become a precious commodity.
We all longed for love:
In the movie, the character of Love says that love is:
The only why we will ever need is such a powerful sentiment. I believe that we are here to connect with others, to care for one another, and to maybe make the day a little brighter for those around us. The common thread is love.
Why be a wife, mother, friend, sister, or educator?
Love is why. Love is everything.
It’s that simple.
When people find out what I do and where I do it, many ask me why I drive all the way to Hutchinson (a 45 minute commute) every day to work as a principal. They ask me things like:
How do you handle the drive?
Doesn't it take a lot away from your family?
How do you handle balancing it all?
What about dealing with all of the behaviors? Is it worth it?
Why would anyone want to do such a thankless job?
These are all valid questions. They can also be great hurdles. I have to have strategies in place to help me combat the side effects. Here are some of those answers/strategies:
How do I handle the drive? I handle the drive because my morning and afternoon drives are filled with Voxer messages from fellow principals from all over the country. They offer support, advice and professional development every single day. They are my life-line. They make it possible for me to get back on the horse...even after the days where I've been bucked off. And even though I heard some version of "Cowgirls don't cry" from my Papa all the time, sometimes it does help to do that on the way home, too.
Does it take away from my family? How do you balance it all? I'm a work in progress when it comes to balance. When education is your passion, you can't ever turn it off. It does get in the way of family time. I never see my kids in the morning and I leave way too late. However, when my family needs me, I don't ever feel guilty about putting them first.
What about behaviors? Well, we all know behaviors are the toughest part of our jobs. They wear us out. We don't have the answers or the magic wand. All we can do is work as a team, keep coming up with ideas, and keep trying. Our kids can't afford for us to give up on them.
(However…IF someone has a magic wand, I would be happy to ask PTO for the funds to buy it! J)
Why would you want to work in education?
There are many reasons for my why:
I know this time of year can be very difficult so I want you all to take care of yourself and lean on your tribe. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving.
Above is my Facebook post where I talked about how I had just sat down to eat lunch at 4 o'clock last Friday. As you can see in the comments, many of my principal friends popped in with a funny response because we have all been there. In fact, eating a lunch without interuption would almost be more Facebook worthy!
Now, even though we banter back and forth, we all know there are a few key reasons why we feel like lunch should be put on the back burner:
Here’s what you might not know about why I don’t mind missing that 20 minutes of lunch I had as a teacher:
So, even though we joke, there is no need to feel sorry for us. We love what we do and wouldn’t change a thing!
Whenever you are changing things or making decisions for your building, you tend to question yourself when you hear concerns of why it might not work or how it should maybe look differently. I tend to listen so much, that I end up spinning my wheels and second-guessing everything.
I was spinning my wheels yesterday until I read this status written by Todd Nesloney:
You see, the last couple of weeks, I’ve been planning professional development to help make our PLCs more effective in my building. As you begin to talk about what makes PLCs work, you realize that PLCs will only function well if you have certain things in place. You need a strong core, common assessments, solid Tier 2 & 3 time, resources, good communication, trust, and willingness for everyone to dig deep.
Here is what is worrisome: If even one of those parts is missing, the house of cards could fall.
Knowing all of that, I will continue to push us forward. We may have to fake it until we make it. I may have to be the one who has the most confidence that this is what is best for kids no matter what the concern. I’m thrilled that we have the core, the common assessments and the resources we need to make it all work. What we need next is for everyone to know that we will practice until we are perfect and that we will work together to get this right.
Here is what is hopeful: I have a team who can and does do anything for our students. And a single thread of hope is still a very powerful thing.
I still remember my first roller coaster ride. I was at Joyland with my family for a day of rides, sun and funnel cakes. All of my cousins were visiting for the summer and they all seemed to be fearless when it came to the rides. I, however, was always cautious. I wanted to go with them but the nerves would have me backing out every time.
My Uncle Brad was a man who seemed to live with no fear. He was the youngest of all of my uncles and was the wild child. He seemed to pick up on my fear and told me he would sit next to me. He told me he would keep me safe and I believed him.
As we ascended up the old wooden roller coaster, he told me to shut my mouth so I wouldn’t swallow flies on the way down. I remember looking at him with wide eyes trying to decide if he was teasing me or not. I can still remember the nervous giggles that burst out of my chest as soon as I saw the laughter in his eyes.
He made me laugh when I wanted to freeze up.
As I get closer to the first day of school, those same nerves work themselves up in my body. The anticipation of what is to come has made this woman feel like a little girl going on her first roller coaster ride. All the fears of what could go wrong bubble up inside my chest. The concern that I might fall off the tracks is in the back of my mind. But, the excitement that we could dare ride the roller coaster and come out better on the other side keeps us in line every year.
You see, educators know all that could go wrong in a year. We also see all that could go right. The ride is full of ups and downs, barrel rolls, and curves that we don’t see coming…and yet, we get back on year after year. I think it’s because the thrill is worth it in the end.
I lost my uncle to cancer this past school year. I’m pretty proud to say that he saw that I grew up to be braver than that little girl in line for the roller coaster. I think he would love to know that I still remember that day and that he was Part 1 of a recurring theme of lessons that I still seem to need:
Principal of PreK-6th Grade