Some days I sit in my office and think…and what I am thinking about today is where I fit in, in this big machine we call Education. Make no mistake – I am not bored, lacking in passion, lacking vision or direction, or unsure of how to fill my days. Nope, this is about who I am in my field…and I feel like a whole bunch of things today.
I feel like a researcher – I spend a lot of time reading, writing, asking questions, talking to others and consolidating my thoughts on a whole bunch of topics. I am trying to figure things out all the time, not always because I have to, but often because I want to. I am curious.
I feel like an inventor – I make templates, I create strategic diagrams and plans, I map out processes and supports for a wide variety of people on a wide variety of topics. I absolutely love this part of my job because I can exercise my creative muscles all the time, and being creative is “my thing.”
I feel like a coach – I cheer and teach in many ways, both with students and with the adults who surround them. I reflect with others, discuss possibilities and solutions, plan for the future and constantly communicate my belief that what we are doing is so worthwhile. I want to be better and I want to experience challenges and successes alongside others. I get to do that in my job.
These are all things I do that “fill my cup.” They are the reasons I took this job. They invite me to focus on the thrill of learning and the joy of education. They are what motivate me all day long.
However, there are some things I feel, that are more challenging…
I feel like a cold; something you have to put up with but don’t have to like – sometimes I walk into a school and I just know my presence is not celebrated. Assumptions about my visit are thick. Eyes are shifty, as classroom doors quickly shut. Nothing is said directly to me, but I know how it is…remember, I was there not so long ago.
I feel like a trusty handyperson – here is Katie, she’ll fix it. But remember, when we invite a handyperson into our lives, we don’t stand beside them and share in their experience. We brush our hands together, nod our heads at our wisdom for finding someone else to do the job, and move on. The challenge is that I am not invited in to fix a sink – I am asked to “fix” something bigger, and usually that something that can’t be fixed by one person (if “fixed” is even a word to toss around here!)
I feel like a fly – buzzing around, making noise. I land on people’s shoulders to explore an idea, only to be brushed away. I buzz, “How about…?” or “Why do you think…?” as I am shooed. I suspect some think to themselves That Katie…always full of great ideas…but she doesn’t know what it’s like…she hasn’t…she is unrealistic…too passionate…
Now, don’t get me wrong…I am not feeling sorry for myself (not today…although, there are days…I am human…) And I am not saying all these feelings happen everytime I am in a school, or when I talk to adminstrators and teachers. I am just puzzling over how things could be; how I could be. Because being from Central Office sets up inherent challenges. We are pre-conditioned to believe what people in Central Office do; what their role is. We have had experiences that set up patterns that have now become beliefs.
So, how could things be different? How could they be better? How can we build trusting relationships with people when we come from Central Office? I strongly believe that relationships are key, but it is very challenging to build relationships when pre-conditioning, experiences, power, and change are lenses we have to try to peer through.
I can hear voices in my head saying Get your chin up! This is your job, live with it! or Katie, your problem is you care too much. You just have to stop caring about stuff like this! and You can’t be friends with everyone! In fact, it isn’t your job to be friends with people. I have heard these responses in the past and have considered all of them. The problem is that each of these answers is about me, and I don’t think this is about me. I think it is about the work I do (and the work of anyone in a leadership role.) Because this is about change and growth and learning – and none of that happens when conditions are not ideal. When change happens because people are afraid, or growth occurs in directions that don’t reflect data and information, or learning happens because of one single person instead of as a result of expanding leadership capacity, then things aren’t working as they should.
My Essential Question for the day is “What can I do to build and nurture relationships?” Within this, I have to acknowledge there are some things I cannot change or control and there are some people with whom I will not develop relationships. But if I don’t continue to ask these questions, search for clarity and try to navigate my way through this complexity in the most positive way possible, I have no hope…and I am filled with hope.