Boy, do I have a topic for you today. When this topic dawned on me it was another of those moments in my journey that felt icky and oogie, and I didn't like it very much. BUT, fortunately it was a moment I experienced in the earliest of days in this new leg of the proverbial trip I am on as an educator, so that means I am learning, I am growing and I am benefiting from lessons learned.
Today's topic and the takeaway I have from this past week is this:
I HAVE TRUST ISSUES.
And, MAN, can trust issues be problematic in the work I do as an educator.
Who I Am and Where I've Been
Despite these trust issues that I am only now fully meeting face to face, I believe in collaboration. I believe in PLCs/PLNs. I believe in teaming and planning together. I believe that iron sharpens iron, that we are smarter together, and that we have to work with people smarter than we are to grow. In fact, the biggest changes of my career have always been moves to put me in situations that force me out of my comfort zone and require more of me. Now, I cannot tell you that I handled those transitions well. In fact, I haven't and even now in this new transition I am in, I don't feel I am handling it well either. At least, that's what it feels like internally. I think, though, I forget that what I feel and think inside of me isn't visible to the world, so... thank God for that! If anyone really knew how much I am struggling right now, they would either think I am a fraud or I would lose cool points with them, or maybe both.
This morning, though, as I pondered where to begin this post, I realized that I am what I am because of where I have been. I have trust issues for legitimate reasons, but I cannot go where I need to go next if I don't look them dead in the eye and battle with them. Running from them, blaming others, looking for flaws in my new situation or the individuals around me, or belittling the work that has been done before me to enhance myself or my own work are all really just evasive tactics that I might use to protect myself FROM GROWTH. And, how INSANE is that? How can I be an educator and want my students to have a growth mindset, if I myself avoid the discomfort REQUIRED for my own growth? Wow, even as I write this post I realize this issue is a big one, and since this blog is really less about you and more about my space to process, you might want to grab another cup of coffee, snuggle back into your chair and get comfortable. This post might take a minute.
When I reflect on the journey I have taken to get to the place and moment i find myself in now, I know a few things that are really important to giving myself grace for this new season. The most important one is this: I have spent most of my journey playing the role of the scout.
The scout has a lonely job. She goes out into the field ahead of the team to survey the scene, gather vital intel, test the limits and report back to the group. It really is work in relative isolation, and the report you bring back can sometimes be unwelcome. That role also requires that the group waiting for you trusts you, but that only happens if you build, or earn, their trust in you and the work you do. If I am honest, I haven't done a great job of doing that in the past when working face to face with people, SO those who worked with me haven't always responded well to me. The only way I can begin to change that is just to own it, and that realization nods back at last week's post when I said, "I suck." Well, can I edit that to say that maybe I used to suck? Because, I don't want to stay in that place anymore.
So, yes... for many years of my career I worked in situations in which I was philosophically or professionally isolated. My peers and I didn't see things eye to eye, and I was doing learning that they wouldn't see for a little while yet. That IS NOT to say my learning was better learning. NO NO NO. My learning was just coming at a different time and in a different way than theirs. Also, my willingness to take risks was maybe a little higher because I was younger and in the earlier years of my career, less established, so transition wasn't so scary. My methodology, my practice and my teacher personality were forming, and I was trying to discover who that Amy was. So, testing out new things was essential to defining myself as an educator. Still, it was lonely work, and was often met with resistance and worse, resentment, or the worst, alienation. Most of the jobs I have held included relationships with colleagues that were strained, damaged or destroyed because I didn't have the knowledge or skills to know how to navigate through crucial conversations and situations to build mutual trust and establish shared goals.
Where I Am Now
As I keep moving forward, I find that I am surrounded by greater and greater numbers of educators who share my philosophy, practices and values, that I have developed over the years. I am no longer working in isolation at all. In fact, I have absolutely found my tribe and can easily immerse myself in that tribe and forget those lonely days I once knew. The problem isn't the lack of like-minded colleagues and co-workers. No, the issue is now that I am where I am how do I change my work habits and think in such ways that I shed habits that only worked for me when I was working alone most of the time? How do I let go of the control I felt I needed before and trust that the people around me know and believe in what I do and have the same goals as I do? That wasn't always the case before. So, smiling and nodding and going back to my room to do my own thing isn't something I have to resort to anymore. How do I trust that the work shared with me is GOOD WORK, solid, based on research, and doesn't need me to clean it up to make it viable? How do I TALK WITH my colleagues now in ways that demonstrate my trust in them, their practice and knowledge so that the work doesn't shut down BECAUSE OF ME? How do I move forward now that I have found my tribe and not let my past entrench me and ultimately alienate me, either in philosophy or practice, from where I have been striving to go for such a long, long time?
Where I Am Going
While I know I starting to be the person in the tribe with the most experience, and while I know I have a lot of knowledge, experience and resources to share, I have to embrace something: the people I work with and am connected to are right there with me, they may know things I haven't yet learned, and may have benefitted from my work in such a way that now they serve as the scouts I need to trust who are surveying the scene ahead of me and leading me to new places I couldn't have gone otherwise. My past journey doesn't have to limit the journey ahead of me. In fact, I can explode into this next phase if I just TRUST.
Practical Applications and a Little Yoga
This weekend, I have to dive into the new curriculum I need to learn and teach, begin to forge plans for the first few weeks of school, and calendar and strategize for PLC time with my new teams. This trust thing is priority number ONE. If I don't handle myself right, the tone I set as a colleague, team leader, co-worker and teacher will be such that I will spend my first year digging myself out of holes with people rather than moving forward. Like they say, when we know better, we have to do better. I have to know my failures were purposeful. They have to be failures forward, but only I have control of that. I cannot lead PLC time if I am not mindful of how important trust is, and I cannot follow or be a team player if I do not trust my team in return. I just have to know that I can, and practice choosing to rather than retreating to my comfort zone. Maybe that's why I find myself drowning in "new". There really isn't any comfort zone around me, so there's nowhere to run to instead. I have to make this my new normal and as my yoga teacher, Heather, would say, "Find comfort and ease in a state of discomfort and work." Even more, how can I quietly lead my tribe to find that place with me so that we all benefit from it? I mean, hasn't my journey taught me that lesson? Why not trust lessons learned, too?
Happy Coaching! Happy Transitioning! Happy Growing!
Love & Blessings for a great year,
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