The past 6 years have held more change than I could have predicted based on my first 10 years in the classroom. The lessons I learned in my first transition have had a residual impact on all subsequent moves in my career. As we start this school year, and so many of my friends and colleagues find themselves in new roles or with new leadership I thought I would share a couple of lessons that I learned from a couple of my favorite educators.
From Sanger to Guyer:
My first school transition was so much harder than I could have ever anticipated, and the enormity of the change took me by surprise. I still taught Junior English. I still coached cheerleading. I still had to prepare my students for the same state tests, using the same standards. I had a incredibly supportive administrative teams in both schools. I had friends in both buildings. Everything looked so similar on the surface, a surface that only thinly covered the layers and layers of new.
I was homesick.
Lesson #1: You will find your “home” again.
The principal who hired me as a (9 months pregnant) first year teacher was an incredible mentor and influence on my life and my practice. When we discussed the opportunity for me to move to a new school in a new district, part of what helped me take the leap was her promise of continued connection. She kept her promise, and we checked in many times during my first few months in my new position. At the end of every conversation she would ask the same question, “Do you want to come back?”
The first few times she asked, even I was surprised by the speed of my “YES”! However, as the semester progressed, my “yes” slowed, and on some occasions was even hesitant, until one day my answer changed. I will never forget the day she asked and I said “No”.
She looked so pleased and so proud as I sat across from her telling her I didn’t want to come “home”. She explained that she had been asking me the same question because she knew all along that I was in the right place. The question wasn’t for her, the question was for me.
I needed to find my way to my new school home. It didn’t happen overnight, but I honestly can’t imagine the person I would be today without the time I spent at each of my campus “homes”.
Lesson #2: You will fail, but it won’t be final.
The second principal who hired me was equally as influential in my life and still impacts my decision making on a regular basis (What would Barbara Fischer Do)! One of the first conversations we had after the school year started set the tone for my transition into her building, and has helped me navigate every transition since.
She talked to me about grace, assumptions, and communication. She said that there would, inevitably, be things that I messed up. Not because I missed a deadline, or intentionally disregarded a directive, but because I had been taught a different way to do things. I would assume I was doing things the right way, and not even know when an expectation was different than in my previous district. And from her end, she would forget to tell me a detail, or communicate a deadline, because she would assume that we were on the same page.
The challenge of our year, and the commitment we would make to each other: strive to over-communicate, to question our assumptions, and extend grace to ourselves and each other if we messed it up.
As hard as it was to hear that she expected failure from me, it was also freeing and comforting. She extended grace before I needed it (and I did need it). She showed me how to lead with vulnerability and compassion.
My friend Dora posted this quote the other day:
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place” Unknown
If there were a way to like this a million times I would. I have work family, people that I dearly love, friends and mentors that have shaped my practice and impacted my life, spread across 5 districts in North Texas. Little pieces of my heart left on each campus or office space.
Change is hard. Give yourself grace. Expect failure. Challenge your assumptions. And know…your new space will feel like home again, if you let it.