There is always a lesson to be learned. But, you need to be ready to see it and sometimes that means looking back.
After spending 17 years in public education and starting a new career three months ago, I have taken some time to think about the lessons learned from my experiences.
Lesson 1: Family First
There have been times in my life when I have had to make a decision between my family and my job. I never regretted choosing my family.
This decision is crazy to me. Family should always be first. Undoubtedly first. Not in #familyfirst kind of a way that people say it and you aren’t really sure if they mean it. There should not be a choice and you should not be a hero for making this decision.
Especially when you are in the business of education.
Unfortunately, this is not always how it goes as most times you still feel, even if your superior is telling you to stay home or it is okay to take the time, like you are disappointing someone or letting someone down. Maybe this is just me but it is my hunch that this is the feeling many educators encounter when they have to take time to care for a sick child, parent, or themselves.
Educators know the importance of parents being present in a child's life, since they often see the consequences of childhood trauma. Earlier this year, I was in a meeting where educators were talking about students who were home alone working on their virtual assignments while their parents were at work. They talked about how the kids needed parents there and how they felt bad for the students. Now, don’t get me wrong, I agree that it is ideal to have a parent at home monitoring and assisting as students navigate the world of virtual learning. In that conversation I realized, they could have been talking about my family.
This was not a choice my family got to make because both Jason and I had to be at work. So in this scenario, those were my kids that were the topic of the conversation. All five of them were home alone working on their school work and taking care of one another. We had a sitter who came for a few hours, a few days a week but my kids were alone everyday for at least part of the day. We are incredibly proud of them and have learned a lot as a family on how to manage this most difficult situation (don’t worry I will share in another post soon😉).
I have learned that family is first, always. Family is the most important asset in your life and you need to take care of them and nurture the relationships you have with them. This might not mean leaving your career and becoming a stay at home parent or even changing careers. It might not mean leaving work to make it to every game or practice, but it definitely means giving yourself permission to be a parent first and not feel guilty about checking in on your sick child or taking a call from the pediatrician. If your family decides that a career change is best, then do what you need to, but I encourage you to find the good in that decision.
Lesson 2: There are good people everywhere.
My first teaching job was in Norfolk, Virginia. I was responsible for 28 fourth graders in a Title 1 school. I am not sure if it was because it was my first job or because I landed with really amazing people, but I learned so much. The principal was full of personality and gave advice as he walked by in the hallway, “remember kids and people will get away with whatever you allow them to.” This type of advice was the best on the job professional development I ever experienced. He taught me so much about education and how to work with people.
I learned more in the first month than I did in all of my college training. I learned what really mattered in a classroom and school- caring about kids and helping them be successful in life. I also learned about what didn’t matter- neatness, homework, and memorizing information.
It was a long commute from where I was living in Virginia Beach. I enjoyed the time in the morning to mentally prepare for the day and the commute home gave me decompression time. When I had my first son, the commute started to feel even longer and it was taking a toll on me. This was the first time I had to make the decision to leave a school. I struggled with this decision because I truly loved that school and the school community. I remember talking to my dad about the decision I was facing and he gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. He told me that there are good people everywhere, and while it may feel like abandonment to leave my current workplace, you will find good people everywhere you go in life.
This statement holds so many truths! There are good people everywhere. I love people and I love to surround myself with GOOD people. I have reflected on that conversation and advice and never been afraid to leave a position. I know that I will always find my people. This has been true in every school, every office, and every position I have held. Don’t be afraid to make a change for yourself because of the people you will leave behind. Good people are everywhere and good friendships will follow you wherever you go.
Lesson 3: You can make a difference anywhere.
Growing up, I watched both my parents work in the education field, my dad as a teacher and coach, my mom as a teacher and transportation coordinator. I learned from them that education was a career about people and not about money. It was a way to make a difference and to support people. When I went to college, I knew I wanted to be in education. In fact, I never considered a different career path. I thought in order to make a difference and to help people, I had to be inside the walls of a school. As my career in schools continued, I was able to find so many more opportunities to spread love, joy, and education
After my experience having AJ, I started working closely with the Red Cross. It felt great to hold blood drives, spread the importance of donation, and help people. That experience helped me understand that there are many ways to help and give your time and energy to the community.
In the last two months, I have learned that you can make a difference anywhere. You do not need to give your life to education in order to have a large impact on kids, people and the community. Whether it is organizing blood drives, helping a neighbor, or facilitating a trash clean up, education does not only happen in schools. Making an impact on the community does not have to be tied to a title. You can make a big impact from anywhere.
Our family is heading into month 8 of virtual learning. Stay tuned for what we have learned and how we have adapted.
Take care and stay safe.