Looking Back

Today I gaze back at myself as a new teacher. I had never imagined I might become a teacher, but there I was.

Last December, Vicky Loras posted a blog challenge “What’s Your Story“. I came across it through Doug Peterson, who posted his own:  “How Did I Get Here?”  At the time, I flipped the topic into my blog posts drafts but just couldn’t get started. I’m not sure my story is especially unique, but I’ll give it a try today.

Japanese mapleI began in French Immersion after a degree and teacher training in French. I really liked teaching. It was challenging, intellectually stimulating, and fun. Being with students was the best part, and I really enjoyed getting to know them and thinking I might be making a difference. These were the days when teachers closed their doors and worked alone. For an introvert, that wasn’t the worst thing, but I missed out on more than I gained. When I see how teachers collaborate in teams and push and support each other today, I am so glad things have changed. You can’t survive alone in our crazy difficult profession.

In between schools, I had a brief hiatus as a union leader. That was during the province wide teacher walk out and right before school board amalgamation in Ontario. It was an interesting year! I believed in the role of the union (still do) felt I was doing the right thing and loved the provincial perspective and big picture thinking. I met and was mentored by some powerful, smart women. That was inspiring. While I didn’t enjoy the adversarial nature of some of what I had to do, the experience was invaluable and added another facet to my perspective.

I returned to the classroom, but being who I am, I knew another change would come. (Did I mention I once moved house 8 times in 8 years? I’m pretty good with change.) Where might I have a positive influence beyond the classroom? After some wondering, I moved uncertainly into a vice principal role. That was one of hardest work transitions I’ve ever had. Leaving the collegiality of teaching for something unknown was tough. Fortunately, I had a wonderful principal mentor who taught me so much. I couldn’t have made it without her. And we laughed!

Things seemed to move quickly after that. Although I spent several years as a school administrator with some great successes and spectacular failures, I knew as a principal that I wanted to become a formal system leader, and I was quite deliberate about taking steps to prepare. Once again, I had loyal supporters who gave me the difficult feedback but also believed in me.

My first year as superintendent was humbling. Learning a multi dimensional new role, dealing with others’ preconceptions of that role and of me and working from a system perspective all added to that “newbie” feeling.  Thank goodness for a strong, collegial team of senior leaders who are never too busy to listen or to coach.

When I reflect over my career so far from teacher to superintendent, I see common themes of support from others, commitment, vulnerability, willingness to learn, doubt, yet a constant striving to be better. If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m a work in progress.

It’s been worth every moment.


3 Responses to “Looking Back”

  1. I totally love this post, Sue! While I knew parts of this story, now I see the big picture. I have no doubt that you were great in all of your roles: not because of perfection, but because of your willingness to reflect, make changes, and try again. I do enjoy the opportunities to work with you in your superintendent role. It’s great to see that no matter what your role, you always put kids first! I’m excited to see what the future continues to hold for you.


  2. Hi Sue,

    Wow! What a story! I love how you conclude with “being a work in progress” – I think that we all are and it’s great! One of the reasons I love being an educator – constantly changing and learning.

    Like Aviva said above, I also love how you put the kids first. It is so important.

    May I add a link to your blog on my What’s Your Story? post?

    Thank you ever so much for writing your story!

    Best wishes,

  3. Sue, what a lovely summary of your journey. How can you fail when you have your priorities? You appreciate those who have helped you along the way, and you are the chief learner. Thanks for sharing.


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