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.
I 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.