This morning, at church, was Youth Sunday. The sermon was done by a young lady who will soon be leaving her church home for college at Baylor. One of the lines of her sermon truly resonated with me. She had been lamenting to one of our priests about how she will miss her church home, and that she is afraid she won't find a connection like this one. The priest told her, "You may never find another St. Helena's, but you will most certainly find a place that needs a Megan." Wowee...how important and profound is that!!
I "grieved" so much when I left the school where I was principal for almost 8 years in Florida (and that was after being a guidance counselor at that same school for 7 1/2 years). How could any place or any job ever compare? I always said it was the best job ever to be the principal at that school. How would any other job ever match up? Well, the fact of the matter is: it couldn't. I have never and will never find another Edge Elementary School, but I have found places that truly needed me (and I, them) over the last 10 years.
I began consulting and getting to travel to places all over the world to work with educators and educational leaders who were learning new skills, just like I was. I found that work to be so absolutely fulfilling, I said it was the best job ever. Dave laughed at me (still does, on an ongoing basis, by the way) and said, "You have said that about every job you've ever had in your career in education." He also reminds me that every time I go to a new place to teach (or especially back to schools or districts that feel like "coming home" because of the relationships I have built with the people there), I usually say (when I call him from my hotel room that night), "That was the best day ever!!" He says, "You know, they can't always be the best day ever." Hmmmm...."why not?"---I wonder. I've grieved when I am unable to go back to work at a particular place because the district or entity has perhaps changed hands and they are going a different direction (whether I think that direction is a mistake is beside the point) than believing that students should be able to construct meaning from what content versus sitting in row-by-row desks being "taught at" (uggghhh!). But grieving that I am leaving a job for another experience or opportunity has typically never let me down. I end up saying, "This is the best job ever!" whenever the new place comes along. I wonder if it is like what our priest told Megan, "There will never be another ________, but there will always be another place that needs a Shelly". And, I might add, I might need that new place, as well, to continue my journey and growth as a reflective educator. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will likely never go into banking or construction work. Indeed, the education world holds my heart and my passion. But where that passion leads next is always the "right" next move, I think. Right now, I am extremely blessed to get to teach at three different universities. I mentor doctoral students who are in the process of getting their dissertations. I teach courses to teachers who are getting their degrees in Educational Leadership. They want to become school leaders, and I live vicariously through so many of them who keep in touch with me once they have landed their first jobs. Those relationships help inform my own work. I am also blessed to be able to use what I teach in those courses to help further inform and augment the consulting work I do. The student teachers I supervise help me use skills of coaching that then help me teach educational leaders about coaching their own teachers. The development of curriculum for Grand Canyon University that I do helps me realize how critical curriculum development is to enable master's level courses to be the very best they can be in order to give students the experiences and content that will help them become of maximum service to the schools they will someday lead. It's so synchronous and synergetic, it's almost creepy (not in a weird way, though).
I suppose I am in a bit of a state of grief whenever one of my many part-time jobs comes to an end. I feel the loss deep in my soul....maybe because I have given my heart and soul to those jobs. I have, indeed, also applied for a couple of positions in my life in which I was not the "chosen one". "Ouch!" says my bruised ego. Those experiences break my heart, as well, but I have to remember that there is a plan for my next "move", whatever that may be (whether it's to continue to put together 7 different part time roles that wind up being way more work than a full time job could ever be or it's to take on a full-time position to help a school or entity grow). There may never be an organization for me like the one I leave or the one at which I wasn't chosen to be, but there will be another organization that needs a "Shelly 2.0" or "Shelly 3.0".
What does your next move look like for you? If you say "I will forever remain in my role as __________ at _________", then I would push you to consider, "How might you ensure you continue to grow in that role?" "How might you ensure you are not resting on your laurels in your current position?" I'd love to hear the ways that you do that, as I believe people need to hear our successes (and even what we have learned from our not-so-successful-experiences).
I know this to be true: there will never be another Shelly. Dave says the world probably couldn't handle more than one of me, but I know he means that lovingly. I have so much to offer. I can't wait to see what the future holds.
In the song "Watershed" by Indigo Girls, there is a line that says, "Every five years or so, I look back on my life, and I have a good laugh....". I laugh for joy at what I have been blessed to do throughout my life as an educator; I laugh at my foibles in certain situations; I laugh at the wisdom I lacked from which I have learned a bit; I laugh when I think I have learned it all, as the world is constantly evolving, and I am willing to be open to new ideas and new thoughts if I remain a reflective practitioner. What will your next five years hold? I pray they are good ones. I pray that you know that no matter whether you remain at a particular place or not, the world needs a "You" at the place where you will be.