If you haven’t read this tiny, profound bit of wisdom from Seth Godin, please do.
As I read it this morning, I realized I’ve been working through “the terrible part” for a long time. Am I getting close to “obvious?” I don’t know. But threads from a busy Tuesday came together in an interesting pattern … or at least they started to when I finally had a chance to take a breath and reflect on them.
I knew Tuesday would be a day of “hurry up and wait,” if not “rush around like a chicken with its head cut off.” The school calendar listed “content area staff development” in the morning, with teachers from all over the district meeting at Designated Locations for training sessions, then returning to their own schools for “school site staff development” in the afternoon. And of course there were sessions for me to lead at both: morning with my fellow Latin teachers, afternoon with my colleagues about setting up their part of the new Student Information System. Then, if there was time, I’d get my hair cut, and then there was an informational meeting about the Alternatives to Violence Project that I hoped to attend in the evening. For The Dog and The Cat, it would be a long day too, since I’d be away from them for about fourteen hours. And, in fact, most things went (mostly) according to plan.
At one point during the morning session, I mentioned my struggles with where the path is leading me and how my calling should be expressed in the next phases of my life. I didn’t go into any details, but I knew my colleagues had been worried about me … and as I said in yesterday’s post, I’m no longer willing to hide my struggles behind the factory-mask. E, who’s known me for almost two decades, told me I should “pray hard about becoming an administrator.” Why? I asked. “Because you see the big picture, and you have a sense of purpose.” No, I don’t want to be a factory-school manager, which is what she was referring to … but new structures with new forms of leadership do excite me. Regular readers know that.
I had a bad feeling about the afternoon student information system training. Almost every school in The District would be attempting to access not a simulation, but the brand-new site itself simultaneously. What would happen, I wondered, if it crashed under the load? Short answer: the emergency backup plan worked out, thanks to some screen-shot videos provided by a Relevant Power. With some struggles, it was eventually possible for one person to log on, so I showed and demonstrated the setup process. I’ll be meeting with folks today in small groups for the actual training, but I’d half-expected to do that. Another, related training, not my responsibility, had similar issues, and I could feel colleagues’ stress levels rise as they thought about “too much to do” and “not enough time,” about “The Classroom won’t be ready” and “They are making Us do too much.”
Then came two amazing conversations, one with a Relevant Power who sees the changes that are needed and one with a colleague who’s torn between caring for herself and her child and pursuing her calling as a teacher. “Do you know anyone else who feels like you do, with kids the same age?” I asked. Yes, she said, quite a few.
I don’t think the timing was a coincidence.
And the evening meeting? It was a time of affirmation and new friendships, of meeting people I knew by reputation but hadn’t known in person, of discovering a truly amazing organization that brings hope and joyful community to prisons, schools, and other organizations here in the United States and to all kinds of places around the world. It’s all about honoring and affirming the good, seeking creative and life-affirming solutions to complex problems. And when we played an introductory game, one where we chose a self-affirming adjective for ourselves that started with the same letter as our first name, what came to mind immediately? Joyful … and as excellent E and I talked about why we’d chosen our adjectives, I realized once again that joy is a decision, not an emotional state.
I was too tired to write when I got home Tuesday evening, too tired to do the household tasks I’d hoped to do. And then I woke up early this morning, my mind racing and my body tightening with stress of life and stress of task lists, with “room not ready” (though it really is just fine) and “too much to do,” with when and how to walk out and what to do in the meantime. Caught, once again, in the midst of great and terrible, of obvious and unclear, of the full spectrum of emotions … and still struggling with questions of team, place, and time.
Are things coming together or falling apart? Is that even a meaningful question? And when poor Ms. X and Mr. Y, wracked by stresses at least as great as mine, cling desperately to factory-teaching and factory-management structures that haven’t worked in years, how can we build a community where it’s safe for them to let go? How do we help them hold on to the great while it still feels terrible, and keep holding on till it gets obvious?