So, we’ve probably all heard the quote about doing something new each day. Or, if it doesn’t scare you, it won’t stretch you. Or, set goals outside of your comfort zone. And on, and on…well, I was definitely nervous, stretched, and way uncomfortable in my “new” experience.
Folks, I am a small town girl. And for the most part, I like that. And this small -town girl shares many characteristics with her dad, but there is one large commonality that gives us great stress, and the people who know us, great amusement. We have an incredibly bad directional sense. This challenge goes unnoticed in our nice, little town and it’s surrounding areas. But, wow, take us to a bigger city, or somewhere we’ve never been before, and chances are high that we will end up turned around and/or lost. We are extremely attached to our GPS devices/apps.
Yesterday, I drove two hours south to a big city to board a plane to Dallas. I needed my Google maps lady directing me, but I was only mildly stressed since I’ve been to this city before, so this isn’t the crux of my story. No…I wasn’t wishing for some Valium until later in the day, when my plane landed at the DFW airport. Now, listen, airports alone can screw me up. There is so much to navigate and GPS won’t help a girl out with that issue. But, I made it to the rental car desk quite successfully. The employee was super nice, and soon I was sitting in my navy blue subcompact (I may have tried to get the red Camaro on the way to the Toyota.). I plugged in my phone, opened my maps app, put in the hotel address (two hours away, people!! Are you feeling my anxiety already?), and proceeded out of the airport. Did I mention that it was at 5:00pm on a work day? Yeah – great timing. Fortunately, I have naturally low blood pressure, because there could have been a major medical emergency happening around 5:20ish in a navy subcompact otherwise. I only got honked at once. Sure it was a long, blaring honk delivered by a rude woman in a VW bug (which, really, the only thing more embarrassing would be if I was honked at by an elderly person in a Buick). I only swerved back out of an exit ramp once. And I didn’t miss a single direction. To most people, this would seem like such a stupid thing to get stressed about. My mom would handle it with a smile. I can get up in front of a room full of adults and deliver a presentation, or provide day-long training, but what I wouldn’t give for a chauffeur most days.
Apparently, when you are a consultant, you do lots of traveling. And apparently, that means lots of unfamiliar driving for this directionally-challenged lady. The good news is that my dad used to travel a lot for his job, and he survived. My mantra on the way to the hotel was, “If Dad can do it, I can do it.” I hear it gets easier. That is yet to be seen. I always laugh when someone says, “it’s really easy to get to.” Uh, for who?
So those great motivational quotes about stepping out of your comfort zone probably mean doing something a bit more challenging or inspiring than driving down a 6-lane interstate. But, it is an accomplishment for me whenever I arrive somewhere as scheduled and in one piece. And maybe, when I come back to Dallas next month, I will breathe a little easier…we’ll see.
“The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.”
— Iyanla Vanzant, speaker
This summer I am embarking on a new career journey. I am doing some educational consulting work with various school districts. When I thought about my favorite part of being a curriculum director, it always came back to professional development (either my own, or leading it for others). The difference with this new gig is that I will be going into districts where there is already a culture established. It’s exciting for me, because I love making new connections. I thrive on working with like-minded professionals. I’m passionate about sharing best practices in innovative teaching and learning.
One of my friends does similar work, but in a different field. He has given me some great advice as I prepare for this new challenge. One thing he told me was, “Janelle, you have to be okay with other people taking credit for what you teach them. You work with them, train them, support them, but they get to lead the people in their organizations.” Then, I saw the above quote from Iyanla Vanzant and it just resonated with the advice from my friend. My goal is to help these teachers, administrators, and school systems be successful. The impact of my work will go further than I am aware. I do it because I believe in the power of education. I do it because I like to teach, and want to make a difference for today’s students. I do it to serve others. By doing so, I will be successful, and that is all the reward I need (well, ok, getting paid to do it is kinda nice, too).
My first-born, Sydney, graduated from sixth-grade recently. My little baby is suddenly a 5’4″ incoming seventh-grader. Next year, she will move from the intermediate school (grades 4-6) to the Jr./Sr. high school campus (and, yes, I am having some issues dealing with the fact that she will be around 18-yr-olds!!). Consequently, Sydney’s class is the last group I taught before leaving my second-grade classroom to become an administrator. It was especially fun to watch these kids be celebrated at their graduation as a parent, a friend, and a former teacher.
My children teach me something new most days, but this has been a great school year for Sydney, so I’m going to honor her with this post.
- Friends matter most. Fifth-grade was a difficult one for Sydney. She is super fun to be around, and is fiercely loyal to her friends. However, she doesn’t enter friendships lightly. On top of that, she typically needs to be invited into an activity in order to feel wanted. She had one particular classmate last year that was jealous of Syd’s relationship with a mutual friend. She began bullying Sydney and saying/doing some very hurtful things. It was difficult as a parent to know how to help her through this, yet we made it through the year. Sixth-grade was about the opposite. We watched Sydney open up and share that wonderful personality more freely. She felt more confident in her friendships, developed new ones, and looked forward to school like never before. She hasn’t even been out of school for a week, yet, and she has locker decorations made for next year, and is already talking about being excited for the school year. She had fantastic teachers, but I think her friendships played a huge role in the success of the school year.
- Authentic projects should be what school is all about. Math was my favorite subject growing up. I’m not sure why as it doesn’t really fit my personality. Maybe it was because it came more easily to me than other subjects. Sydney, though, really doesn’t like math. At the end of the school year, her math teacher gave them all the challenge to work in small teams to design and develop a carnival game. There were different math requirements, but it was mostly open-ended. Sydney loved it! She was excited about math each day, and spent a lot of time out of class thinking and planning for this project. The last week of school, the students got to play each other’s games during a sixth-grade carnival, making the purpose and audience of the project real and relevant. Seeing her excitement, involvement, and learning made me wish her class was set up like this all year long.
- It’s never too late to love school. My daughter is a genius (of course, I may be a little biased…). Seriously though, she has always been very lingual: talking, reading, and writing very early. She loved to do “school” type things as a toddler and preschooler. I thought she would love school when she started kindergarten. Not so much. She had great teachers all through her elementary experiences, and yet, there was no excitement or desire to go to school…until this year. She had to work harder this year than ever before, her friendships were more solid, and she had fun, inter-relational teachers. She looked forward to school just about every day. Her words in the last couple of weeks, “We have the best teachers. I wish they hadn’t put all the good ones in one grade level.”
- Life is a series of starting all over. In our small town, Sydney’s school experiences have been a series of starting over. She attended two years of preschool, and then went to a new school for grades K-4. After fourth grade, she went to the intermediate school for grades five and six. Next year, she will start over again at the Jr./Sr. high school. Each time it has meant a new location, new teachers, new expectations, new routines and procedures. This is life. Life is a series of starting over. While change can be difficult and scary, it often brings positive things with it. No one is twenty years old and still attending preschool. We have to be willing to start over, step into the “unknown” in order to accomplish the next set of goals, or experience the excitement in the next adventure.
- I have to let go in order to hold on. Part of me wants to take my children and flee to some undeveloped land and keep them in this bubble of protectedness. I want Sydney to hang on to that last shred of innocence. I want to preserve our family time where my children still want to hang out with me. And, yet, I love to watch her as she grows, her life unfolding right before my eyes. It’s not something you can fully understand until you are a parent. This amazing little girl, is turning into an even more amazing adolescent. The best part of all, is that I get to be a part of it. I was blessed to be chosen to raise this miracle. And while most days I want to hold on with all my might, I know I have to let go in order for her to thrive. So, I will…with tears and laughter, and many emotions in between (did I mention this girl will be a teenager soon!!). And I can’t wait to see what else this girl will teach me.