By: Zac Leonard
This week on #EdTechAfterDark we discussed the idea of finding what really matters in our profession. As educators we can become inundated with all the requirements, the advancements, the data, and the drama. But, “What’s it all About?” I’d like to suggest three things that can bring you authentic fulfillment in your career.
I’ve reflected for the past few months on this idea of what I need to feel fulfilled. I’ve struggled for a long time with issues like my self-esteem and body image, would losing weight make me fulfilled? I’ve made seriously mistakes in my life that has cost me considerably, would being vindicated or validated for my talents provide fulfillment? I’ve judged others based on what I hear of them instead of what I experience, am I finding fulfillment from putting others down?” The question comes up, “Am I a bad person?”
No, I know I’m a loving husband, a caring father, a passionate teacher, and loyal friend. We all have a story that has led us to the position we are in today, successes and failures all lead us to the same point which I believe is exactly where we’re meant to be.
1. Leave the Past in the Past
My new Principal, a good friend and mentor, Brian Lancaster (@BrianLancasterb on twitter) shared with me today that the only real weakness he sees in me is something I have complete control over. He said I can’t seem to let my past stay in the past. I have a tendency to over think things, and when I focus on my failures, or “what could have been” I put my career future in jeopardy. As I reflect on that conversation I couldn’t agree with him more. I have spent so much time focusing on reaching the next achievement, or earning the next “badge” that I lose sight of my purpose.
From a place of love not a place of arrogance I encourage you to be who you know you are, not who your past says you should be. You are in control of you life, we have to work together as a PLN to encourage each other towards greatness. I need my PLN to remind me of who I know I am, in the moments when I believe the lie from where I’ve come.
2. Focus on Your Impact Today
Many times as teachers, or anyone I can imagine, we can get wrapped up in where we think we should be. That five-year plan is kicking year seven, and you’re still on year three. Remember the power of “Yet”, just as we provide our students with the ability to find their “Yet” we have to do that for ourselves. The idea of the power of Yet comes from Carol Dweck and the Growth Mindset. By adding the word “Yet” to the end of negative sentences we encourage students to improve. “Zac doesn’t understand fractions” or “Zac doesn’t understand fractions, yet”. We all have goals and ambitions, those things drive who we are to be the best we can be, but if we focus so intensely on those goals that we miss whats right in front of us our “Yet” may not come.
Especially as teachers, we have the beautiful and awe-inspiring gift of changing lives on a daily basis. We take this for granted so often, so much so that I know I need a reminder to Focus on My Impact each day.
No troop, team, or tribe ever won a battle being divided. No movement was ever successful with a divided team, the same is true for our schools. We are tasked with illuminating the next generation, igniting passion for the “on-demand” generation. No small task especially in the midst of striving to be equal parts engaging and test ready. If I cannot put aside my petty differences for the good of improving the lives of the students I serve, I don’t belong in education. We have to take a good long look in the mirror, and decide are we willing to die to our own gains to provide gains to our students? We all have to answer that question for ourselves. Our differences give us strength, but if we’re not willing to build the bridge we’ll never reach our destination.
Please do not take this as a sign that I’ve, “Figured it out”, or that I’ve reached some ethereal plane of understanding and wisdom. I’m just sharing my heart in the hope that someone else who may be feeling the same way can find joy in their journey.
And know we are all in this together.