So many of you may not know (because quite frankly I’m about as bad at updating people on my life as I am at keeping this blog current. Go figure.) BUT I started a new job in August. I’m still working in the same school district, but I have a new title–and it is a doozy. I’m out of the classroom and in the district office as one of the Technology Integration and Implementation Specialists. Try saying that 10 times fast, I dare you. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
Yeah, I thought so.
Anyway, I realized within about the first 10 minutes of starting the job that I was going to learn a whole heck of a lot in this new position. You know that saying, you don’t know what you don’t know? Well, I do know now. I know that I know very little and it’s very humbling when you’ve been the girl with all the answers for the vast majority of your life.
Not that I’m all that smart, but I tend to give off a kind of “she knows what she’s doing” vibe and that has taken a lot of time and effort to cultivate. Now, that doesn’t mean I really do know what I’m doing. And that certainly doesn’t mean I actually have all the answers (because trust me, I don’t) BUT I usually can fake it till I make it. And I don’t really fail. Does that sound arrogant? I don’t mean for it to, but it is one of the primary reasons why I struggle so much with pride.
So, here’s just five important things I learned when I took on this job.
Number One: Broaden your thinking
I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded individual. I like to learn. I love hearing others’ ideas. I even like a healthy debate–as long as there is no shouting. I don’t like shouting. As an English teacher though I had a pretty narrow focus: make sure you are meeting the standards and doing what is best for your students. The other stuff was just..well it was just stuff. Hoops to jump through if you will so that I could do my job the way I believed it should be done. That was fine and all, but about fifteen minutes into my new job I could see that sometimes what I thought was just a hoop actually had a purpose. Something that felt, as a teacher, to be a roadblock was actually a guardrail. I couldn’t see the cliff on the other side because I didn’t have the right view. Sometimes it was by choice and sometimes it was just because those that did have the view knew something I didn’t. Now, I’m not saying that all the bureaucracy is good or purposeful because it’s not. BUT I am saying that there are a lot of moving pieces in an organism as complex as a school system and sometimes you get to see the bigger picture and its pretty eye-opening.
Number Two: Don’t let your first impressions of people blind you.
One of my favorite books is a pretty well-known classic called Pride and Prejudice. Depending on how much of a geek you are, you may not know that the working title for this novel was actually First Impressions, so believe me when I say that Lizzy Bennet would totally back me up on this. First impressions are rarely correct, and even when they are people can and do surprise you. I’m really quite introverted, despite years teaching in the public schools. In the past few weeks, I have met an innumerable amount of people. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, publishers, vendors, pretty much everyone who has an interest in how schools work has somehow been a part of my working life in the past few months. Some have made a great first impression, and others not as much. Either way, I’ve learned that when you make a first impression into a box in which you place a person, you can miss out.
Number Three: The best people don’t seek attention and their humility is often misunderstood.
People think that humility is putting yourself down, but really that’s not true humility. Humility is accepting responsibility for something that’s not your fault, but you do it because it’s the better choice than wasting time playing the blame game. Humility is shrugging off an insult to yourself, but getting so angry you can’t stop the tears when someone insults or threatens your people. Humility is not taking credit for decisions that make life easier for people, even though you totally deserve a little praise. Humility is hard, which is why there are few truly humble people in the world. I’ve met a lot of them recently and other than highlighting my massive pride problem, it is changing the way I see the world.
Number 4: Just because you believe something to be true doesn’t mean it is.
Over the past few months, I’ve had to eat a lot of crow. Some things I hardcore believed to be true about people and ideas were shattered as I realized how scope and context can be manipulated to serve others’ agendas. Uncovering those agendas is a tough reality that I’ve had to come to terms with as I move forward. Not only that, I’m having to sort out what I believe vs. what I’ve been told to believe or what I thought I believed or what I believed that turned out to be false. Sound confusing, it is. Most days my brain is spinning. Just a quick example: the job I do now, I honestly didn’t understand as a teacher. I wondered what they did at an office all day. I wondered why we needed so many (I think we had 4 at the time) and what they could possibly be contributing. I wondered what I would do in the same position. Turns out I still can’t explain this job to people in a way that makes sense, but I will say that I am nonstop. Ever listened to Hamilton? That whole “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” question is for real when it comes to my job, but you can substitute ‘write’ for ‘research, type, talk, respond, create, reply, collaborate, design, record, request, etc.’ . My job varies from day to day–actually hour to hour really–and I have to be flexible and willing to move at a moment’s notice. Yeah, I spend a lot of time on the phone and in front of a computer, but I’m also out at schools and in classrooms. I’m collaborating with my team and brainstorming new ideas. I’m learning new programs and solving problems…and sometimes failing to solve problems (which I hate. I start to growl when I can’t solve something. It’s not pretty).
Number five: People just want to be heard
I know there are a lot of problems in the educational world and when you add technology to that, the fact is we may never solve all the problems that exist. And for every problem we solve six more pop up. Programs work great in some capacity but there isn’t a panacea program. Trust me, I’ve looked. Even so, the vast majority of people, even the ones who complain the most, simply want to feel seen and heard and understood. And this is true in life as well. I’m learning that I’m not very good at concentrating on what people are saying to me for more than a few minutes and I am learning to focus and not just listen but actually hear what people have to say. And those voices are beautiful (and sometimes angry). Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of power to change the world. I wish I did (well, sometimes I do. Other times that feels like way too much work and responsibility). What I do have the power to do is hear people and work to help them find a solution–even if it’s not perfect, I can still show them that I care. And that’s how you change the world. One listening ear at a time.