I want to tell you that twenty five years in Education (and life) have gone by in the blink of an eye.
Here are some personal reflections, lessons & insight about what I have learned so far - as I return back to the school where I started my career.
Reflection #1: This December, I returned to the school where my teaching career began 2.5 decades ago. Back then, I started as a Grade 8 Homeroom teacher. This time around, I have returned as a Principal Partner who is supporting an incredible school team as it transitions into its new permanent home starting in January 2023. The building looks pretty much the same as it did back then. The students that we are serving now are much younger and their needs are quite different. The work with these students is just as rewarding & enjoyable as it was then.
Lesson #1 - This opportunity is proof that wild & unexpected things can happen during our careers in Education. These full circle moments are few & far between, so it’s up to me to really sink into this opportunity and be very grateful for it (Thank you Todd T for having me). It’s my job to lighten the load wherever I can for the busy team of Educators that I am supporting. These are incredible men & women who are trying to get a million things done in preparation for their big move - all while continuing to serve their students.
Reflection #2 - Being back in this first school of mine, it brings forward some amazing memories of former colleagues. There are several superstars here that I could mention, but I’d like to pause and acknowledge the teachers that I worked with who are no longer with us. Denis, Joyce & Carmen. These three educators’ lives were cut short due to illnesses and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them here. Each of them brought incredible skills to our profession - French Language, Drama & the Arts, Physical Education & Leadership - just to name a few.
Lesson #2 - Thinking about these 3 professionals has made me realize the importance of living in the “today & now”. I have always subscribed to this way of life and now, it’s even more important to seize the day. Back then, I never would have imagined that these 3 colleagues of mine - who were so youthful, full of zest & life - would have their lives cut short. I am appreciative of the laughs, love of good coffee & elevated fashion ( Joyce ), the compassion & kindness ( Carmen ) and the team teaching & mentoring ( Denis ). It strikes me how these three great educators gave me great gifts that were so different & diverse. I appreciated knowing each one of them.
Reflection #3 - My first few years of teaching brought me some incredible friendships. I am still in touch with many of these educators today. Here’s what you should know about our team back then - as a group, we were really, really strong. Our school was not an easy place to work. We were a middle school with high needs and a large component of English Second Language Learners. Here it is on a post it note: You could never survive on this staff if you weren’t strong.
Lesson #3 - We were a young staff and we always had each others’ backs. There were days where we wanted to quit. There were days where many of us wanted to take kids home with us because they were dealing with things that no kid should have to deal with. Our work was hard back then and it still is today. Supportive colleagues are a game-changer! It’s so vital to find your own crew. People who are experiencing similar things to ourselves are vital to our success.
Reflection #4 - I’m still the same person, but I’m not. Most people who know me would say that not much has changed, but that’s far from the truth. I have a different life partner, I live in a different house and I drive a different car. However, many of the things that I stand for haven’t changed much. For example, I still stand for: hard work, humility, privacy, good fun, candor, second chances, karma, leadership, calmness, organization, responsibility.
Here’s what I think has changed: what I value as important, how I choose to spend my time at work, how I choose to spend my time away from work, what I spend my energy on, my tolerance for nonsense, my patience… I’m sure the people around me now would have lots to add to this list, but these are a few that come to mind.
Lesson #4 - Our own growth and evolution can happen at different rates and in different directions. There’s also lots about us that remains the same. I’m grateful for those default values that have served me well throughout my personal & professional life. These values are what make us who we are. I learned early on what I stand for and what I don’t. I am thankful that I am able to articulate what works for me & what does not. Knowing these & sticking to them have guided my thinking in many complicated circumstances.
Reflection #5 - Back to the people & our relationships - because it’s all about them. These “new to me” educators that I am getting to meet this time around have so much to offer. It’s so important to celebrate the people, the big wins and most importantly, the small ones.
If I look back to our old crew… there are educators who were my colleagues, who are now teaching my niece & nephew, and I am thrilled about it ( thank you Kelly R. ) , there are people who have gone forward to achieve great professional milestones and lead our schools ( thank you Pete V, Julie D ), people who have lead by example & created beautiful families ( Paula S & Shannon D ), staff who have suffered illness, loss & tragedy ( Mare H, Cap B ) , hosted epic weddings & road trips ( Tara K & Christine H). I could go on & on…
Lesson #5 - The list of lessons learned is long and for me, it usually comes back to time spent with incredible people. I wonder what lessons this crew of educators will appreciate as they look back on their time spent in my old stomping grounds?
I had no idea that all these experiences would lead to this - the opportunity to return to the school where all of this started for me in Room #15. And an added bonus, the opportunity to write about it.
Funny how life works - with its own agenda & timeline. We’re really just along for the ride. I’m incredibly grateful for this ride. I promise that I’m still taking it all in & learning from the people that I meet & work with every day. I hope you are too.
A final thought … I wonder if this current group of educators knows that they are an inspiration to me? I hope they do know. I’m going to make sure I tell them.
That’s all I have for now.
Thanks for reading.