During my short time in education and as an educational leader, I have been called many things, but perhaps the most ironic word that has been used in an attempt to slander my name is disloyal. I am one of the most fiercely loyal people that I know. I am loyal to my family, my friends, and my purpose. And I don’t pledge my loyalty or allegiance to anything that is not worthy of what comes along with that. As an educator, I am loyal to students. Period. I don’t see any other way to operate. I am loyal to doing what is best for students, in whatever capacity I may be operating. As a teacher, my loyalty was expressed differently than it was as a campus instructional specialist. The same can be said of my most recent two job titles. Loyalty for me simply means making decisions that are always in the best interest of students. Different positions & titles cause you to be in the position to make different decisions, but loyalty means that those decisions are always rooted in the students’ best interest.
Today is a rare moment in time where I’m not physically at work, I don’t want to mentally be at work, but I cannot stop thinking about work related things. Normally, I have a pretty decent routine established that helps me de-stress and unpack the weight that I am carrying. Today, however, is different. It’s not that I’m stressed about any one thing. It’s more that my mind is all over the place. I have plans in place for some upcoming speaking engagements, which I love because I absolutely love to share what I know with anyone who will listen. I also have plans for the beginning of the school year, as that is right around the corner. Lately, I’ve found myself spending more time contemplating the intersection of those two very big parts of my life: my public professional life (work) and my personal professional goals. There are places where the two areas seem to be in direct conflict with each other.
It’s not conflict in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a need to move forward in developing a particular area & skill set that I know will NOT be appreciated or supported in my work life largely due to a set of policies or procedures that will prohibit be from maximizing the use of my new skills for the population of students and teachers that I serve. It’s quite the conundrum, as I find myself wondering whether or not the continued development of these skills and the time that is spent honing them is a reflection of selfishness on my part. I keep trying to tell myself that it is not. While I serve the students and staff in my workplace, as a responsible member of the education community I also serve a larger group of stakeholders. Am I not obligated to continuously develop and maximize my skill set for the sake of the good of all? Especially considering that I share what I know freely and willingly with everyone.
As leaders, are we obligated to limit our academic and professional pursuits based on the preferences of our employers? I have finally found the part of education that I am the absolute most passionate about. I’m not talking about something that I just enjoy. I’m talking about something that I would be willing to hang my hat on as the bridge that will connect all of education to the ‘promised land’ that we all so often dream and speak about. I understand, like most, that the world is a very large place. What if my contribution to the growing body of literature in this area has the potential to be a catalyst for real education reform? I have seen firsthand the impact that can be made on the lives of children and adult learners as a result of growth and development of educators in this area. I want to be a part of that progress, and I would love to witness that progress in the community that I currently serve.
But due to the differing foci of my work life & my personal professional goals, much of the time that I spend sharpening these skills is time away from my family. I try my best to work while they are working or sleeping, but that gets harder as time goes on. Even now as I type this, my boys are playing with their new race track set 2 feet away from me. I want to watch them & marvel at their innocence and delight with such a simple toy. But I also know that I have to finish the prep work for an upcoming presentation that I will be sharing, and I’m running out of time.
So today, my loyalties are being balanced between my family and my purpose. Today, I think I’m balancing them properly. I have a timer set, and I have a stopping point. I know that my boys understand that mommy is working for a little while today, and it’ll be just the right balance. I’m also well aware that this will not always be the case. There are bound to be times where I get it wrong. But there will never be a time when I am not loyal to the things that matter most.