Six Months In…

Six months in…it doesn’t seem like a very long time at all. In some respects, it went by in the blink of an eye, and in other ways it feels like an eternity has passed since July 1st. Either way, I survived! This transition has been filled with the stuff that most transitions are made of. The job is the job. The people are people. And I am figuring out to be me in this new environment.

As a leader that means several things. What do you address? What do you only make note of? How long do you observe? Those are all hard questions, and the truth is there is not a correct answer to any of them. So much of leadership is situational. The choices that we make are made with the best information that is available to us at the time. And in that respect, there is no such thing as a bad decision. (Except when there is, lol.)

Bitmoji image of Ashley with a thinking emoji in a thought bubble.

Decisions, whether they involve high or low stakes, are never simple…even when they are seemingly easy to make. Everything is a decision, even the decision to do nothing. And every decision has a consequence whether positive or negative. I’ve waited to address things that should’ve been addressed sooner. I’ve also inserted just enough accountability to have an accurate pulse on how my department supports campuses. I’ve initiated conversations with campus principals that were long overdue, and I’ve spoken up before I should have. I’ve stepped up and provided support to my colleagues, shouldering burdens that they didn’t have the bandwidth to handle in the moment. And I’ve continually reached out for support and guidance along the way. And guess what that amounts to??

HUMANITY! That’s right. It makes me human. I am usually unapologetically Ashley in every situation. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m learning how to be me in this new environment. I’ve been slowly allowing myself to be completely me. But being completely me in an unfamiliar setting is not always easy. And that causes me to second guess myself at the most inopportune times. But my confidence in who I am and what I am capable of remains. My track record and my resume speak for themselves. I know who I am, and I know Who’s I am. And that is enough for me.

A Bitmoji of Ashley with the word "me" above her head.

I’ve learned and grown from each decision, and in the process I’ve been transparent with my village and my circle. These are the people that I trust to hold me accountable and push me to be better. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they give advice, and sometimes they probably want to throw things, lol. But this week, they’ll celebrate with me. Six months down, and I’m just getting started!

Side Note: I read a great article about the sum of our decisions, and I’ve share a link here. There’s not any scientific research behind it. It’s simply another way to view the choices that we make throughout our lives. Enjoy. (Article Link: Why There’s No Such Thing as a Wrong Decision)

I’ll be sharing my journey to imperfection, and the long process of releasing the weight of perfectionism and learning to honor my own humanity at the Celebrate Your Story Conference, hosted by Todd Nesloney. You can read more about it and register at this link: Celebrate Your Story Eventbrite

Mentoring Matters

As I begin my 3rd month in my new position, I am reminded of just how important mentoring is in the development of all people, especially those in leadership.

Today, as I write this, I’m on day 2 of a 3-day weekend. I’m thankful for the extra day to rest and also to reflect. I began this weekend with my mind consumed with thoughts about work. I have soooo much to do. It feels like I’ll never catch up sometimes. But I know that’s just a feeling. So as I sat on my couch, thoughts racing, I had a moment when I realized exactly what was missing. I hadn’t spoken to my mentor about the work things that occupy my thoughts the most. Don’t get me wrong; we’ve talked. We’ve shared lunch and caught up on all things new. But we hadn’t talked the way I really needed to talk. I’m so thankful for the authenticity of our relationship. Saturday morning I didn’t send her a fluff message, and I didn’t ask for coaching session. My text literally said “I need your advice on how to handle some things at work. When can you talk?” She graciously replied with, “Call me now.” It was honestly the best 45 minutes of my professional week.

I’ve written on this blog before about the necessity of self-awareness (linked here and here ). I’ve written about mentorship, too (linked here). I still believe self-awareness is a critical skill everyone should develop. And I also believe that there comes a time when self-awareness isn’t enough. The problem is simply this: when we see ourselves, it’s always through our own lens. As humans, try as we may, it’s extremely difficult to have an objective opinion of our own situation(s). That’s where having a good mentor (or a few) comes in. It was so valuable to see things from another perspective. It was also insightful to see where I could modify my own behaviors to possibly yield different results.

This post is not meant to be a comparison between self-awareness & mentorship. It’s a testament to both. Self-awareness keeps you reflective and in a position to change. Mentorship, when experienced correctly, gets you out of your echo chamber. It prods you to reflect even more than you could do on your own. The connection with others who can see our lives and our actions from a neutral, objective place is an invaluable component of our growth. From the careful insertion of a different view point to the subtle suggestion to handle something slightly differently than our instinct may have told us, mentorship has the power to change our trajectory for the better.

My mentoring village continues to grow and change as I grow and change. But one constant remains, the village. I encourage you to surround yourself with others who will continue to push you outside of your comfort zone, support you while you’re there, encourage you, and hold you accountable. And a special thanks goes to the ladies and gentlemen in my village. I am who I am because you are who you are. Thank you for selflessly pouring into me. I promise to continue to pay it forward…

First Days, Reflections and Some Other Third Thing

On paper, I’m almost two full months into my new position. In reality, it’s exactly 32 days. I’ve been running since my feet hit the ground. And though I know the value of reflection, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that written reflection has not been a priority over the last month or so. Moving into this position without the chance to take a break and catch my breath has been quite the whirlwind experience. I know that rest doesn’t change everything, but I’d still like the opportunity to test that theory out personally.

For the time being, I’m trying to focus as much as possible on spending my weekends resting. I’d give myself a solid B, maybe even a B+ for effort. There’s definitely room for improvement in that category. It’s difficult. I spend my weekdays learning the new system and navigating the new normal of a “post Covid” world. (I have that in quotation marks because I don’t personally believe that we are in the post stage yet, nor do I think any of this is normal, but that another post for another day.) Weekends should be for rest, but they are mostly for daydreaming & planning. I have so many thoughts & ideas racing through my head. Sometimes I have to grab my phone to try to capture them, and I still don’t get them all down. But I know that in due time, they will come back to me.

As usual, there have been many lessons in this new role that were not included in any textbook or scenario-based response from graduate school. I’ve had to draw on my experiences from my previous school district and reach out to my network of support. I expect that will continue over the duration of this transition, and I’m not overly concerned. I know that it is all a part of the process. Transitioning into a a new leadership role as an external hire is a unique experience that is quite different than transitioning as an internal hire. There are relationships to navigate, unspoken expectations, and the general awkwardness of the unknown. Even in the differences, it still somehow feels familiar. It’s very reminiscent of my experiences during the 2017-2018 school year. I survived then, and I’ll definitely survive now.

I know that I’m here for a reason, and I believe wholeheartedly that it will be a great experience. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks, as I venture into more direct campus support & I have an opportunity to begin to engage more with our teachers, staff, students & community members. There is also the added bonus of reconnecting with some old teaching buddies & reliving the good old days… back when we were so new we didn’t even realize what we didn’t know. I’m looking forward to the laughter, and I’m also looking forward to realizing just how much we’ve grown. I’ve already had the chance to reconnect with a few of my old students, and my heart is just about ready to burst every time I hear “Ms. May is that you?” floating through the air. There are so many amazing educators & students who helped shape me into the person that I am today. We may be spread out all over the Houston metro area, but I hope that I continue to make all of them proud.

I must admit, this felt good. I needed this time to openly reflect, and my faithful readers now know that I’m still alive and well, lol. I am going to hold myself accountable for pausing to do this more often. One of the hallmarks of my leadership style has always been transparency. If sharing my experiences can help just one other person, then it’s all wort it. If that’s you, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time….


Note to Self:

This image was found on The Teacher’s Devotional Blog in a post from Sept. 2016. I loved the image, but I loved the post & corresponding message even more. If you’re interested, take a moment and read this post for yourself. You won’t regret it!