after the bell
I loved my job. Like, really loved it. I was a teacher for 23 years. Over 1100 children. Near the end I was beginning to teach the children of my children. Teaching is hard and holy work. The responsibility is great. So are the frustrations and the rewards.
It was easy, in my heart anyway, for the longest time. And then one day it wasn't.
I could hardly walk down the hall at the end of each day because my hips and legs were almost crippled from standing, crawling, bending and lifting. During the weekdays I worked and on the weekends and holidays I'd leave one 17 year old son at home to drive my other 15 year old son, who was on an elite provincialn ski team, to training and events hours away. My husband ran his own business, working long hours. Small business calls for duty from everyone in the family!
I was in the trenches, one foot in front of the other.
At the same time my passion for being in the classroom was starting to dull. II was beginning to tire but at the same time I wanted to lead. But I didn't want to be an administrator, and my location (living in rural Alberta) didn't give me the opportunity of expanding myself in the traditional ways in education. The only way to describe what I was feeling was,uncomfortable. Itchy ~ a curious, wanting, wishing, desire, icky kinda feeling ~ My heart called to do something more.
I didn't get it then, but I was in the thick of change. Wanting it, needing, it. And it was calling me, bad. Dissatisfaction weighed heavy on everything. The joy in my life. My job satisfaction. And I wan't going down that way. It wasn't who I wanted to be. In my work, my home, my life.
Enter professional coaching.
I wanted to help and teach and lead in a different way. My way.
I'm not the only one who's ever felt the feelings I just talked about. In schools everywhere teachers go through the roller coaster of phases each year ~ anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, reflection, anticipation ~ do it again. The years just keep going.
Somewhere, we start running for our lives. Spending more time in the survival, disillusionment phases. And in this serving profession of education, where we've got children on our watch, we keep putting everyone else first. Not paying attention to our own human needs. Leading to burnout, exhaustion, impatience, resentment.
It's hard and holy work. Educators are leaders. Leaders who care. And to be a daring leader, they need to care for themselves the way that they care for the students and staff around them. We need to (re)imagine, (re)invent, and (re)connect with who we are and what lights our fire in this profession. We need to love those children who come to us but also love ourselves, because if we don't, we don't do them justice.
Coaching put me in a position where I could dare to lead the way with this. Here was a space where I could spend time loving my teachers': attending to their fears and feelings so that they could move back into being effective, productive and happy. I could make them know that they matter too. This is what change was demanding of me.
Happiness requires us to be human. Human with real emotions, real vulnerabilities, real hurts, real joys, real lives. We need to be brave and bold and willing to take that on.
No expectations, just show up and be real.
That's never easy. It just is. We just get better at it.
But we don't have to do it alone. In fact, having a connective community, especially a female one, is so powerful. I was surrounded by women every day. I led women through change. I know the power and love that we bring to each other. As we lean into each other, we find belonging. We can't help but be our creative, brave, brilliant, glorious selves. The way we were designed to be from the very beginning.
This is our guide. The way we live life. Not the frantic buzzkill that exhausts us every day. But a beautiful, full life. The one we just have to reach out and choose. Together, not alone.