If you haven’t been following along, we have packed up our lil family and moved to Macao to become part of The International School of Macao (TIS) family. TIS is an Alberta accredited international school that offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program for the grade 11 and 12 students. Students have the option to receive the AB High School Diploma, the IB certificate or a blend of both. After spending the first 10 years of my career using the AB curriculum and the past 4 in the IB world, I’m absolutely loving this blend. All levels of students can find a pathway that works for them!! Holistic education for each student!
Now I’m not here to sell you on the new school (although you can tell I’m pretty excited), this post is about realigning your goals as a professional. “Kicking Off a New Chapter” is an appropriate title because after a year of reflection I wanted to share the process I used to change the direction I thought I wanted my career to go.
I remember the day I decided that I wanted to strive to become a school administrator. I was sitting with my at-the-time VP Bob Plowman (now he is just a legend) in his office talking about my professional growth plan at the beginning of my third year of teaching. The comment “have you thought about going into admin” came up and borrowed it’s way deep into the back of my mind and stayed there. From that moment on, I was doing all the things to take steps towards becoming an administrator; extra PD courses, taking on extra roles at the school, running community programs, taking on first year teachers as a mentor, developing school programs, etc.
Does that sound familiar to anyone?
The Moment of Realization/Wake Up Call
Let’s fast forward about 10 years. I’m sitting in a temporary pastoral role taking on lower level administration responsibilities at an international school. This is a .5 position with the other .6 (yes, I did that on purpose) teaching.
This position was temp from the beginning because “in three years we may not have the funding for this position”, so I made a point to develop this into a position that the school would recognize it needed. Address and support student needs, question traditional institutional thinking and develop programs that would set the school apart from the other international schools in the region. My goal was to make this position crucial to the school and that would be my step into full time administration. Policies, supports and institutional pieces were developed to make the role a critical piece of offering a supportive and holistic high school experience for the students. Yes, I worked my ass off (and a few others did as well) to make this happen.
One day the announcement came that the temp positions were not being renewed and a position called “Dean of Students” was being offered as a full time administrative position. It finally paid off and it was happening!
I won’t go into specifics and the hoop hopping process but after the process I was told “it came down to the score card” and the position was offered to another candidate and she has done an amazing job with it! If you are not clear with boxing rules, when a fight “comes down to the score card” there is no clear winner of the fight and it comes to the judges scores by round. The feedback I received to grow was very superficial and didn’t identify any clear area to develop. Someone once mentioned to me that the decision was a political, and I can’t find reasons why they were wrong.
This was that moment of realization that caused me to critically look at where I was navigating my career. Is this what school leadership means? Playing politics or are they there for the pursuit of excellence (students, staff, community)? If you have been following me for a while you know that my focus is on excellence for all. Something just didn’t fit well with me…
New Direction and Steps to Get There
I would be lying if I said I just decided to stop pursuing my career goal and changed my projection over my morning coffee. I’ve been spending most of my career navigating to this goal and now my beliefs were conflicting with my values. There were a few steps I had to work through…
Step 1: Get Mad
It’s okay to get frustrated. It is a very human emotion we are all entitled to experience. I wasn’t mad that I didn’t get the position, I was mad that my values and beliefs were causing some friction with my career path. Should I sit down and reevaluate my values? Obviously there is a lot of emotion that goes into this profession and it was not easy to acknowledge this.
The way I saw it was I had two options, I could stay mad and become “that guy” or I could pick myself up and “crack on”.
Step 2: Pick Up and Dust Yourself Off
You guessed it, I managed to pick myself up and began to move forward. It sounds easy to do, but it wasn’t. Most people can struggle with accepting a difficult decision and taking steps towards a different direction. You have to let go of a lot of things (like previous goals and dreams) and find yourself in a place where you can begin to navigate a new direction.
One question I continually asked myself is “Is this what you want? Do you see yourself happy here?”. Answering that can be difficult and may take some time. Picking yourself up depends on how you answer those questions. If you are not happy with the responses, you are not ready to pick yourself up and navigate a new path.
Step 3: Navigate Your Plan
When I managed to pick myself up I just didn’t wander aimlessly. You need to stand there for a moment and ask yourself this:
“Where am I going?”
“Now how do I get there?”
Caution: YOU NEED TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS IN THAT ORDER. (No, I am not yelling at you. There is no exclamation mark. Just capitals to make sure you know it’s really important).
Life and careers are kind of like Google Maps. You need to put in a destination before you can start getting directions from the program. Your destination can be as large as a concept or big idea (like leadership, consultant, rodeo clown) or as specific as you like (working at a particular school or location, working with a person). It’s like searching only for the city or country in google maps. You get general instructions on how to get there. The more specific your destination, the more specific your directions are going to be.
Step 4: Before You Leave, Burn Boats and Not Bridges
Ryan Fahey, if you are reading this yes I am pulling this idea out of your book “Your Best Decade“. It is absolutely brilliant! If you haven’t read his book, I highly recommend it!!
In life, you have the option to burn or build bridges and boats. Often we use bridges on a consistent bases, and usually they are named after someone who has left an impact. Bridges are your enduring relationships, connections and legacies that you leave behind after you have moved on. When a bridge is burned, it has potential consequences that could impact long term goals before you could realize it. They can be repaired with some work, but maintaining these bridges is ideal. Who knows, you or someone you know may need to travel that bridge.
On the other hand, you can burn boats. Boats are jobs and roles that we use to move towards our final destination. The good thing about boats is that they are made everyday. We can always find a new job. Sometimes we are comfortable where we are at and stay on that boat. Other times, they are life boats and we keep them around as a back up. There will be a time when you need to start a fire ok that boat so you can move forward and grow, get out of that comfort zone and reach forward toward your goal.
We were very comfortable in Dubai. It was an easy place to live and work but it was time to move on and take the next steps towards our goal. Burning that boat and deciding we are leaving was not an easy decision but it had to be done. Progress and growth cannot happen inside your comfort zone.
So, What Now?
Now I know what you are thinking, this post wasn’t really about Physical Education, Athletics or Wellness which has been the focus of my previous posts and a lot of the work o have done in the past. But that is just part of my new direction! To wrap up this post I will share what this new direction is.
Education is much more than becoming a leader and bringing change to support student learning in the hopes of fostering excellence. It is about be pursuit of your version of excellence. This version is different for everyone and we may struggle to find ways to get there. This brings me to my new direction, taking on developing excellence in students, staff and programs through a much difference channel.
What will this look like? You might need to wait for my next blog post to find that out!