I began thinking about writing this reflection, and something happened.
I got busy.
Rather, I stayed busy.
This is not a realization that is alien to any educator, as evidenced by this common refrain among teachers:
Educator 1: "Hey- how are things?"
Educator 2: "Ah, you know, super busy."
Educator 1: "Totally get it. I was at the school until late again last night."
Educator 2: "Yep. And I've got so much grading to do AND my extra curricular is this weekend."
It is safe to say that our reasons for business are vast and varied- from grading to extra-curriculars to a desire to continue to grow, and do all that we can for students.
For me, education is a calling. But callings are dangerous things. They can consume you, they can become your life. Before teaching, I was a minister- another calling. And as in teaching, ministry consumed my life. You can set boundaries, you can set aside time, take breaks- but with callings, the job gets in your heart. You think about it when you are off- so you are never off.
It is a cliche to say we do what we do for the kids. Too often, that phrase gets used to justify having to do something we do not want to do (or guilt another teacher into doing something they don't want to do). But the truth is, I teach because I want to make a difference. And I am pursuing administration to make a bigger difference than that which I can in my classroom.
Here is where my calling and my ambitions clash. See, I take on more and more responsibility because I want to make a difference in as many lives as I can, and because those responsibilities will help to develop my leadership and prepare me for administration.
But what has happened is that I keep taking on more and more- and still have not been able to move into that position.
So I find myself in my most feared position- stuck. I fear I cannot let some responsibilities go because then people will say I cannot handle my workload and use that as a reason for passing me by- and I also do not want to let students that have come to count on me down. So, to answer the reflection, what I find myself in is a spiral of perpetual work with no movement.
I am frustrated, and I am not alone.
I know there are others who have done great work in both quantity and quality that watch as other people get a shot and they get more workload. And if they are like me, they take that rejection (often accompanied by the really offensive "Just keep doing what you are doing, it will happen") as evidence they need to do more.
For me, I am coming to a realization that I cannot be the educator and leader I need to be for my students if I have an empty tank. And I cannot be the husband and father I need to be, either. That means a long hard look at committees and groups I serve in that are not serving me or my students as they should. It means taking the risk of stepping down from things that look good on a resume, but are taking fuel from my calling to make a difference. Time spent in a committee meeting that moves no significant change could be better spent reflecting on my practice and instruction- or developing ways to better connect with students. I will be taking time to reflect on the student groups, teams, and organizations as well as committees I serve on to see what is truly having an impact on students- and which ones I can move on from.
A long time ago, a fellow educator told me to learn to say "no." It is time I learned that lesson.