Like many people, I checked in on Nik Wallenda in his walk across the Grand Canyon. Twitter was full of tweets as he made his crossing. I watched a few minutes. As I watched, I wondered how many people have had to do their own walk across a canyon with no net or supports?
My Own Crossing
The past 22 years, I’ve spent in education in some way – a classroom teacher for 10 years followed by 12 years as a in-school administrator. I’ve worked in 11 different schools – twice been an administrator for 2 campuses at one time. In 5 days, this will end. I will no longer be involved in public education as I have been for the past 22 years.
The thing is, I’m not moving on to another job. In fact, over the past few months, I have attended a number of interviews, attempting to move into a central office position or into something related to education. I’ve been unsuccessful. The “common sense” thing would be to have just continued on. Really, in this economy, why would I do such a thing? With 8 kids none the less?
So why did I do make the decision to move on without a safety net?
Well, it almost sounds like it came to me in a dream – my gut said it was time! Now, just so we’re clear, I have 8 children, 2 in university and 1 living in France. This move is, by all accounts, as crazy as walking across the Grand Canyon. To some, it might even be crazier. My wife, a teacher also, has a temporary contract until February. That’s as far ahead as we look.
No safety lines.
The only reason is because I believe that I have a more to offer than what I am currently doing. We are in for some intense changes in education and believe my strengths and abilities can be better used in another capacity. To continue down the current path would ignore that path less traveled, would not allow for even greater changes. I could no longer follow the current path.
Educators as Entrepreneurs
I spent a great deal of time in my early twenties building a company – working to create a customer base, focusing on high quality service with a high quality product. It was a painting company and I began working for someone else, making someone else money. Eventually I struck out with a partner with nothing more than the desire to be successful. We expanded, eventually employing 22 other students. However, we realized at that time, having more people working for us didn’t mean we were making any more money. In fact, the profit factor doing that type of work was very small. So, my partner and I changed tactics, began to focus on higher end jobs, moving from fences and outside siding to repainting interiors to new construction. During this time, our focus was on quality not quantity – we grew a customer base that soon expanded to a point where advertising was unnecessary. We hired a few key people who were eager to learn, willing to work and whom we rewarded for this. Through all this, my “gut” has been more right than wrong when it came to hiring people and making decisions.
And then I moved on – became a teacher and then an administrator. Over time, I became someone who was able to move things along – a change agent if you will. This was especially true in my current situation where we combined two schools into a brand new K – 12 school in a new school building, building a new culture, creating a new vision/mission and focusing on “Doing what is best for students”. As a change agent in this type of situation, I realized that there was a limited time-frame for progress and that I would need to move on at some point, allowing someone else to move the school community along. It’s the nature of the situation.
Crossing the Canyon
So now I face crossing the canyon – setting out without a safety net – with nothing more than the belief that there needs to be changes, to “Do what is best for students” and parents and teachers in order for education to be more than what it is currently. I’m guided by my “gut” much the same way I was guided 20-odd years ago. This time, there is a lot more at stake – 9 people that are depending on me for all sorts of things.
The easy thing would have been to continue to do what I was doing. But, if you’ve ever watched the movie “For the Love of the Game”, you’ll understand – “Do or Do Not. There is no Try” – Yoda, you’ll know that that really wasn’t an option.
That Canyon Sure is Big
Like all things that look impossible/daunting, they are if you try to do them all at once. I do have a plan – sorta. However, I’m going to take part of the summer to refocus my energies – bring them back to my passions – technology and learning, PD for teachers and bringing together the two for a better learning opportunity for teachers, students and parents. Then, one step at a time, I’ll venture out. There won’t be a webcam to capture every step but I do hope to begin developing my Ed Administrators 2.0 Ning to greater degree, expanding my blog and writing and connecting with others. My current position has required a great deal of energy and, really, it’s taken me away from those things that provided me with energy, stirred my creativity and touched my heart and soul. I will cross that canyon – the difference here is I’m not sure what the other side of the canyon looks like – and that, for what it’s worth, is just as exciting as crossing the canyon!