It’s the time of year when teachers consider whether or not they will stay in a particular role, at a particular school, or even in the profession itself. A leader’s goal is to train up others to take on leadership roles, giving them the chance to spread their wings, or even leave the comfortable nest altogether. (A wise man said that in a training once…and it made a lot of sense.) Does the classroom aide who has worked to get their teaching licensure move out of that comfortable space belonging to others to their own classroom? Does the teacher ask for additional responsibility or growth opportunity? Does the administrator tiptoe into the university world or another industry altogether?
The last 13 months have presented such incredible challenges for us in education. We’ve been asked, teachers and administrators alike, to bend and flex like bamboo in a typhoon, pivot faster than Chandler on the stairs with Ross’s couch, reflect, redo, reimagine what education will look like in between quarantines, health checks, and demands for accountability. For some, all they hear are the complaints about what they’re doing or not doing, critiques from those not in education at all, suggestions that aren’t feasible or out of their comfort zone. And others have a role in which people come to them and they’re expected to simply listen, offer advice if asked, and just let the river of unkind, harsh, and critical words roll past with no attachment to any of them.
There has never been an industry in which I have worked where people come in and begin to criticize how things are done, processes, routines, resources, and personnel from the first moment of their arrival or so freely throughout their stay, whether it’s just moments for a tour or event, or in a specific position for a period of time, or even a complete outsider looking in from the outside. I would never dream of walking into someone’s place of business, something they created and refined, and begin telling them how their work should be done, their world organized, and how others should be doing their jobs. I would never assume that I am an expert and expect that an organization would begin to change on my demand to suit my expectations. Yet, this is the norm in education I guess.
Whether you believe that Myers-Briggs is accurate or just a load of BS, I find that much of it is accurate for me. I am an INFJ, and interestingly, I was an INFP up until I was provided the opportunity to take on more leadership type of roles, but there is a part of that P that still remains. I have always been sensitive to the feelings of others and find that I take their frustrations, hurt, sadness, criticisms, and complaints to heart, blaming myself for their unhappiness and need to point out things that they feel are wrong, make them uncomfortable, or that they don’t see a purpose in. I take words seriously, listening to feedback as though I’m expected to fix it to the satisfaction of the person giving it. I try to be someone who asks for little, takes on work so that it will simply get done, and often find that my efforts don’t matter, someone will find fault in it. Some days, I’m happiest in the background, working on projects that bring me joy, going it alone and being ok with that.
The last 13 months have made me unsure of so many things…everything from my purpose, my expertise, my work, and whether I’m even taken seriously professionally or personally. I wonder during this time of year especially whether or not someone else is better suited for the role listed on my door, the roles I have in my personal life, or that I’m simply not the right person for any of it and don’t fit anywhere.
Gifted kids and adults seem to have these periods of uncertainty now and again. I’m sure neurotypical people do as well, however I think the gifted are constantly trying to see where our peg fits into the world since for us, the holes and expectations keep changing–both those of the world and our own. Are we to morph into a square today? An octagon? Which version of ourselves is needed for this work, this group, this role? We hope that one day, we’ll figure it out and whatever it is will allow us to simply be happy in our choice, without all the constant uncertainty and doubt, settling in to a role that fits and that morphs with us as we change, rather than holding fast to its initial form.
I took my dog to the park after school the other day and the wind was just right for kite flying. I watched a father and his little girls moving across the open grass, trying to keep the kites steady as the wind shifted and changed in intensity. One of the two kites pulled itself free from little hands to go off on its own, eventually snagging in a tree a block or so away, yet remaining in the air, the tree holding fast to the string just enough to keep the kite up. Through tears, the owner of the lost kite stared at it and asked why it stayed up even though she wasn’t holding it anymore, while watching her sister’s fly higher and higher against the strength of her father’s grip.
This is what the last 13 months has been like. Moments of flight, despite the changes in direction and intensity, and moments being stuck in a tree, waiting for the wind to change to see what happens next and never feeling sure of anything.