My Favorite 4 Letter Word
FATE…I will admit I am a big believer in fate. Ever since I can remember I have believed that things happen for a reason. Call me a believer, a dreamer or one who believes in destiny, either way I prefer to focus on the positives which come from experiencing events in our lives that are beyond our control and in some cases maybe things which we can control. I am not talking about the supernatural types of events, rather the types of general happenings that occur on a regular basis, but for whatever reason we either miss them or fail to appreciate them. As I look back on my professional career, I recognize how blessed I am to have benefitted in so many ways from this four letter word. After all, how is it possble that so many people could have come into my life and influenced me in a variety of ways and inspired me to want to be more like them. That’s right, I believe that people were brought into my life, whether recently or years ago, to help me along my journey to becoming a better person and a better school leader. I don’t know about you, but most of my leadership style has been derived from people who I admired and wanted to emulate. The one thing they all had in common was a genuine quality that focused on putting others first. In fact, for every positive relationship that has come across my way throughout my personal or professional career, it took only a matter of minutes for me to know that these were people who I wanted to surround myself with and for that I am genuinely grateful.
Last summer I was introduced to a gentleman who would serve in the role of leadership coach for myself and our other district principals. I cannot say for sure, but I am guessing that some of our team, including myself, were not initially thrilled about spending three more days in training, especially since our summer had already been packed with other trainings. Yet, within minutes of kicking things off, something seemed different. Jim, as we would come to know him, had a calming demeanor about him that when we were introduced to him, immediately made us feel comfortable. When he spoke you couldn’t help but listen. He spoke with a genuine passion and with words that you could tell had experienced years of investing in others. More importantly, when we spoke he listened. By day’s end I found myself wanting our interactions from the day to continue and could hardly wait for the next day to arrive so we could pick up where we had left off the day before. By the time the last day rolled around, it was clear that this group of administrators who had come together on day one, were now ready to depart on day three not as a group, but committed to come together and work as a team. Some people just have that special quality about them. He was one of them.
Over the next few months, Jim would push my thinking and challenge me to go to a higher level, not only as a school leader, but as a person. After twenty-two years as a school administrator, what I took from our conversations was that I still had a lot to learn about not only being a school leader, but a leader in general. What made Jim a remarkable leadership coach was that he made it personal. Every face to face meeting began with him sharing a personal reflection that he had thought about since our last meeting and then relating it to both his work and my work with others, be it students, staff or district leaders and how it could help us be better for others. During one of our conversations I had shared with him a dilemma I was dealing with at work and how I had tried to work through it only to find more challenges along the way. I still remember his response, “There is more than one way to get to LA” (Here is the irony – as I write this blog post I am on a flight to Los Angeles to the Rose Bowl via Chicago to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to L.A. And as fate would have it, I am surrounded by Hawkeye fans! How awesome is that? Definitely more than one way to get to L.A.).
A couple of weeks ago Jim informed us that he was returning to his former district to resume his position as HR Director on an interim basis. He felt a need to return after receiving a call from the Superintendent asking him for his help. I guess he knew what we all knew from the very first day we met him; that if you put your trust in FATE, sometimes great things happen and more importantly, great people come into our lives and influence us in a way that helps us along our journey and allows us to help others. However, who we allow into our world and who we decide to keep close is the part of fate we do get to control.
Jim reminded me again that if we allow it…FATE blesses us all. I miss him already, but it has not changed my mind about believing that things happen for a reason. I am still a believer…. a dreamer.
I know our paths will cross again. FATE will make sure of this.
Note: This post is dedicated to the countless educators, friends, colleagues, co-workers, staff and & remarkable PLN for inspiring me to want to be better….for me, for you, for others, and most importantly, for our students.