Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Doors

So much has been on my mind for so long,
so with apologies in advance, this will be long.
This story, however, is not really for the current readers of this blog,
although I know a number of you
will read with interest, because you love me :).
This post is really for my daughters at some point in the future.
Thank you, digital footprint, for preserving this story for them.

There is something to be said about loving what you do. If I were to create a job description that had everything that I could possibly want in it, the job description would be that of "Mentor Leader," which is what I have been for four out of the six years I have taught in our cohort program.

A Mentor Leader is a professor within the College of Education responsible for leading a cohort of students, typically women (but not always) through the last two years of college. We start a group of students at the beginning of their junior year and teach them their last four semesters, plus arrange field placements and supervise them in elementary classrooms - really getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. As a Mentor Leader, I teach the courses that I feel are most important in my students' development in thinking about teaching, so I am able to scaffold their learning and help guide them into becoming developmentally appropriate teachers who can think for themselves, and think critically about what they do and why. In many ways, I also become their professional parent. They lean on me not only for professional support, but I frequently get to be the shoulder they lean on for personal matters.

I love the relationships that form in the cohort program. I've had more job satisfaction in this job than I have ever had before, mainly because I get to be a part of the development not only of individuals into teachers, but also their development into a living, breathing supportive group who are so very special to me. The women I've taught I've invested my soul into, and I am so proud of the teachers they have become. My sense of purpose has been sky high.

About a year ago, I found out I would not be a "Mentor Leader" to the group of students who started last Fall. After I got over the shock, and fully digested the reasons, which I couldn't argue with (the best way to learn the program is to be a Mentor Leader, and we had someone who needed to learn the program - I was the obvious choice to handle some other issues that had been percolating), I thought to myself, "Hmm. I wonder if it is time to start pushing on some doors."

I've long said that paying attention to the signs around you is a way of knowing what God is saying. It's up to us to look and listen. And then push on doors that He seems to be pointing to... if they open, walk through. If they are hard to open, quit pushing. You're not supposed to go that way. Pay attention. Trust your gut. And either walk through or stop, based on the answer that you get, without regret or thinking, "what if?"

The door pushing thought emerged primarily because of timing. I've often thought I would not be able to leave a cohort I was leading midway through the two year period. The change in my job description caused me to examine other factors not related to work. First and foremost, I couldn't miss the fact that both of my girls would be transitioning schools at the end of this academic year, which is when the midway point of a cohort I would have led would have been. Sign number one.

This fall was one of the hardest I've experienced in this job. While I enjoyed my new responsibilities and the new courses I was teaching, the job change actually took me away from my children several nights a week, and we suffered as a family. I alluded to that here and here, and maybe some other places. Additionally, I became more and more frustrated with my children's school experiences. They were not getting what I wanted them to get at school. I also watched and listened to my children express frustrations with their father. Their relationship seemed to be suffering. I started looking ahead at what the next few years would look like and I realized that their visitation schedule would be severely limited due to extracurriculars, dating, parties, etc. All seemed like signs I needed to pay attention to.

So, I started trying to push on different doors. One door I explored, and I've long played with, is the idea of leaving the college level and going into school administration. I started the coursework for it as part of my doctorate, and I hated it. I honestly felt the soul being sucked out of my body during those classes. So, I stopped - it's one of the few times I've backed out of something I started. Still, I continued to entertain the idea at various points. Most recently, I've talked with people I work with about doing the coursework here, and even applied for admission - only to hit some major road blocks. I took the test for certification on the state level and passed, but didn't go through with the paperwork for no particular reason other than I just never got around to it. Last fall, when I started pushing on doors, I went and inquired about it... only to find out that I had inquired a day after the rules had changed and I was no longer eligible to go that particular route. Um... hello. Quit pushing on that door.

In the meantime, I started paying attention to job postings near Atlanta. Two popped up, and I explored the websites of the institutions. One of the jobs had popped up last year, and I eyed it then, but determined in my heart that it wasn't time, so I didn't bother to apply. The other job is one I've just waited to open up.

I pushed on the door and applied to both. But only to those two.

What did I find out?

I'm marketable. I got interviews at both institutions. Wow.

I interviewed at one in mid February, and I knocked the interview out of the park. Research presentation - stellar. Teaching demonstration - incredible. It was one of those times where you just know how well you did not only intuitively, but also in how the conversation shifted as part of the interview.

I also had some concerns that emerged during the interview. I wondered, out loud, during the interview (geez - that was rather gutsy of me, now that I think about it): Would I be able to build the relationships there that I have been able to build here? Would I be happy with the volume of students who come through? What about field supervision? Most professors don't do it - how could I frame my teaching without that? How did they justify changes made to courses if they weren't in the field knowing what worked and what didn't? If they weren't really in touch with trends in the schools? Further, could I supervise students if I wanted to? I challenged the professors I talked to, and honestly enjoyed the interactions and the conversations.

I left there knowing I had a decision to make. So I started processing what it would look like to take that job. What would it mean for my family? What would life look like there? Could I be happy, given my reservations? Am I done here?

So, what have I thought through?
  • I've spent the past six years healing. I'll likely always be healing, but I feel more whole now than I ever have.
  • My children and I have grown together. We are a family - a whole, unbroken family.
  • While we may be a whole family, the relationship between my girls and their father has suffered. I don't want that for them.
  • I've long been unhappy with the school situation my kids experience - It seems at many school functions we've been to that the most recurring thought that has emerged is that they are mired in mediocrity, with a few bright exceptions to the rule. Meetings, ceremonies, etc - all have felt like going through the motions and have been quite painful for me as a career educator. I've looked for a number of alternate solutions, including home schooling.
  • I love my job. Love my job. Let me say it again. I love my job. How many people can honestly say that? I love my job. Redundant? I don't think so. I love my job.
  • There's more to a whole life than a job.
  • Target. I've missed Target. [kidding, a little... but shopping opportunities are plentiful where this job is]
Clearly, I've prayed. Thought. Digested. Driven around with no radio on so I could think. Listened. And in the end, I've felt a peace about my decision - everything about it feels right, and I have complete faith and trust that things will work out as they should. I've imagined life continuing here as it is now, and there as it would be.

When the call came, I accepted the job offer without reservation.

A bittersweet decision, because I obviously love my job. I do not leave this job easily, and that is by far the hardest thing with which to come to terms. The new job, however, is 20 miles away from the girls' dad, rather than the two hours away we are now, and he will have the opportunity to be more involved in their lives if he so chooses. If he chooses not to, then the fault lies with him and not with me. I have a sense that the girls will get what they need at school, and that it will also be easier for me to advocate for them. I also have a sense that it may take awhile for me to be as satisfied professionally, but that there is abundant opportunity for me to shape the job in the way that I need it to be shaped based on my family's needs. It's a matter of being patient, strategic, and thoughtful - skills I've certainly honed here.

The whole picture makes sense to me - there seems to be a balance that has been missing. So it is with complete faith that I'm walking through this door. No regrets. No what ifs. And faith that the logistical things, such as selling my house, will work out as they are supposed to.

There is much to do between now and then, particularly at work, where I have my fingers in a number of projects. I am committed to not leaving my job until I leave my job, so I anticipate the next few months at work being very full. There's a reason I have a good reputation on campus, and I can't even begin to imagine doing anything to change that at this point. That is a very good thing.

My girls are excited about the move, although nervous, too. The unknown is scary. I hope and pray, though, that this opportunity will help them further grasp what courage, possibility, and hope look like. That they learn how to test doors, look and listen to what God is telling them, but more importantly - they learn that it's ok to imagine life differently, and if it's the right thing, then make it happen, rather than letting life happen to them.


  1. Wow - you have clearly spent years preparing for this change and it sounds like the right one for you and your family. I will pray for a quick sale of your house and smooth transitions for you and the girls.

  2. Best of luck in your new position. Change is hard, but you seem to have together.You and your family will be in my thoughts. In EPi sister. :)

  3. Dude! So are you moving closer to me, or what?!


  4. I am soooo proud of you!! LiEP! Lynn

  5. I am sorry that Georgia College is losing you and sorry for myself that you are leaving, but it sounds like a great opportunity for you and the girls, and if you are happy, that makes me happy.