Last Wednesday at the FCPS Honors event I was awarded the 2021 Fairfax County Public Schools Outstanding School Based Professional of the Year. This recognition makes me emotional for a variety of reasons beyond being recognized for my work, and I want to be vulnerable and share a bit about what this award recognizes and symbolizes for me:
- Almost 2 years ago I took what FCPS calls a “voluntary demotion” and came back to work in a HS because I wanted joy and balance in my life and for me that means working with kids and teachers and families directly. It also meant living close to work and not spending hours daily in aggravating traffic. Knowing myself and my wants and needs took me a minute… and I have spent nearly all of my 40 years ignoring those wants and needs. it’s a great thing to learn and I’m glad I’m here for myself now! (They really do call it a voluntary demotion.. in writing and in conversation).
- I have found more balance and created boundaries around work – I work hard, but no longer does it consume me 24 hours a day. Beyond time boundaries, I have created emotional boundaries as well. My worth isn’t dependent on the amount/quality of work that I do. This is something I believed would make me bad/not good enough/not respected and that I would let others down. And yet I was STILL recognized for my work – just like I was when I worked myself into the ground. The work I do has impact…and at the same time that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve time for my own happiness was a lesson I learned.
- I am finding my voice – it’s my responsibility to speak up and contribute. Especially to question when something isn’t serving all of our stakeholders. It still makes me feel uncomfortable. I worry a lot that I’m being difficult or not a team player, but I recognize the privilege I have to be at these tables and in the conversation. I’m there because my voice is valued and necessary.
- I have been a perfectionist for so long I don’t even know how to not strive for perfect… but in learning all these lessons, I am also realizing and learning that done is better than perfect, that showing my flaws doesn’t make me weak but makes me human and that I deserve to be my whole human self in all situations and not play a role or hide parts of myself depending on the situation.
- About 4 or 5 years ago a colleague said something deeply hurtful to me – he told me that I was ruining this job for everyone else in our community because I was so extra, because I was doing more than others. He was not joking. This job is something I love and something I believe in so deeply that this colleague’s comment cut me to my core. This community of SBTS are an incredible group and it pained me to think that I was hurting this community by being me. I didn’t talk about it to many people but I held onto it in my heart. I questioned so much of what I am and was doing. It was really something that led me to some clarity and contributed to my growth these past few years. I’ve had it echoing in my head… and now I know that the reasons I do (and love) the work I do are right and true. I do this work, love this work and this community of coaches because it is best for students and teachers, because I’m making an impact. I won’t say something trite like I’m glad he said this to me because I’m not and it was so very hurtful. But looking back I did examine my own work and grow because of it. I found a clear set of priorities and focus. I found what I wanted and needed and what brings me joy in my work and set about making sure that I have that daily!
The last two years have brought me tremendous growth and I’m so grateful to be recognized for my impact that I’ve had along this journey.
The fact that I’m recognized WHEN I have made these changes, these changes that for many years I believed were the opposite of being a good educator and a good teammate and a good person is such a great reminder and reassurance that this is the right way to work and live.
We need to talk about THIS kind of growth more regularly. We need to talk about boundaries and voice and our own needs with other educators. That these have been taboo topics for a long time is a problem that keeps educators in a place without boundaries, where their own needs are ignored.
I also want to point out that not only were three of the six division finalists in this category #fcpsSBTS but so were 47 of the nominees!! This speaks VOLUMES to the instructional impact that SBTS have had through the pandemic (and before and after!) I’m so grateful to be a part of this incredible community of educators! I learn EVERY SINGLE DAY with other School Based Technology Specialists (SBTS).