…or, ‘And Nothing of Value was Lost’.
Several months ago, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in over ten years prior: take a conscious, long-term break from regular (i.e., monthly) blogging.
It didn’t start that way, of course (nothing ever does, does it?). I’ve been blogging in this space regularly since August 2007. The span from August 2007 to December 2018 is a little over 11 years. Thinking of it in other terms, that’s over half my career and nearly a quarter of my life. Clearly I must have found value in the practice to have stuck with it for so long, but at this time last year, I guess I was just, for lack of a better term… done. January 2019 came and went without feeling the urge to put pen to paper, then February… I think by March I was pretty sure I needed to give myself permission to just shut it all down for a while, rather than beat myself up over yet another month gone by without me writing anything public.
It’s interesting how these habits we develop can turn into feeling like obligations. That’s not always a bad thing: it’s how my exercise habit has stayed as consistent as it has over the course of my entire adult life. It’s how I managed to complete two graduate programs on time (and on budget!). And, until recently, it’s what’s kept me reflecting in this semi-public place about my practice.
So what happened?
Aside from the usual “life gets in the way” stuff, I think, for me, as I’ve moved up the administrative hierarchy, I’ve felt more and more vulnerable about putting my reflections out there. Please believe, reflection is still a major part of my practice – I do it often, by myself and with colleagues (and I work with the greatest team of folks who not only push my own reflection, but encourage me to push theirs as well). But I guess that as a classroom teacher and school psychologist, I just felt less put out there writing about what went well and what didn’t go as planned in my classroom or my practice. Over the last few years as a K-12 department supervisor and now as an assistant principal, I have struggled with the public reflection piece more than I did in other positions.
As I draft this and push myself to think about why that might be, I am thinking that when I was a teacher, it was about what I was doing in my classroom. Regardless of how objectively true it was or wasn’t, my perception was that I was writing about me, myself, and I. The further away I have gotten from my own classroom, the more stakeholders – students, teachers, administrators, parents, board members – are involved in my practice. Perhaps I fear my personal reflections, considerations, and questions being twisted, taken out of context, or otherwise impacting my colleagues in ways I didn’t consider likely (or just didn’t consider at all) years ago.
Perhaps these concerns are not well-founded; I’m certainly open to that possibility. Perhaps I just need to find a better way to write about what I might want to write about in ways that won’t have implications for confidentiality or propriety. Perhaps my perspective has shifted with age (I started blogging at 30; I’m 42 as I write this). Perhaps I just need to get over myself.
Miscellaneous Observations from 2019
- People still read this blog. I get hits daily for a variety of posts but the most visited post of 2019 (and overall) is this one from 2012 in which I describe my transition from high school English teacher to school psychologist. The really cool part is that people still leave comments asking me for advice as they face similar decisions and transitions – the most recent one came in August of this year!
- Control is an illusion. As a general principle, I’ve come to accept in my adult life and often advise others of it, but this truism punched me square in the nose this year in a way it hasn’t in a very long time. I generally believe it’s better to be proactive than reactive, but in some cases, reactive is all you can be.
- Relationships still matter. Content knowledge matters. Theory matters. It all matters, and if someone tells you otherwise, make sure they’re not trying to sell you something. Still, the relationships we develop with students, colleagues, and families facilitate all the other stuff to a large degree; at least, that has been my experience over the last two decades in this profession, and I have experienced how both the existence and absence of strong (or at least burgeoning) relationships can impact our work.
- ‘Lifelong learning’ doesn’t have to be just a buzzphrase. I continue to read voraciously (most, but not all, books about my profession and/or books I think will help me improve my practice), and I put many miles on my library card this year, as well as got the most out of my Audible account. I set a goal of reading 30 books in 2019, and while I managed to double that, I think a more modest goal is appropriate for 2020, as both professional and personal obligations after work hours have increased significantly over previous years. Check out the 60 books I read in 2019 here!