Pressing Pause on the Principalship
Is there ever a good time to leave a school? Is it ever convenient? If I do, what will people think about me? How will my time be captured? What will people remember?
I recently decided to press pause on the principalship. A cacophony of emotions filled the decision. Relief, sadness, frustration, anxiety, anticipation, excitement were plentiful. I knew that the volume of these emotions would increase as we moved closer to the announcement. This is what I want people to hear about my decision.
Pressing Pause: The 5:1 Plan
From the beginning of my professional career, I have been fortunate enough to take time to think and reflect at key transition points in my development. My first year of personal development occurred as I transitioned out of the private sector into the public sector. While it was not 5 years, working for a demanding client 80 hours a week certainly took its toll. Transitioning into volunteer experience gave me the space to reevaluate my life, my goals, and assess where and how I wanted to add value. As a recent college graduate, I was still searching for happiness and satisfaction in my work. And while I drank the Kool-aid about the satisfaction and happiness that would come from a salary, I quickly learned that other career virtues were important and needed as much of my attention as my bank account. Transitioning out of this role offered the space and time to identify these virtues and create a plan for their development. Did I know what I was doing at the time? No. I just knew that I needed another experience to accelerate my learning.
When I took this time to think, I realized my power and my ability to activate change. I recharged and plugged in to my inner power source, a nuclear core that pulsed rhythmically, shimmered with luminance, and antagonized fear. I was in the presence of my best self. I was confident and able to manipulate and play with conventional ideas about family, friendship, relationships. I read other people's ideas and suggested ideas of my own. But I also acknowledged scars and scabs, covering moments of pain in the wakes of stress. This perfect imperfect being was beautiful. When I saw her, I was scared. Not because I was frightened, but I recognized this person all too well. I knew that without intent, the ephemeral visage would vanish and I would not be able to leave.
To escape, I developed what I called the 5:1 plan. It has become how I parse time in my work career to stay relevant and add value in both my personal and professional life. It works like this: I work five years and take a transition year to retool, think, and recharge. I have learned that the most important skill to making the 5:1 plan work is courage. It takes courage to step back, assess effectiveness, and step up to a new experience. This is essential for growth. Learners must be courageous and bold activists in their own learning and development. As a principal that believes learning and understanding are firmed when learners stay engaged in their own learning, what better way to demonstrate and model this ideal but in my own learning practice?
Embracing an Alternative Lifestyle: Discovering and Choosing the B Side
After 5 years of planning and starting a school, it was clear that I had to take time to think. Mary Wilkinson said that taking time to think is the most revolutionary act we can take. Revolutionary not because it moves people to protest in the streets or lead a cause. Quite the opposite. Revolutionary because it, in the words of Gil Scott Heron, is not televised. It is personal. It is very personal. It requires a new way of thinking about living and working and stands in the very face of the ways we are taught to live. In America, it is quite customary for people to finish school, marry, birth children, and work in the same position for thirty years, retire, play with your grandchildren and die. But what if you don’t want the pop hit? What if you want the b-side? You know the b-side. It is the side that is lucky for a listen and is really, really good. The b-side is the true essence of the artist, not necessary what is popular, formulaic, or expected. The b-side is the truth. What if we all chose the b-side? Imagine all of the good songs that we would listen to first. Silver Springs. Erotic City. 17 Days. Love Never Felt So Good. Discovering the b - side of any person takes work and there is a return on that search. An awesome song!
As I transition to my learning year, I look forward to getting back in the studio to remix my b-side. I look forward to adding a break, dropping the bass, and topping the high hat on life. I think we all need to do that routinely in our lives. When we don’t, the needle is not pushed. It gets stuck in a groove. We do the same things the same way. We solve problems using the old, familiar techniques. We tire at the same troughs. We surge at the same crests. Small problems fester and systemic challenges are left without formidable opponents. Comfort and security stand in the way of the most innovative self. Nothing changes.
Pressing pause on the principalship allows me to discover and play the b-side. As I a transition out of the principalship and back into the studio, I hope my listener is willing to hear the new music that is created. I hope that the anticipation of the new album will assuage any mounting fears of instability. I hope people remember that beautiful music that we made and how we jammed together in the hallways, classrooms, and lunchrooms. I hope that they hear the pause as the familiar 2-second gap that allows a record to exhale.