Professional Development Opinion

Be Thankful for the Opportunities Provided

By Starr Sackstein — November 23, 2017 2 min read
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Not all situations feel like rich learning opportunities while they happen. Some are messy and challenging and even hurtful in the moment when our feelings are tied up in a reaction.

Sometimes we try so hard to do what’s right or be the best that we lose sight of what is most important.

Since I’ve switched roles in my career and left the classroom, a decision I was sure I would NEVER make, I’ve learned to embrace many new things that aren’t coming as naturally as being lead learner in the classroom did.

Perhaps I thought that all of my teaching skills would simply transfer to this new position (and some have), and I’d be able to work with my colleagues and team the way I always did with my students.

After all, we are all learners regardless of our ages.

Instead, I’ve struggled a bit.

Not with everyone or everything, but mostly with getting all of my team to engage at the level I hope they will. Yes, I know it has only been a few months and perhaps it’s unrealistic of me to think that I can make everyone excited immediately, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the folks who are making me work harder. Looking back on my teaching years, the first five were a disaster area. It’s easy to forget them when I think of my last 11 years in the classroom and how much more successful each year was as I grew as an educator; but I’m at square one again and that realization is a blessing.

Every day I learn something new and am so grateful for that experience. Although it is not always pleasant at the time, the opportunity to grow feels limitless. Whether I’m discovering new aspects of my current position I wasn’t aware of, or having conversations that could be uncomfortable, I walk away from each experience glad that I approached it head on; even if it doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

Some good things that I try to remember are:

  • Change takes time and I can’t rush it, not for the folks I’m with or for myself.
  • Every perspective matters and even though I may not agree or even see some perspectives coming, it is essential for me to honor those points of view and reflect on how I can make each learner’s experience better.
  • The same way the culture is new to me in this community, I am new to them. Different from who came before me and desperate to avoid the comparison, I need to treat each person on our team with the benefit of the doubt, staying positive especially through confrontational situations.
  • All the new information I receive helps to inform the next decision I have to make.
  • No decision has to be made right now.
  • Always take a breath or a night’s sleep to decide on how to respond to tough situations.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s even better to be transparent about the struggle. I’m not perfect and I’m still learning, so asking for help is a good idea, not one that indicated weakness of any kind.
  • Celebrate the small victories because every step forward in a new position is hard won.

Thank you to the members of my team who have welcomed me openly, invited me into your spaces and shared your amazing students with me. As we get to know each other better, I hope to be more a part of the instruction that is happening in your rooms, if only as a pair of eyes to bear witness to the successes.

How do you respond to challenges to become better at what you do? Please share.

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