Teaching Opinion

Inspired by ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown

By Starr Sackstein — June 24, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Since time is often scarce, I do my best to get my learning in wherever I can. Listening to audiobooks, following up with the print where I feel deeply inspired, is how I’ve been taking in a lot of my professional reading while working out in the morning before work.

Recently, I listened to and read Brene Brown‘s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, and much of what I experienced resonated in a very deep place.

Since I’ve struggled with the disease of perfectionism for a good portion of my life, the context of the book really did help me think about better ways to manage my feelings about my life and work.

The chapter that most stood out given where I am currently in my life was the one on cultivating meaningful work.

As educators, we all know how incredibly important our work is and why we need to be 100 percent engaged, with the balance of knowing when to disengage. The work can be all-encompassing.

As a classroom teacher, being everything to my students was always a challenge when it came to balancing my parenting life. As a leader, being able to do the job I loved with the teachers and students without getting caught up in the politics or other challenges that come with the position.

Brown speaks about how we have to be in our work so we can “let go of self-doubt and all of the supposed to” messages we hear. In her research, she learned the following (shared from p. 112):

  • We all have gifts and talents.
  • Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives.
  • Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment.
  • No one can define what’s meaningful for us.

Much of this resonates with me. For example, as a student when I was younger, I was very good at math, but I didn’t love it. Originally, when I applied to college, I was pre-med to study sports medicine. It seemed like a natural fit because I knew I couldn’t be a professional athlete. When I arrived at school with my parents for orientation, they learned the school had a writing program. They encouraged me to follow my passion and do that instead of medicine.

I understand not too many parents would recommend this change, but my parents knew I have a passion for reading and writing and so I made a last-minute decision to switch.

From there, I followed my passion.

Education was a passion I developed later, but I was lucky enough to do both. Being a teacher filled my soul and fueled my passions. I got to share my ideas and watch students develop their own. The mutual learning kept me fed and excited to stay hungry.

For 16 years, I grew as an educator, curiously allowing my passion and desire to change the world lead my choices and movements. Never did I think that the long and winding road would have led to leadership, but it did. I spent two years working in an amazing district that allowed me to participate in changing the way the instruction happened. Every decision focused on the needs of our students.

But I missed the classroom. I missed my work with assessment.

The relationships I made are hard to walk away from, but I had to follow my path to the meaningful work that fills me. And the next adventure has presented itself, and I will be able to work with students and teachers in a coaching capacity as a consultant. There will be more time to write and do the work I love without the complications of politics and the parts of leadership that didn’t drive me.

There have been times in my life that I have stayed in positions/relationships longer than necessary for a whole host of reasons: comfort, fear, convenience, etc., and found ways to grow outside. At 42, I can’t stay in a situation longer than I need to just because of those reasons. Sometimes you have to take a risk, and that is what I am doing.

What is your meaningful work? Please share

*picture by pablo.com

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.