Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This is where I am

Hello again to all seven of you who at one point read my posts regularly.  This is the first moment in many, many months where I have had both the time and wherewithal to write - though I don't know that I have anything significant to say just now...

In August I became a principal.  It was all rather a whirlwind experience.  I was contacted in the last week of July to see whether I might be interested in the position, at which point I met and interviewed with what seemed like 732 different people over the course of two weeks.  Not entirely sure whether I was willing or ready to make the leap, I snuck into the school and walked its empty summer hallways.  And there I thought, that just maybe, this is where I was supposed to be.  In the second week of August I was offered the job, and thus, unceremoniously launched into my new role as principal.

Let me just say this: I knew this job was going to be difficult, and stressful, and crazy.  Turns out I hadn't the slightest idea -- to know a thing abstractly is no comparison to living and breathing it daily.  It's all-consuming and easily the most difficult thing I've ever tried to do.

And yet, I know I made the right decision, and I know this is where I'm supposed to be.

The thing is, I'm beginning to know the children, and I'm beginning to know the staff.  They are so many beautiful people.  The kids ricochet off the walls, sending their fears and insecurities scattering into anyone who happens to be nearby, and this reverberates daily around our building.  Many of them bring with them a sense of noisy desperation to which I am not wholly accustomed.  I ask the most apathetic and aggressive of them to attempt kindness, and they look at me like I'm crazy.  No - they tell me I'm crazy.  "You crazy, Miss."

Perhaps I am.  But then again, so are all the other amazing adults I work with.  They are a team of people who has chosen to work in public education, with disadvantaged and marginalized adolescents.  These adults commit themselves daily to doing right by these kids in the best ways they know how.  And it's such amazingly difficult work, and so they are my heroes.

Last year I seized on this poor woman who came to observe my classes; I insisted that she student teach with me last spring.  She did, and I watched as she fell in love with the children.  I watched her learn how to construct curriculum and how to bring it to life in front of them.  And I watched her anguish every time a student gave up and refused to participate.  Her heart would break for them, and she'd go after these kids with a vengeance.  It was the most beautiful thing.

When I became principal, I asked her to come with me to my school.  She said yes, and I thank God for her every day.  There she is in her classroom giving everything she has -- really, giving so much more than she has -- she's reaching down into and past the depths of herself for the kids.  I sometimes want to apologize to her for bringing her into this crazy place with me, this place that can be so difficult -- it wrenches your heart out without any warning.  It leaves you fried and frazzled and dazed.  And yet she just keeps giving, and so do her fellow teachers.  I am unspeakably grateful.

I am learning what it means to lead adults, to run an organization, to collaborate with countless stakeholders.  I am learning to try to put something into motion, and to screw it up a dozen times over, and try again.  I am learning what it feels like to feel helpless and in letting go, to be open to the newness.  I am learning what it feels like to make thousands of decisions a day.  No.  I mean it.  Thousands.

To the point that I simply cannot decide what to eat by the time I get home, or which shelf the bowls should go on in our new apartment.  I cannot make these decisions.  And so my gorgeous husband has taken care of me -- without complaint, without fuss.  He lets me sob or sleep or walk around like a zombie.  He takes me out when I need to escape, and tucks me in when I need to hide.  For him, too, I thank God every day, every hour.

And so this is the adventure.  This is where I am now.  It is so utterly terrifying, and has so much potential for beauty.  I am hanging on for dear life, knowing that life will carry me along with it.


  1. As we use to say at the school that I helped open - 'to start a school is to proclaim what it is to be human' (Tom James, HGSOE) - and though you aren't starting the school - you are in the midst of it -- changing, leading, growing. It's hard work. No doubt. But also, no doubt, worth it.

  2. Thanks for everything you're doing--love you lots, and fiercely proud of you. Thank Greg for us, too. -Dad