When I was little and growing up in Ottawa, I desperately wanted to ride a roller coaster. I would watch the commercials for Canada’s Wonderland and my heart would race at the thought of dropping, twirling, zooming, and (gasp) loop-dee-looping, all at what seemed like the speed of light! I was horribly jealous of any of my friends who took trips with their families to the big amusement parks. I even wrote a long and detailed (fictional) account of a wild summer of traveling to different amusement parks to ride the roller coasters for the proverbial “Write what you did over the summer” assignment. I got an A from my teacher and a stern talking-to from my mother about the importance of telling the truth. I had to make do with Ottawa’s annual National Capital Exhibition visits every August, and even though I had fun, it tamed when compared to my extravangant fantasies about roller coasters.
It wasn’t until I was an adult with two children that my mother-in-law lent us her timeshare condo in Collingwood, Ontario, about an hour’s drive from Toronto, home of Canada’s Wonderland. We arranged to visit the amusement park, and even at 30 years old, I was as giddy as a my kids. By the end of the day, my fantasies had come true and I was hooked!
I told that story so that I could tell you this one: last week I had a day at work where I had never felt so stressed, so defeated, so ineffective and so inexperienced that I went home and curled up on my couch with my head in my husband’s lap and cried. I’m not embarrassed to admit it – it was a very low point for me professionally and I genuinely questioned my role and my choice to become not only an administrator, but a teacher. I could rhyme off the list of Murphy’s Law moments that made up the day, from no occasional teacher for a staff member, to student issues, to missing a highly anticipated intern session, but it was a meeting that I attempted to facilitate between a teacher and a parent that I felt shone a spotlight on my “greenness”. I wasn’t able to be at the meeting when it started, and when I came in it already seemed tense. From there emotions became raw and the conversation became defensive. I realized right away what was happening, and I (cue the superhero music) thought I could save the day. So I desperately tried to salvage a meeting that was quickly going downhill, and really what I was doing was grabbing a shovel and digging us furiously deeper. The teacher was left feeling unsupported and that her professionalism and integrity were being questioned, and the parent was left feeling unheard. As I debriefed with my principal, I shared that I knew that I should have gently ended the meeting with a promise to review the information that had been shared with the commitment to coming back together at another time to work out next steps. I shared my feelings of guilt and how I felt that I had let down both the teacher and the parent. I won’t be shaking this feeling anytime soon, but the small silver lining was that I learned something from the experience.
Fast forward to yesterday. An awesome day. I supported students all day in the classrooms. I was invited into a classroom by a teacher who was beginning the blogging journey with her students – they had grouped together to plan a name, a purpose and how the would invite comments from others, if any. Student involvement and ownership was evident and the excitement was barely contained. They asked good questions, and it was obvious that there was much thought and planning going into the project. I can’t wait to see what they develop, and I know that if they have questions for me to which I don’t know the answers, I have a fabulous PLN to help. At the end of the day, I could barely refrain from laughing out loud in the car on the drive home I felt so energized and uplifted. I didn’t question at all my decision to become a teacher and administrator – I felt validated and that I am exactly where I want to be.
So I don’t live near an amusement park and I don’t ride an actual roller coaster whenever I want. But I have something better. I have the stomach-dropping moments of realizing when you’ve made a misstep with an esteemed colleague and a valued parent. I have the dizzying, twirling loop-dee-looping that comes from questioning, reflecting and learning about yourself. I have the weightless-bum-out-of-your-seat moments when working with the wonder and enthusiasm of students. I have my roller coaster. Keep your hands and feet inside at all times!