Friday, June 28, 2013

Your Perception is not Always Reality

I would like to think many of us have our own story, unique and fulfilling, ending how we had always hoped and dreamed.  Realize, I am not implying my story has ended,  but at this point in my story I think I have a good message to share;  when things don't go your way, use that as a fuel to grow and improve.  

As a teacher I always had a high success rate when it came to interviews.  Throughout the 12 years, I applied for four different positions and every time I interviewed, I was offered the job.  I do not think this was because I had any special powers, it was because I was confident in my skills, knew students were the essential component to my success, and knew I continually had to work to improve.  I tried every day to give 110% to my students and then take what was left home to be the best husband and father; if that is even possible.  I tried to do that every day, every period all year long. I was not your 7:30-3:30 teacher, I did not look for ways to complain about what I had to do, I looked for ways to improve my practice and/or improve student learning all the time.  I had always hoped I was going to have that "aha moment," and suddenly I would have had the secret to make every student successful.  I never did find it, but that does not mean my search has ended.

When I decided I wanted to pursue an administrative position my story took a different turn with a few road blocks that I did not anticipate.  I had taught five years and during that time, I felt I needed to refuel my love for learning so I began a program to obtain my administrative degree.   This was a great time in my life as it renewed my passion to learn and the knowledge I was gaining was also rewarding to my students as I often passed on any pertinent information.  Nine years into teaching and two years after my program I began my quest.

Attempt one: failure.  I knew going in this would be a long shot, but you have to think you always have a chance.  I was told the direction of the district was to go outside but I was welcome to be on the selection committee.  A tough answer to some, but I took it as an opportunity to grow.  I could now see what a principal interview may look like; one step back, but one step forward!

Attempt two: failure.  This one was frustrating as well, but this time I at least went through the application process.  It was a daunting task filling out all the questions, taking an online assessment, adjusting my résumé from that of a teacher to an administrator.  This didn't seem worth it at the time as I was not selected for an interview, but the next one would be easier as I had completed one before.  Often, the second attempt at something is better than the first. 

Attempt three: failure. This was a roller coaster but probably where learned the most.   I nailed the online stuff this time and was now moving on to the phone interview.  Wow, did that absolutely kick my butt!   I knew I bombed this portion, but I did well enough to get a site interview.  Now the nerves were flowing, I couldn't sleep, it was hard to teach, I was one step away from my goal.  Interview went ok, nothing great, but I now not only knew the questions, I had my own responses.  The question is, were my responses good enough?  After a few weeks of sleepless and anxiety filled nights I was not offered this position.  I was thinking about just throwing in the towel, I liked teaching anyway.  I took the next few weeks, gathered my thoughts and realized quitting was not in me, not a part of my core values.  Now the true quest began, how do I get better? How do I get the yes I so deeply wanted?   I began a quest of reading, watching, learning, serving, etc., anything I could do to get involved.  No longer was I going to sit back and wait to be noticed, they were going to have to tell me no.

Attempt four and five: failure.  At this point the frustration levels were getting very high; I was on the verge of accepting defeat.  The difference in these attempts is that I went outside of my current district.  I learned a great deal from these as well.  I was able to evaluate where I had made mistakes in the past and adjust.  I was exposed to different scenarios and forced to answer things in different ways.  I was now not waiting for a response, I was promoting myself; a huge piece I feel I was lacking.  I was invited for an interview for one and the experience was amazing, my confidence was soaring.  I gained experiences in an extensive interview process with different committees, a writing component, and multitudes of question and answer sessions.  Although I was not offered any of these positions I gained so much from the experience that success was just around the corner.  

Attempt six: SUCCESS!  I did it!!!  What a great feeling, all the work, time, and effort was noticed and rewarded.  I owe most, if not all of my growth as a leader, to my seven year mentor, colleague and friend, Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy).  Through the years he was so patient and helpful, yet stern and straight forward when the scenario called for it. There were times when I thought he had the wrong perception of me but now, as I reflect he was right on with his views of my readiness.  I took all, he and those around me advised, and put them into practice. I was introduced to Twitter and developed a PLN to which I owe some gratitude as well.  Now, another journey has begun and I cannot wait to see where it takes me as this is just a rung of the ladder I am still climbing. 

If you take anything from this, do not take failure as a reason to quit.  Analyze your failures, learn from them, and use those failures to make you stronger. Utilize those around you and if you are not connect do so immediately!  There is an immense amount of very talented people out there eagerly and generously wanting to help.  Never lose sight of your goals and never doubt your ability to reach them.