I have always been on top of things. I meet deadlines, take on additional projects, and make sure everyone’s happy. I get things done.
That all changed when I became a teacher. I quickly learned that in this profession, or in any job where your main focus is on [small] people, you will never get it all done. More importantly, I learned that it’s perfectly okay. People, especially children, are not projects with carefully laid out directions. They are complex and have needs that are constantly changing. I think for many of us who become teachers after being successful in any other field, this can be discouraging. We are used to success as it relates to finishing work, but as a teacher, our work is never actually done.
I once read that teaching is like the planting of a seed. The flower might not bloom until long after you’re gone, but you have to believe that you have made an impact.
The question I get asked most frequently these days is: “Why do you want to be a teacher?”
Most people can’t quite comprehend why I left a job I truly enjoyed to pursue a new path full of uncertainty, challenges, and no bathroom breaks.
A few weeks ago, someone sent me this article, and I finally understood why no one gets it like I do. It’s because I haven’t told my story.
A leadership story is first a story of self, a story of why I’ve been called. Some people say, “I don’t want to talk about myself,” but if you don’t interpret to others your calling and your reason for doing what you’re doing, do you think it will just stay uninterpreted? No. Other people will interpret it for you. You don’t have any choice if you want to be a leader. You have to claim authorship of your story and learn to tell it to others so they can understand the values that move you to act, because it might move them to act as well.
While I enjoy writing this blog and discussing all things design, it’s really only telling a tiny piece of my whole story. I entered the design world through the healthcare and education industries, and what I experienced at those jobs over the years stuck with me. I always felt that I could be doing more to serve the people for whom I was designing. It was tough to see the connection between “making pretty things” and “helping people,” even though I know in some small way I was at least making my clients happy.
So, I decided to make a change. I applied to Teach For America, and here I am today — Ms. Robbins.
So, why do I teach? In all honesty, I’m still figuring it out. But I do think that this is what I was meant to do. From the first day in the classroom, I have never felt more comfortable doing anything. The 22 little faces that stare up at me every day make me feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. I’m serving my community on the front line, which is something I’ve always wanted to be able to do, but always felt like I would never be prepared for. What I’ve learned in my short time teaching is that you will never be fully prepared for any challenge — if you were, it wouldn’t be a challenge. So no matter how heavy the weight on my shoulders might feel at times, I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now.
That’s my story — what’s yours?
If you’re hesitant to tell your story, just remember that someone else will.
To borrow a line from an organization close to my heart…
If not you, who? If not now, when?