Today’s post is by Ben Dickson, a forward thinking educator who currently serves as Dean for a STEM Elementary School in Reno, NV. 

I hear that train a comin’ it’s rollin’ round the bend………… +

Less than 24 hours ago the Universe conspired to punch me in the gut. Now in the grand scheme of the all that is going on in the world this was a trivial event, a speck of dust on the Universe’s cosmic karma train, but it still hurt like hell none the less.

I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die….. +

Over the last couple of weeks I’d been working towards a goal that I saw as the culmination of a lot of effort, the highest point on this particular mountain. There may have been a bit of hubris on my part, as I figured I’d dotted every eye and crossed every T, played the game and now it was going to pay off. The “do A and then B will happen” was something I put a lot of faith in.

Based on my opening sentences you can guess where this is going…

Friday 5:04 pm email

“we regret to inform you ……”

Really??? REALLY??

I hear the train a comin’ it’s rollin’ round the bend and I ain’t see the sunshine since I don’t know when…..+

We all know that train. that one full of pity, anger, self-doubt, jealousy. It’s carrying a full load of negativity and has some empty seats.

all aboard!”

Wow, that’s not what I thought was going to happen. It was like that final paper you get back after going to class everyday, sitting in front taking notes, studying until 5 am…You wonder if they even read the paper or did you forget to answer something, did you accidently hit delete before you sent it? Was it the wrong file?

“Welcome Sir, take a seat next to Mr. Second Guessing.”

Really?? REALLY??

And now here we are at 4:03 in the morning and it’s time to get off the train.

“Next stop Now What Station?”

This is not the “Now what?” of “How am I going to eat or pay my rent?” (Perspective people…first world speck of dust on the cosmic karma train)

No this is the “now what?” that we ask our students when they fail. The “now what?” of asking what are you going to learn from this? The “now what” we sometimes see in the eyes of students or staff after we deliver some bad news.

So in lieu of any actual feedback around my particular speck of dust. I realize I need to turn inward and think about what I’m going to learn from this. We often talk about resiliency and the need to build it in our students but we also need to think of ourselves. How are we dealing with professional or personal setbacks? Are we switching trains or riding the same one all the time?

Are you you on a road to nowhere?

Are you riding a train to Heaven of Hell?

Are you in search of somewhere?

Or something that rings true? *

All aboard!

Robyn Jackson talks about the need to create Master Teachers in her book Never Underestimate Your Teachers and I believe the same concepts can be applied to leadership. How can I learn to be a Master Leader? How am I making conscious decisions about what staff and students need? How am I dividing responsibility and developing the unique talents of those I work with? To me it starts with some introspection. This event has provided me with the opportunity to take a hard look at my beliefs about leadership and how I put those into practice. To think more about my interactions with staff, students and families and look for opportunities to improve, look for those chances to move from a practicing leader to a master leader. I have my own philosophy around teaching, learning and leadership but that doesn’t mean it can’t improve and evolve. How am I constantly growing?

You can get a taste of the glory

By the ingestion of a simple truth*

I think about choices I’ve made, answers to life’s questions and not just those recent ones. Would I do things different? Would I change my answers? No, those answers and choices are at the core of my beliefs about not just  teaching and learning but about being a human: build relationships, support each person with what they need at that time and have a clear shared vision. But could my answers sometimes be better? Sure. Could I take time to seek other’s answers, of course

But here’s the thing. now it’s not about whose answers are right but how they are put into practice. Once we make statements or answer a certain way they are free in the universe for everyone to agree with, change, argue about and laugh at. for me the key is not the answers or the questions but how they play out everyday in my interactions with others. How am I putting those beliefs into practice? Where are the opportunities to learn and am I taking advantage? How am I helping others find their trains? How am I switching trains?

So for now my train is headed in another direction. I might keep looking back at that other one once in awhile, wondering what could have been,  but the important thing for me is to remember that I get to pick my stops,I get to decide which way I’m going and I’m the only one to decide which seat I take and when I look out the window I’m going to see a lot more mountains.

+Folsom Prison Blues-Johnny Cash

*It Could Be Sunshine-Love and Rockets

For further reading by Ben

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