“And after fire came a gentle whisper”1 Kings 19:12
For the first time in my career, I almost walked away.
I was sitting in my office, and it was two days before school was letting out. I had this pit in my stomach. I had so many emotions, and I got to a point where I was thinking, “What the point is and why I am doing it?” I ask myself these questions at the end of every year. But when you pour your heart and soul into education, it takes something from you. Every year I have an answer, and I have an answer quick. This year, at that moment, I did not come up with a solution quickly, in fact, I did not have an answer at all. So right at the dismissal bell, I left. I did not say goodbye. I even cleaned my the office because honestly, at that moment, it felt final. I always said that I would have to get fired before I ever quit on my kids, my school, or this community. At that moment, though I felt it was time.
I remember driving home with the music off, and it was silent. My mind was all over the place. The only thing I was thinking was…It’s over. After all the work I had done and the vision that I had set, it’s over. I had made it through kindergarten graduation, and I saw my fifth graders transition to sixth grade. I thought I had completed my duty for that school year.
I spent the last 10 minutes of my drive home fighting back the tears that were forming in my eyes.
In my mind, I had walked away.
I never admitted it until that moment, but being a principal is hard. I enjoyed it and loved doing, but it is hard. The bucks begin and end with you. Everyone is looking at you for the answers. You are responsible for everything and everyone in the building. There are plenty of jobs that are difficult and jobs that have life or death consequences if not done successfully, but being a principal does have the same type of pressure, especially when you are talking about your students’ educational future.
When I embarked on this journey at 22, I thought I would do this until I was at least 55 or maybe 60. Here I was at 31, and I was ready to walk away. I was prepared to walk away, not knowing what I would do next. It wasn’t just walking away from my school and going to another school. It was about walking away altogether. It was saying bye to education. It was saying bye to my first love. I pulled up at home and sat in my carport. Wiping away the tears and asking, “How did I get here?”
I was 28 when I became a principal for the first time. Six years after graduating from college and six years after beginning my journey. I was responsible for leading a building. I felt I was ready. I knew I was ready. Lately, I became unsure. Situations in my life had changed. I began making what I classified as some personal and professional mistakes. It wasn’t that I was just now making these mistakes, but now these mistakes were finally catching up. I was not doing anything illegal. Let me repeat; I was not doing anything illegal. I was, however, in a place where I felt I was unfit to lead my school.
I sat out a vision two years ago when I took over my school. I knew what I wanted for the children in my school. I knew the type of leader they needed to look up to. When I looked in the mirror, that leader was not looking back. I had my decisions that caused me to be unfit for the role of leading a building and unfit to lead these children and set them on a path of greatness. I saw this as a reason I needed to walk away. Twenty minutes had passed of me sitting in the car outside my apartment. I finally got out of the car and went upstairs. Again, the reality had hit me that I was not going back.
In bed that night, the two questions that put me on this path crept back up, “What is the point? Why am I doing this?” I begin to see the faces of my students. I begin to see the face of my daughter. They were the point. They were the reason I was doing this. I had my answer, but I still had the feeling I was unfit to be the leader.
Then, I heard a message. The message was simple. Do not be another person who comes into their lives and walks away. Far too often, people come into students’ lives for a moment to provide a glimmer of hope, and then they walk away. I could not be that person. I prided myself on not being that person. Also, I knew I had to be the man I wanted young boys to become. A man faces his mistakes, and he owns up to them. It is not so much about the mistakes you make, but more about how you allow those mistakes to define who you are. In my mind, I had walked away, but my heart was still in it.
Instead of walking away, and I walked back into it.
I ended the school year with having a conversation with each of my staff members. I had those conversations with those coming back and those not coming back. I admitted to them that I allowed issues in my personal life to affect my leadership. I acknowledged I had made both professional and personal mistakes that had me questioning should I still be the leader here.
There is a blessing hidden in every trial in life, but you have to be willing to open your heart to see them.
My heart is open and walked back in!