December 07, 2014

My Space Walk: one small step

"Space... The final frontier...
 These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
 Its continuing mission:
 To explore strange new worlds...
 To seek out new life; new civilizations... 
 To boldly go where no one has gone before!"          
~ (Star Trek monologue)

Introduction - a new position

My learning journey continues…into a very unfamiliar place. Since my last post, not only did I make it into a Vice Principal pool for one district, but two. Suddenly out of the blue I got the call and accepted a VP position which was set to begin the next week at a brand new middle school! What exciting and terrifying news!!

So I packed up my classroom, completed all my reports, and said goodbye to my students and fellow staff and friends, all in only a matter of days. It has been a whirlwind of an experience to say the least! In changing over from teacher to administrator there are so many shifts in my mindset that have been required! So I guess you can say it then - yes, I have moved over "to the dark side" (Star Wars). However I find it quite ironic when teachers say this when someone passes over to become a VP, because there is so much for me to be enlightened about! I feel like in many ways there is just so much to learn that you can't be prepared for! I wonder, how do I describe this transformation that is taking place within me? The best way I can think of is to continue with this 'space' theme through the analogy that follows...


Imagine you have always wanted to be an astronaut and one day land on the Moon. What a beautiful dream, but it takes a dedicated and persevering spirit! You work your way (and pay your own way) through school, jump through a bunch of figurative and literal hoops, train yourself both physically and mentally to endure all kinds of setbacks, volunteer in a number of different community organizations, take on extra jobs to pay the bills, lead committees and teams of all kinds, read as much as you can about your subject matter, apply to the necessary programs, write applications and exams, go through a variety of interviews, and then finally you are accepted - into the astronaut training program! 

The excitement of your accomplishment soon wears off as the regiment of procedures, simulations, and tests overwhelm you and even become nauseating! Nevertheless at some point you become comfortable enough and find a routine that works, and you advance to become a leader for other trainees pursuing the same goals and passions that you have. Years pass by and you desire to put all that practice into action, you want to experience the fulfillment of your dreams and move on to the next steps in your life. This is the stage where you begin to prepare yourself for the ultimate destination of taking off from the world you know and land on a distant and alien place - the Moon (hey even Mars one day)!

It's launch day and "you are on your way" as Dr. Seuss would say! The rocket ride is chaotic, loud, and dizzying. When you finally land it's with a bit of a bump on the surface of the Moon. The moment you step out of the cabin of the space lander it is so different than you could have ever imagined. You try to establish contact with your command station for updates, but you are distracted when you notice a base camp that has already been established off in the distance. It is then that you realize that you are not the first to be here, and that is where you must set your direction. So off you go to investigate because there may be answers there or new directives for your mission. When you approach you observe that there is a team hard at work that has obviously put in many long days, enduring innumerable extreme conditions, and countless setbacks themselves in preparing this space to make it what it is now, because it is really something to behold!  

You had expected it to be quiet and still on the surface of the Moon; instead there are a thousand and one things going on around you and it is full of life and activity! You see other space craft and equipment scattered all don't know where to even begin! You put out a few fires (although you are not sure that's even possible on the Moon) and try to remember the objectives you were sent with, and all the training you received from space command. Suddenly a dozen people rush to you with questions upon questions. Someone wants you to inspect their core samples, another one has equipment for you to repair, the next person has spreadsheets of data to review with you about the number of oxygen tanks, food packs, emergency supplies that are on hand... your head spins as you respond to each request as best as you know how. You can't quite get a grasp on how it all works together because it's so overwhelming and different that what you are used to and what you thought it would be! All the simulations and tests were clearly defined and organized before; but now you have to make sense of how it all fits together quickly and what you are even supposed to do! Who is giving these orders anyways?

After a few days in this new environment your body aches and your mind is weary! There is just so much to take in and you don't even know if your training is adequate for this new environment?! This causes you to take a step back to re-evaluate what has transpired. After some reflection you realize that all this time you have simply been reacting impulsively to all these requests and needs that have been brought before you. What has been needed was for you to take charge and work closely with the mission leader who has been there long before you and has a better perspective on the bigger picture. You know that there's an entire universe out there, but you can't take that 'giant leap' until you start with 'one small step' (Neil Armstrong).

Conclusion - a new perspective

In becoming a Vice Principal there are so many amazing opportunities to connect with staff, teachers, students and parents; but there are also so many new responsibilities that have to be balanced, managed, and prioritized. There is an urge to act quickly, but I am seeing that it will take some time to gain the right perspective and find my way forward. So I will take 'one small step for man' - this man, and figure out how to proceed with the rest as I go along! I intend to learn as much as I can along the way, but not move too quickly ahead before I try to understand where I am right now. I think I will even try to step back and enjoy the view a bit more while I am here, because after all, how often does someone get to land on the Moon - it is quite a breathtaking place to be!