“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
This has been the most unusual year for all of us. Our personal and professional lives have been disrupted due to a virus we can’t see, but a virus we fear. Most have either lost a love one from the virus or have known someone who has been sick and afraid because of it. But somehow we have learned how to adapt our lives by wearing masks, staying socially distanced when going places like the grocery store, and washing our hands until they become chapped. We have modified the way we work and live our lives. We have learned new technologies out of necessity. Now that many of us are vaccinated we are feeling hopeful that maybe, just maybe, we can hug our children and grandchildren and come out of our virtual offices, and find a new normal. Normal as we knew it is probably a memory. And maybe some things needed to change. I know I have changed as a result of living for a year in fear and seclusion, but also in self-reflection and reconstruction.
In the past, my blog has been about my adventures on the road collaborating with policy advocates, district and state education leaders, and university faculty about evidence-based practices for developing pipelines of school leaders. I have attended conferences and meetings in beautiful cities like San Diego, New Orleans, and St. Louis. I have led professional development in amazing venues such as Athens College in Athens, Greece, Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, Baruch College in New York City, NY, and Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I have had amazing experiences with really smart educators doing work that I am passionate about. I return to DE with new ideas to share with colleagues and new possibilities to test. But travel stopped abruptly in March 2020. There were no more trips to airports and train stations. There was no need for an uber or taxi. There was, however, the need and desire to continue the work to support school leaders. I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite authors Pat Conroy, “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” During my reflection time this year I realized that the travel had provided me with opportunities to explore, engage, and learn from many amazing educators. And in my quietest times this past year, I have revisited the experiences, contemplated the lessons learned, and pondered how to continue the teaching and learning with people who inspire and motivate me to think critically. My thoughts prompted me to find new ways to engage with policy advocates, university faculty, and school and district leaders so I could continue the work I love and care about.
This year’s voyage has been rewarding. Key highlights include: working virtually with new teachers at Athens College (a private Greek K-12 school) on classroom management strategies and lesson planning. I am so fortunate to work with the fabulous Dave Santore and Sharon Brittingham. We set our alarm clocks at 1:00 AM and provided professional development via zoom while our families and friends were sleeping. I also traveled virtually to Gwinnett County, GA Public Schools to work with a leadership team exploring strategies to create an equity centered principal pipeline. Another leg of my journey was a virtual stopover in Wake County School District, NC to work with their principal supervisors on coaching strategies and best practices for developing aspiring school leaders. NCCVT School District Assistant Principal, Nathalie Princilus, traveled with me and shared her professional growth experiences with Wake County SD. One of my favorite detours on my trip was to facilitate a Professional Learning Community of 15 principals and principal supervisors who participate in a national learning community of 150 principals from 84 school district, sponsored by the Wallace Foundation in collaboration with NASSP. I am learning so much with these principals and their supervisors about teacher agency, time management, and effective principal-led behaviors that impact students. I was also able, through the magic of technology, to meet with the National Policy Board for Educational Administration for a board meeting to discuss the Professional Standards for Educational Leadership (PSEL) and the National Education Leadership Preparation Standards (NELP). No voyage is complete without spending the day with 375 women leading Delaware Schools at the 2nd Annual Women Leading DE Education Conference. So much energy in the virtual conference room with women who lead states, districts, schools and universities with passion and commitment. Next I zoomed off to facilitate a wonderful learning experience for 15 state department teams who are members of CCSSO’s School Leadership Development and Supports Collaborative. I am learning from these state leaders about the barriers and levers for developing supportive policy for education leaders. I hope I am also influencing them as well by introducing them to colleagues I have met and learned from. When I am home in DE I am meeting with DASL’s Advisory Board, planning the Annual Policy and Practice Institute, and assisting with the Governor’s Institute for School Leadership. I made a few other stops including the DPAS Advisory Committee and the Hiring Toolkit Committee in partnership with the DEDOE. I have learned that I can engage with colleagues anywhere in the world with a click of my mouse. I have learned to be productive and enjoy the voyage. It has been different—no evening excursions to city landmarks—but I have continued to learn, advocate and contribute in meaningful ways. I have learned that a pause is not always a bad thing if we can find ways to be happy and productive.
The voyage never ends. The reality is that we are all just as busy as we were pre-pandemic. We have learned to do our work in different ways and to follow our passion. Pat Conroy was correct when he wrote, ‘the mind can never break off from the journey.” When you travel to faraway places or if you remain home, our memories play out over and over. So I will continue on this voyage, learning and contributing with all of you. I will be thinking about the times we were in a room together doing important work and advocating for principals. I will also think about the times when were on a screen together continuing that important work. Until next time…..Bon Voyage.