At the beginning of the summer of 2016, I was questioning my role in my current profession. I was wondering if I was cut out to be a coach and if I even wanted to stay in this context of religious education, which can be difficult in itself. After several tough, yet enlightening conversations, I was able to come to the realization that it wasn’t the job I wanted to leave, it was the lack of trust and genuine relationships at work.
When we discuss the time that children spend on various things in their lives, we often recognize that they spend much of their time at school interacting with teachers, other staff members and peers. Likewise, adults spend a lot of their time at work (oftentimes, even more so than kids do at school). This is an interesting point to note because we don’t often consciously think about this fact and how much it affects who we are as people and the fullness of our lives as individuals.
It was over the summer that I came to realize how much my workspace had affected my life. It was only when I realized this that I was able to start working towards a solution. My boss, when I cried to him about wanting to leave, told me he knew I would not quit. And when he said that, it was the last thing I wanted to hear, but he was right. I love what I do and I want to continue doing it for a while. Despite that, I knew several things needed to change and most of that change had to come from me for myself.
Since that conversation, I have spent a lot of time reflecting and analyzing my own feelings and thoughts about work, my workspace, my colleagues and my role in my team. We have been working with a new supervisor this year who has brought changes and revivified the team as a whole. Although this refreshing spirit has filled the office space, there are still days when I wonder whether I am truly happy being where I am.
I have always been pretty good at self-analysis and being able to figure out where my emotions are coming from; this has been a great strength in the past few months as I try to navigate some old and some new situations which arise. I have learned a lot about myself and I probably could not articulate most of it clearly to you. However, as a coach for others and having the opportunity to learn from another coach (the new supervisor) who comes from a different professional background, I have recognized something that is even more important than being able to self-reflect. That is, I have begun to learn about how much I need to learn about others.
As a coach, mentor, teacher lead or whatever name you give it in your institution, my most important job is being there for those who I work with. Those people who study leadership know the term “servant leadership” which has become extremely popular over the past decades. It is difficult to be a servant leader. It is a mindset that I believe I have, sometimes, but it is something I am learning more about everyday that I do my job.
Over the past few months, I have learned again and again that I need to know other people (which is why I began my one-on-one meetings this year with a get-to-know-each-other session) and that I need to put myself in their shoes any time that they come to me or I go to them (or even before I approach them about something), that I need to remember it’s not always about me and sometimes it’s just something I can’t do anything about.
It’s not that I didn’t know these things before. I know about servant leadership, I know that I work in a system where the leaders who have set examples for me have always had my back and have worked for my good and the good of my students. But these things can get lost in the tangled web of distrust, misconceptions and day-to-day deadlines and to-do lists.
Realizing these important messages organically through the past few months has helped me take a step back and make sure I am fully understanding whatever is happening and I hope it will continue helping me do the best that I can at my job. I also hope that keeping these things in mind and simultaneously working as hard as I can will help me stay happy and fulfilled in the work that I love.
Here’s to not having any more conversations about quitting…