After eight years, I am moving on. I recently received a job supporting the drive for transformation through the use of digital pedagogies. A unique position that offers a great opportunity to work with schools and teachers from across the state.
Leaving a place where I have spent a quarter of my life, I am left reflecting on what I have achieved and the impact that I have had. This process also makes me think about what I might have done differently if I had my time again.
In regards to this, I was reminded of a post Doug Belshaw wrote a few years ago that was a letter to his past self. During the last few weeks as I have been on leave, staying at home with our newborn, I have been wondering what I would say to my younger self beginning at the school all those years ago.
So here is my attempt to write a letter to the newly married teacher who arrived from the bush all the way back in 2009:
Dear past self
I am writing from the future, hoping to help you so that you don’t make the same errors that I did. I wanted to say mistakes, but I don’t think that is fair. Although I adapted and evolved during my time, I think that life would have been different if I’d have known these things from the beginning.
So here are five things that I would recommend:
Keep on Moving
It can be easy in any organisation to be typecast as having a particular strength or skillset. Some see this as a good thing, but in the wider scheme of things it is a fixed point of view and may limit your possibilities. Therefore, whenever you get the chance, break the mould. Engage with different teams, observe different classes. Whatever it is, don’t let other’s box you in!
Often in schools there is a feeling that someone else will step up and do a job, someone else will help out, someone else will take on that role. Don’t wait for someone else to give permission to try something out, to make a change. Show initiative. Be innovative. Don’t wait for support in the form of someone else’s answers. Seek feedback on what you are doing and why you have chosen to do it that way.
Implementing Ideas is Never Black and White
Sometimes people will provide you with supposed ready made solutions, presented in colourful booklets, with a clear set of answers and plans. Don’t be fooled. It isn’t that these things won’t work, rather they will need to be unpacked, interpreted, made sense of as a team. Rather than starting the conversation with a statement encapsulating some simplistic solution, begin with an open-ended question that supports further engagement and inquiry.
Build Capacity, rather than Provide Solutions
You may be good at what you do, especially regards integrating technology, but unless you can get others on board then it will all be to no avail. You need to focus on building up the capacity of others. Sometimes this is about asking questions that might support them, other times it is being a plus one, that voice who celebrates the awesome stuff that other people are doing. Whatever it is, you need to be the support not merely the solution.
I can not encourage this enough. You work in a multi-campus environment, with over 500 staff. Any opportunity you get, connect with others. This is a priceless opportunity, look out for different perspectives and points of view. Ask questions. Seek advice. In addition to this, get connected online. You have access to people all over the world. Engage with them. Share your ideas. Build on the feedback. You will benefit so much if only you put yourself out there a little bit.
I hope this helps and good luck!
Your future self.
So what about you? What advice would you give your past self if you could? As always, comments welcome.
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Letter from the Future by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.