May 1, 2016
May is the time for end of school year events: retirement celebrations, proms, graduations. It’s a bittersweet month. I have written about transitions before but this year goodbyes are hitting me harder than usual. And it feels silly to talk about them, but to me, they are real and they sting.
First, my admin assistant, Pam, said she needed to end things. Then my ‘web dude,’ Isidro, moved on. Then my personal trainer, Josh, informed me he was moving to Seattle in August. Yes, it is three months away but hey, it is an intimate relationship at 7am with me in my workout wear and it’s ending…no fun.
But then John, the Friday night bartender at my local watering hole, announced he was moving to the Desert Hot Springs…next week! That was it. One too many leavings.
I am embarrassed to say that these changes, which are not terrible, dire or ultimately debilitating, have shaken me. To be fragile under this weight is embarrassing, but hey, it’s the truth. I am feeling sad and sorry for myself and any suggestion at this point of ‘keep calm and carry on’ or “I have a cousin who could…,” isn’t going to help. I have to do the heavy lifting of feeling my feelings on my own.
These mini-dramas are all wrapped up with bigger transitions. My dad getting out of rehab after a fall and going back home at age 84. Prince’s death. Just coming to grips that ‘shift happens’ again and again. Building up my spiritual maturity to handle change with grace. Learning to be more centered in the midst of movement. No one else can do it for me; no matter how many folks I have on my ‘extreme self-care support team.’ This is an inside job. You cannot outsource growing. Or grieving. Or peace of mind.
So I am feeling sensitive and tender and at the same time needing to be practical and get on with things – holding both. A ‘yes, and’ moment. I imagine in this season of celebrations and goodbyes I am not the only one holding this tension; balancing oneself precariously between moods of assured and joyful with melancholy and sad. Let’s be gentle with one another in the midst of this beautiful spring one might not know what emotionally lies just beneath the surface of that smile.
Colleagues Shawn Clark and Abbey Duggins new book, Using Quality Feedback to Guide Professional Learning: A Framework for Instructional Leaders, brings the concept of feedback to a whole new and impactful level. For those supporting novice teachers, veteran teachers, struggling teachers, teachers looking at assessments, and those creating professional learning opportunities, this book helps its readers design more effective feedback ‘moments’ that stick.
Humble Consulting: How To Provide Real Help Faster is Edgar Schein’s newest book on how we can be “genuinely more helpful and vastly more effective.” Schein breaks down the work of helping, as he has done before in Helping… and Humble Inquiry, and reminds us to not just play ‘doctor’ when the problems our colleague is facing are no doubt messy and complicated.
And for where I am at in my life, The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom by the amazing and sorely missed Angeles Arrien has helped me start my transition at midlife. It is a great follow up to my session on re-imagining my life with Sam Keen while at Esalen and a great support in my work in becoming more spiritually mature. Thank you to Dana Carmichael for the suggestion!
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
Work with Jennifer
Praise for Jennifer
A Favorite Among the Faculty
“Jennifer has so squarely hit the mark with our teacher-leaders that she is one of the few presenters that they are always requesting when professional development is the question. Here at the University of Chicago, this acclaim and recognition does not come easily! Jennifer has a way of presenting information that gets quickly to the heart of the matter. Her ability to read the true needs of the group, regardless of the original focus, has made her a favorite among the faculty here at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.”