As you start this school year, bring all of you to work
Happy September! It’s fall, that time of transition and change when the blogs and newsletters are all about fresh starts and clean slates. However, this is not that kind of message. In fact, this is a message about bringing your whole self with you, baggage and all, into this new school year.
Our team experienced a lot of “life” this summer. We experienced the highs – an engagement, new grandchildren, a Little League World Series state tournament win, milestone anniversaries and birthdays – and the lows – aging parents, the loss of a beloved grandmother, medical emergencies, and adolescent children testing the boundaries. As I watched my team, and myself, go through these ups and downs, it occurred to me that we are always going through the cycles of our lives even while the work is ever-present. Our team, despite having so many other things drawing their attention, showed up every day and worked incredibly hard. We were busy this summer, busier than we’ve been in two years, and there was no time for “life” to show up and slow things down. They had workgroups to facilitate and trainings to conduct, and projects to lead. But they didn’t leave their experiences behind either, they brought them along for the ride, taking a moment out of a meeting to share the good news about getting married, letting the tears come up during a welcoming ritual the day after a funeral, opting in and opting out as needed but always with an explanation and a thank you for the grace they were provided. We can’t escape all that we are and all that we bring. Nor should we because that is where the richness of our diversity and perspectives come alive. That is when we are our best selves.
“Life” is always there, ever-present in the story of our work selves. People can no more put aside the details of their lives than one can decide not to be hungry if they haven’t eaten for many hours or feel pain when stung by a bee. When we try to power through those physical sensations, pretending they aren’t there, we often end up irritable, distracted, disengaged, and depleted. The same is true for our social and emotional experiences. When you nurture and acknowledge the needs, you can free up energy to keep moving forward.
Schools, early care and education centers, and community programs are no different. They are made up collectively of adults and children who are constantly experiencing “life” in all its pain and glory. As we dive deeply into this school year, there is a desire to leave behind all of the frustration of last year and start fresh. And there is nothing wrong with that concept of a fresh start. But what if we also bring along the richness of what we experienced last year – the way our frustration brought us closer together as staff, the way students’ raw emotions opened our eyes to their humanness in a new way and allowed us to forge deeper relationships, the way our exhaustion forced us to implement new self-care routines that can now sustain us when things get hard. All that is part of our story, part of our perspective, part of what needs to be nurtured and honored in order to move on, heal, and get the clean slate we all desire. As you start this school year, go ahead and bring all of you to work. Everyone will be better for it!