“Believing in” is as important as “believing” 2


It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. Things have been busy with a new house, and a new life. For the first time since moving to Calgary, I’ve felt at home in a community. Everything that surrounds me is different and new; it has profoundly affected not just what I see out my window, but the way I see things out that window.

From where I was last fall – my lowest point ever – I’ve done a complete 180. I’ve made some huge changes in my life. The biggest is that I’ve decided to go back to work full time. I needed a shake up, and so I shook, and everything has come down in a different place.

Going to school full time, and raising a family, and teaching half time (which isn’t really half time at all) I was at a dead run all the time. Coming out of UBC, the run stopped abruptly and I slammed into a massive wall. At the same time, I’d just come off a very busy time finishing, editing, releasing and promoting a book.

I was in a very, very fragile state. I don’t need to go through how that fragility was taken advantage of – there are many posts dealing with it.

On a personal level, change really took hold starting last November when, after a particularly abusive string of texts sent me into tears at school. My assistant principal happened to catch me, and asked me to talk. And so I did. As the harassment extended into emails and random screen caps, she kept checking in on me. She showed a lot of leadership and support and professionalism in dealing with that issue, and has continued to be a support who I can access when I need reminders to keep moving forward.

Because I was dealing with someone who refused to take no for an answer – someone who had no problem showing up or texting or emailing even after being explicitly asked to stay away – my principal eased my mind by talking me through a system where I wouldn’t be alone at school or in the parking lot.

My vice principal was very no-nonsense. She had been peripherally aware of some of the issues I was facing for about 6 months already. With the addition of my concern for my safety, she made it very clear that I needed to engage my family. Talking to my husband made all the difference. He never understood my compulsion to change the door combination, or double check that the door was locked, or the changing of the phone numbers. Now he does. She also reminded me, in the midst of the rumourous crap that was being spread about me, that I have a lot of respect in the district, and people who know me, KNOW me, and anyone who believed gossip was unworthy.

All this said, working on a personal level with this admin team was eclipsed by how amazing they are as role models and mentors on a professional level.

My vice-principal is making a name for herself as a go-getter, and someone who gets shit done. She is a huge support of arts programs, and I don’t think she missed a sporting event, either. She is no-nonsense in all areas. Own your shit. Do your job. Ask for help if you need it. You can see how on a personal level this really helped. Professionally, she impresses me as a woman who is raising a family at home, and at school, all while somehow still finding time to laugh and joke around.

My principal has long been a man I’ve admired for the way he engages students, and treats them like human beings. His expectations are high, but not outrageous. I knew when I worked with him years ago that he would be in a leadership position one day, and I am so grateful for the chance to work with him again. He is validating. He makes me feel like a good teacher. A great teacher. He supported me through one of my worst years professionally, and he let me try new strategies and plans when I came through it all. He is someone who shows great trust in his teachers, in their strengths and abilities, and is not judgmental or dismissive of their areas of need.
My assistant principal is probably the one who most influenced me to take a hard look at my professional goals. Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I like to mentor. But watching her take on committee after committee, and the respect she has gained from teachers trying new things in technology right up to the work she does at the government level, made me see that the skills I’ve gained working with all three of these amazing administrators need to be used. I do have something to offer.

We tend to get stuck in what’s easy. What doesn’t scare us. I could go on forever at half time, using my time off to check how many likes I have on Facebook. I could stick to what I know – staying in the same school, the same situation where I am comfortable and I know what comes next.

But staying comfortable changes nothing. Not personally, not professionally. I had what was probably the greatest year I’ve ever had teaching, I had the support of one of the best admin teams around, I had great success in working on a musical, and trying new reading strategies that actually helped my students engage with learning. (Well, most of them.)

It’s time to reach more kids, get more experience, so I can start having an impact on the curricular and governmental areas of learning. Too often we as teachers take the easy way out, but our students are changing, our world is changing, and there is a swing to the importance of not only the humanities, but humanity. I was stuck in a situation where I saw very little humanity, and I see that reflected in society.

Taking a full time position is a way for my writing life, my mentoring life, and my teaching life to come together. It’s a way to make my voice heard in the classroom, and out. I took a “Lead Teacher” position, which means I have a responsibility to mentor.

I’m looking forward to the challenges. I’m sad to be leaving my school – it’s a wonderful school, I love the kids and the staff. But the very people who made my experience so fulfilling, were also instrumental in my desire to move forward in my career. I know I will work with many of them again. This district is small. Everyone knows everyone else. Our paths will cross. I am happy to be focusing on more of a leadership role. All three of those administrators made me believe that I have the respect of my peers (except those two fisher-dudes – ha) and have a lot to offer.

Remind me of this when am going crazy this fall with all my new responsibilities. Wine dates will be very much welcomed. (Now if I start asking for tequila dates, that could be a sign…)

(And yes, I am still writing! That’s a different update. Stay tuned.)

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2 thoughts on ““Believing in” is as important as “believing”

  • Clare Hitchens

    Kim, your strength is inspiring. How lucky you were to teach with strong and supportive administrators. I wish you the best in your new position. I have nothing but admiration for how you’ve fought back against the abuse. I look forward to raising a glass with you when I next make it to Calgary.