Education can be a lonely business. It’s ironic that we work in a profession where we are surrounded by children, we have other adults across the hall, we have parents and the community sending us messages daily, yet we can feel so alone, so often. It’s like we are on an island but don’t know how to get off.
Some of this is our own doing. I know that first hand. When I was in the classroom full time I wanted to be left alone. I focused my energies on my students, never went to the staff lounge, rarely attended after school staff functions, and isolated myself. I can say it was because I didn’t want to be sucked into negativity, but the reality was that I felt like I could do it all by myself. I didn’t need opinions and suggestions from others. I didn’t want other people to know what I was doing because I didn’t want their judgement. I had all of the answers. I mean, after all, as a middle school teacher, I had 180 students every day listening to my every word and feeding my ego as the expert.
After teaching for 8 years I became an administrator. As an admin, I no longer had those strong student connections that I had in the classroom and as an evaluator and supervisor, I purposefully avoided staff relationships even more. I used the excuse that nobody really wanted me there, that my presence would change the climate of the room, that I should just do my job, get my work done, and let those soft, touchy feely people, live their lives how they wanted to.
As my life and my career has continued to evolve I have found myself increasingly on a search. A search for meaning, a search for purpose, a search for impact, and a search for friends.
Over the last seven years I have been intentional about trying to open up. I have purposefully sought out relationships, but without the skills to successfully do so. I have come on too hard. I have been selfish. I have been ignorant. As a result, I have often been alone.
Alone is a choice; loneliness is not!
Growing up, I was a military brat. I went to 14 schools during my K-12 years. I was great at making acquaintances, but struggled with establishing enduring relationships. As an adult I have worked in seven different buildings and the same struggles have continued. Through it all, I have earned three degrees. I have attended law school. I have earned individual awards and honors. I have written books and had the chance to speak to packed auditoriums, but I am still searching for my place.
You see, in my 41 years on earth, I have learned a lot of content. I have mastered a lot of skills, but I have never really learned what matters most.
In the past three years, I have found myself in some dark places. I have struggled with depression. I have struggled to find people to turn to, to confide in, to grow with. I have been to counselors. I have been on medication. I have looked far and wide for solutions, but have only recently begun looking within. And here is what I know…
As a school administrator, working in central office, I have tremendous influence in shaping the direction of my district. As we enter this school year, our focus will be on what matters. We will focus on EACH student to help EVERY student. We will explicitly be focusing on teaching students how to create meaningful relationships. We are going to focus on staff culture and allow opportunities for staff to connect, to learn, and to grow together. This year I will be climbing out of my box and putting my guard down. I will be vulnerable. I will be real. I will be open and welcoming.
My job is to prepare the next generation. My job is to change destinies. One way to do that is to focus on test scores and g.p.a’s, but as I know first hand, you can be one of the smartest people around and still be lost. You can feel like you know it all, but not know where to turn. My job is to help change lives and this year I am focusing on doing so by making my priority, the people not the programs. I want students and staff to leave this year knowing they are not alone. I want to help create connections, to create purpose, and to create world changers. I want to help change the world by changing mindsets and it begins with my own. It is never too late to learn. It is never too late to grow. As a man who has lived his entire life afraid to be real, a man who is just now learning who he really is, I want to use my story to help others identify their purpose, their place, and their destiny. This year I am focused on saving the world, one person, one relationship, one friendship at a time.
Feel free to check out some of my other recent posts at https://schmittou.net
You can also check out my podcast at https://anchor.fm/david-schmittou