This space must feel awfully lonely and neglected. It’s been nine months since I was last here. Nine very busy months. And no – not because I was gestating life, although it does bear some resemblance to such a life-altering time span when you think about it.
No. For the last year (or more) I’ve been falling and stumbling and careening into what I can now say is the thing I’ve been meant to do my whole life. And it’s only taken me 40 years to figure it out.
A few years ago (almost three, now, actually) I took a part-time job with a local charter school. 20 hours a week as an administrative assistant – making copies, answering phones, running errands, backing up the receptionist, et cetera. I was somewhat over-qualified for the job, but that was okay because I didn’t really want anything too challenging. I needed something to do a few hours a week, and this happened to be three miles from my house, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
At the time I didn’t realize how life-changing that little part-time job would be.
If you’re at all familiar with the charter school movement, then you probably know that making them successful and sustainable can be a daunting task. When I started, this little school had 400 students (and was in its 7th year of operation). By my second year, and the school’s 8th, we had 700 students. To almost double in size in one year is challenging. It was clear that my part-time position was no longer going to suffice, so I went full-time last year.
At the same time, my husband and I decided that we would enroll our oldest in the school. Its unique blend of academic instruction and character education appealed to us, and the convenience of having the kids where I worked was equally appealing.
I didn’t really understand it at the time, but something changes when your kid’s education is on the line. You go from being merely an employee of an institution to being fully invested in its success. It’s scary. And exciting. And exhausting.
What’s crazy is I always knew I wanted to work in education, but I also knew that I didn’t have what it took to be a classroom teacher. It takes a special breed to work directly with kids all day every day, and I’m just not cut out for it. More power to those that do – I’m grateful for them every day.
No, my calling is much more behind the scenes – building support for the school in the community. Charter schools are a controversial, hot button topic, and there are people out there that wish they would just go away. And I’m sure there are some that should, whether because those schools are financially unsound, poorly governed, or poorly conceived. This school, though, is none of those things. And I’m proud to be a part of it.
In fact, I’ve never felt so called to something in my life – outside of motherhood. There are paths we take in life that, at the time, seem completely random, but for some reason we’re compelled to take them anyway. I never thought, when I responded to a Craigslist ad for a part-time admin assistant (yes, I actually responded to a job posting on Craigslist), that I would be starting down a life altering, career changing rabbit hole.
This new school year has been exhausting. I’m managing people for the first time in five years, which comes with its own set of challenges (especially when you’re an introvert and just the thought of human interaction sometimes is more than you can handle). The good news is, they’re all good at what they do, and I respect each one of them for the strengths they bring to their roles. I’m also becoming much more involved on the institutional advancement side of things – fundraising, capacity building, community engagement, etc. Each day brings with it new learning opportunities, new successes (and sometimes new failures).
There are days when I’m just not sure that I can keep going – like there’s just too much to do and I don’t know where to begin.
In my old life I might have quietly turned away and moved on.
But the promise of what this school can be, what it can do for my own children as well as the hundreds of others that come through the doors every day, keeps me coming back. And that makes it all worthwhile.
Each new day is a promise of something great. I’m just where I need to be. Life is good.