Once in a lifetime

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself
Well…How did I get here?

I frequently listen to this song by the Talking Heads when I am in the process of making a big decision or simply reflecting on my disposition. Over the past few weeks, this song has found its way into my various playlists during workouts, commutes, and downtime. I’ve had a lot to think about and a lot to be grateful for at my current stage in life. I recently finished my manuscript for Corwin Press and two weeks ago I accepted the position of director of technology at Grafton Public Schools. While I am excited to get started and embrace new challenges that lie ahead, I can’t help but ask, “How did I get here?”

A year ago, I was also listening to “Once in A Lifetime” as I approached a similar career transition. I was in the process of leaving Burlington Public Schools after two exciting years as their instructional technology specialist and would be moving on and up to the director of technology for Groton-Dunstable Regional School District. This decision did not come easy, but ultimately it was the best move for my career. As little as four years ago, I was abruptly let go by a Charter school in Philadelphia, along with our Principal and two other teachers, on what the CEO deemed “A judgement call”. And now I find myself reflecting on that day (July 19, 2010) and how it felt to lose my job so abruptly and without any documented reason, but ultimately how that day provoked me and reenergized my career. Since then, I’ve experienced a wealth of successes and connected with a host of great educators who have challenged and inspired me to be better.  

Over the course of this year at Groton-Dunstable, I tried my best to listen and lead with confidence. I inherited a technology department that was battered and bruised but willing to change and adapt to new ideas and philosophies. As I move on, I leave behind a technology team that is a cohesive unit that is dedicated, driven, and passionate about integrating and supporting education technology. What’s more, I leave behind meaningful relationships that have blossomed over the course of this year.

Leaving this team was a difficult decision. Of all the successes the technology team has had over the course of this year, the one I am most proud of is the way this team came together to do great things. And, to do great things and continue to work tirelessly under the dark cloud of a budget crisis that persisted for most of the school year. Their willingness and constant support provided glimmers of sunshine throughout the district during those stormy days.

In my first year as district leader, I have learned many things. The most important thing I have learned is that a school leader should always be a good listener. He or she should be humble and willing to embrace a collective consensus, but confident to make difficult decisions. A leader must know what it feels like to fail, but equally, understand how to use that failure as a driving force to be better and learn why that failure occurred. A school leader should not seek accolades or awards, but challenge those with whom he or she leads to strive for greatness. I have never won an award for anything I have done in education. The only award I need is seeing the successes of the team I lead and the students and teachers I support.

I got here because of the people around me. An effective leader understands the talents and skills of his or her team and does his or her best to let those talents and skills flourish. Ultimately, the people around me have worked hard to make me look good. I thank the GDRSD tech team and the entire Groton-Dunstable community for giving me a chance to lead their technology team and support teaching and learning with technology.