Overwhelmed (and grateful)

Last Monday, during one of our classes, we were asked to sum up our experience in the program (so far) in one word.

People shared a range of words–though there were definitely a few prominent themes–and there were lots of nods of agreement. And then one woman shared her word: Community. And I wished there was some better way to show agreement than nodding; a fist pump seemed not quite appropriate.

That was one of the things I was most worried about coming here, though I don’t think I fully realized just how worried I had been until that moment. I have been lucky enough to work with an incredible community of people for the past six years, and leaving them was really hard. I was worried that I wouldn’t have the same type of support and friendship that has been so important to me.

I was thinking about this sense of community and its role in the larger context of ideas about leadership we’re beginning to explore, when this quote (attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, though I was unable to find a definitive source) turned up in my Twitter feed:

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”

I feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know,” or “I feel lost,” or “I need help,” without being judged by my peers. And because I can say those things without fearing repercussion (formal or informal), those feelings aren’t in my way the same way they would be if I felt I needed to hide them.

Paradoxically enough, by being able to share my uncertainty I begin to feel more confident.

We talk a lot about Professional Learning Communities or Personal Learning Networks in education, and I think most people who are part of one would say that they are incredible professional resources. But more than that, they are an invaluable personal resource.

Just as our students need to feel safe and supported in order to learn, so do we. When we take care of needs that are lower on Maslow’s hierarchy, we can focus our energy on learning and growing.

My word, just for the record, was “overwhelmed.”

And I meant it in a lot of ways. There is a lot of work, and while I’m used to having a lot of work to do, this is a very different kind of work; I’m not used to having so much unstructured time. But more than that, I’m overwhelmed because I’m thinking about ideas I haven’t had the time to think about for a long time–and they’re ideas I’ve wanted to be able to spend time pondering. Every new reading opens up new lines of thought I want to pursue, and every conversation feels too short. I am overwhelmed by the possibilities.

I am overwhelmed by living in Manhattan, especially after having been in a rural area for so long.

But most of all, I am overwhelmed with how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing learning community.

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