I stumbled across a Facebook post from a talented fellow educational leader. She had described a moment before the pandemic where she found the biblical verse, “perhaps we are created for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) and later used that reference when presenting to her faculty as a new administrator, referring to the hardship of the current COVID-19 teaching environment. I responded to that post with Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ I realized these two verses are a good summation of my life experience, my educational leadership experience, and my goals and aspirations moving forward.
I have often shared my story of how I ended up in public education and especially in special education. I raised a son with emotional and behavioral disorders and wanted to be the teacher he did not have. I eventually became a Special Education Director to be able to collaborate with my district, the families, and our community to advocate and serve those who did not know how to access services or how to meet the needs of our youth. I have always felt very passionate about being a servant to those in need. I have, also, touted my adage many times that I am a product of my life experiences, not a victim. I came from a broken home. I was a foster child. Neither of my parents finished high school. Education was not prioritized in my home. I beat the odds. Raising a child with severe needs gave me a unique perspective on the parent side of education, also. I was created for times such as these, just as Esther prophesied. I did not know at the time I was being formed, but through reflection, I can see how my life and work experiences have prepared me for the changes we are now in with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to accelerate the evolution of teacher preparation and development and pedagogy.
What I now know, is just how integral reflection is for self-awareness and purpose as I lead transformative conversations. I believe that we must have a personal and organizational strong self-awareness to have and develop a growth mindset. Self-awareness is constructed through reflection. Reflection helps us develop purpose and motivation. “Critical reflection requires teacher candidates to continually examine their own thoughts, perspectives, biases, and actions. Reflective practice facilitates the development of new knowledge, skills, and dispositions in teacher candidates by fostering critical contemplation of actions in a real-world environment” (Slade et al., 2019).
To me, and like most people, it is very important to find purpose in my work. I have learned that through the reflection of my experiences, I find a deeper understanding of why I do my work and how I might better serve others. I want more than just academic knowledge and position. I want purpose, which requires deep, critical reflection and self-awareness.
There have been times I took on new learning opportunities and felt some variation of already having this knowledge through my life and work experiences. However, I also keep seeking deeper reflections that help me look at the knowledge I already have in new ways and apply it in my practice more effectively. Again, I have been created for times such as these. Slowly molded through my experiences, reflective practices, and self-awareness of how I can keep learning more deeply about the information I already have. Reflection and self-awareness are emotional intelligence skills that can and need to be developed. These skills need to be in the foundations of teacher preparation and development and the anchor for effective pedagogy. Educators “need training to develop their own skills before they can help develop those of their students” (Davis, 2020, pp. 67-68).
There are many talented and passionate educational leaders. I am not unique in that perspective. But I do feel I am uniquely qualified to lead conversations about educational reform. I am the leadership voice needed in your conversations planning the changes needed in teacher preparation and development, changes in pedagogy away from practices historically instilled in our schools, and towards an educational system that better prepares all students for post-secondary life. As we are called to stand and lead conversations towards these changes, I answer, “Here am I, send me!”
Davis, K. K. (2020). Can we talk? Conversations about mental health and behaviors in schools. Lulu.com.
Slade, M. L., Burnham, T. J., Catalana, S. M., & Waters, T. (2019). The Impact of Reflective Practice on Teacher Candidates’ Learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(2). https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1218300