Isn’t it funny how there are kind reminders all around us, begging us to pay attention to them? I often wonder how many I have missed over the years, those opportunities that were on the walls or in someone’s eyes that I was supposed to capture that I didn’t. I wonder if that would have been a sliding door moment for me, that if I had noticed it, I would have made a different choice. Would I be different now? Would I be better?
Today, I had the grand and rare opportunity to have lunch with my work family, and while sitting there, I looked up, and there it was:
In my career, I have this story that I tell about how I got to WE>ME and I use to tell it all of the time as part of my vision because as a classroom teacher, back in the day, I was obsessed with my ME. I totally didn’t get that it was all about the WE. I mean, I got that I needed the WE in my classroom, but I didn’t know what a real system meant. I wasn’t thinking about the teacher down the hall because all I cared about was closing my door, and being the best damn teacher that I could be in that moment. I thought I would be satisfied with just my classroom when the light bulb went on and I realized I needed to be part of a system. So, I use to tell it to audiences to explain how you can’t do the work in isolation. You can end up being one of those magnificent pockets of excellence, but what we are talking about is bigger than that. It’s about showing students that we are a system at all levels. I would tell my story, and people would lean into it. It tends to resonate with folks because we know that we can’t do it alone, yet we tend to try that strategy over and over and over. To this day, it is still my most favorite way to explain systems, and it’s my favorite way to talk to teachers about how it isn’t about them, but about the students. Once they get that, it isn’t about their classroom, it is about the building. Once they get that, it isn’t about the building, it is about the system, ultimately and always focusing on the students.
In my personal life though, I battled even harder against this phrase with the stories I told myself: “I got this” and “I don’t need other people”, despite the fact that I would cry, and I mean hard, when watching cheese like Cocoon. The connections that I have aren’t perfect and I’ve made mistakes, but I keep showing up. I keep knocking on the door. I keep learning about what family means to me, and reflecting about my choice to live far away from people that I love dearly. I have two friend tribes, one is pretty much straight out of some high school movie and we are the high school movie poster. I don’t talk to them often, and yet, when we reunite, it is like hearing that favorite song that you haven’t listened to in awhile. Our vibe just rushes over us. I can definitely see us rocking our own version of Cocoon later in life. The other, well, that is a bit more complicated, but I am working on it.
These days, there is a real battle going on with forming a real WE, in any context that matters. All I know is that WEs make better MEs and I am sticking to that.