Calm during the storm

I sit this evening and listen to the rain fall outside. I haven’t closed the windows because everyone in the family loves the sound and smell of rain. Just 24 hours ago, the air was sultry and the night sky was clear, which allowed my children and I to view Mars via our telescope.

Our personal lives are going through another growth phase, one I did not expect to occur. I find myself outgrowing my full-time position. I have grown so much professionally, and being confined to one type of learner in associate’s-only courses is feeling a little “pinchy,” sort of like shoes: once they were too large, but a growth spurt has made them just a little uncomfortably small.

I was reflecting on what triggered my realization that I had begun to outgrow the school and realized it was when someone who does not teach in my discipline (and never has) and who had never witnessed my teaching told me that I could not teach accounting. At first, I took the statement literally, which caused me intense self-doubt and anxiety. However, after much meditation and discussion with trusted industry colleagues, I realized that the statement was not about any inability on my part. Instead, it reflected a lack of understanding — and an unwillingness to understand — of the way that I teach my students. The school asked me to develop non-traditional ways of teaching  in my academic discipline, and  I have done just that. The students (all except one) have given me high ratings, and I have received many industry accolades.

That was when I realized that the issue was not my inability to teach, but the fact that I had somehow outgrown the school. So I applied for other schools– with trepidation, remembering all too well how drawn-out and awful the last search was. 750 resumes, 13 on-ground interviews, countless phone interviews…

After applying for about six places, I found myself suddenly being courted seriously by two different schools, one here in New England and one in Scotland I’m not sure if I want the latter yet). The one here in New England has asked me to a third interview this week, and wants me because they are a school of “marvelous misfits” (their term) and I know how to engage learners of all types. I visited the school’s campus in advance since it is not far my my house, and what really struck me was the motto that was prominently displayed on every lamp-post in the town: You belong here. Those simple words told me more about the school than any other literature I could find on the campus or in the town. The other telling part was the relationship between the town and the school: It was impossible to determine where the school campus ended and the town began. The town hall itself is on the school’s campus. Student housing is peppered among town residences, and school office buildings are scattered throughout the town. This told me about the attitude of the area and  its willingness to co-evolve. The school has asked that I be willing to teach in multiple disciplines and at multiple academic levels. I see this as the chance I need: To grow and evolve in a place that welcomes innovators and misfits.

To be thorough, we decided to bring the girls to visit the town, since they are also part of this decision. They noticed that a) the pizza was good, b) there is a 32-run ski area less than 5 minutes away, and c) there is a pancake house. All important things! My husband and I noticed that the high school was very highly rated and had programs that interested the girls and that the houses were nice, many built in the last 30 years, and definitely in the affordable range for our budget.

This afternoon, I found myself working on my materials and introspection that precedes every interview I have ever given, and I am calm. I feel none of the anxiety I recall from my last search because this time I am working from strength. The obstacles I faced before — that I was moving from instructor to professor and relocating — are not relevant this time. My CV is heavy with accomplishments and I am very secure in my abilities. My most trusted colleagues have assured me that I am ready for and worthy of this change.

The hardest part is the not knowing how this will turn out. The storm of the unknown swirls around my head, threatening to distract me from my other responsibilities. Despite that storm, I cam calm, centered, and grounded. It is the calm during the storm.



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