Career wise, I had to decide which direction I wanted it to go in. By May 2016, I just completed my fourth year of teaching/education. Last school year was a pivotal point, because I also began supporting teachers and coaching them more formally in the area of instructional technology. It was a year that provided me much insight. It also helped me see I did enjoy helping lead others. As a result, I began to research various graduate school programs in the areas of Curriculum and Instruction as well as Educational Leadership. By July 2016, I was accepted into Georgia State Univeristy's Educational Specialist program majoring in Educational Leadership.
Before I continue, I want to back track a tad. In March of this year, I received a new principal. This was my first time ever having to deal with a switch in leadership/administration. The one thing I can say I appreciated is that she saw that I was not afraid to work and also acknowledged me for my work. Anyone who truly knows me know I can be a workaholic (sometimes a good thing and sometimes not) and while I do not do so for vanity reasons and to be acknowledged, it felt good to be recognized. What made it even more exciting is the fact she saw my leadership qualities and is helping me become an educational leader. Because of her, I had my first summer where I did not have any time off. I was accepted into our district's Aspiring Leaders Program. Did I feel a little tired because I did not have the weeks off I was use to...yes; but, I would not trade that experience for anything. It helped me grow, network, and more importantly, gain valuable experiences many are not able or fortunate to have.
Like I stated before, I began working on my next degree. This semester was truly one of tests, trials, and tribulations. The first part of the year and the summer made me realize my purpose a little deeper. I have been asked countless times what is my "next", what do I want to be? Honestly, my answer has pretty much remained constant. I want to be a in position where I have influence to create a vision, cast the vision, and see the vision through that helps students, in particular those who are often misrepresented or do not have an adequate voice at the table of decision making. This graduate school program helps me begin to move in that direction. However, this semester...my God. I would never recommend someone teaching/instructional coaching full time and taking 12 hours of graduate course work (especially two courses which are normally 14 to 15 weeks in 6). Many days in late August and September were spent all day at work to come home and work everyday on assignments for my classes. Often times, I would finish between 11PM and 1AM to wake back up around 5 AM. I felt there like there was no end at some points and the work was not stopping.
Another point I had to learn again was how to find a work, graudate school, and personal life balance. I am not going to lie, it seemed like it took me until October to begin to figure out how to make that work. September was a draining month professionally. Being honest, my personal life was also sufferring. By October, it seemed my personal life was non existing for the most part and the part that was also drained me. I will tell anyone, professionally this year has been great. I have had experiences I would not trade for the world. Personally, I don't know if I would say the same. Without going into a lot of details, this was a year where I also began to focus on work more and more because I did not want to deal with things in my personal life including people. This was a year where I struggled with foundational relationships with friends and even some family members due to various reasons. This was a year where tight bonds were broken. Being honest, by October it felt like my personal life became a such a place of hell that I would come home after working, doing school work, and literally turn my phone off and become secluded from people. It was such a rocky point that I even began to question my relationship with God and even avoid church for weeks at a time.
In November, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The semester was finally ending. Periods of major projects at work were wrapping up. While I still had work to do, I began to feel free. It is amazing how that one friend who isn't afraid to sugar coat stuff with you can say things to help you regain perspective. I thank God for that friend. The area of my life that I felt the lowest in began to rebound. November was a month that I began to truly balance my work life, with graduate school, and my personal life again. More importantly, relationships redeveloped and new ones formed. I had mastered this balance so well while working on my Master's; but why was this not the case for this degree program? Who knows.
2016 was truly a year of ups and downs. The best of times and worst of times. This year took me to hell and back. This year made me feel blessed and fortunate; but, it also made me feel like what did I do wrong to deserve to go through such turmoil. This year even caused me to make probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make (one I think about nearly everyday). A decision that at one point I regretted; however, no longer do so. One that I take as a learning experience. They said experience is the greatest teacher, yet the hardest. If my 2016 didn't prove this to be true, I do not know what does. But inspite of, this experience has caused me to regain my faith (in particular with God) and helped me remember no matter what trials and tribulations may come, I can still rise up (judge me...this aint about the Falcons lol)!