I’m at a major transition point in my teaching career that’s having a ripple effect to all areas of my life. A month ago the elementary school where I’d worked for six years closed permanently. I grew up there. I began as an assistant, went to graduate school and did my student teaching there, and then settled into teaching k/1. This place not only molded me into the teacher that I am today but also in many ways the human that I am. Needless to say, the goodbye was incredibly emotional.
Next year I’m moving into a new position (teaching 4th grade!) at a new school. I’m so grateful, nervous, excited, and unsure of what to expect! In times of uncertainty like these, I find myself often grasping for things that I can “count on.” What will ground me in this new space?
Recently, I was talking with a colleague and friend about this and she reminded me of a tool that Brene Brown has in her book Dare to Lead that helps to clarify personal values. Brene walks the reader through a step by step process of identifying the values that matter most to us and then whittling down and categorizing them until we are left with the two that are most prominent in our lives. I read Dare to Lead when it first came out but have not returned to this exercise since then. Being at such a different point in life now and finding myself searching for a sense of stability and the “known,” I decided to go through this exercise again to pinpoint my top two values. Here’s how it works:
1). Print off this list of values, write in any values that are missing, and highlight the ones that feel most important to you. Brene emphasizes the importance of focusing on yourself personally rather than thinking about what you value for others (ex: as a teacher, it’s easy to fall into determining “what I value for my students”– keep it personal)
2). Once you’ve highlighted the ones that are most important to you (I highlighted 39…!) re-read them and begin to eliminate some that don’t feel as important as others and/or categorize them into groups. It was helpful for me to identify a few “umbrella” values that I thought encompassed others. I drew a crazy web of arrows to think through this myself. For example, I highlighted “balance” and “home” and, on a second read through, decided that “home” fit inside of “balance” because when I feel most balanced I have time at home to be with loved ones. So I drew an arrow from “home” to “balance.”
3). If you have more than two big umbrella values after re-reading through your highlights, go through an additional round. Continue eliminating and/or categorizing until you are left with the two values that feel most important to you now, in your current phase of life. In Dare to Lead, Brene talks about how we can use this exercise at different points in our lives and our values will change as we shift and grow.
At the end of the exercise, I was left with balance and authenticity.
I’m planning to do some journaling about each this week to unpack a bit more about what these words mean in the current context of my life…personally, professionally, in community with others. As I prepare to step into a new school year and experience at the end of August, I’m curious how I might prioritize these in my work with colleagues and children.
What are your top two values?
How will you be intentional about prioritizing them in all facets of your life?