Stumbling toward my question… finally.

The brilliant @gnichols and @jmedved have often said that sometimes just getting yourself in front of the right question can be the work of an entire season of Cohort 21. That’s where I’m at this year. Despite knowing since the 3rd F2F that my HMW question was all wrong for me for this point in time, following a 5 Whys protocol with @lbettencourt that ended in tears (yes, it’s true), I still seemed unable to land upon a better focus for my Action Plan. As it stands officially, my question is this: How might we engage always-busy faculty in meaningful and just-in-time PD? 

Not a bad question, to be sure. But I know deep down that I chose my question based on the fact that I had already come up with a plan that would allow me to check off that box and consider myself successful at another season of Cohort 21. But that is so not the point of Cohort 21.

After the soul-searching conversation with @lbettencourt, I also knew that if I was being honest with myself, worrying about engaging the faculty in my new tech integration position was not super high on my list of pain points. If we’re supposed to be trying to fix a big challenge in our practice, I had to finally admit that, despite trying to avoid it, my greatest challenge this year was about finding a balance for myself in my work and personal life. Even trying to put it out here in this space I struggle with feelings that it’s too selfish a question to be worthy of inclusion.

Before we get to it (I’m stalling because I haven’t actually figured out the wording yet but I’m convinced I’ll figure it out by the time I write out my thought process), there were a few things that got me to this place.

First, @amacrae‘s Action Plan that led to the CIS Ontario Women’s Network got me thinking hard about the power that we women have to support one another. So many of us are in the same boat of struggling to be everything to everyone in our lives and feeling inadequate. That night at UCC connected me with so many likeminded and similarly-challenged colleagues. I had an amazing chat with @swelbourn and a few others and I remember talking very little about school or teaching, but instead commiserating about the challenges of being a working mother. The session I attended with Stephanie Young on “Gender Biases in the Workplace” provided some honest information about the real struggles of pursuing a career and raising a family simultaneously.

Second, the Twitter chat that I hosted earlier in the year was focused on finding balance and seeking personal wellness. It was such a great chat and it felt to me like it was a topic that needed to be talked about. So many of us struggle during the school year to find time to self-care, or feel guilt when we stop working for an hour to do something that is good for our own mental health. We all have different individual challenges but it seemed clear that balance is for sure a challenge for most of us.

Third, my blog post during the March Break Is this the new normal got such a surprising and supportive response from the C21 community. I was afraid to come right out and say that I was struggling with these things, but I felt so supported by everyone who left a comment with a word of encouragement or understanding. (Thanks @lfarooq @amacrae @edaigle @jmedved @acampbellrogers!)

Finally, today at lunch I sat down with two incredible female colleagues who were already engaged in a conversation about, surprise, surprise: feeling guilt and exhaustion about being a working mother. It was like a message from the gods. On this day, the eve of the C21 final F2F, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I had to change my question. One thing that Gisa mentioned, which I couldn’t get out of my head for the rest of the day, was that she would love to interview some other working mothers and find out what their greatest challenges were, and what hacks they’ve developed over the years in order to manage. As soon as she said this, I could see the documentary video forming in my head. This was what I wanted to do.

How might we recognize and share the challenges of being women/mothers/wives/teachers/coaches/fill-in-the-blank-with-the-other-hats-you-wear ? 

So I have no fancy slide deck summary of my journey. I’m sorry everyone. It’s after 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. will be here far too soon. But I’ve finally landed myself in front of the question that makes me excited to start to find ways to answer it. And it might not be #perfect but it’s #goodenough for now. 

Thanks for reading, and for all of your support on this roller coaster of a year. See you all tomorrow.

10 thoughts on “Stumbling toward my question… finally.

  1. @jweening – thank you so much for writing this post!! Your post reflects what so many of us feel each day. Am I doing a good enough job in all areas of my life? I feel like your brand-new shiny HMW could be the theme of the next Women’s network…@swelbourn?? I would love to hear about ways to build self care into our lives.
    I think if more people talk openly and honestly about the struggle inherent in work/life balance, the easier it will be for these issues to be acknowledged and validated. Thank you.

  2. Community is so important and I can’t think of a better way to get support than to have everyone share their honest struggles with balance in a profession that expects the appearance of excellence and perfection. We perform everyday in our “role model” roles as teacher, _________, __________, and __________. (Fill blanks as they apply to you).

    Keeping it together and faking it until you make it to June, is not our end goal, but rather our mandate. So your HMW question is spot on!

    Well done!

  3. @jweening. Congrats on finding the question! I think it hits home for everyone.

    When I arrived at my new school in BC many people warned me of “how busy this place is” and often when I speak to colleagues from my old school, they want to know if “it is as crazy there?”. To me, they are trying to see if there are other schools, teachers, coaches, leaders, that have the work/life balance figured out. I wonder if anyone feels that they do? And if they do, do they feel judged for taking time for themselves?

    I can’t wait to watch the documentary 😉

  4. Jen,
    Just got to reading your post now, but was thrilled to listen to your journey in real life this afternoon. You have a tribe of women out there feeling exactly the same way you are and you have so much to offer! I think you landed a fantastic HMW question and I can’t wait to hear more about it! As I prepare to send my second born off to University, I have a few hacks I could share 🙂 Way to go and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know you better and coach alongside with you!
    L xo

  5. Hi Jen,
    Thanks for putting into spoken and written word what I have mostly struggled with in isolation. My kids are eight and ten now, and your words and ideas have brought to the fore a lot of tough memories. Wellbeing was heavily featured in many Season 7 action plans, which is good because it means we are noticing that it is lacking in a lot of our lives. I wish we were more in control of the next step, which is clearly defined roles, encouragement and reassurance with regards to taking it slow, taking it easy, and letting things go. The very fabric of our society is underpinned by the idea that good workers give 110%, and this system is slowly sucking us all dry. Thank you for being brave and saying it out loud so that others might follow. A chorus thousands of voices will be hard to ignore and leaders will have to adjust.

    1. Thanks for your comment @lfarooq! The more I talk about this struggle, the more I hear resounding “yes” from seemingly everyone! It was great to see you on Friday and I look forward to continuing to learn from you through your blog.

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