There I was at the final session of a yearlong professional development program, which surprisingly, and very pleasantly, turned out to be the most atypical professional development that I had ever attended. As an administrator for more than 14 years, I had experienced quite a few of them and was therefore extremely conversant on the good and bad of professional development. This professional development, however, seemed more of a retreat for early childhood administrators desperately in need of refuge from the tumultuous world of accountability.
We were graciously welcomed and mentored by some of the greatest minds in early childhood education. They understood the complexity of being leaders in this field and honored our contributions to it. It was truly an amazing educational and spiritual experience that empowered the cohort of leaders to become reflective practitioners who implemented shared and data-driven decision-making practices within their professional communities. This ultimately resulted in happier staff and improved programming.
I digress. So there I was, on that last day, listening to other members of the group express gratitude to our mentors for a year of both professional and personal growth. One by one, they proclaimed a renewed commitment to their respective functions within their agencies. It was quite moving to watch such passion and appreciation. When it was my turn to speak I stood slowly, looked directly at the teary-eyed bunch and said in the clearest most confident voice I’d ever uttered, “This PD has changed my life. After much thought, I have decided that I’m ready to move on to another career. Thank you all for assisting me with making this decision.” The room fell silent.
My colleagues didn’t know that I had been looking over the precipice of my career for quite some time. Before that year, I did not even realize this fact. I loved working with families and I adored my staff. For 14 years, it was all that I knew (and I knew a lot about what I knew). I was definitely a creature of habit and my upbringing was deeply rooted in traditional values such as hard work, dedication, and persistence. Being a director was my identity, and I felt an overwhelming obligation to identify with my identity.
Except it was getting harder to do so. Somewhere, I began to wonder if there was something else I should be doing with my life. I became increasingly fascinated with popular adages like, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again,” and “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” I found myself pondering, “Why should people keep trying at something if it’s just not for them?” and “If nobody ever quits anything, then how do new adventures ever begin?”
Certainly, I did not believe the goal of that leadership development program was to lose a director. (MAN OVERBOARD!) Nevertheless, within that brief year, I had been equipped with a serious professional arsenal. In the process of learning how to become a reflective and intentional leader, I discovered the 4 C’s which helped me to determine that it was time for me to do away with the old and step into a new season of my life. These 4 C’s are particularly useful during the decision-making process and will help you navigate through transitions of any kind—no matter how big or small. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Using the 4 C’s to guide my decision-making process kicked off a series of events that impacted my life in unimaginable ways. It changed the trajectory of my career path and supported my goal to implement deliberate tactics for better outcomes. This formula will work for any change—either professional or personal— in your life. While persistence and dedication are admirable and sometimes necessary attributes to have, so are ingenuity and adaptability. The next time you find yourself at a crossroad, remember the 4 C’s. They can help you steer clear of emotion-based influences that inhibit objectivity, ensure that you have confidence in whatever decision you reach, motivate you to set a plan in motion, and encourage you to bravely take on the modifications that are crucial to your success. Here’s to your new beginning!
Editor's Note: This post is being reposted from the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership. It was first published on their blog on October 28, 2015.
LeTosha White earned a BA in English from DePaul University and Master of Education from Argosy University. When she is not cheering and supporting folks who are seeking quality interactions and program improvement as a CLASS pre-K trainer and MTP coach across Illinois, she is almost certain to be found on a Caribbean beachfront with her favorite (and only) son, Cam.
A year ago, urged on by my insightful new colleague, Manda Klein, who was born and raised in Texas, I wrote a blog entitled, At Our Core. It praised the bipartisan efforts to discontinue the practice of separating children from their parents and caregivers at our country’s borders.
It’s been a great year. You have just conducted some professional development trainings for the group of teachers you are coaching. You got the opportunity to visit their classrooms and see them in action, do formal and informal CLASS observations, and had countless coaching conversations. You see that it’s all beginning to click. You have the teachers’ buy-in, and the motivation is high.
On a hot summer day in July 2016, I had the good fortune of being the one not on vacation on our small policy and research team. Instead, I went to DC to serve as Teachstone’s representative for a convening of policymakers, researchers, and ECE practitioners. They were gathering to discuss if and how exemplary Head Start grantees might be identified for Leading by Exemplar, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Bellwether Education Partners.