To integrate is to make into a whole by bringing all parts together; unify.
In the winter of 2007 I set out to create a school. Along the way a new teacher-led school was launched. But so too, was a journey that impacted my professional life, transformed personal life and awakened my soul. It is through the integration of professional, personal and spiritual aspects of myself that I have found a sense of wholeness in my life.
People often ask how our teacher-led school came to be and frequently want to know how they can do the same themselves. As I contemplate how to tell the story of the Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA), the teacher-led school that I designed and launched, I realize that the story of the school goes beyond policies, curriculum and district processes. And, the tendency to separate the personal and spiritual parts of the story reflects an awakening that needed to happen within me to find success in both arenas. The truth of the matter is, that the entire experience of the journey is what made the school possible and my personal and spiritual growth are inextricably connected as part of the journey. If I don’t share those parts of the story, then it will be left incomplete.
As I reflect back on life as it was at the beginning the school design process, I recall that, in my professional life I was flying high and my personal life had crashed and burned. At that time I was a dually-certified National Board Certified Teacher and involved in many teacher leadership activities at the local, state and national levels. During that same time my relationship of 10 years had fallen apart, I lost a lot of money as a result, and had few friends. In one of my lowest moments I wrote the following in my journal: “I find myself now slipping into a very dark place in my soul. Thoughts of despair and being trapped dominate my every moment.” The last thing I wrote in that entry: “I need help!”
What I have come to realize is that I was experiencing, as Parker Palmer explains in A Hidden Wholeness, a life divided. In my professional life, I felt whole. I fully integrated who I am into what I did. I showed up as my authentic self with vitality and passion. But in my personal life, I was so busy trying to be what I thought other people wanted me to be that I didn’t recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror. Thus, the life divided.
I have a deep belief that the Universe responds to our requests and my cry for “help” was answered in the form of the school. The opportunity to immerse myself into the design and launch of a dramatically different school provided me a space to fully experience the sensation of complete integration. It is through those experiences that I had the opportunity to examine those places in my life that needed healing.
Through this examination of my spiritual self, I brought my personal life into alignment. I also became a better teacher, a better leader and our school became a better school.
So, from my perspective, I must integrate the personal and spiritual with the professional and educational aspects of the story. Otherwise the story is incomplete, and I run the risk of the recreating the divided life.
People often ask me how to get started with creating their own schools. In this blog you will find some of those answers, both the practical education-related information, as well as, the spiritual and personal growth that was required of me. I will also invite you to engage you in your own integration process. I look forward to the journey! Questions for you:
- Is the “teacher”-you different from the spouse/partner-you? If so, why? Which one is the “real” you?
- What benefits might there be to integrating all aspects of yourself into a unified whole in your personal life? …in your professional life?
- On a larger scale, in what ways do our schools and educational system perpetuate compartmentalization and a divided life? What benefits might there be in integration of content areas?… of mind, body and spirit into schooling?