Divided No More

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.

Reflection

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!”

Realization

What I have come to realize is that I was experiencing, as Parker Palmer explains in A Hidden Wholenessa 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.

Integration

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:

Contemplation

  1. Is the “teacher”-you different from the spouse/partner-you? If so, why? Which one is the “real” you?
  2. What benefits might there be to integrating all aspects of yourself into a unified whole in your personal life? …in your professional life?
  3. 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?

 

  • JessicaCuthbertson

    Contemplating…

    I’ve been thinking a great deal about the first question. A dear CTQ colleague often jokes, “Is your husband getting the wife version of you or the teacher version of you?” Truth be told that depends on the day, the week, and the to-do list.

    They (my “teacher leader self” and my “spouse self”) are often two different people, but I think they are both the “real me” just different parts of me. I’m continue to seek balance and I work to make sure my “teacher/teacherpreneur self” doesn’t dominate dinner table conversations or date nights or Sundays. So I guess I’m wondering, is there also a price to pay for full integration? 

    Sundays I’m trying to keep sacred, both literally and figuratively. So far, so good for the most part. On Sundays I say “no” to things that generally consume me like unanswered emails and stacks of papers that are beckoning for feedback. But the more I “protect” Sundays, the more tired I begin the Monday marathon of tasks. So, I’m beginning to think that one day cannot provide balance and that balance and integration need to be part of a daily ritual. I can tell the days that I’m more balanced and integrated (and so can my students) as in both roles I smile and laugh more, and sigh less.

    • LoriNazareno

      Daily Balance

      Yay for you for keeping Sundays protected for you! I am wondering though if there aren’t small things that can be done on a daily basis to keep you centered and balanced. It kind of defeats the purpose if your “balance” day throws everything else out of kilter. Don’t get me wrong….I am talking about doing something daily, in addition to keeping Sundays sacred!

  • zacharyrupp

    Wow…

    You mean I am not the only one dealing with these issues?  Of course (Lori) I hear your voice about once a week iterate a conversation we had some years ago (and once a year since then) about “choosing the things you want to focus your attention on, and letting go of the others…” which gets combined with a question another dear friend asked me recently “what are you doing to ‘feed’ you?”  Something I always ask myself, but definitely strikes a different tone when heard through someone else’s voice.

    What is interesting is that I run across people all of the time who say to others “my job is not my life.”  I have never known how to process that statement.  Often, I default to “you must not be doing what you love”, but also recognize it is a default way of saying “life-work balance” (their jobs must end promptly at 5pm and start at 8am).  We spend approximately half of our waking-life physically in our work environemnt(s).  So, I used to ask “how do you NOT let it take over?”

    I feel like I am the same person both during and outside-of work, and definintely feel Jessica C’s trepedation around needing to “filter” some of the energy, excitement, and emotional turmoil… Self-sustainability has been searing through my brain since August, and turning things “off” for a day doesn’t seem to help.  I am working toward making opportunities to “pause” on a daily basis.   So far, it has tken the form of making myself leave the building during lunch and take a walk or drive.  Now I have cleared out a space in my apartment to develop my yoga practice at home (slowly getting there) and to take moments to “stop and breathe”.  I am slowly creating the opportunity to get out of the “run as fast as I can” then “crash and burn” cycles that happen on a weekly basis.  Now all of this is happening (imperfectly) while being single, so now I am wondering how will I be able to balance all of it when a relationship presents itself?  WHEW!