Life is a Good Teacher
"Sometimes it takes the relationships that don't last forever to teach us the lessons that will."
I'm a believer that experiences can be the greatest teacher of them all.
Early in my career as principal I struggled with some things. One of the greatest challenges I had to figure out was, and still is at times, why people would treat me differently on Monday compared to Sunday?
I was a young thirty something, new principal. I truly didn't know what I didn't know. I never intentionally tried to rule with an iron fist or give an ultimatum of my way or the highway. However for all the smiles and attempts to build relationships something just wasn't clicking.
The first time I felt it was on a Monday evening well after the bell had dismissed students. As I sat in my office I was reamed on the phone by a parent. This was the same parent that I shook hands with at church. This was the same parent that was eager to reach out and share their excitement that I was the Principal at Warner.
And now I'm the villain? What changed?
I slumped in my chair and didn't even know who to talk to. It was getting dark outside and I just put my head in my hands.
A few weeks later a similar situation arose. A friend came to me and shared some of the demeaning comments that were being shared about me in the community. If I could have seen my own face I'm sure it was one of bewilderment and confusion. I had not even been at this for 5 months and I was being backstabbed and hung out to dry.
I vividly remember the hurt and pain I felt. I stopped going to church. I kept praying, but I couldn't handle sitting next to people that would be kind on Sunday and treat me like trash on Monday. On the outside I put on a brave face, but inwardly, I was breaking.
But again I didn't share the struggles because a part of me was ashamed that I was failing. Thank goodness for a couple of friends that provided some reassurance and a lifeline.
The first was my good friend, Jimmy Casas. He gave me some tough love and simply told me that I had to stop letting negative people take up space in my own head. His exact words were, "You're letting them live rent free in your head!" He was right.
The second was Joe Sanfelippo. Joe has a unique ability of finding the humor in most situations. In this instance Joe made fun of me. At first I didn't know how to take it, but then he added, "You can't take everything so seriously. People's opinions of you aren't your business." I had never heard that, but in a humbling way he was correct.
I also began to pay very close attention to what was right in front of me. After a challenging beginning of my principalship I chose to be fully transparent and to do my very best to live in the moment. Do you know what came easiest? Loving the kids.
I rediscovered my why by connecting with our kids each and every day.
Now as I have years of experience under my belt I take a slightly different approach to backlash and trolling. A wise woman once said, "When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high."
When you put yourself in a position of leadership you will encounter adversity, pushback, anger, sadness, and so many more challenges. But you always have a choice in how you respond. To me, true leadership is rising above our differences and finding a way to leave our world better than we found it.
Life has taught me many things and here is one more thing I expect...I'm not done learning and I'm not done growing. I hope you will see adversity as an opportunity. Some of the best life lessons come from the biggest obstacles.
My journey has not been easy, but it has made me the person I am today. And for that, I'm forever grateful.
Mr. Gilpin is a people first educator that is focused on serving others, building relationships, student engagement and empowering staff.