Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Fruit of Summer...and...

I love the summer! The warmth of the sunshine on my skin. The cool splash of water as I swim or go water skiing. The time away from school and the joy I find in work. As a boy, it was the time of helping to pull the weeds in the vegetable garden, mowing the lawn and bringing the freshly cut and baled hay into the barn. As I reflect on summer, it's a time of fruit...and a time of weeds.

The summer of my life is much the like the summers we find in nature. For me, the majority of my focus was always on the fruit, while I let the weeds slowly grow, setting their roots deep into my soul. If one were to look at my life, from the time I graduated from college, until I was arrested, they would probably see the definition of success. I took my first teaching job, working as a high school science teacher and assistant coach in football and wrestling. Almost immediately, I continued to go back to college, spending countless night commuting up to 150 miles round trip for each class. The community I was living and working in was small and had no college campus of its own. I took part time jobs in the summer and on the nights I wasn't taking classes or coaching to help pay the bills. Regardless of what many people want to say...young teachers do not make a lot of money.

After a couple of years, I had started into a masters program in administration. After seven years as an assistant coach, I became a head football coach and spent the next five years trying to lead and mold young men, while at the same time, trying to put some numbers in the "win" column. They were far and few between. I finished up my masters degree and looked to move onto administration.

The frustrations of trying to get a job were frustrating the first year. Countless resumes sent out, but only two interviews...one in my own home district. But alas, no job offer. So it was another year in the classroom, continuing to improve my administrative skills, working hard not to burn any bridges in this district that I was working in...this district who didn't hire their own. But the following spring, I was back on the job hunt trail. More resumes sent out. Trips across the state to drop them off personally...time with Paula in the car. Once again, a job in my own district. Once again, a rejection. At times the pain still flairs from that last rejection. But God had other plans for me, and I was hired as an assistant principal in a high school in a community about 30 miles away from where I was working.

That first year went fast, and as springtime came around, the principal walked over to my office and sat down and told me he was retiring. He suggested that I should consider applying for his job. I was surprised...I had only been an administrator for a year and I didn't have the experience I thought the district would want in a leader at the high school level. I was wrong...and in late May of that year, I was hired as the principal of the high school. That wouldn't have happened if I had stayed where I was. Not if my last district would have hired me for any of the three jobs I had applied for. But God's plan is so much greater than my own. He continued to bring forth fruit in my life.

A new job. A new home...a dream home that Paula and I helped to design ourselves. The years went by quickly...too quickly as I reflect now. I loved the job, but there was always a job that was a little higher up the chain. The people I worked with liked and respected my management style and the way I treated people. They liked the way I was always learning...trying to stay out front in our profession. And when a job as an assistant superintendent came open in our district, they encouraged me to go for it. So I did after thought and prayer. I thought I would always want to be a principal...working closely with teachers and students. But the opportunity to provide instructional and curricular improvement for all of the students and teachers in the district was too great for me, so I applied for the job. And once again, I got it. I continued the climb up the "success ladder" that as a society we place so much emphasis on. The success always brings happiness...doesn't it?

The thing about jobs is that no matter where we are and no matter what our current job is, there always seems to be a better one. As I worked as an assistant superintendent, my boss Rich encouraged me to continue my schooling and go back to school for my superintendents credential. That way, if I ever wanted to apply for the "top job", I'd be ready. I took his advise. He was a good mentor for me, the type of superintendent in my many ways I would want to be. Once again, God opened a door for me. It was a new community, a new district. And when I went and interviewed for the job, it was crystal clear that this would be my next job. And it was. In the summer of 2003, I had it...the top job. I was a superintendent of schools...one of less than 300 like jobs in the state. From the outside, the fruit of the summer was magnificent. The crop was bumper. The barns were full and the prospects of having plenty for next season was high. But, it was an illusion. For during that summer season of my life, I had focused on the fruit...the produce, but I had neglected the weeds. And the weeds were like none you usually see in a field. No, these weeds were deep, and deceptive. You had to look deep to find them and if you didn't get rid of them from the deep roots, they could destroy everything. The weeds were there, and they were left unattended.

1 comment:

Deb said...

Very powerful metaphor. My prayers and heart are with you as you do this next bit of writing.