Last week at a before-the-school-year-starts meeting, we participated in a version of a great ice-breaker/party game: choose a character (real or fictional) that you identify with, write the character’s name on a name tag, explain why you chose that character and then refer to yourself and your fellow participants by their “new” name. The game was not my failure – in fact, I did pretty well, I tied for first place. But I want to really embrace my character and why I admire her…so let me explain:
I chose the (modern version) My Little Pony character, “Twilight Sparkle.” She’s a unicorn and protegé to Ponyville’s Princess. What I admire about her is that every day she writes to the princess, reflecting upon her day and sharing the lessons she learned. I often wonder how much I could gain if I took that kind of time to deliberately reflect DAILY on my day…and in writing! Okay, so now that you’re up to speed on my character, back to my EPIC FAIL.
Tomorrow I will officially go back to work. It’s the first day of the 2011-2012 school year for faculty. I have wonderful and exciting plans for the year. I am in the process of completely reorganizing and renovating my tiny office. I am full of hope and positive energy. However, I am coming off the absolute worst school year of my eleven year career. It was an absolutely horrible year professionally for me. I know I hinted at it in random posts, but I need to really own how much last year sucked. How low I really felt. How much I really did fail. And I want to do this so that I can walk away stronger, smarter, and just better. And now is as good of a time as any.
I obviously can’t really write in detail about my year because of counselor confidentiality, but here are the things I have identified as the main ingredients of my “Epic Fail” year:
1. A seriously broken male student, let’s call him “John.”
2. John’s father openly hated, and refused to cooperate with any other faulty or staff member other than me.
3. Our school administration, seeing the problem with John and his father, allowed me to serve as teacher, counselor, and administrator in order to keep things civil.
4. Feeling the burden of (unrealistic) responsibility that I placed on myself for John I ended up spending probably 90% of my time dealing with him and his father, seriously neglecting my other students, job duties and my own sanity.
5. I allowed myself to be used by my school (which I don’t think was intentional), John and his father – and by the time I finally figured it out it was too late.
6. Feeling desperate, I resorted to a very left-field idea to remove John from campus, which worked. It made the school community very happy. I was happy, too – but the kind of happiness that is covered with guilt.
7. I was never able to help John get the services I think he needs to heal.
8. I really let my other students down.
9. I can’t go back and fix it, change it, do it over again.
10. My knowledge of this student’s “broken-ness” still haunts me in a very real way.
*channeling Twilight Sparkle’s magical energy*
In thinking about all of this, I now realize that I must be an advocate for myself, just as much as I am for my students. I realize that however unorthodox my “good” years may look from the outside, I am a good counselor, and in failing last year, I now can see all of the successes I have had in other years. And above all else, I am not going to be able to save every kid who comes my way…and as much as it breaks my heart, I have to be okay with that.
Failure is a part of life. I have failed. I have learned. I will have an epic year – but the good kind of epic, thank you very much.