The Detoxing Man is Resilient (in the face of failure and feeling)
I once led a team of five Educational Technology coaches in a large urban school district of Colorado. This job was an incredible opportunity to work within schools with teachers to engage students using transformative technologies. I came to the district at a time of great investment for innovation, whether that was in collaborative tools in the classroom, makerspaces in the libraries, or alternative digital credentials across the city.
But then something shifted. The leadership changed, as did the priorities. It didn’t happen all at once, but the topics of our meetings and the work itself became less concerned with the future and more focused upon the hyper-logistical present. My coaches and I successfully kept our heads down for nearly a year, all while implementing one of the largest change-management projects ever attempted within the district, the move toward collaborative tools and away from legacy email servers.
But, one day toward the end of the school year, my supervisor put a meeting on my calendar. When I entered into her large office and sat across the conference table from her, I knew it was going to be a rough one. She proceeded to tell me in a matter-of-fact tone that my team was being eliminated. The work would not continue, and I was no longer needed to lead it. It was a gut punch.
And yet, I could not sit with the information. Once it was relayed, it set off a chain reaction in my brain. My team, the five people who I trusted most in my work, were going to be fired. I immediately delayed feeling my own pain and instead considered their fate. I asked about how it would be handled with them, and I was told it would be “taken care of” later the following day. So, I sat with the knowledge that the new direction of the district would not include us.
It felt like failure, and the rejection of my belief that a system could support innovation even into prevailing headwinds. But, then I experienced something unexpected. When I sent out word that this work would no longer be done, I received nothing but love and advocacy on our behalf. Teachers stood up at school board meetings and decried this shift in priority and the loss of these jobs. Everyone I knew sent me emails and LinkedIn messages of support, helping me to find silver linings everywhere.
And it was this network of support that made it so I did not have to feel the full weight of my own failure. It also made it so the district ended up having to post jobs with eerily similar descriptions, although they never did concede their mistake. The damage had been done, and even as I found a new position in a place that better supported innovation, I learned that failure wasn’t fatal.
Not only did I survive, but I knew with crystal clarity those who were in my corner. They came to my aide immediately and without hesitation. My resilience is built upon others faith in me and is demonstrated in times of my worst failure. It was enough to feel the moment fully, and then to put their faith back into myself. And when I did that, failure felt good.