Friday, July 8, 2011

The Teacher's Life Coach

By Katie Hellerman

If there were one thing I could wish anyone in life, it would be clarity. The funny thing is that I don’t need to wish this for people. About 90 percent of life’s clarity comes from the individual. The thing is that most people spend the majority of their lives without any idea of where they are going or what they really want. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I just took opportunities as they came to me. I figured fate was leading me somewhere. I went to a certain college, I became a teacher, I lived next to the ocean in a yurt, I learned how to create landscape designs, etc. Each place that fate took me was interesting and fun, and oftentimes I was very good at what I did. But I never found things to be satisfying. It wasn’t until recent years that I understood that I would only feel satisfied if what I was doing was connected to a deeper purpose. I had been living my life in a way that was a lot like putting on a blindfold and trying to hit the bowling pins. How could I ever expect to win the game if I didn’t know where or what the goal was?

Asking myself what I really wanted in life was actually pretty terrifying. I kept writing goals down and thinking, “I can’t do that! I shouldn’t even write it down. Everyone will think I’m crazy.” At one point, I broke down into complete sobs. Despite a great story I had told myself about my life thus far,I felt like I had wasted so much time in life by just floating around. As Jack Canfield said, “[I] got to the top of the ladder only to find out [I] had it leaning up against the wrong wall.” Even though it was terrifying to find out what I really wanted in life, it actually worked to my advantage. Now every project I do is connected to a deeper purpose. Even when I’m doing something totally boring like my taxes, all I need to do is figure out how it will get me to my ultimate goal and I find the energy to finish.

My lack of long-term personal vision was one of my biggest mistakes as a teacher. It caused me to get worked up about … well, everything, including what the summer reading was going to be or the gossip that was being spilled in the teacher’s lounge. I was winning the battles but losing the war. I didn’t have a perspective on life that was bigger than what was going on in school. What was my vision for my life? Where was I going? If I’d had a bigger vision for myself, I could have more carefully expended my energy.

The world needs people who live with passion, purpose and vision. No matter what your profession, I encourage you to take some time to really reflect on whether you are truly walking your path.

Katie Hellerman is a success coach for elementary and secondary school educators. Her work with them focuses on setting short-term goals that lead to the achievement of long-term life goals. Katie credits her deep understanding of the educational system to her three-year investigation under the guise of a substitute teacher. She observed and interviewed more than four hundred public and independent schoolteachers about their ability to be successful in their school system. Katie’s personal breakthrough in the discovery of the Teaching Game came about as she struggled and later succeeded in her second year as a high school Spanish teacher. She is a graduate of Smith College and holds a MEd in Secondary Education from Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education.

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