The International School of Luxembourg’s Learning Loft hosted a variety of professional development workshops and conferences, which attracted many international teachers, curriculum designers, and school leaders who participated in learning experiences to positively impact student learning. One workshop entitled "Advice to my Younger Self" asked school leaders to write an intimate and personal letter sharing the advice they would give to their younger selves. Inspired by this event, leaders in the educational community have offered to write letters for others to read and learn from their experiences.
To my younger self, I was not sure how to organize useful advice on how to navigate a career as an educator and most importantly as a person. From an early age, music has ignited memories and connections for you so a “Soundtrack of Advice” has been created to share guidance and encouragement to a younger Nancy.
This Is Me - Keala Settle
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
First and foremost, Nancy, always be true to yourself, and without hesitation, never change who and what you are as an individual. Yes, some will say that you are a real “New Yorker” (which is a good thing!), some will say that you are too talkative, some will say that you are too emotional, and some will say that you come off too strong. Don't let these words discourage you as they might make you feel less worthy for any position or opportunity. In future years, these and other qualities enable you to connect with individuals and develop relationships that endure decades. Those individuals who truly care about you embrace and elevate these qualities rather than criticizing them. Being true to yourself will become a pillar to whom you are as an educator and eventually a leader.
Lean on Me - Bill Withers
Lean on me
When you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on...
During this journey, surround yourself with people who are going to lift you. Strive to cultivate meaningful relationships which are based on mutual appreciation that creates positive energy between individuals. Consequently, do not hesitate to seek assistance and lean on those who care about you. Do not see this vulnerability as a weakness but rather a strength. The younger Nancy prefers to give the perception that you are the ultimate multitasker. As you get older, you learn maintaining such expectations are not feasible and you will need to reach out to your tribe. Your tribe will support and love you, provide that critical feedback from the heart, and be there for you with for all your successes and failures.
Happy - Pharrell Williams
Uh, bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down
My level's too high to bring me down
Can't nothing, bring me down, I said
Bring me down, can't nothing
At an early age, your energy embodied your character. As a leader you will learn that your positivity will have an impact upon relationships both personally and professionally. However, focus your energy on what you can control because your true happiness lies upon your ability to be agile and reflective according to the given circumstances. I won’t say don't sweat the “small stuff” because within a school community in many instances, it is the “small stuff” that causes the most frustration among stakeholders. These little things can easily escalate so lead with positive intent for others and be transparent with your actions. This will lead to happiness as an educator, a leader, and most importantly as a person.
Recovery - James Arthur
In the sound of the sea
In the oceans of me
I defined, I designed
From the start of your career, keep your wellbeing a priority and not an afterthought. In your 20s and 30s, working 10 to 12 hours a day was a norm. Yet, as the 40s and 50s hit, your body was no longer able to recover as quickly and you experienced a series of serious health challenges. You bounced back every time with a smile, yet you were still very stubborn as to know when to devote the necessary time to your own well being. Years later, yoga did not exactly work for you (being quiet for long stretches of time is not an asset) but eventually you found a pathway to recovery.
Celebration - The gang, Kool
There's a party going on right here
A dedication to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you
Come on now
The last piece of advice is keep celebrating! Regardless of any turmoil, challenges, frustrations, recognize the best in others which only strengthens the bonds between your family, teams, and the school community. Festive moments provide individuals a means to deepen relationships and feel valued. Never underestimate the impact of a celebration in terms of building trust and loyalty. Your sincere efforts to elevate others becomes a strength as you become a leader. Even on those days that you are feeling discouraged or dismayed, your efforts to celebrate demonstrates that you care. Ensure that celebrations are authentic and coming from the heart. As you get older, be cognizant that colleagues differ on how they wish to be recognized. Not everyone needs streamers and balloons. Most importantly, never stop appreciating those around you.
So, to summarize … make no apologies, This is Me!
Nancy is Head of Community Relations at the International School of Luxembourg.