Nearly twenty years later, I became the Vice Principal of a K-8 elementary school. One day the principal and I were having a conversation about our staff and we are reflecting on how great our staff was and how lucky we were to work with such devoted people. I shared the story about my small faith-sharing group because I realized that it was a similar situation. I felt I had come to some great epiphany and I wanted to share it.
My principal, however, was not surprised. She simply said, "to know me is to love me".
It is that simple - to know me is to love me.
Over the last two years, I've achieved a certain clarity about what is necessary to be successful and find joy in the administrator's role. Love is a verb, it is not just a feeling, it is an action. Actually, it is a series of actions that you choose to make. Love is a decision.
In order to love someone, you have to make the effort to get to know them on a personal level. Knowing them as a coworker is not enough. You need to know who they are in their life outside of school as well as in school. You need to know what is important to them, what they enjoy, what they are afraid of, what their particular gifts are, and where they struggle.
Knowing who a person is, you must then shine their goodness, their assets, back to them. Be their mirror. This involves empowering them to use their assets, their gifts and talents, to help support the community of learners. Need them. Make sure they know they are needed. Let them know how they are needed.
Be of service to them. Take action knowing what they care about, what they need, where they are vulnerable, support them when and where they need support.
Yes, we need to know one another to love one another. But more than that, we need to be there for one another, we need to be of service to one another in order to love one another. It is not the act of being served that makes us love another, it is the act of providing service to someone else that leads to our loving them.
Love is a decision.
And here is the best part: with love comes joy. While love is a deliberate act, joy is its byproduct - a freely given gift to one who loves.
Being an educator is not for the faint of heart. Being an educator is a call to love. It is in the loving that we empower others to be their best selves, whether it is our students or our colleagues, and it is in the loving that we find joy in our jobs.