Beginning with the End in Mind
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2004
Laura Reasoner Jones comes to terms with the end of a techonology project that she had a fundamental role in as it moves onto a larger scale.
Jones, L.R. (2004). Beginning with the end in mind. Teacher Leaders Network diaries. Retrieved from the Teacher Leaders Network 10 Apr 2008. Link: http://www.teacherleaders.org/old_site/diaries/LRJ06.html
Beginning with the End in Mind
I start this school year full of anticipatory grief, a cool little term I learned when we were in the throes of Julie's melanoma scares. According to the National Cancer Institute, "Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs in anticipation of an impending loss." Although usually associated with death, anticipatory grief can also describe the anticipation of a major loss. And for me, I am anticipating and grieving the end of this wonderful project.
I am filled with both pride and pressure as I begin this last year. We have a great deal to be proud of—we have made huge strides in our goal of improving computer access for our families. And yet, the pressure is on to make it better and complete it by next June. I feel a huge need to achieve, to accomplish, to get more families on line, to get more parents using email, to get more community involvement.
I sit at the start-of-school meetings and realize how privileged I am to be included. The other 238 people in the county with my job title are not able to attend these high-level planning meetings, but by virtue of the unique nature of the project I manage, I am invited and encouraged to attend and participate. By next June when my project is over, I don't know how much I will have contributed, but I will certainly know how much I have learned. It is very exciting and illuminating to listen to the decision-making process as it happens, and it is disturbing and saddening to think that it will not always be this way—that when the project is over, I will be on the receiving end of decisions, not part of the process. That is where the grieving comes in.
I also look around these rooms and realize that next year I will be working somewhere else with all new people, and I have no idea where that will be, other than it will be somewhere within this school system. I am approaching Woody Allen-like neurosis—people like me do not like this kind of uncertainty. Next year at this time I could be crawling under desks attaching printer cables, or running a school library, or working an office job, doing something that has not yet been defined or funded. Exciting? Sure, but disconcerting. Change, never an easy thing for me, is even harder these days.
My boss, the visionary, left in June. He found his dream retirement job near his grandchildren and his beloved UVA and left without looking back. And so our vision for this project is left to me to finish alone. I grieve his absence also. My new boss is wonderful—an exceptional educator and leader—but she isn't the maverick technology visionary that I worked with before. She is bringing our group and our projects into line with the rest of the county, resulting in more cooperation and less suspicion, and she keeps us focused on the kids. But I will miss the new technology toys I could order, and the Wow factor of playing with new software and hardware that my old boss and I shared. It was truly fun while it lasted.
My ego is getting smacked around also. I always knew that the goal of our project was to develop a model that could be "scaled up" for the entire system. But I didn't realize that it would happen so fast. Things worked so well last year that the central offices are using many of our ideas throughout the whole system already, without waiting for the project to be completed and evaluated. Our Community Internet Access Maps went county-wide; our translated handouts popped up on the system Web site, and our computer purchasing program opened to everyone. I should be proud, but I realize that I wanted to do it all, show that it worked and then present it to the school system in a nice tidy package with my and my former boss' names on it.
I wanted to get credit for it and turn it into a new job. I wanted to say: "Here, look at what we did. We tried it. It works. And you can have it now. And I can run it for you."
Deep in my heart, I want to be the Digital Divide coordinator for the whole school system. I want to do the community outreach necessary in all of the little poverty pockets. I want to set up and maintain the communication channels for the different services. I want to help families find the resources they need. And most of all I want to keep reminding staff and more affluent parents and community members that there are poor people all around us.
I love this job. I love the fact that this year the libraries called me (!) to set up our planning meeting that we had had twice before: "Laura, school is starting soon—did I miss our planning meeting?" I love that I was able to finally resolve the issue of the Internet service for the apartment complex Family Center and get them online for free. I love that our group of schools has found such innovative ways to use Blackboard instructionally that they are becoming role models for the rest of the county.
I love making a difference, and that is what I am grieving most of all. I am beginning the year with the end constantly in mind.
And I don't want it to end.