It's hard to put into words what I'm feeling. I guess the closest word would be "bittersweet." I look forward to the next step in my journey of life, but I know that I'll miss so much about what has been my "normal" for the past 45 years. I am an educator; I will still be an educator, even in my retirement. Our school vision is "Empowering learners to explore, discover, create, and share." I don't intend to stop learning or sharing my thoughts and ideas.
Casual conversations with others are forcing me to face my insecurities. I told Yuuko that I never really learned to swim because during the summer when I was supposed to learn, I got a rash. The doctor thought it was due to the chlorine in the pool. I expressed regret that I am a poor swimmer so Yuuko decided I need to learn now. She gave me swimming lessons at the Y. I mentioned to Teri that I was thrilled when I was able to replicate a picture in the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by following the instructions. The next day, Teri brought some art books and art materials for me. (Her husband is a retired art teacher.) When I shared how my grandsons loved the garden at our school, she gave me some gardening tools. Talk about pressure to follow through on my words!
As I sit here in an office that's been mostly cleared out, I am reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future.
What I'll miss most:
- the people - I believe that it's the students, staff, parents, other school leaders, and those I came into contact with who made this the best possible "job" for me. It was a job, but it didn't feel like a job because I enjoyed myself each and every day. Seeing the growth of our students and our staff was so rewarding!
- the conversations - I believe that if we don't ask tough questions and really listen to other viewpoints, we are limiting our overall impact. I have grown so much from listening to others, disagreeing sometimes, but always feeling that I have learned from the experience and the discussion. Nothing is set in stone, and listening to different viewpoints made good ideas even better.
- the challenges - I believe that sometimes, the most difficult challenges help us the most. We have had our share at our school, but putting ourselves in someone else's shoes has helped me to look at challenges from a different perspective. I choose to view challenges as opportunities to work together to problem-solve, to think out-of-the-box to find a win-win. It is possible!
As I reflect on my 15 1/2 years as the principal of Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School (aka Hale Kula Elementary), I feel a sense of calm. I know that as the Department focuses on School Design, Teacher Collaboration, and Student Voice, our school has already been moving in that direction for the past few years. I remember that in my principal interview all those years ago, I shared that as a military-impacted school with students who would be with us for just a few years, my goal was to have them learn and feel aloha so they could take that with them to share at their next school. Today, my vision has changed. I still want our students to learn the important values of our island state, but I want them to also know that through their actions, they can make a difference for others in their school or their community or their state or the world. I am confident that the new principal, Yuuko Arikawa, and her staff will continue to move that vision forward.
A hui hou, malama pono.
I was so fortunate to have such a spacious office for the past few years.
I cross-stitched this for Randy when he was elected to the State Senate back in 1990. When he left office, he brought it home so I decided to put it up in the principal's office when our Administration Building was completed. I am grateful that Yuuko agreed to have me leave it here for her; she will be the next principal. I think the last few lines describe how I chose to lead our school. "I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference."