Dale Partridge’s People Over Profit is a wake up call to everyone to view our efforts with a microscope. Are we leaning in to our purpose for personal gain or the betterment of the world? The former may lead to a great deal of ego stroking, while the latter may not be as glamorous. Before we go too far into his text, it is essential to develop a healthy context for pursuit of walking in our purpose. Over the next few weeks, I hope to share practical nuggets that we all can apply to our efforts and which will bring a greater level of victory. Before we start, I have a question for the community: What is your relationship to your purpose?
Here is the context from where I stand…
My reality is that I teach in a very economically challenged community. The average household income is just above $30,000.00. Two years ago we were labeled as one of the worst performing schools in the state of Florida. My school is on its third principal in two years. Do you get the picture?
I am entering my third year at the school. I have more stories to share than I could write for this assignment. Not all of the stories are negative, many are positive. It is all in perspective.
My point regarding being vulnerable involves key district officials. The key issue has been the perception of a teacher stepping out of the boundaries to bring light to an issue that should be handled by higher profile personnel. I firmly believe the tension exists because I am doing work that should be done by others, and the stories are gaining wider exposure. Additionally, I am exploring the possibility of creating a student coding center in my city’s urban core.
The challenge that I have with this assignment is very sensitive. I consider myself great to work with for any task. However, over the past year I have begun initiatives that are seen by a few as somewhat controversial. Allow me to explain. In November of 2012, I began to notice the lack of access to technology that my students possess. Thus, I sought means to bring a class set of laptops to the students I see every day.
In September of 2013, I shot free throws for ten hours to raise attention and money for my students, many of whom do not have internet or computer access at home. I shared my intentions with many of the top leadership at my school and district. None supported the idea – before the day of the event or the day of – to the degree I had expected. I was a bit disappointed, but not overly distraught. I believe in doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. Even if it makes people around you uncomfortable. I do not view this as usurping authority or running over people. I view it as simply having the courage to risk being misunderstood, ridiculed, and vulnerable.
The free throw marathon made local press outlets. Due to the support of a local attorney, business family, and online donors, the goal of $10,000 was exceeded. This guaranteed the purchase of a class set of Google Chromebooks and other essentials that were desperately needed.
When the laptops were presented to my students, there were key district officials present, my school’s board members, and others who were aware of the fundraiser. But in my opinion, they did little to nothing to assist with my efforts. Since then, it has created an uneasiness about expanding my passions to bring more students into a one-to-one ratio with education technology devices. The question I constantly ask myself is, “How can I bridge the ‘action gap’ to move from rhetoric to implementation of a district-wide 1:1 initiative?”
If truth be told, my sons have more access to resources than most of my students. My eight year old son recently completed a summer computer coding class. I don’t mention this to boast. I mention it because I often ask God why He bothers me with the needs of Northwest and East Jacksonville. These are the areas that have the most challenges. I could choose not to have anything to do with them, and my family would continue to live a productive life. But I believe we can be light in dark places. Instead of looking elsewhere for the answer, we hold the answer inside.