Posted in Personal Development

Personal Best Series: Career Coaching

Global Biz Summit

When you think of career coaching, what comes to mind?

I first connected with my long-time career coach back in 1992.  At that time, she was director of career services for a college.
images-1I had been working as a college admissions professional for four years.  Prior to that, I was a Spanish teacher at a day and boarding school for two years. The six-year itch had taken hold, and, I was ready for a change – new adventures, new experiences.  But what? A different career? Graduate school? Return to teaching?  My fabulous career coach helped me to sort a lot of things out.  In the process, I gained greater clarity, and a more defined direction for my future goals and aspirations.

The following year, I quit my admissions job, and headed off to graduate school full-time.  When I completed my program, I contacted my career coach again. Only this time, it was to obtain guidance re: negotiating salary, and other terms of employment.

Many years would pass before I re-connected with my career coach again.  I was contemplating my next move, and, a friend and colleague suggested that I work with a career coach.  The person he recommended was not taking on new clients.  Therefore, I contacted the career coach with whom I had worked previously.  In an interesting sort of way, re-connecting with her felt like reuniting with an old friend.  In many ways, it was like no time had passed at all, although in actuality, it had been more than 20 years.

So…why do I recommend career coaching?  A career coach can:

• Uncover skills and expertise that one may neither recognize nor fully appreciate

• Vet prospective jobs and employers.

• Steer one away from dead-end opportunities.

• Offer guidance re: crafting a resume and cover letter for specific positions.

• Lend an empathetic ear when the job search gets rough.

• Provide objective insight, and tell one things that she may not want to hear, but needs to hear.

• Be one’s cheerleader.

My experience with my career coach has been overwhelmingly positive.  Additionally, I am also in the unique position to have worked with the same person for more than two decades – which is rare.

Before I returned to my long-time career coach, I did, in fact, contemplate working with different coaches.  However, given what I was going after at the time, I decided that I had neither the time nor the desire to establish an entirely new relationship.

Have you worked with a career coach? What was your experience? Would you do it again? And, if you have been thinking about career coaching, but haven’t followed through, what’s stopping you?compass-2188475_960_720

Posted in Personal Development

Personal Best Series: Professional Resume Writing Service

Sometimes, you can’t do it all yourself.  You just can’t.

I have always written my own resume.  Always.  The only time I used a professional service for anything related to my resume was professional printing, back in the days when job seekers actually mailed resumes to prospective employers.  Otherwise, I put my own work in.  And, I was pretty good at it.

However, when it became apparent that I wanted to parlay my teaching skills into jobs outside of teaching, I couldn’t seem to get my resume to look suited for anything else other than a teaching position.

So, I researched several online resume writing services.  After some time reading company reviews, I selected a service which allowed me to take advantage of a free resume analysis.  One of the issues with my resume is that it presented tasks, rather than achievements.  The other issue is that my various areas of expertise seem buried under the teaching tasks, and weren’t getting the attention they deserved.

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After some time contemplating my next move, I decided to go for it: I signed on to have my resume professionally written.

And, you know what? I am glad I did.

The service I used required me to  complete a pre-writing survey, in order to get a clearer sense of my goals and objectives for my new resume. From there, my resume writer got to work.  I was encouraged to communicate one-on-one with my resume writer.  who is experienced in working teachers like me who are looking to transfer their skills. Finally, I had several days to review the draft, and then offer suggestions for tweaking and revision.  At no extra charge.

In fact, having my resume professionally written was one of the best investments I have made for my career.  Not only do I have a resume that focuses on my achievements, but it also clearly articulates the range of skills I have, and presents me as a well-rounded professional.  In a word, my resume sings.

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I was so pleased with my new resume, I ordered a professionally-written cover letter, too!

The investment for the resume and the cover letter was $200.00.  Which is nominal, considering the benefits of having documents that will present me in the best possible light to prospective employers.

Have you used a professional resume writing service? What was your experience? And, if you have contemplated using such a service, but haven’t followed through, what’s stopping you?

Posted in Personal Development

Not Doin’ It No Mo’

Ask any Black woman who has decided to go natural, and she will most likely tell you that it’s not easy. I have been natural for the second time since January 15, 2011, and, I have had more ups than downs.  Especially given the fact that many of us did not grow up wearing our hair in its kinky curly coily glory. I for one didn’t have a chemical relaxer until college, which was a disaster that first time around. Prior to that, my Dear Mom used a straightening comb, otherwise known as a hot comb, to press or straighten my hair.  Dear Mom was a pro at wielding that comb.  My hair was so straight, it looked as if I had a relaxer.

The second time at chemical services was at age 22, after four unsuccessful months as a natural for the first time.  Out of frustration, and, simply lacking the knowledge, expertise and professional services to properly manage it, I acquired my second chemical relaxer.  For the next 23 years, I endured all that accompanies the wearing of straight hair via a harsh chemical process: shedding, breakage – especially at the crown, dryness, thin ends, lack of body, and expense.  A relaxer touch-up ran anywhere from $50-100, depending on the salon, and, where I was located geographically, which was paid every eight to ten weeks.  Additionally, waiting several hours for a service, despite the fact I had an appointment; Black stylists are notorious for double and even triple booking clients.  Last, not every stylist is proficient at providing a quality relaxer service, and I have suffered damaged hair on more than one occasion as a result.

Being fatigued with the relaxer experience after two decades, I obtained my last relaxer in May of 2010. For the next several months, I attempted to grow out as much of the relaxer as I could, without sustaining too much damage. The area between the new growth and the relaxed hair is very fragile, and susceptible to breakage.  Therefore, I had to handle my hair like a cashmere sweater. Then, on January 15, 2011, I got the “Big Chop”: I cut off all of the relaxed hair, which left me with about three inches of natural hair. I wore my hair closely cropped for several years, until last summer, when I decided to attempt to grow it longer. And this is where the situation began to get especially hairy (pun most definitely intended).

The three most critical issues I have battled over the past six years are dryness, breakage, and manageability.  And, with the plethora of natural hair advice out there, via blogs, websites, and YouTube channels, my natural hair has yet to thrive.

Until recently.

Last Friday, I decided to get a good trim. So, I went to my day spa, where there is a lovely stylist who worked on my hair when I wore a relaxer. She is the only stylist there I trust with my hair – relaxed or natural.  Although my morale was lifted, and my hair looked and felt so much better, I was still frustrated that my hair was not thriving: still dry, still unmanageable, still breaking off and not maintaining length and growing longer.

I went to visit my Dear Parents and Dear Brother for the long Presidents’ Day weekend.  And, I didn’t comb my hair – at all – for the entire weekend. Then, today arrived, and, I needed to do something with my hair in order for it to look presentable for school. So, I asked my Dear Mom for help.  She felt my hair, and commented that it should feel softer.  However, the back was all flattened and a bit matted, not to mention dry and rather hard.  I asked my Dear Mom if I should put something on the hair to soften it up so I could comb it. She said no. Instead, she asked me to hand her the jumbo rake comb I had given her recently.  Dear Mom took the comb, and started tapping the hair at the ends to lift it.  Then she worked her way up the hair shaft.  I could have cried.  My hair looked better than it had in six years, and without spraying it with water or applying oil to loosen the tightness of the curl.  Not to mention that not one piece of hair – shed or broken – had fallen.

All of this to say: I will no longer follow any of the previous advice that I have spent the past six years following, as none of it has worked for my hair.  Precisely because it was not designed for my hair. This very simple fact was the one thing I wasn’t getting, and led me to spend literally hundreds of dollars in haircare products in my quest to find the perfect solution to my natural hair woes.

So, I am releasing myself from the obligation of using oils, butters, juices, berries and other natural products on my hair. I am also freeing myself from perpetually wet hair, styling products, hair boards, and the daily application of layers of product. Instead, I am going to use what has worked for my hair in the past. Which, at the end of the proverbial, was serving me well.

Posted in Personal Development

Independence Day

About two weeks before Christmas Break, I sought out the advice of a dear friend and colleague, who has been my independent school workplace ride-and-die since 1996, to help me to craft a workshop proposal for the school’s first Social Justice Day.  Although such school-based initiatives are often given the side-eye by me, I strived to go high, and not low; after all, it’s about the students.

Now, I am an experienced workshop presenter. Since 2008, I have delivered nine presentations – to adults.  On the other hand, the Social Justice Day would offer me the opportunity to present to students for the first time in my teaching career. And, to middle school students at that.  Needless to say, I was feeling nervous, and unsure of myself.

My dear friend and colleague and I arranged a day and a time to talk by telephone. Having worked with thousands of students – no exaggeration – he suggested resources for me to consider.  Although I had a working title and outline, I needed  help with filling in the proverbial blanks, or, what I would actually do for 60 minutes.

My dear friend and colleague offered resources and talking points for me to to consider, which did force me to consider the types of activities I could do with middle school students.  Still, the materials and activities, in my gut, didn’t feel right.  Especially for middle school students. I am not sure that I would have used the suggested materials and activities for adults – at least, not for a first workshop.  In fact, I would have to present a series of workshops in order to prep a group for what my dear friend and colleague recommended.

That evening following my conversation, I scoured the Internet for activities that I felt would be more appropriate.  NO JUICE.  Feeling discouraged, I tucked the project away.

Christmas came and went. The New Year came and went. Even Dr. King’s birthday came and went, and I still had not formulated a concrete workshop plan. And, my workshop proposal had, in fact, been accepted by this time.

Then, the proverbial moment of truth: The week of the Social Justice Day program.  In fact, on Wednesday of that week, a colleague – who was also scheduled to deliver a workshop – asked me  at lunch if I was ready. I said no.  I felt stuck in a paralysis of analysis, and was actually beginning to panic.

I came home from school on Thursday, and went straight to my bedroom for a nap.  I awoke  several hours later, at about 10:30pm, and realized to myself that I had a workshop to finish. I strangely felt like I was on auto-pilot, because after spending about 30 minutes scouring the Internet once again, I landed upon two icebreakers, as well as a lesson plan for the sort of workshop I desired to use with the middle schoolers. At 12 midnight, my workshop was finally finished. With the exception of the requisite butterflies in my stomach that I always get before a workshop, I felt confident about what I was going to offer to the middle school students.

The next morning, as I explained and guided the students through the activities, I knew  I had done the right thing, and had made the right decisions. The 14 students who had signed up for my workshop responded with such interest, engagement, enthusiasm and willingness to learn.  It was all that I had hoped for, and more.

So, why was this independence day for me? I have a great deal of love, admiration and respect for my dear friend and colleague. As a result, I was deeply conflicted by what he suggested. On the one hand, I felt obligated to follow his platform.  On the other hand, I knew it wasn’t the right way to go with the students in my charge.  This is not to say that I won’t ask my dear friend and colleague for advice on future projects; I will. Of course!  That being said, I realized that I don’t have to be afraid of going my own way, or, having apologize or explain or ask permission for my reasons for doing so.  I got free.

Posted in Personal Development

Closure? Really?

Closure is such an odd word to me.  When one closes something, like a door or a window, for example, the thing that we don’t want to get in, say, cold air, or, a loud conversation down the hall, doesn’t.  When we close that window or that door, that’s it; the thing we no longer wish to endure or tolerate is no more.

When we talk about situations of an emotional nature, on the other hand, what, exactly, gets closed? What is it that we don’t want to get in? What is it that we want to shut out?

When I consider the situations that I have endured in my life, closure isn’t exactly the moniker I would choose to use.  One actually needs the participation of another party to gain closure – to apologize, to own up to their mistakes, to try and make things right, to simply acknowledge that they hurt you.  I can honestly say that regarding the situations to which I refer above, with the exception of one, there was no closure.

Instead, life, hopefully, goes on. Which can take years. For the simple fact that in one’s attempt to heal, one is also trying to make up for what the other party didn’t do, or, wasn’t able to do, in the case of death.  But, I am talking about people who are very much alive, and, due to their own cowardice, or self-righteous indignation, or selfishness, or lack of accountability, or, all of the aforementioned, didn’t do their part.

So, I personally reject the term, closure.  Instead, I prefer to use two other words: move on.

 

Posted in Personal Development

Challenges

Have you ever participated in a challenge of some sort? For example, a fitness challenge, or, a beauty challenge, or, even a writing challenge?

From mid-October to mid-November, I participated in a 30-day hair challenge.  It is called The 30-Day Hair Detox Challenge.  You can read more about it here.

As with anything, The 30-Day Hair Detox Challenge had its pros and cons.

Let’s start with the pros:

  1. I have stopped using coconut oil, shea butter and castor oil – both as stand-alone products, and, as elements serving as the primary ingredients in the hair products I purchase.
  2. I realized the importance and necessity of clarifying my hair and scalp on a monthly basis, and sometimes, twice per month.
  3. I discovered some wonderful new products for my hair.
  4. I joined a fun, committed, welcoming and supportive community of natural hair enthusiasts.
  5. The owners of the program are responsive to answering questions, and providing assistance.
  6. I re-learned some basics about hair.
  7. I did improve my hair by arriving at a better understanding of the effect that certain ingredients can have on it.

Now, the cons:

  1. Perfecting the “wash and go” hair style seems to be the primary focus.
  2. My hair is currently a short Afro, or, more affectionately known as a “TWA” – teeny weeny Afro.  Therefore, much of the discussion re: hair styles and hair maintenance doesn’t apply to me.
  3. Not much guidance re: hair care for those of us who exercise regularly.
  4. Focusing on hair typing is discouraged.  I, on the other hand, feel otherwise.  For me, arriving at a better understanding of my hair type has helped me to become more responsive to its needs.
  5. Not much assistance for those of us suffering from extremely dry hair and single strand knots, i.e. how to hydrate and moisturize Afro hair beyond applying product to  soaking wet hair, and using styling gels, puddings and custards.
  6. Placing a sleep cap on my head when I shower did basically nothing to revive my hair, or to impart moisture, the day after a wash and condition, and beyond.
  7. I need and like to keep my hair neat. Applying styling product and not combing it for seven days is not a good look for me.

Although I still lurk on the Facebook group page from time to time, I recognized when the 30 days of the challenge concluded that I had not fully resolved my two main issues: extremely dry hair, and single strand knots.  And, when one’s hair is as described, one is led to purchase products that are much heavier than one’s hair actually needs in an attempt to combat the extreme dryness and the knots.

I kind of gave the hair project a rest during the holidays.  Mainly because I was at a loss, and, I had become weary of the whole thing.  But, as soon as the New Year arrived, I was back at it, and did, in fact discover some techniques that I am currently trying.  Actually, they are techniques that I had discovered back during the summer, but, for whatever reason, was hesitant to try.  They seem to be working, and my hair feels less hard and there are fewer knots.  I still have some distance to go, but, I think I am now on the right path.

I certainly don’t regret having participated in The 30-Day Hair Detox Challenge, and for the reasons I outline above.  However, I still wasn’t happy with my hair, and, I was not going to resolve its remaining issues had I continued to invest time, energy in money in wash-and-gos, which my hair doesn’t seem to really like, anyway.  I learned a lot about myself in relation to persistence, perseverance, and listening to and following one’s gut instincts.

Posted in Personal Development

Level 101 Reading

I have been doing the work of equity/inclusion/diversity/multiculturalism/anti-racism since 1986. My induction/introduction when a professor and specialist in early childhood education introduced me to the book, Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children, by Louise Derman Sparks and the A. B. C. Task Force.  Since that time, additional seeds have been planted by the many wonderful men and women who are fully engaged in and committed to “the work” on a daily basis.  They are tireless warriors, dedicated to children – all children.

I have read many books on the subject of equity/inclusion/diversity/multiculturalism/anti-racism, most of which I consider “classics”, and a few which have recently arrived on the scene.  Below, I offer you the “classics.”  These books have stood the test of time, and present lessons and information that are as powerful and transformational today as they were when they were first published. Full-disclosure: These books are amongst my personal and professional favorites, and are those I own and have read.  Additionally, these books will serve all teachers well. Several of the following have been updated since their original publishing date.

White Teacher

Rethinking Our Classrooms, Volume 1

Rethinking Our Classrooms, Volume 2

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years: Resources for Teaching About the Impact of the Arrival of Columbus in the Americas.

Growing Up Literate: Learning From Inner City Families

Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools

Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race

Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives

Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education

Everyday Anti-Racism: Getting Real About Race in School

Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education

What are you currently reading to enrich, support and inform your teaching practice/professional work in equity/inclusion/diversity/multiculturalism/anti-racism?Please share in the Comments below.  Thank you!