Interviewer: What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?
Jaqui: When I began my teaching career, I worked at a rural middle school between Albany and Salem, Oregon. The town was so small that the students often felt trapped there, in the middle of nowhere. There was not a lot of diversity so the students grew up with a limited view of the world sometimes. My superintendent charged me with this assignment: teach these students to be good citizens, don’t worry about the test scores.
During my second year, I was privileged to teach a very kind and creative group of 6th grade students so I was able to plan an extensive and creative year-long project called, “The Jefferson Heritage Festival”. Students collected family stories and history all year, and in the spring, we gathered together with exhibits, historical photographs (which a local senior citizen had been collecting for years) and student and professional artwork. I even arranged for a Portland-based group called Ethos Music to bring a double decker bus and a reggae band to perform for the students. The culminating event was a free concert for the entire community by a well-known Oregon band called Misty River. At the end of the event, I felt I had learned to fly!
Interviewer: How do you respond to expectations?
Jaqui: This is a good question I think because it has shape my life in major ways. As I look back on all my career positions and supervisors, I see now that answering this question earlier might have helped me understand dynamics of work more fully. When my first superintendent shared his expectation with me about teaching students to be good citizens, I felt immediate relief because I knew I could do that; it was as if a weight or a worry was removed from my shoulders. I enjoyed working with this supervisor a great deal because I knew I could meet his expectations.
After teaching for various other supervisors with success, I ended my 17 year teaching career with a supervisor with whom I was not so successful. She expressed to me that I was not meeting her expectations which seemed to be: every student needs to be on task during every minute of the class. If they weren’t, she expected me to walk behind them and force their engagement.
Now that I see the beginning and the end of my public teaching career held up so closely like this, I can clearly see why I was so dissatisfied with my final experience at the charter middle school–there was no possible way to meet my supervisor’s expectations.
Interviewer: If we get out of your way, what will you be able to do?
Jaqui: That is a phrase I’ve never felt comfortable saying out loud before, but I’ve often wanted to because I feel so inhibited in many areas of my life. In fact, I want to say this to myself sometimes too because I get in my own way.
Without boundaries, I do much better. I am an intensely creative person who cares a lot about others and their feelings. If you trust me in those two matters, you will witness me thriving and doing more than what is expected. If instead you place many regulations and expectations on me, I will try so hard to do what you expect and regulate, but I won’t have any room in my thinking for creativity. For me, this is anxiety provoking and I will shut down eventually.