"So to ensure that you are effectively progressing in the areas we discussed, I will check in with you on..." The rest of the conversation became a blur. I was sitting in my first mid-year evaluation as an assistant principal and was, for the most part, being told how much I sucked at my job. Here I was, born to be an educator. I left undergrad with the plan to receive my Ph.D and open up my own school someday. Sure, I had a wrench or two thrown in my plan - became pregnant with my son at the end of my first year in the Master's portion of the program, stayed in a situation-ship described as "complicated" at best, had to leave my favorite job of teaching high school English because I knew returning would mean working in a "hostile work environment" - a few mishaps, but nothing I couldn't handle. I had made it! The father of my child and I realized that we were better together than apart, just six months prior to this evaluation, I received an offer from this same high performing charter network which included not only a leadership title but a $30,000 pay raise. I was in the second year of another doctoral program that was in my true area of study - Urban Education - so everything was supposed to be good! Right? Right?!? Not right. My boss just told me in thirty minutes in about thirty different ways that I was pretty much terrible at my job and that if I didn't get it together, I’d be jobless. I held back the tears as he spoke but there was no mistaking the water filling the brim of my eyes, threatening to spill over at any minute. Now let's be clear - I'd had hard times before. I lost my father at age 12. I left a fully paid doctoral program to go into the oblivion of "finding a job" back home in Jersey. I survived baby mama/daddy drama. I faced my church home as the beloved PK (Pastor's Kid) with a baby and no husband. I taught students who were in gangs and not only garnered their respect, but got results! I knew I wasn't perfect - but bad at my job - like so bad I was about to get fired??? That was never a part of my life’s story - until that day. I left the meeting feeling defeated and cried my eyes out to my friends later on that night. What was I going to do? So many people were impressed with my success and here I was, feeling like the most unsuccessful person in the building. Actually, I probably was the most unsuccessful person in the building...
I cried. I prayed. I asked God to give me a sign about how and when to leave this job. I got nothing. So, I turned off the music and prayed some more. Again, I got nothing. After doing that several times, I realized that if God wasn't telling me to move, then I had to stay. So, I stayed. I read my mid-year evaluation almost daily. I practiced delivering professional development after school to an empty classroom. I made sure I met all the requirements and expectations laid out. I committed to myself that I still wanted to eventually leave the job, but I couldn’t quit as a failure. I swallowed my pride, took advice, humbled myself by being open to feedback (that was difficult to receive) and worked my entire behind off. I got better. It wasn't until I was in year three of this position that another assistant principal in the organization told me "I asked X, a high-performing principal in the organization, who I should pay attention to and follow so I can get better. He told me to watch you." Me?! Three years later and not only was I a far cry from getting fired, I was seen as being successful within the organization. Look at Jesus!
I ended up staying in that position for a total of five years before moving on to a promotion with another company closer to home. To this day, the organization has reached out to me annually to see if I'm interested in returning. So what was the lesson? Oh, let me count the many. The key takeaway for me is that God has a plan for my life and my job is to be obedient to him. If He says leave, then I need to pack my bags. If He says stay, then I need to pull out my tent. If he says, wait, then I need to learn all that I can because He may say leave at anytime. I'm not batting 1,000 with obedience but I really do try. And when I fall short by making a move that He didn't ordain, I confess and ask forgiveness. Any success that I have had - past and present - is Him moving in me. I obey, He moves - I'm not successful outside of that formula.
LaRetha C. P. Odumosu, Ph.D is an educator, a leader, and, at times, a writer and a poet. More importantly, she is a wife, a mother of two and a believer in Christ. In her work-life, she serves as a middle school principal (currently rounding out her ninth year in school leadership) and an adjunct professor for graduate students. In her "real-life," she enjoys singing and leading praise and worship at her church, spending time with her family and hanging out with her black girl magic sister-groups.