Why I am in Education: On callings and reflections of 10 years in an education-focused business
I felt like yelling out the window. If only that would do some good. If traffic started moving now, I could make it just in time, but as I stared at the thick, red line on my Google Map app, I knew that I was going nowhere fast.
The day was not all that different from others on my schedule. I spoke at a lunchtime event on communications planning and was racing to my next event, a school board presentation across state lines to review the results of an engagement survey. Because this was the third such board meeting in a row and it came at a busy time of the year, I planned to stay at a hotel near my last stop. Then, I would get up the next morning and do it all over again, hopefully after speaking with my wife and kids before we went in separate directions for the day.
At times like these, I sometimes ask myself, “why do I do this?”
The why question is likely one that others in education ask themselves too. My challenges are certainly far less acute than someone educating children in a classroom, providing students with support, or running a school or district. Heck, I’ve got it easy, but in my dark times, I ask myself why I didn’t take the easier road. Why didn’t I leverage my skills and talents in a different direction, one that would allow me a little more free time with my family and, maybe, a bit less time in my car. For me and all the others who have dedicated themselves to children and their educations—including the communications professionals with whom I have become friends—the answer is simple: because we were called.
I believe in callings.
I have fantastic parents. When I didn’t know in which direction I should go as a college student, I asked my mom what she would have done had she gone to college. “Easy,” she said, “I would have been a social worker.” With that I made my decision.
Although I graduated with a degree in social work and a heart filled with optimism about how I could help children and those who did not have the financial resources I was blessed with, I grew dismayed by the field. Actually, I became dismayed that I could not be an effective social worker. I just couldn’t do it.
Therefore, I left the field and focused on social policy, which lead me to education, positions in the state and federal government, and later, educational research. With an interest in entrepreneurism, I started Donovan Group approximately 10 years ago.
Starting a business is not easy, and the first five years were extremely difficult. However, although there were tough times, I am grateful that I carried on.
As my business turns 10 and continues to grow, I am still challenged by the day-to-day work that needs to be done. I believe that, in my own little way, I serve the men and women who, far better than I, have dedicated their considerable talents to our children—all of our children, including, and especially, those who are most vulnerable.
They do the real work. I am just a bit player, but it’s a job I take great pride in.
As my hair turns gray and my kids make their way through their K–12 educations, I often reflect on my father, who while ill now, once made reference to a powerful quote from Martin Luther King, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” My work in education is my form of street sweeping. It is a job I hope and pray I do well. It is, like so many of us feel, a calling.
Friends, as the needs of the children we work with continue to increase, pray for, and advocate on behalf of them. Most of all, let’s stick together and remember why we do what we do.
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