Often we go through our lives completing day-to-day task that keeps us moving towards our goals. What we rarely do or maybe what I have rarely been able to do is take the time to reflect intentionally on the journey that has gotten us to our goals. My journey over the last 12 months as a Bush Fellow has been remarkable to say the least. The time that I have been able to dedicate to learning who Michael V. Walker is has been much needed and overdue. A couple things have stood out and been ah ha moments that I will be able to call upon in the future the importance of reflection and the ability to be creative and to persevere.
My discovery about my ability to be creative and persevere through the challenges of my work has been a beneficial find. Leading the Office of Black Male Student Achievement and knowing that this work is directly linked to race and racial equity in the educational realm, has not been an easy nor welcoming task, it has been a struggle from the outset. Understanding the struggle and knowing that I am still responsible for garnering academic outcomes reminds me of my early years. Growing up in poverty, which I did not really know until I was much older that I lived in poverty; I innately learned how to survive and not take no for answer but finding creative solutions on how to get to yes. Having the knowledge of this skill set that I have possessed throughout my life will allow me to deliberately hone in on it and continue utilizing it for the benefit of others. In this work, I face many different obstacles on a daily basis whether it be adults and their beliefs about Black Males or the system not willing to adjust and be flexible and nimble to try new strategies. I have to bring forward difficult conversations that is challenging staff to look in the mirror and be self-reflective with their actions. What I had to realize is that not everyone is at the same place on his or her racial equity journey. It is a long continuum and I have to figure out the best ways to assist others and myself to continue down the road of growth and development.
The other discovery is the value of reflection. I have always known the importance of reflecting back on the things you have done to gain awareness and understanding on how to do things more effectively and efficiently. The hurdle has traditionally been about finding the time throughout my day to incorporate that habit. By intentionally scheduling time into your calendar, it eliminates the possibility of it occurring hap hazardly. This also affords the process to build upon the previous takeaways and learning. Another component that has become prevalent with my reflection time is not always having it occur in the same fashion. Instead of only reflecting in my office with a notebook taking notes, I have taken to the streets going on walks, using my technology (cell phone), and orally recording my thoughts. I not only reflect, but I am also posing questions and challenges for me to answer and work towards.
In closing, the last 12 months have been extremely beneficial in my personal leadership development. What I have learned is to slow down and take time to reflect and use past experiences to assist in shaping my plan moving forward. Secondly, the importance of creativity and the wherewithal to persevere through tough times while facing the fight for racial equity head on. These skills have traditionally been categorized as “Soft Skills”, but I have come to the realization that in actuality, skills like these are what we should be calling “Essential Skills”. We all need to lean into the innate skills we have acquired to propel our efforts and ultimately strengthen our communities.