School Business Affairs October 2020

40 OCTOBER 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS Reflecting on the importance of people. My Journey, My Pearls By Patty Corum, Ed.D. PERSPECTIVE D uring the summer of 2018, I was asked to guest-teach with a col- league of mine at the University of Missouri in Columbia. The course was educational leadership, the students were aspiring school administrators, and my colleague was a friend and mentor. I was honored by the invitation and felt well prepared to work with young profes- sionals whose aspirations were much like mine about 30 years ago—and interestingly in the same building on the same campus. The evening before my first day of teach- ing, the instructor asked if I would share my professional trajectory with the students: where I started and how I got to where I was. She wanted them to think about their own professional paths as they carefully planned for their futures. At that time, I was an educational consultant and had been retired for four years from the Fort Zum- walt School District. In my almost 30 years in public education, I had served as teacher, elementary school principal, assistant super- intendent, and deputy superintendent. Filling the Circles While I was tempted to take the request lightly, I realized how important this pre- sentation would be to the students. I had been in their position a few decades ear- lier, looking up to those leaders who pre- ceded me, wanting to hear how they did it. So I decided some focused preparation was in order. I sat in my hotel room with a large sheet of blank paper in front of me, trying to recall my voyage since high school and how I would describe it to a group of gradu- ate students whom I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. Remembering a technique called string of pearls, I began drawing various-sized circles, large enough to write inside. After drawing about 12 or 13 circles or “pearls,” I con- nected them with lines denoting the chronol- ogy about which I was going to reminisce. I began with my senior year in high school, since that was about the time that I began thinking about becoming a teacher and what I wanted life to be like for Patty Corum. As I started writing, I realized that the words that came did not describe universi- ties where I had earned degrees. I didn’t write the names of schools or school dis- tricts that had hired me, giving me oppor- tunities to teach and lead. I didn’t write the names of the towns or regions where I learned and worked. It wasn’t the university or the city. It wasn’t even the date or time that was important—it was the people I encountered during my journey. That would have been an interesting jour- ney to share: from Liberty, Missouri, where I was raised; to Columbia, where I studied, student-taught, and landed my first teach- ing job; back to Liberty, where I finished a teaching career and entered the world of administration; and then across the state to St. Louis, where I served in Fort Zumwalt as principal and then moved to the district office, where I finished my career as deputy superintendent. Intertwined was a lot of travel on I-70 to the University of Missouri–Kansas City for a master’s degree and the University of Missouri–Columbia for a specialist and edu- cational doctorate. Impressive, right? Inter- esting, don’t you think? APINAN/STOCK.ADOBE.COM