Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lost my breath for a bit; sorry.

For Love of Books 2
Originally uploaded by Sol Lang.
I’m a loss for words; and, usually that is certainly not the case.

A bit ago, I followed up my recent interviews at St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill (okay, St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill is not really the name of the school, but we all know I’m not going to throw everything in the open... and St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill knows who they are, if that matters... And, yes, I have changed certain identifying details) with this:
How are things in Buckley Village? I'm finding life hectic here in the Commonwealth and, in terms of my call to return to independent schools, stressful. At least this weekend's snow missed us here in SE Virginia; people here don't know how to cope with more than about a 1/4 inch of snow.

I know how to cope with snow, however, and am looking to returning to the land north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Have you progressed any further with your search for a counselor and/or director of student support services? I've thought long and hard about the opportunities at St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill and would like to continue the conversation, if you're still agreeable. St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill is at the top of my list of possibilities; I believe the roles and responsibilities we discussed play most solidly to my strengths.

I certainly believe the last decade -- helping the Coast Guard create institute cutting-edge leadership & management systems -- provides me the skills & experience to help you, Paul, and the rest of the senior leadership team intentionally create a world-class educational community for students who are "performance oriented." My counseling background is perhaps more important in the near-term.

I am very interested in the bringing my counseling & crisis intervention skills & experiences to St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill to counsel students on personal & social issues and to create & provide programs to help students lead balanced and safe lives led with healthy coping mechanisms. I'm not sure we talked much about my recent crisis intervention experiences as the clinical director for the regional "critical incident stress management" team here in southern Virginia.

And, I'm not sure we talked about my work within the last several years with psychodrama and community-building. More to discuss, anyway...

In thinking about what I saw as the school's current state with regard to counseling & support programming, I was struck by a couple of thoughts...

-- Appears to be a genuine concern by adults for the health (including mental health) of SSH students.

-- Current counseling services don't likely engage anywhere near all the students who could benefit from such services.

-- Someone on campus & skilled in counseling/crisis intervention would be a huge benefit in early intervention & de-escalation of crises...

-- The current system is not comprehensive in nature; school would be served well in the creation of an overarching system of student support, ensuring linkages which may not be present yet providing a holistic campaign of support services.

-- There might be benefit in informal CBWA (counseling by walking around) during evening study hall period during the week.

-- With the ubiquitous use of technology on the SSH, there is the possibility of using computers & the network for tracking student issues and communicating with students using IM/email. Some schools are using a secure back-end system to ensure adults -- teachers, administrators, staff -- who need to know things about students do know about students; also a way for observations to be passed to appropriate personnel from all adults in the community. In terms of communicating with students, some institutions are finding IM to be a good method of allowing students to initiate conversations with adults.

Well, that's it for random thoughts tonight. I do hope all is well at St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill... and I do hope we can continue to discuss the possibility of my becoming a part of your team.

I'm not sure if I provided a resume to you before my visit to campus. You can find a current resume here.

I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to drop me a line. And, you can continue to find posts about my journey to be called at; feel free to lurk...


Have a wonderful week; remember, we're nearly half-way through the longest month of the year...


/s/ Peter
A current colleague of mine later noted this was “a well crafted follow-up with skills and style.”

I thought it was okay.

And this is what stole my breath away:
Dear Peter,

It is very good to hear from you -- and as always, enjoying your accurate and concise insights and observations. I am currently attending a conference in Boston, so I had a front-row seat for the recent Nor-Easter...a fantastic show of snow and wind. Today I'll walk the streets taking in the glittering streets and warm (relatively!) sunshine.

As we have gotten further into our planning for next year, we have changed course slightly with the counselor search. We have decided that the credential emphasis must be more on clinical/residential counseling experience rather than system organization. I am sorry there is not room at this point for both -- I think you have a keen eye for organizational behavior and developing systems.

Please stay in touch -- you never know when an opportunity might come up.

Safe travels,

What my colleague really wrote was this:
Damn...I know that hurt...Peter, that was a well crafted follow-up with skills and style like that...don't worry about it. If they aren't interested expand your search...start will find a home...I am sure of it...
I’m usually pretty confident, perhaps (some would say) overly so. I thought the interview went well; I thought I was a pretty good match. I have the counseling skills & background.

Oh, wait, maybe I didn’t emphasize those enough? Another colleague at work is also looking for a new job; he’s had similar issues. He suggested that sometimes hiring managers are looking for someone who has done the job before. He’s suggested that perhaps we have “a failure to communicate.”

As a former headhunter notes,
The other thing that amazed me and frustrated me about being a recruiter was how rigid and myopic many employers were about their job requirements. Many skills and experiences could be learned on the job within several weeks of repeated exposure but many a time I had the ideal candidate didn’t have the required experience listed on his resume despite the fact that his previous history was relevant enough for him to do the job in a very competent fashion.
Now, I don’t want to hang too much on this headhunter’s comments (note his website; I don’t agree with his belief that we should all fluff our resumes; I’d rather be truthful and unemployed, than an employed liar) but I do agree that sometimes employers want demonstration of having done the job before.

I’m not sure that’s the issue with St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill. Both the head and the associate head struck me as more than reasonable people with solid, demonstrated leadership skills; I know they know people can grow into a job, sometimes in very little time.

Perhaps, in my current case, I have a “failure to communicate.” I’m a little scattered sometimes (I don’t want to admit I’m like Dory – from Finding Nemo – and that bright lights will move my attention from one thing to another); perhaps I should have focused more on the straight counseling & crisis intervention skills and experiences: my nearly-a-decade work as the clinical director for a volunteer crisis intervention team serving six cities and four counties in southeastern Virginia, my service as a counselor and mediator for the Coast Guard’s civil rights programs, my experience as a lay chaplain at Boy Scout camp... Instead, during the interview, I guess I focused on systems issues.

So, here’s where I am right now: my breath was stolen and I’m not sure how to respond. I guess, in part, I already have, since Pam from St. Smithwin's-on-the-Hill is likely lurking here. If that’s the case, I guess I have, sort’a, responded... and now all my self-doubt is in the open... Along with a slew of other baggage, eh?

Here are words of wisdom received from a wise and seasoned independent school person who wrote me earlier this week:
It's still really early, so I wouldn't worry if things feel like they are slowing. There are often schools still searching to fill positions in June, so you have some time.
Time? Time! Sometimes, I feel as if the clock is spinning out of control, the hands spiraling around at the speed of light, becoming nothing more than a blur.

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