There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet. — William Frederick Halsey, Jr.
Life has a way of putting you in your place. Just when you think you are on top of the world, in my experience at least, your world usually comes crashing down. Mine did earlier this year. Each year I choose my #OneWord. This year my word is #Intentional. I had this elaborate plan of how I was going to be intentional in my personal and professional life. I decided that since I was turning 50, this would be my year. Because this is a blog, I have shared a lot about my personal as well as work life. I share the good and the bad because although this is my outlet for my work life; my work life is intertwined with my personal life. My plan of being intentional ground to a screeching halt April 15, 2019. Five days earlier I turned 50. I was at home in the bed with the flu. Not the way I planned to spend my birthday. Again, I had an elaborate plan of how I was going to spend 2019. I had mapped out the remaining eight states I needed to see to accomplish my #50By50. My hematologist and cardiologist both told me I would not be flying to Alaska to see the Northern Lights since I have a pulmonary embolism. That was unknown to me until my continual chest pains drove me to the local emergency room and subsequently my primary care doctor in January who diagnosed the PE. Thankfully, I found out earlier this week that the embolism is gone; however, I found out in April that my father was dying. His cancer had returned, and this time it was terminal. Part of that was his choice because the treatment the first time was devastating to his body and also, there really was nothing left of his stomach to treat. The cancer had eaten the remaining portion that was left after the initial surgery in 2017. I spent most of April and May traveling back and forth from my home in Georgia to be with him in Chattanooga. We lost our father, the leader of our family on June 4th. All of my plans for my #GoogleInnovator project were on hold. The completion of my first solo book for EduMatch Publishing was on hold. I didn’t even want to go to ISTE although I had been selected to share a TED Ed talk as part of my participation in the TED Masterclass partnership with ISTE and TED Ed. The conclusion of ISTE19 also meant the beginning of my term as president of the ISTE Edtech Coaches PLN. I had to be there.
Talk about a challenging year. To be frank. I was lost. I couldn’t focus. I had no desire to do much of anything, and I missed my dad something awful. I wrote a little, but it made no sense. I did a little work on the bus project, but the bus still sits at the bus yard unfinished. For the girl who said she was going to be intentional, I was not at all who I wanted to be. Then I got a phone call. My dad was a career soldier. In 1971 we met Dan and Priscilla Daniels and their daughter Carla. Their son David was born while we were stationed in Turkey a few years later. Only because I know she won’t read this blog, am I calling her Priscilla. Fifty year old Leslie knows better. She is still Mrs. Daniels. Her husband was MSG. Daniels, but we just called him Mr. Daniels. Our families remained friends throughout many changes in duty stations. Mr. Daniels passed away in 1991, and my mother passed away in 2001 (today is the anniversary of her death). Our families are still close. Mrs. Daniels called me to check on me after my dad died. My heart was hurting, but hearing her voice provided just the right amount of comfort I needed at that moment. We chatted for a while, and she said something to me that reminded me that I am the daughter of L.C. Fagin, Jr. and Ernestine H. Fagin. They didn’t raise us to wallow nor to be quitters. She told me that whenever she and my dad spoke, she would ask about the three of us – my older sister and younger brother. He generally gave the same response when talking about me. He would say, “Leslie is fine. She is handling her business the way she always does, and she is always trying to go the extra mile in everything.” I needed to hear her tell me that. I needed a kick in the pants because I was wallowing, and I was not handling business.
I took the rest of my time off (watching your dad die is not really a vacation thing so I won’t call this time off a vacation) to get myself together. I have a seven year old that will be my son one day. I am adopting him just as soon as he is legally free. He keeps me busy which is most definitely needed and appreciated. I have to get busy with the book.
The story being told in the book was the spark behind my TED Ed Talk at #ISTE19. My talk was entitled, Let’s Talk about Race, Baby! The book will pick up where my talk left off as well as address issues my parents faced growing up in the segregated South. I will also discuss how race and politics are deeply entrenched in American schools across the country. Ernie’s Mobile STEAM Lab is close to completion. All that is supposed to be on the bus is here. I am waiting to get air conditioning in the bus as well as finish painting and installing the floors and countertops. Once those things are done, it will not take any time to get the technology on the bus, and the bus in motion engaging students. In my personal life, I have been a volunteer for the Flint River Council Boy Scouts of America for 20+ years. My oldest nephew is an Eagle Scout, my current #FosterLove earned his Tiger rank in May, and my former #FosterLove will be a Boy Scout when school starts. The plan is for me to be the Scoutmaster of the new troop we are chartering. In addition, I have been working to get a troop for girls started in our district. Both projects were put on hold because of the turmoil in my life.
Why the push to get back on track? Several reasons actually. First, I am a Fagin. As an Army Brat, I know that the mission must always be completed. We don’t quit. No matter how hard things get, we don’t quit. I have projects that I started, so I must finish them. The book is for my father. He was a career soldier who quit school at age 12. He joined the Army and was denied the opportunity to get off a bus in rural Arkansas because he was Black. He joined the Army voluntarily knowing he would go to Vietnam and may not make it home. He was willing to die for the very country that denied him the opportunity to get nourishment because of the color of his skin. The bus is for my mother. She dedicated her life to providing for children first as our mother, as a PTA volunteer, a team mom, Scout leader, Vacation Bible School teacher, and founder of a co-ed mentoring program for the children of Orrs Elementary School – the first in our district. I have to honor their memories. Second, I have a job as an instructional technology coach. There are students and teachers who are counting on me to share my knowledge with them so that they can become college and career ready future ready learners.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this past week, we had our annual retreat for district administrators. The theme was Step Right Up. I committed to step right up to the challenge of doing my job with all the passion I have for educating children and assisting teachers. Each attendee was given a challenge coin. We are to keep the coin on our desk to remind us of the task ahead. I was moved by the thoughts behind the challenge coins. The giving and receiving of challenge coins started in the military. I am a proud Army Brat. I just lost my dad, a veteran of the United States Army. He is buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery alongside his brothers and sisters in arms. The coin will remind me why I became an educator, and it will also remind me whose daughter I am. I am a Fagin. I have a mission to do, and I must not stop until the mission is complete. I am #Intentional. I am #Passionate about instructional technology. I am #Committed to finishing my bus, book, and the formation of two new Scouts BSA troops. Most importantly, I am stepping right up to mother my soon to be forever son.
To the students in my district, I am here. To the teachers in my district, I am here. To the 4,700+ members of the ISTE Edtech Coaches PLN, I am here. To my parents, thank you for getting me here. To my son, I am and always will be here. I will #StepRightUp.
Until next time,
One thought on “Step Right Up”
So sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Losing a parent is heartbreaking and not something we ever fully get over. But I’m glad you didn’t let it keep you down permanently. You do amazing things! But remember, you’ve got to take care of yourself in order to take care of, inspire, and lead others. So, just make sure you take those moments to grieve, reflect, and enjoy life when you can. Keep on rocking!
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