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Jan. 17, 2023

Finding Your Passion: A Teacher's Journey to Discovery | Lorraine Connell

After ten years of teaching chemistry and dreading a future of 25-35 years of the same job, Lorraine Connell applied for a middle management position, only to be met with disappointment when she was not chosen. Without waning support from the administration, Lorraine had to innovate to find a way to enjoy teaching and challenge her students.


After ten years of teaching chemistry and dreading a future of 25-35 years of the same job, Lorraine Connell applied for a middle management position, only to be met with disappointment when she was not chosen. Without waning support from the administration, Lorraine had to innovate to find a way to enjoy teaching and challenge her students.

 

"It was five years later where something landed in my lap, and I felt that same excitement that I had felt that first week that I told you, where I burst into tears. So my mentor was moving on, and he was teaching a class called Peer leadership. And so it was student leadership development, and kids were actually given course credit to learn leadership skills. And this, in addition to my chemistry class, just changed everything for me. I felt really connected again. I was happy."

 

Lorraine was a successful chemistry teacher for many years and loved her job. She connected with her students and was passionate about her subject matter. However, she felt it was time to move on to something else. After applying for a middle management position, Lorraine was devastated when she was not chosen.

For the next five years, Lorraine felt less and less supported by her administration. In 2018, however, she was given the opportunity to teach a student leadership class. This allowed her to make more authentic connections with her students and rediscover her love for teaching.

 

Lorraine is now the owner of Peers not Fears, LLC, and a veteran educator of over 20 years. She works with schools and youth-serving organizations to coach educators and students and is the host of the podcast Education Unimagined. In 2022, Lorraine left her full-time chemistry teaching job to work with interested schools, families, and communities to develop more equitable access and empowerment of students.

 

Lorraine's story is an inspiring one. It's proof that making a career change is possible and that it can lead to amazing opportunities. To learn more about Lorraine's story and hear from current and past students about their educational experiences, check out Education Unimagined Podcast. To learn more about Peers not Fears, LLC and their work, visit www.peers-not-fears.com.

Don't let fear hold you back from making a change - you never know what opportunities might come your way. So take a chance and make the shift.

 

The Life Shift Podcast is now on Patreon - https://patreon.com/thelifeshiftpodcast

 

Other episodes you'll enjoy:

From Public to Private: This Teacher's Story of Finding Fulfillment | Jackie Scully

 

Connect with me:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thelifeshiftpodcast

YouTube: https://bit.ly/thelifeshift_youtube

Twitter: www.twitter.com/thelifeshiftpod

Website: www.thelifeshiftpodcast.com

 


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Transcript

[Matt Gilhooly]
I'm Matt Gilhooly and this is the life shift, candid conversations about the pivotal moments that change lives forever. Hello, my friends welcome to the live shift podcast. I am here with Lorraine and I'm excited to have this conversation today. Welcome.

[Lorraine Connell]
Thank you

[Matt Gilhooly]
The reason why I'm excited is because you're gonna be talking about an industry that many of my listeners are in uh because I'm in it and I am an educator and I've been an educator in the higher education space since 2008. And so naturally, I know a lot of people in that space and so they're listening and your story, I think will resonate with a lot of people too, because a lot of us work within constraints and and things that maybe frustrate us or find places where we're not being as fulfilled, where we need to be. And so, you know, I know that's not your full full story, but I think a lot of the things that you're gonna say a lot of my listeners will be able to relate to, so I appreciate you being here.

[Lorraine Connell]
Yeah, I appreciate you having me on. I I think the same is true. And I also think that my story, while unique to me, it's not necessarily unique to so many of us. And so it is important. I feel for me to share my story so that others can hear it and know that, you know, we'll get into it, but that there is a path and maybe we don't know what that path is, but but it's there.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Yeah, and I think too, it doesn't necessarily have to relate to educators either. I think your story is very relatable to people in any industry, in any kind of path that they once felt was a certain way. And then I realized it wasn't and created a new path. So I think this story will resonate and all along my my goal with the podcast has been that each episode finds the one set of ears that needs to hear it at that moment in time. And so I think you're right, I think, you know, there's gonna be a part of your story that's gonna click with at least one listener at the time and hopefully more so, uh why don't we get into it? I like to have the guests kind of

[Lorraine Connell]
paint

[Matt Gilhooly]
the picture of what your life was like before you got to, kind of that pivotal moment, and then then we can chat about how that really changed you in that moment. So, would you, would you like to paint?

[Lorraine Connell]
I sure can. Um so, I I think there are two pivotal moments and the pivotal moment that happened in Covid is was more dramatic, but as I've been listening to your podcast and as I have been really thinking about life, um I think there are so many times where our life takes a different path than we really thought it was going to take. Um so I'm gonna go back to where I think the first shift really happened for me. Um

[Matt Gilhooly]
I

[Lorraine Connell]
Was 10 years into teaching, I loved my job, I loved teaching. I loved the classroom. I loved my students. I Strangely enough, really loved my subject matter, which is chemistry. Um, and I would remember in open house, I would do this sort of thing where I would ask my parents how many of you had a terrible chemistry experience or how many of you hate chemistry or can't do chemistry? And nine times out of 10, almost every hand went up. And I would say my, my real goal for teaching chemistry is so that when your kids grow up and they're at their parent conferences, they don't raise their hands because it really is about the teacher and about how the teacher connects you to the subject matter and that was my goal. I loved coming to school every day. I didn't know I wanted to be a teacher when I was young. So many people will say, I always knew I was gonna be a teacher, but I didn't, I came into teaching in a really unique way, but once I got to teaching and actually it's really funny the first day of teaching, I remember this pretty distinctly, I had not done any teacher training. I just, you know, jump straight in and I was in front of my students and I was, I was awesome. I was on fire. I had energy and as soon as they left the classroom I burst into tears, burst into tears like what am I doing? I don't have no idea what I'm doing, but when the kids were there, I was, I was perfect and well I want to say that I was not perfect, but I was who I wanted to be at that moment. What am I like? Just disbelief. Like who do I think I am that I can be in front of this group of students. I honestly think that I'm an introvert and I think there are a lot of teachers who tend to be introverts, but you wouldn't know by seeing them in the classroom.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Yeah, I agree with that. I also think, I mean, I think

[Lorraine Connell]
a

[Matt Gilhooly]
lot of people will relate to that feeling of imposter syndrome of like even in the podcasting space, I don't know how you have a podcast, which we'll talk about, but I don't know if you felt that way with your first couple episodes when you drop them or even now, you know, I get nervous before every recording because I'm like, I just want it to be perfect or I want the guests to have a great time and I want the listener to really enjoy it and it's like, do I belong in this space? What am I doing? So I can relate to that feeling of like you

[Lorraine Connell]
after

[Matt Gilhooly]
your students left the classroom.

[Lorraine Connell]
Yeah, I mean I didn't continue to cry

[Matt Gilhooly]
much through

[Lorraine Connell]
My 10 years, but like that first couple of weeks, it was like, where am I going with this?

[Matt Gilhooly]
Yeah, well, I mean teaching a science topic too. I think you traditionally will have students come in not excited about science, right? So there's an extra layer of stress I would imagine to, how do I connect this topic that they're already coming in with some kind of feeling about that's not a positive one. Typically, how do I connect with them and show them the relevancy and and enjoy it and not dread coming to my class. That's hard space. So you you were teaching for 10 years and just loving it. So,

[Lorraine Connell]
And so here we are 10 years into this job. I at the time, like I said, I came to teaching sort of in a circuitous way. And so I was, I was not right out of college, but I was not older. So I'm I'm looking at 10 years. I know I love what I'm doing, but I'm looking at retirement being like 25, 30, maybe 35 years away and thinking What, what am I how am I gonna do this for another 20, years? I, there needs to be something else that I can do. And so I, this is where the shift was like, how am I going to last doing what I'm doing? Loving what I'm doing, seeing a lot of other teachers in, you know, maybe four or five years away from retirement. Kind of hating their jobs. And so I was like, okay, I maybe administration, maybe that's where I need to go. And and it was it was not something that I wanted to do. And so the shift was, let me apply for a middle management position. Um we'll call that, you know, department head or coordinator, whatever you wanna call that middle management position. And I applied, I, you know, buffed up my resume. It had been 10 years since I did anything with my resume and I applied and I was not the top candidate, but this job, this middle management position is yours until you don't want it anymore. And the person who got it was about my age and I was I was devastated. Um I knew he was the better candidate. I knew that. But for me, I I didn't see another path. And um and so this is 10 years into teaching and I just just kept going.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Yeah, I mean, so like at that moment you were like, dreading. I mean, you were still enjoying it, right?

[Lorraine Connell]
Yeah,

[Matt Gilhooly]
Okay. So you're still enjoying it. But something in you was dreading the fact that you had to do it for another. It's so interesting, right? Like we like how can we love something and also dread doing it for the rest of our lives and not having any forward motion, I guess. Do you think a lot of that? I think for me

[Lorraine Connell]
mm

[Matt Gilhooly]
until

[Lorraine Connell]
probably

[Matt Gilhooly]
Like five years ago or so. Until like my late 30's I was under the movement of you know society told me that I had to do this and I always had to be progressing.

[Lorraine Connell]
Did

[Matt Gilhooly]
any of that relate? Like did you grow up knowing like like your expectations or the expectations of you by society was that you had to 10 years was too much in one role. So you need to move to the next thing and you need to you know, you need to keep progressing. Was any of that kind of playing in your

[Lorraine Connell]
head? I think so. I mean I think as we look back, you know, I think I struggled. I came from the business world, went into teaching the business world. You do you move up the ladder and I didn't see a ladder and or if the ladder was there, it wasn't a ladder I wanted

[Matt Gilhooly]
right? And someone was on it. Like someone was already on the ladder. Yeah. I mean I can I can relate to that coming from, you know, I got my M. B. A. And then I worked in a in a bunch of small businesses and then I came to a private higher education space from that. So it was always I felt like every year or more of teaching like okay what's next And and for me, fortunately there was a ladder but I can imagine I know how it felt like I still liked what I was doing, but I was like, this is like, I'm doing the same thing over and over again, right? It just feels like a groundhog day at some point. So, so you didn't get that job, did you continue? Like how did that affect you and what you were doing? I

[Lorraine Connell]
don't think I knew at the time how much it impacted me because it wasn't, it didn't feel like a change. It felt like a disappointment. It felt like a devastation of like, okay, I am not good enough. I think that's where, I mean, I'm sure I was raised and had that perfectionism trait in my upbringing, but I think it really started to come out for me then because I also was like, okay, so middle management and I really didn't want to be an administrator. I think that's sort of like clarified to me that that's not the path that I wanted to take, it wasn't available to me and maybe I didn't really want it. But so I, I went back to my classroom and I looked at what I was doing and I still really loved what I was doing because it was about the connections I was making with kids, it was about the relationships, it was all there for me, but I wanted to do something different and I didn't want to not teach chemistry. I really love teaching chemistry. And so I started to try and innovate a little bit. And it was about this time in my career where the flipped classroom was the the new thing and in chemistry it made a ton of sense because my practice at the time was Teached to the kids, you know like direct, teach them uh send, let them practice a little bit and then send them home to do homework all by themselves. And it made sense to me to flip it so that they were doing the passive learning at home without me and then coming in and doing the active learning with me. The problem was I didn't have a really great way of describing that to people. So I was like I am not teaching them. What I should have said was that students were home doing the passive learning but where they're doing the active learning with me, the teacher. And so I think, you know, that wasn't a shift but that was a moment in time where I think there was less confidence in me. I was doing something innovative and my administration didn't know anything. And so I didn't really get the the I've got your back kind of support that I needed. And while I still firmly believe that the flipped approach in chemistry is the ideal way of learning. I I wish I could have gone back and known the impact, choosing those words would have had on my relationship with administration,

[Matt Gilhooly]
did you, did you feel that your relationship with the administration changed because you applied for that job and then didn't get it and someone else was chosen and then that person knows that you went for this role and now maybe feels threatened. Was there any kind of inkling where it felt like now you had to prove something more?

[Lorraine Connell]
So the easy answer would have been yes. But this person who got the job was a wonderful person and he was a mentor to me and he actually had my back. Um, it was upper administration who had done some shifting and some changing that I felt didn't have my back and didn't understand. And I think many of your listeners who are educators will, will understand this to be true is that we, we often operate in a silo and our administration may come in to observe us in pockets, but either we're putting on our best show or you know, we've prepared and or they step in and chaos is happening. It, there's, there's not a real understanding of what happens in a classroom on a day to day basis unless you're really present as an administrator and administrators don't have time. I know that. Um, but to not know what your teachers are doing, it is hard to have their back and it's hard to support them when they are trying to be innovative.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Now, I don't, I don't know if this is true or not in your chemistry class were the grades, something that administration would be looking at and the reason I ask that because, you know, some of the classes that have, it's harder and students are not doing as well, then that raises a red flag and now you're doing something innovative that they don't understand, which is not really that innovative. It's, you know, like it makes sense, right? But they don't understand it and like, why are you changing things because this class is already hard. So, did you feel, was, is that something that was the case with the chemistry class? Like were students struggling more than say, an english class?

[Lorraine Connell]
Um, so my chemistry class students, um, they, they were always pretty average, right? You know, you had your bell curve and at this time I was not doing a really great job. Um Well at the time I was still doing very traditional grading where, you know, it was based out of 100 and the harder questions were worth more points, which in my mind seemed to make a lot of sense. Um, and I had multiple questions asking the same concept. Um, and so can you hear the background noise

[Matt Gilhooly]
now?

[Lorraine Connell]
Um, so there was, you know, I was also learning to be a different type of grading teacher and so, again, breaking an innovative way the school itself was starting to shift um from the 100 point scale to competency based grading and um, so a lot of these changes were happening at the same time and I don't think that grades were the impetus for the lack of support, I think it was the message that I wasn't teaching.

[Matt Gilhooly]
That makes sense. So you're doing all this, you're where you're still enjoying it as this period was starting to happen, where people aren't supporting you and things like how did you navigate? I love teaching, but also like nobody's supporting what I'm trying to do.

[Lorraine Connell]
Um it was, it was very incremental. It never felt like there was a moment in time until the pandemic. Um I, you know, every year it became a little less apparent that that I was a favored teacher. It became like a little more difficult to establish that what I was doing in my class was valid. Um my, my reviews, we did this self review practice. My reviews were still really good, but

[Matt Gilhooly]
it, it

[Lorraine Connell]
was, there was an eroding and there was eroding in a lot of different places in the school at the time. Um different administration was turning over and, you know, things were becoming more busy for administrators, so they were less engaged, less involved. I never had any classroom management problems because the students felt, heard the students felt um seen the students felt challenged and they always knew that they had my back or I had their back, you know, so if I had a kid who didn't do well on a test, I would, I would applaud them because really, if you're getting 100 in this class then you already know everything and you shouldn't be in this particular class, I want to challenge you. And I think, you know, for a lot of kids was the first time that they were challenged. Not because because they were with me, but because chemistry is hard and like I said, like my ultimate goal as a teacher was to make sure that when kids left chemistry, they didn't hate it, they didn't feel like they couldn't do it and they didn't, wouldn't raise their hand and say it was a terrible experience.

[Matt Gilhooly]
And so

[Lorraine Connell]
you

[Matt Gilhooly]
said it was incremental, Was that mentally incremental for you? Or more just like on paper you were seeing that you were being unfavorable. You like slowly, like How do I keep doing this? How many years after that 10 year mark, when you applied, are we talking to get you to this pandemic?

[Lorraine Connell]
Um So it was five years later where something landed in my lap and I was I felt that same excitement that I had felt that first week that I told you where I burst into tears, I was so my mentor was moving on and he was teaching a class called peer leadership. And so it was student leadership development and kids were actually given course credit to learn leadership skills and this in addition to my chemistry class just changed everything for me. I felt really connected again, I was happy. I was like this is something I wanted to do. I didn't know how much I wanted to do it until I got into that class and I I thought maybe, you know, Another 20 years wasn't so bad if I could be in this kind of position where I was teaching something totally outside of chemistry, still teaching chemistry and loving every minute of it. But now I had a new challenge and it was fun.

[Matt Gilhooly]
So you you found that moment when what year was this?

[Lorraine Connell]
Um 20, I think it was 2018,

[Matt Gilhooly]
2018. So then so you're doing this and you're doing chemistry, you're doing this student leadership thing which you know makes sense because you said you want to make those relationships with the students, you want to help them, uh not raise their hand, but in the same point, it's like you're giving them life skills that are going to help them for the rest of time. Whereas some people may look at chemistry and say only certain parts of chemistry or the idea of chemistry are gonna be helpful here there and everywhere. So I'm sure you were seeing more light bulbs and those kind of moments in the leadership class and probably like more

[Lorraine Connell]
authentic

[Matt Gilhooly]
connections right with the students and then maybe chemistry because there's also that sometimes there's that wall between the teacher and the student with the grade, Like you don't like me, you know, like, well your grades really not about how much I like you or not, I think you're great, but your grade is it's not great. So I think in a leadership class there's probably more opportunity for a different type of relationship as it comes to assignments and whatnot.

[Lorraine Connell]
So leadership allowed me to have students for just for more than one year when I was just there, chemistry to teacher, I saw incredible growth in their one year of experience with me that, you know, it was almost disappointing that I had to like shuffle them off to another class and I also started teaching Ap Chemistry, which again allowed me another opportunity to teach the kids that I had for one year, some of them came back for another year and I don't think I had, I mean, it didn't have the confidence in myself to be teaching that ap chemistry class, but I don't know why I didn't have the confidence to do that. Um, and so I taught that pretty similarly the number of years that I did this leadership class, so I was teaching now Chemistry ap chemistry and leadership and I was, I was happy I was, I was challenged and I felt I felt like school could be sustainable for me, but there were little things. Again, little things, the community that I loved in the school that I started with, it wasn't the same anymore with all of the changes in administration. I just, I didn't have those relationships anymore. And um I loved the leadership class, but I saw that leadership was a privilege and so we would, we would have an application and the unfortunate thing was that we excluded certain kids from being in the class and there were a variety of reasons why they weren't accepted into the program. But one thing that stood out to me was there wasn't a lot of applications. So there were kids who I saw as leaders who weren't applying, there were kids who didn't really make the mark, who were being excluded and if a kid made a big enough mistake, they were kicked out of the

[Matt Gilhooly]
program.

[Lorraine Connell]
And initially that made sense to me right. I understood that students, you know, if you make a big mistake that there are consequences and you're in this really prestigious class, you are giving some incredible responsibilities, there should, there should be some pretty significant consequences. But then I started to remember that like not every basketball player is born with natural abilities to play basketball and we provide them with practice, we provide them with training, we provide them with coaching. Why aren't we doing the same thing for leadership. And so this is where things started to really change for me. I wanted to bring in these kids who needed the training and administration most certainly did not

[Matt Gilhooly]
because it was, they want the high scores, they want to prove the value through data and not through

[Lorraine Connell]
and they want they want to be able to say to every student in that school, you need to be this good to be a leader, you need, you need to be perfect to be a leader for us.

[Matt Gilhooly]
So what did that start doing to you when they were like

[Lorraine Connell]
Uh I it was so it was March of 2020 and I um was still in this class and I was talking to my students, I was asking them what remote learning was for them. I started to like investigate a little bit more. I started to ask them questions and I got an email for my administrator that um actually it wasn't an email from my administration. I got an email about a meeting that I had scheduled with another administrator about like here's what I think I'd like to do with my student leaders when we come back in person because I'd love to build community together. And so I was really excited. I invited a colleague who had been working on leadership program with me and so I thought I was coming into this meeting talking about, you know, this idea that I had and a my head administrator came into this meeting and proceeded to yell at me in front of these other people, totally not something I expected about, something that I didn't even know about it, but it was an email that that they had received from one of my student leaders about graduation and their decision and what that student felt about that decision and this was one of my students who was not a perfect leader and I received the brunt of that challenge to that authority and, and, and as I am, I am looking back in all honesty, like I was the teacher and I should be given this conversation, but I should have been notified about it. I might have like have read the email ahead of time maybe, but I still, to this day, I think my student did the right thing because they were upset. They talked, they used communication strategies, they brought the issue to the attention and I think was the bigger leader in that situation

[Matt Gilhooly]
and then you took the brunt of that and they yelled at you, which sounds like it probably affected you in in other ways, just the way you're, you're saying it and not to like jump ahead, but I feel like sometimes those are like, oh, thank you for doing that. Was that I thank you for doing that moment. Looking back now,

[Lorraine Connell]
I'm sure looking back now, but I don't definitely did not

[Matt Gilhooly]
feel at the

[Lorraine Connell]
time. Um and then

[Matt Gilhooly]
it changed you, right?

[Lorraine Connell]
It sure did it. Like I knew at that moment that I no longer had the support of administration and anything that I was doing and in august when they said well you are going to be home with your students or your own Children. So my students, my Children were going to be fully remote and our school hadn't really made a decision and I was totally fine working from home and doing the engagement with my my students, but at that moment they decided that the leadership class didn't need me anymore and when they took that leadership class from my class list or you know my schedule, that was the end for me, that was the moment where I said, I no longer can be a teacher, I can no longer work in an environment where I am not supported because everything that my being was was supporting my students, learning and growing and development and I wasn't being given the same opportunity to learn, grow and develop

[Matt Gilhooly]
or even just be acknowledged that that's what you were doing, you know, you were just kind of being told, you know, you weren't fitting the mold and how dare you come up with new ideas that might actually work and be helpful, but it wasn't what they wanted and so but you know what I mean, looking back to like we just said, it's sometimes these really hard moments in life are like the signals, right? The flags that were like pay attention, look at me right,

[Lorraine Connell]
right? Because those signals were all over the place at

[Matt Gilhooly]
Yeah,

[Lorraine Connell]
from 10 years forward, they were there and I, I just, I had my blinders on and, and I wanted, I wanted more, I really wanted more. And, and  I really didn't think I could, I could do anything more than be a teacher. I remember saying to my husband, to my therapist, to anybody who would listen, if I'm not a teacher there's nothing else I can do.

[Matt Gilhooly]
So what did you do?

[Lorraine Connell]
I, I gotta coach. I talked to um, I talked to a coach and she had me, write, If if she and I met in 200 years    if she and I met in five years, that is a long time. If I met her in five years, what are 200 things that I would be able to tell her I was doing, wow, that was hard.

[Matt Gilhooly]
It

[Lorraine Connell]
was hard, It was hard. It took me quite some time to do it, but when I was done I knew exactly what I wanted to do and it was not in a classroom,

[Matt Gilhooly]
wow, you know, it's funny, I just had a conversation with someone that was in a really, really dark moment in their life and they're pretty much there moment of growth or getting out of that was making a

[Lorraine Connell]
list. And

[Matt Gilhooly]
so it's funny to hear you say that like once you put in the time and the effort starting is the hardest part, right? But once you, once you get that 200 things on there, it what, what was on it, that stood out to you, that was like, okay, this is where I'm going, this is what I'm doing,

[Lorraine Connell]
It was leadership everywhere. I mean, I I I just kept coming back to it, you know, I thought I always did this activity where I thought my core value was family, but after doing this list, I realized that empowerment and integrity were so paramount to me and I can embed family into all of that. But when I like really started to have to like push beyond that top 50 where you know, you're like, oh yeah, do this, I'll do this, I'll do this and you're like, oh God, that's it, what else? And I I wanted, I wanted to empower kids, I wanted those kids to be so empowered that they were coming back and they were being hired by me to empower other kids. And it evolved into, I I want to do this on my own, I want to develop curriculum. I wanna give every kid everywhere the opportunity to develop into what they want to be and not just that small group of students who we've already identified are the natural leaders and I think being a parent helped me really define that. And and I It took me a while to leave, you know, it was August of 2020 that I knew that I didn't want to be there anymore, but it wasn't until June of 22 that I decided I'm done, I no longer will sign another contract and I will shoot, I'm going to go out and do this on my own. I don't really have a I mean, I had a plan but I didn't have like, no. Yeah,

[Matt Gilhooly]
is this gonna work? You know, like the questions that we can as imposter syndrome, fellow, impostor syndrome person, You know, like you feel those

[Lorraine Connell]
like, is

[Matt Gilhooly]
this even real did during that period when you were like, when you were told you were not going to take that class anymore, you were not gonna teach that class anymore. And when you finally quit, were you still a happy teacher? Or was it just like, oh God, I hate coming here.

[Lorraine Connell]
You know when I was in my classroom,

[Matt Gilhooly]
I was a

[Lorraine Connell]
teacher when I was on, but as soon as I walked out of that door, I hated everything. I hated the conversations people were having with me. I hated there was so much negativity, there was so much covid talk. I was like, this is a toxic relationship.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Yeah. I think a lot of people listening will understand that it's like when you're doing the thing you love, it's good and then everything else is just like so draining that it almost it definitely makes the thing that you used to love

[Lorraine Connell]
painful.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Like it's like a codependent relationship, It's like I want to stay because I love doing this, but everything else is really bringing me down

[Lorraine Connell]
so

[Matt Gilhooly]
I can relate. I think you know when you were saying how empowerment and you want your your students and people just in general to to have that and to be able to pay it forward and I mean wouldn't it be nice if all teachers felt that way and that's how we approached education? I don't think we're there anymore. I don't think that's how

[Lorraine Connell]
I

[Matt Gilhooly]
feel like education is very transactional these days uh in all levels. And so I mean when you were saying that, I was

[Lorraine Connell]
like yeah

[Matt Gilhooly]
that's how that's how people should feel in the classroom all the time and what you're doing to advance these individuals so that they can be productive members of society, right? So I'm glad that you were able to disconnect and and take a chance on yourself to kind of face the things that you wanted to do, those things on the list. What did you actually do when you left?

[Lorraine Connell]
Um I felt a lot of guilt. Yeah. Yeah, I love, I really do love the empowerment that comes from being a classroom teacher and I wasn't sure that I was going to feel that way again. Um I had I had in august like I said, I had been asking my students questions and and and getting their advice and I thought I shouldn't I shouldn't be the only one that hears this advice, there are lots of teachers out there and really their advice was not all that

[Matt Gilhooly]
surprise,

[Lorraine Connell]
I guess, or really hard to put into practice. Um so I was like, maybe I'll produce it. So I made a podcast and you know, I I love the work that I do in my podcast. I um I'm realizing that lots of podcasts have lots of people listening and and rating and all of that and I don't have that many. But every interview I have with a student, I leave with more knowledge of how I could well, I could have been a better teacher and for like I said, I was I was doing those interviews for about a year and a half before I left teaching, I was putting so much of what they advised me into play and it changed everything for me with my relationships and I already had really good relationships with kids, but this just made it so much better.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Yeah, it's, you know, and going back to your original story of when you were 10 years in and you didn't get that job, and like all the little signs like pointing you here, but at the same time, I think all those experiences make you value this more and make you better at what you're doing to serve and help empower

[Lorraine Connell]
others now,

[Matt Gilhooly]
right? Because you almost had you started the podcast when you were this happy teacher without any adversity and any, you know animosity towards certain things. You probably wouldn't be as open or ask the right questions or find the value in it to be able to

[Lorraine Connell]
to

[Matt Gilhooly]
kind of help the people that need it the most. Do you agree?

[Lorraine Connell]
I totally agree. I don't think I honestly I don't think I was there to think that student voice had so much power. I loved it. I loved what they they provided me as a teacher, but I definitely didn't think that their voice was on mute.

[Matt Gilhooly]
Do you think that the which one do you think put you in this this mind space more? Not getting that job the first time or being yelled at in that meeting or being told you're not teaching that class, Which one served you more in this version of you?

[Lorraine Connell]
Um Well, I think being yelled at sent me to a really awful place in my brain. Um I was already struggling with not being perfect in my own mind to be told, I wasn't perfect, really hit me the hardest and took me the longest to recover. But the fact that there was no engagement with me, there was no collaboration with me, There was none of the things that I needed. I think that served me the best in applying what I'm doing now with students.

[Matt Gilhooly]
How about personally personal growth, do you think that made you a better person as tough as it was and the struggles that you went through because of it? Do you think you're better served because you were able now that you're able to look back on it?

[Lorraine Connell]
I don't want to say yes, I really don't. It was so hurtful, it was so heartbreaking, it was so soul crushing that that I I don't know that the maybe it was hitting rock bottom, but I want to say that it would be like putting my back against the corner when they told me that class was no longer mine, that I feel like caused me the most personal growth. I was like, well

[Matt Gilhooly]
you're

[Lorraine Connell]
not going to let me teach it, that I'm going to teach it to every other kid in this world because I think it's really important.

[Matt Gilhooly]
And I also think, you know, having taught that leadership class, I teach a leadership class now and

[Lorraine Connell]
I

[Matt Gilhooly]
think listening to that conversation, that was not about you, like, that anger was not about you, that was totally on whoever yelled at you, you know, and that's whatever demons they're facing and insecurities that they have, but I understand also understand that it's very easy to internalize

[Lorraine Connell]
when

[Matt Gilhooly]
someone is blaming you for something, but hopefully one day you look back on that and go, you know, that has nothing to do with me and look what I'm doing. So that was the only reason I asked that question. I think sometimes we we take on way too much, that's not ours to take on,

[Lorraine Connell]
But

[Matt Gilhooly]
I think, you know, you look back though and it kicked you

[Lorraine Connell]
but it kicked you

[Matt Gilhooly]
in the right direction at the end of

[Lorraine Connell]
the day and

[Matt Gilhooly]
what you're serving people. So you have this podcast going where you talk to former students, you talk to other students, you ask them meaningful questions about their experiences and what can be done better. And is that, is that your main thing that you're doing or what else are you doing?

[Lorraine Connell]
Well that is, I would say that's the impetus of everything else that I'm doing because from that advice, like I said, I put it into practice in my own professional growth and I thought that there are a lot of teachers who could use this information and so I created a professional development program, it's 20 hours, but it's so beneficial and and I know how much it improved my own practice that I I you know, I don't want to toot my own horn. But I know that so many teachers need these kind of conversations, we were not taught any of these things in our teacher training and society is changing really fast. So like having a safe place, having a place where I can maybe ask a question that I can't ask my students is a great place to learn and and I do want to implement the leadership programming that I've created because when that administrator told me, I was not going to teach the leadership class and I knew how important that leadership programming was for the kids that I was starting to really work with. I think these skills are so invaluable and I don't know that there's an age limit to doing that work. I think, you know, maybe 13 is really where you start to think about how to put it into practice, but I, you know, I've talked to my own parents and they were like, I could probably use some of these skills that you're doing and I was like, I think you could actually,

[Matt Gilhooly]
yeah, I just like that you're getting this this information and advice, not all of it obviously, but from from people that are that have to go through it, right, We've already gone through it. It was a different time and it was a different period and sure there are things that we wish we could do, but we can't teach our current students the things that we wish had happened in the society version. You know, the version of society when we went through it. So by taking that, you know, part of me thinks you need to create something that is specifically for school administrators, because I feel like that's where

[Lorraine Connell]
a

[Matt Gilhooly]
lot of the disconnect happens and then it trickles down into the teachers and they become, you know, these great teachers, like you were become,

[Lorraine Connell]
I

[Matt Gilhooly]
don't want to use the word, but I'm going to jaded teachers because of that pressure put on them by people that, like you said, don't experience what that teacher's day to day is like, or what the students day to day is like, or really don't understand that certain things that you're trying to implement don't work, they just don't work, right? And that can't you can't give us a rule for that, so you should make something for administrators if you haven't already.

[Lorraine Connell]
Yeah, maybe I think there are other people working on that, but um but yeah, I do

[Matt Gilhooly]
with the value that you're getting from these students. I feel like that's what people need to hear.

[Lorraine Connell]
Yeah, I do think, um, you know, as you were talking, I was thinking about, you know, the thing that I said about administrators not knowing what's going on in the teacher's life, I also have realized that as a teacher, I didn't I didn't know what was going on in my students lives. I saw them for, you know, way more than an administrator will see a teacher, but I didn't see them in the way that their lives were. I saw them for a moment in time and there's so much we don't know about people when we only get them for a snippet.

[Matt Gilhooly]
I agree. I mean, it's almost kind of the reason that I love having these conversations is because, you know, everyone is in society is defined by their role, you know, Unfortunately, right? But now we get to dig deeper and see like what, how did we get there or why are we there or do we want to be there? You know, there's so many different questions that come from it. And so I like to end these conversations with the question that I think would be helpful. I think for you, if you like this version of you and the way that you see things and the way that you want to empower others, Is there anything you could say to yourself if you could go back to when you didn't get that administrator job about? Like, because I know you were like, how do I do this for another 30

[Lorraine Connell]
years? What would you

[Matt Gilhooly]
say to her?

[Lorraine Connell]
I I've been thinking about this question a lot. I I think I would say to her, because I'm looking at a lot of teachers now and and wondering what advice I would give them is. I would I would seek a coach, I would seek somebody who can see where you are, ask you what you want and give you some guidance on how you might get there. And I think if I had, I think if I had had that person talked to me who talked to me 10 years later when I was at the lowest point in my teaching career, I think I might have sought some other opportunities, I might have seen myself as a leader and and not felt like I wasn't a leader, even though I didn't have a title. And I think that's really where that misnomer is is that leaders don't need titles. But in society we sure do celebrate those who do have titles.

[Matt Gilhooly]
We sure do. And you know, part of when you were saying that also makes me think, had you spoken to someone that was the 3rd party unbiased, right, that could help direct you, You also had you stayed and had you done all those things and had you uh decided to quit? You wouldn't have had I don't think you would have had that. What else can I do? I'm only a teacher. I can only do this. There's nothing, you know, I feel like we all kind of need to realize that that other people can help us and to to open up that door of vulnerability

[Lorraine Connell]
is

[Matt Gilhooly]
usually pretty valuable.

[Lorraine Connell]
Yeah. And that, I mean, that is where when, when people ask why I'm doing what I'm doing, I say, you know, as a teacher, I needed to manage my classroom and I managed by putting kids in boxes. And when I put kids in boxes, I prevented them from being who they wanted to be. So I put myself in a box and other people put me in a box by being just a teacher. And if if there is one person out there that hears my message Is you're not just a teacher and there are other things that teachers can and will do in their lives. And if you are feeling like you need a way out or you need to see that way out, take that exercise, right, 200 things down that if send me a linkedin message in five years, what would you tell me? And it may become clear to you that it's the classroom, it's not the classroom, it's working with kids in a different way. There are, there are other things for us out there and that is what I wish I knew that just being a teacher isn't the only thing that I can do. I

[Matt Gilhooly]
mean, what else do I say to that? I think that's good advice. I think that's true of any industry, right? I don't, I think that's just as humans, we can do more than we are put in boxes and told, we can do, you know, even if you get a degree in this, you can do other things. There are lots of people doing things that don't have degrees in that. So, I think that's important to hear, but especially teachers, I think teachers are in a vulnerable space, especially now. Uh, so I hope, you know, teachers are listening to this and hear your story and see what you're doing and how you're doing it and they want to connect with you, which will share all your information in the show notes. So I appreciate you being on

[Lorraine Connell]
matt. It was such a pleasure and I really think what you're doing is incredible and you know, once you said um let's do the show. I have been thinking about my life so much and I think that that's so incredible. And every time I listen to one of your podcast, I think about oh my gosh, I didn't even think about that part of my life and I think that that it's okay to go back and think about how things changed and the paths were on because every moment in time is a choice and sometimes we make the right ones and sometimes we don't, but all of it gets us to where we want to be.

[Matt Gilhooly]
I agree, I think sometimes the wrong choices are the right choices as well. So, um you know, hearing your story, I know some of them were really hard for you, but I think at the end of the day they put you where you need to be and they taught you what you needed to learn at that moment in time. So I appreciate you being on here and those of you listening, I appreciate you listening to the life shift podcast if you get a chance and you're liking what you hear, I would love a five star review on Apple podcast and a review that's also super helpful but boost my feelings for that particular day when I see it. So thank you for listening and we'll be back next week with a brand new episode. I'm macula julie and this is the life shift, candid conversations about the pivotal moments that changed lives