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I Slipped, But I'm Back Up

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It really shouldn’t be that big a deal, but it has been for the past three summers. And recently it has taken away too much of my positive energy. You see I am currently a vice principal, and for the past three summers this has been the time of year when I have been anxiously awaiting to hear if I will become a principal.

This year I did not even get an interview. It should not have bothered me so much because there weren’t even any openings in the counties to which I applied. And before you read any further you must know that this is not a “woe is me” tale. No, this is a short tale about opening one’s eyes, one’ ears and one’s heart to once again realize what is important in life and what is not.

It all started two weeks ago when I was called into the superintendent’s office for a  meeting with the Executive Team. When I got the call I thought to myself “this is it, you are finally going to be offered a principal position you’ve been so anxiously awaiting.”

Mind you, I hadn’t had an interview but I had been hearing rumors that I was going to get a position. Now I spend my days explaining to children that they mustn’t put any stock in rumors and yet here I was getting my hopes up. So when I sat down I was fully expecting to be receiving my coronation. But to my surprise no such ceremony occurred. Instead I was told that I was being laterally transferred to a different school. A great school! But at the time it didn’t matter to me because all I could think about was that I was not receiving a crown.

I stormed out (not really, but in my mind I was angry) and took the rest of the day off. I got in my car and drove to the nearest three counties hoping to speak to someone that needed a principal. I was ready to take on the world. I was gong to take matters into my own hands. I wasn’t going to sit back and wait for someone to hire me, I was going to go get a job.

Needless to say at the current moment I am a vice principal and that is okay. Because since that day I have had four experiences take place that have helped me to refocus and have helped me to learn what is really important in life.

An Invaluable Long Distance Mentor

There are some people who come into our lives without reason and yet we later realize that it was not by accident. Ben Gilpin has been one of those people for me. He has always been a source of encouragement and inspiration to me whether it is through his blog or whether it is through the personal comments he makes in response to mine and others’ blog pieces.

Recently, when I was mired in my own self-pity, I turned to Ben via Voxer. He was always there to give advice and pep talks when I needed it. Ben did not simply tell me what I wanted to hear, but instead told me what I needed to remember. I can not thank him enough for being there when I needed him most. Hopefully I can do the same for someone else some day because I know that is what he would want more than anything. Thank you Ben.

A Born Again Miner

Recently I attended a workshop with a colleague of mine who is always, and I mean always, happy and upbeat. As we were sitting through the workshop we spoke of the upcoming summer and what we each had planned. I shared with him that I was going to Aruba to vacation with my family, in fact we fly out of the country tomorrow. Then he shared with me what he was going to do with his summer. I could not believe the words that came out of his mouth.

He said, “Jon, my wife and I are working at Frontier Town this summer. We have always loved being around kids and it is such a happy place.” For those that don’t know, Frontier Town is a small amusement park right outside of Ocean City, Maryland. Needless to say I was floored. Here is a man who is over 55, an elementary school vice principal, and a college professor who is getting ready to publish a book and he is going to spend his summer dressing up as a miner and panning for gold at a children’s amusement park. Wow! The smile on his face and the joy in his voice when he told me were infectious! And here I am with my head down because at 43 I was not yet a principal. Shame on me!

Five Year Old Cancer Survivor

Just last week my family and I had to go the local Target to purchase groceries and get some things we needed. Anyone who has children under 10 knows just how difficult it is getting in and out of Target without buying half the store. But we did it! And as I was racing to the check out aisle we happened to pass an old tennis buddy of mine with two of his kids. They were both about five years old and full laughter and energy.

My friend, who I had not spoken with in a few years, told me how it was his one son’s birthday. He also told me that they had just gotten word from the doctor that his one son was cancer free! I did not see this one coming. Both kids were happiness personified. They were both sitting in the cart and they were having the time of their lives. Despite the fact that this child had just been through treatment after treatment he could not have been any happier. Wake up Jon!

My Three Year Old Son

So this past Monday it hit me that I was getting ready to be out of the country for a week and I could possibly miss an opportunity to get a principal position that might pop-up while I was away. I decided to email the appropriate people just to inform them that even though I would be out of the country, I would still be checking email in case they needed to reach me. I received emails from the first two counties thanking me for my interest, but also letting me know that they did not anticipate any principal positions opening up this year.

Then I got the email from the third and final county that I thought could possibly have an opening. The email I received was polite, but similar to the previous emails, let me know that there would probably not be any openings this year. I hung my head a little and actually heard myself let out a little pitiful sigh.

As if on cue, in the next instant, my son, who was playing with his toys and not even looking at me, said, “Daddy I love you.”

I’m back!

It took a long distance mentor, a born-again miner, a five-year old cancer survivor and most importantly, my son, to help me refocus on what’s important in life.

Putting all this down in writing was not easy, and to be honest, embarrassing. But not putting it down would have been worse. My hope is that maybe someone reading this will take something from what I have shared and avoid the same slip in perspective that I temporarily had.  At least that is my hope. That and for me to never lose sight of what’s important in life.

Have a great day!

I promise you that I will!

This is a piece that I wrote almost two years ago.

And yet, recently I slipped again.

Just because I didn't get a job.

But this time I recovered much sooner!

I'm getting better!

I'm learning from my mistakes!

Listen each week.

Or better yet, subscribe on iTunes, so you don't miss an episode.

I hope you are able to learn as much from these phenomenal educators as I have. Their transparency and honesty are incredible.The courage they show in sharing their stories demonstrates clearly why they are the leaders they are today.

Click the link below to hear what Rosa Isiah shared on a recent episode. I promise you won't be disappointed.


"I Was Ready To Give Up On A Student, Then.."


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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

  • Rita Wirtz |  @RitaWirtz
    Rita Wirtz | @RitaWirtz Friday, 27 May 2016

    Jon, this is a grand blog post. You shared from your heart. When the time is right, you will have that Principal position. Keep the faith. Warmly, Rita

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Sunday, 29 May 2016

    Rita, thank you so much. I too believe that sometimes in life we don not get things because there is something else waiting for us. Some experience or person that we are meant to encounter that will change us profoundly. I appreciate the warm thoughts.

  • Guest
    Vicki Davis Saturday, 28 May 2016

    But Jon, look at the encouragement you're giving others. You get to go on vacation. You get to enjoy your family! These things aren't easy when we have something we want so badly as you want this -- that is for sure. But you are smart to take the moments you have and enjoy them. I've often told my husband that when I look back on these days of struggle as a teacher, that I will likely say these were some of the best days of my life and I might as well just learn to enjoy them. Have an awesome summer and thank you for your inspiring words. Whether it is a principal-ship, a masters, an instructional technologist, or just being able to have the time to write a book without a million interruptions - we all have that thing we want. But in the end, we get the thing and it isn't as shiny as it was -- we're all about as content as we make up our minds to be. Have an awesome summer and enjoy the time with your family!

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Saturday, 28 May 2016

    Thank you Vicki. You and your words often inspire me. And I agree, that being content often has more to do with our mindset than it does about anything else. I love to think back on your piece "Why Teachers Need To Keep Going, Even When It's Hard" http://www.coolcatteacher.com/why-teachers-need-to-keep-going-even-when-its-hard/ . I love the power in your words and the message and the story you told. Life for me is far from hard and I am a very luck person. Sometimes I simply need a kick in the pants to remember this. Thanks again for taking the time to comment and keep inspiring!

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Guest Sunday, 17 February 2019