A Rainbow in the Clouds

A couple of weeks ago, I was riding home from the airport after spending two days working with an amazing coaching team in Liberty, Missouri. As I looked out across the plains at the ominous gray sky I saw a giant rainbow. In Liberty just the morning before, we watched a clip of Maya Angelou, who had recently passed away.

In it she spoke about how each of us needs to be “a rainbow in the clouds” of someone else. So besides being a beautiful sight, I also felt that rainbow out on the plains was an amazing coincidence and a tribute not only to the late Ms. Angelou but to the great coaches with whom I had just been working as well. Yes, I’m a sap that way! Our ultimate goal as coaches is to help kids get the best education possible, which we do by supporting teachers. If each of us can be a “rainbow in the clouds” of the teachers with whom we work, it will go a long way toward reaching this big and important goal.

A few hours before my rainbow sighting, while sitting on the plane leaving Kansas City, another interesting metaphor came to mind. During the all too familiar safety presentation, I heard the flight attendant talking about what to do if we experience a sudden loss of cabin pressure: “Be sure to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting another passenger”. What a great reminder that in order to effectively be of service to someone else, we need to take care of ourselves first. As completely unrelated as these two metaphors may appear (one beautiful and poetic from the incomparable Maya Angelou and the other boring and potentially scary delivered from the PA on an airplane), I think they are actually totally connected. Dare I say you can’t be a rainbow until you’ve had your oxygen? Maybe that’s taking it a bit too far, but I trust you know what I mean!

As you begin what I’m sure is a well-deserved summer vacation, I hope you will consider this second metaphor. Yes, summer is a good time to reflect, plan, and catch up on professional reading. But it is also an important time to NOT think about work as well; to spend time with family and friends, to travel, read novels, or do whatever else makes you feel relaxed and recharged. If you don’t do any of the former you may not be fully prepared to launch into the new school year come August. But without checking out and letting go of work for a while, you may find you are lacking the energy to really dive in once school does start up again. I think it takes a balance of both to get the most out of these next few months. Here are some things you might want to consider:

  • In order to be that “rainbow in the clouds” of the teachers who you will be coaching next year, what kind of preparation do you need to do this summer? Is there a book or article you’ve been meaning to get to? Is there a conference or webinar or other professional learning you’re hoping to attend?
  • And thinking about our airplane metaphor, what is the “oxygen” you need to have when the cabin pressure drops? How can you take care of yourself so that you can best serve others? What kinds of things will continue to feed you and give you energy once the craziness of the school year begins? 

Working to provide kids with the best possible education is a tough job – for coaches, teachers, and administrators. We must continually strive to learn and prepare in order to support one another in this endeavor, but we also need to be sure to support ourselves along the way.