Finding Meaning in the Seemingly Mundane

Finding Meaning in the Seemingly Mundane

Before joining HFLI in early 2023, Clare (center) spent ten years working in Detroit education as a secondary ELA teacher, a literacy instructional coach, an assistant principal, a middle school principal, and the director of academics for a network of ten K-12 schools.

It has been six months since I joined our HFLI team. Six months of navigating a new-ish world after spending ten years as an educator in Detroit. Six months of building new relationships, learning the “HFLI Way,” observing, planning, and facilitating a multitude of workshops and engagements in my role as National Program Director. It’s been a bittersweet transition from working within schools to working alongside schools and educators; a transition I feel grateful to experience and one that I am still unpacking.

Six months of workshops, engagements, participants, partnerships, and sessions, all of which I avoided entering into our HFLI database. If you’re anything like me, you know the feeling: getting to engage with people brings excitement and joy, data entry…does not. 

That is how I found myself spending a full day at my computer, entering every engagement, every workshop, every session, every partner, and every participant I had ever worked with as an HFLI team member into our HFLI database. For me, data entry is repetitive, slow-moving, detail-oriented work, and work that my procrastination made much more time-consuming than it needed to be. But as the hours wore on, something beautiful happened. With every engagement I logged, I was presented with the opportunity to reflect on my past six months, presented with the opportunity to slow down and take stock of my work, and to consider my impact. 

I participated in over ten engagements, co-facilitating eight of them myself. I led, and learned, and co-created with students, educators, and community members across Detroit, across the state of Michigan, and nationally through the Deeper Learning Conference in San Diego, California. The depth of our engagements spanned from a full-day deep dive to a four-month cohort experience complete with over 30 hours of workshops and 15 hours of fieldwork. There were design thinking workshops around teacher retention and envisioning equitable educational futures, youth leadership design jams with school teams working to address issues identified within their schools, educator cohorts to increase culturally responsive and restorative teaching practices, and intro to design thinking workshops to help educators bring design thinking back to their schools and their students. It was a rich six months. 

Through my reflection, one number stuck with me. 142. Funny how I started by saying that data entry doesn’t bring me joy. But without that data entry, I wouldn’t have stopped to realize that over the past six months, I had the beautiful opportunity to connect with 142 different humans.  142 points of connection. 142 ripples of change. 142 students, educators, and community members working to equip students with the tools they need to creatively transform their worlds. 142 opportunities of hope and of joy. 

And so that is my charge to you, the next time you find yourself avoiding a task, one that you’ve prescribed as mundane, take the time to slow down and reflect. See if there isn’t some hope and joy, some meaning hidden beneath the surface. I, for one, am looking forward to my next data entry. And I can promise, it won’t be in six months. 

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