Partnerships & Perspectives


This is often how I feel, as if I am constantly juggling a bunch of puzzle pieces that I know fit together somehow to make up the gestalt of my life.  This week is no exception.  I am attending a professional conference, spending two nights away from my family, trying to see two friends (and their families) in the city where the conference is being held, presenting twice, trying to still keep up with grading and work that has to get done no matter where I am and yet trying to balance the time I know I will need to “make-up” with my family after my absence (in addition to balancing the guilt I feel at being away from them).

It is fitting that partnership is the topic of the conference I’m attending, and that this week I’ve been reflecting a lot about partnership and perspective.  So this week, I figured I would share those thoughts with you.


My presentation, with my colleague and mentor yesterday, focused on reciprocity in faculty mentoring relationships.  Our work, drawn from the evolution of our own relationship, is anchored in the idea that each member of a partnership (whether it be a mentoring relationship, a friendship, a working relationship, etc.) has something which they bring to the table.  By acknowledging these types of partnerships and seeing the inherent value and worth of each person’s contributions, progress and growth can be achieved towards shared goals.

I get this type of partnership, and most days, I feel like I’m good at this type of partnership.  I share my contributions and learn so much from the people around me, and their unique contributions, whether those people are senior colleagues, friends, students, or my family.


But sometimes, when I feel like partnership is about sharing the load, I struggle.  It’s not that I value this type of partnership less, it’s that I never really feel like I am pulling my weight.  Although, in this image, both partners are still contributing towards a shared goal, often times when partnerships involve assistance, I end up somehow feeling like that’s a sign of weakness on my part.

For example, this week, a good friend and colleague of mine, who has a much stronger background in quantitative research methodology and evaluation design, helped me with a survey study that I am in the process of developing.  She graciously gave of her time to help me do a massive overhaul of my original survey, to align better with what I’m interested in studying, and we hope to work on this study together after the data is collected and publish from it.  I needed help.  My friend lent me her expertise.  We will likely partner up to discuss what we find from the data I’ll collect based on the survey she helped me design.  A wonderful partnership that will likely result in mutual benefit.

But, what I was left with is: I needed help when I shouldn’t have.  I mean, how hard is survey design? Shouldn’t I know this at this level? My friend is busy, but she was gracious and generous with her time when she probably had many other, more important things to do.  What have I contributed? Nothing at this point.

Or, in my personal life, I think of my partnership with my husband, who often, when I am away for professional conferences, has to take over 100% of parenting duties for both of our children.  What kind of partnership is that?  I mean, sure, because I have the more flexible schedule, I often am the first one called from daycare, manage my hours around to get my son to Tae Kwon Do practice early on Thursdays, and am up doing projects, managing fundraisers/ schedules, and printing out last minute items for them.  But, seriously, this semester I’m home late almost every weeknight which means he has the bulk of the “heavy lifting” parental duty.  What am I contributing?


I haven’t figured anything out yet, except that partnership isn’t about equality in any given moment.  In the bulk of my partnerships, it is about shared goals based on shared commitments: to students/ future teachers, to research and growing knowledge in areas of joint commitment, to our children.  More than that, so many of my partnerships are based on love and contribution.

I am often uncomfortable with being contributed to, by taking up space or time for myself and my needs, even if those needs allow me to be the best that I can be and allow me to contribute to others.  But part of growing is pushing through discomfort to allow others to give freely without feeling like I am taking advantage of their generosity.

So, instead of beating up on myself for being weak in accepting the contributions of others or for taking up space, I will breathe in and take it in, grateful for my partnerships, humbled by those who are willing to work with me, alongside me and to support me, enabling me to do the work I am so committed to doing in the world.

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