How Do We Know When Meaningful Work Is Over?

Early in my entrepreneurial career in the field of education, I was more of a trainer than a consultant. I presented a lot of one-day workshops, mostly around the issues of literacy. In those days I was perfecting my craft as a presenter and workshop designer. I wasn’t hired to do any follow-through and had to rely on the district to do so. Therefore, I never really knew how well my workshops had been implemented.

As my work developed, I began to appreciate the importance in building relationships over time with a school community. Why? Because time invites collaboration, and I have found collaboration is an effective way to promote change, a tangible change that I can assess. A powerful assumption behind collaboration is the understanding that as a consultant I only have a part of the story. What I bring to the dance needs to mix with the rhythms of the district and its current needs.

Collaboration over time brings another challenge, however. I may now see changes occurring, yet when do I know my work is over? Of course, it’s over when there is a limited amount of money for my services. Beyond that is another issue. When do we as consultants know our work is over?

I believe it is not by chance that our unique, particular services are contracted. I believe what we have to offer is what that particular situation needs at that time. We are there not only to provide content; we are also there to provide emotional support. We may seem like a godsend, and we are. Then, without any wrong doing on our part or at an inconvenient time, the district brings the relationship to an end. Sometimes the district may act up or force us to take a stand. What we must realize is that their need has been met, their desire fulfilled; their work is done. They have gone as far as they can go. And they don’t know how else to express the end of their learning except in negative ways.

It is important to leave knowing we did our best. The lesson for us to learn is that it’s not personal. It just  is what it is.