When I decided to start an education consulting business after 15 years as a public school educator, you can probably imagine the internal dialogue I had to convince myself to take such a scary step:
"What is wrong with me? I can't leave the kids and the teachers to go off and experiment with something that may not even work! Am I crazy? Who do I think I am?"
"But, I have so much to offer. I need to trust that I can still make a difference in a non-traditional way. I've always done things differently. Why would this be any different?"
"That sounds great, but how will I know if it will work? I have no idea where to start, don't know anyone who has done this before to be able to ask questions, and I certainly do not want to fail. That is not a part of who I am! If I do this, I am literally risking everything!"
"Yes, but I'm actually risking more if I don't even try! What kind of leader would I be, if I've spent my whole career telling students, staff, and families that they 'have gifts inside of them that the world is waiting to see' if I don't explore my own potential. Didn't mom always tell me that my gifts would make room for me? The time is now."
Fortunately, the affirming voice won out, and I started shifting my mindset toward embracing my new education path. I finished my 15th school year and sought out a new way to do what I had always done-- put processes in place to increase school and student success--on my own terms! This was the birth of DAL Education & Care Solutions LLC. The DAL portion of the business name is significant because D.A.L. are the initials of my late father, Derrick Allen Lark, and were the initials given to many of us in the family, including my uncle, two of my sisters, one of my brothers, and myself. Using the initials in the business name honors both my father's insistence that we prioritize education as well as our whole family's almost obsessive drive to learn and achieve at the highest levels.
Coming up with the name for the business was the easy part. Thinking of a logo to represent the company and what the endeavor meant to me was a little more challenging. I wondered how I would be able to find a symbol as impactful as the name. Thankfully, after thinking through my educational leadership journey and all my experience had taught me, I realized the dandelion would serve as a meaningful visual representation.
But, what does a dandelion have to do with educational leadership?
Great question! The dandelion is most often seen as an unnecessary weed. Believe me, I spent two seasons battling them in my own backyard, so I know personally just how pesky they may seem. However, when I think of a dandelion in its first form--before it buds--before it blooms its bright yellow flower, I am truly captivated by the collection of white seeds on a stem. Stop for a moment to visualize the image of that cotton, fluffy white ball you most likely blew as a child. Now, close your eyes, air-filled checks puffed wide, and blow! Open your eyes again and remember the wonder you felt as you watched the pillowy puff dispel into a sea of seeds, floating away to give birth to something new. Amazing, right?
Dandelions represent education leadership to me, because in schools educators are the catalyst to propel new and exciting things to go forth and bloom into great outcomes. Dandelions represent wishes, hopes, and growth. Ironically enough, the seeds go on to create a plant that can survive in the most unfavorable conditions (maybe being a weed is not so bad). But most of all, dandelions remind me to hold on tight to what matters--whether that is a vision, a goal, beliefs, or important relationships--and blow the rest away. As leaders, we know focus is of the utmost importance, and often the 'rest' is just fluff anyway.
So, in reality why are dandelions part of Ed leadership? They aren't! But, every time this Ed leader sees one, she is reminded to nurture potential in unlikely places, see beauty where others don't, stay grounded in purpose, and remember that we all have a little magic inside of us that when unleashed can give birth to unthinkable things!
My name is DerNecia Phillips, and I am a mother, educator, advocate, strategist, poet, creator, and Founder and Principal Consultant at DAL Education & Care Solutions LLC. My purpose is to nurture, challenge, and inspire leadership in those around me in order to impact the change our children deserve!