More than a feeling

It’s the end of the year, when we reflect on the past year and look forward to new beginnings.

I haven’t done any rigorous data collection about this, but I think it’s fair to assume that most people would rate 2020 as a giant dumpster fire.

So let’s take it back to 2019.

Last year was challenging for me in a different way. I had moved to Ohio from Maryland the previous year, and I naively thought that I could transition my business to my new home with relative ease since most of my work was remote. 


As it took time for new connections to materialize into new contracts, I knew that things weren’t headed in the right direction.

Now, I had a few metrics I used to measure my business:

  • Income, of course
  • Number of contracts
  • Number of speaking engagements
  • Number of contacts made
  • Some basic analytics regarding email open rates, website visits, and social media engagement

At the time, those weren’t pretty.

However, what was most telling for me was how I FELT. 

I was discouraged, uncertain, and anxious. And in terms of my business, I didn’t know what to do to make it better.

Certainly, the quantitative data was informing how I was feeling, but the numbers alone did not compel me to act.

I just wanted to feel better! I knew it was time to make a change.

Around that time, I met a new neighbor who specialized in website design and SEO. I heard about a marketing consultant whose approach resonated with me. I saw that the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) conference was featuring a lot of workshops and resources for independent consultants.

I sprang into action. I met with these new specialists, went to the conference, and got to work. And ultimately, I turned my business (and outlook) around. 

While there is always room to grow, the numbers I mentioned earlier do reflect the changes I’ve made to my business. Yet I don’t think they show HOW or WHY those changes happened.

From my neighbor, I learned something new and gained hope that some simple strategies could make my website work better for me. 

From the marketing consultant, I felt understood and discovered a new way to communicate what I do and why I love it.

From AEA, I gained a large group of new colleagues, friends, and referral partners – but most of all, I felt accepted, validated, and supported. 

To me, those feelings and networks are what helped me turn the page in my business – the fuzzy, not easily measurable, qualitative stuff.

​Had I not reflected on those things, I might have stayed in my rut.

Maybe you already track your data, and maybe you don’t, but if you’re getting the feeling that something’s not right, think about the qualitative data you can explore to see what’s up. 

How do your families feel when they interact with you? How do the staff feel? What is the tone of your interactions? How engaged are students in relationships with peers and staff and with their learning?

These things matter.

One thing I’m grateful for from 2020 is that a lot of educators are seeing just how vital family engagement is for student achievement.

So while we’re reflecting on this crazy, crazy year, let’s take a second to examine how our students, families, and staff FELT and how we helped them feel better.  

If that’s what we take with us into 2021, then I think we’re off to a good start.

Missed the other two posts about qualitative data in this series? Check them out here and here.