Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Feel Good Folder

To my utter joy, and hers, my wonderful student teacher was approved for a 5th grade position at my building. I am so excited for her, and she is already jumping at the bit to get into her new classroom to start setting things up. As somebody who went back to get her teaching certification she was older than other student teachers by a few years, and that maturity made her extremely reflective about her practice. I know this is going to serve her well, and I'm so excited to work with her to help her get off on the right foot.

Over the past few days she's been texting me to ask me what I thought she needed to get and where she should start. First, I told her to relax and enjoy her summer, and then I started to create a list of little things she may want in her room to get her started on the right foot, all of those little things that you may not realize you'll need as a new teacher. As I was browsing through my TweetDeck this evening to get more ideas for this list, I ran across this post about staying positive by Aviva, and it got me thinking about one thing I have that I think every teacher needs.

During my first year of teaching one of my students drew an amazingly funny comic strip for me. As I was sharing it with coworkers one of the more experienced teachers said, "You should put that in your Feel Good Folder!" I had never heard of such a thing so I asked her about it, and she told me it's just a folder where you put those special things that make you feel really good about being a teacher. So I grabbed a bright red file folder, labeled it Feel Good Folder, put the comic strip in there (after laminating of course!), and put it in my filing cabinet.

Like most of you I get many, many pictures, emails and notes every year, but the Feel Good Folder is a little different. The contents of this folder are those extra special things, the ones that really touch your heart. On days when I'm hurting and finding it hard to remember the good things about being a teacher, I turn to this red folder. It's name fits -- I can't help but feel better when I look at this small, special collection from the past 16 years. And I can't help but remember all of the wonderful reasons why I am a teacher.

So as you are reflecting upon your successes from the past year, take some time this summer to recharge by thinking about all of the things that you already have in your Feel Good Folder. Even if you don't have a physical folder (yet) the memories will recharge you over the summer and get you excited to plan for your next big adventure in the fall.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Staying Put

I never really thought of myself as principal material, but about 10 years ago I went ahead and added my K-12 principal's certification to the master's degree I was getting at the recommendation of one of my professors. I'm very glad I did it, but I've never actually USED this certification. I'm lucky enough to work in a district where teachers are given many opportunities to fill leadership positions so I've never felt strongly enough to leave the classroom and pursue something else.

And then about 3 weeks ago an internal job listing popped up. This listing was for a coaching / supervisory position. While I wasn't exactly sure what this new position would entail, it sounds like the job that I had been waiting for to finally try out my admin certification. As appealing as it sounded, however, I wasn't exactly sure if I was ready to leave the classroom or my amazing team. It really felt like we were just getting started and had so much more work to do. So, stay where I'm comfortable or take a shot at a new challenge?

I had 4 days to decide whether or not to apply.

I'll spare you the hemming and hawing that went on through 3.5 of those days, but in the end I sent my letter of interest and resume off to Human Resources. I received a polite email thanking me for my interest and letting me know they'd be in touch about the interview process.

About a week after that I received my second email scheduling my interview for June 11 at 11:00. The nervous butterflies fired up as soon as I saw the subject line, but thankfully I needed to get through those crazy last 4 days of school. So I knew the interview was coming but I chose to pretend it wasn't there. I will also spare you the gory details of the shopping trip that was necessary because I didn't have a single "interview appropriate" piece of clothing. Thankfully I have a wonderful teammate who is a shopping pro, and she worked her magic; I believe, however, that I was more of a challenge than she let on. (My lack of the girl shopping gene could be a topic for another post sometime!)

Tuesday morning rolled around. My preparation for the interview really focused on two things: looking up information on the new multiple measures teacher evaluation format being rolled out by the state of PA (Ha! There's nothing.... check for yourself) and developing MY list of questions. The hemming and hawing and debating with myself had gone on most of the last two weeks, resulting in very little sleep and lots of worrying if I was doing the right thing. I wanted to make sure I got enough information about the position that I would be confident it would be the right fit if I was to leave the classroom.

After waiting about 50 minutes the first candidate walked out. I knew right then that I was not supposed to have this position. The other candidate is amazing, somebody I look up to, and this person could do incredible things with their vision in this position.

Following a brief introduction of the process (I knew and have worked with every person on the panel) I answered my 11 questions based upon the competencies they identified for the job. One thing that become increasingly obvious to me was how much I love and believe in what my team is doing. So many of the questions were answered with success stories from my team, challenges from my team... it was all about our team and how we're helping kids. It seemed to be another sign that I was supposed to stay where I was at.

We wrapped up with my questions about the position, and that was an interesting experience. Many of my most important questions didn't have answers, and thankfully I was told that. Another important question I asked was not answered so honestly, and that was the "nail in the coffin" to me. If somebody can't be honest with me during an interview how were they going to be as a colleague? So I left feeling extremely proud of myself for the answers I had given, but I also felt as though 1,000 pounds had been lifted off of my shoulders. I knew this job was not the right fit for me, and my heart was happy to know that I'd be staying in the classroom.

Today my gut feeling was made official. I received the call from HR telling me they had selected somebody else for the position. I probably surprised our HR Director when I told him that I was thrilled to hear that, but it's the truth. The candidate they picked will do an amazing job (I am truly looking forward to working with this person and getting suggestions from them), and my teammates and I will do an amazing job for our kids in the classroom.

It was truly an honor that I was one of only two people selected to interview for the position (who knows, maybe I was one of only two crazy enough to apply!), and I am very proud of the answers I gave and how I conducted myself. More than anything this helped me realize how important my kids and my families are to me, and I am thrilled to be staying put despite the challenges we continue to face.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

So I Bet You're Excited, Aren't You?

Over the last few days we've had several parents in and out of the classroom helping with lunches and parties, and over and over I've heard,

"I bet you're excited for summer!"
"Bet you're ready to have some quiet time!"
"Bet you're ready for a break!"

Now, I'm not going to lie. There were a few times during the last week I did go into the bathroom just so I could have a little quiet, alone time. (Have't we all!?!?) But unlike some teachers I was not waiting at my door, packed up, and ready to run out for summer vacation. While I'm certainly happy to be able to sleep in and not have to wear grown up shoes for a few months, I can definitely say I wasn't excited to say goodbye to my kids yesterday.

There were lots of different reasons for my sadness. Lots of thinking and wondering personally, but more are related to my kids. Never mind the questions about will they read over the summer or will they practice their facts.

I worry about what some are going home to for the next 77 days.
I wonder who will take care of them and where they will get their next meals.
I hope that they will all be back.
I wish that some would get the help they desperately need.

Every group of kids is special, on that we can all agree. But this group touched me a little bit more than others. The kind notes of appreciation from them and their parents and the hugs at the end of the day seemed to mean a little bit more. I hope that they are all safe over the summer, and I hope that I see all of their smiling faces back in the fall.

Now.... where DID I put that summer "to do" list???