Stepping out of the classroom (kinda)

Those that work with me know that last year I applied for a job and I didn’t get interviewed.  Nothing.  Talk about being humbled.  Here I was on top of the world, feeling great about myself, and got a dose of reality handed to me.

I don’t take setbacks as a sign to give up. To me, they are a stepping stone to get where you need to go.

There is always a reason for how things play out, sometimes, you just don’t know it at the time.

One of my favorite books I read last year, The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, talks about overcoming challenges and using them to raise the bar in your work. It offered pragmatic advice from leaders on how they overcame the odds.  Now, I am not trying to save the whole world, but I want to change the life of one kid to help change his or her world.  That’s all I’ve ever set out to do.  I want to help my kids. Kids at my school aren’t given the same chances as kids are at other schools, between home life and poverty, they have it harder than most. I want them to have the same chance for success in life.

I had a tough group of kids this past year.  I looked in the mirror and knew I needed to change.  I knew that the reason a kid didn’t do well was not their fault, but mine.  The old cliche I’ve heard teachers say, “I taught it, I don’t know why they didn’t get it” was not cutting it.  If the kids aren’t getting it, you did not teach it, you just said it.  To teach is to inspire belief, to invoke a passion in a kid to want to do better.  Telling ourselves that we taught something and seeing the kids fail is failing as a teacher.  We have to get the kids to believe in us, to trust us, to be successful as teachers.  Plans that worked the year before, well…. they didn’t this past year.  I could have easily said, “Well, this group of kids isn’t as smart as the year before” when things didn’t work.  But honestly, I think they were smarter.  They pushed me to change how I taught. I couldn’t believe it when I was told there were less gifted kids. I actually recommended more kids for gifted this year than ever before.  I had kids that were bored and that got in trouble in other classes that performed amazingly for me.  Not saying I didn’t see some of the same behaviors, cause I did.  But I built a relationship with them and at times I got them to show why I thought so highly of them.  Yes, I had a few that never bought into me, never liked me, sadly not all kids do, but they still did well.  So that was a plus.

Seeing my sister, Heidi, take a leap of faith and become a Gifted Resource Teacher helped drive me. The past few years, I also got to work with a few people that inspired me. My good friend Erin has worked with me the past 3 years as my math specialist and has helped me grow immensely.  She’s shown me a better way to look at data to drive my teaching.  She’s taught me to stop doing worksheets (well, I’ve hated doing them for years), and to get the kids moving to keep them more engaged, to ask better questions, and to trust they can do more than I thought. Between my sister, Erin, and my Gifted Resource Teacher Angelyn, I’ve learned to develop plans to get the students thinking deeper and making more meaningful connections.  Lets face it, math can be extremely boring. Our old ways of doing math, the drill-and-kill, the countless amounts of formulas and procedures don’t help this.  Letting the kids learn conceptually on their own how to do it while making mistakes and struggling is better, at times.  If a kid forgets a procedure, they can’t do it. If a kid learns to do it on their own, even if it’s not the normal way a teacher wants them to do it, they will reach that deeper understanding we strive for.  It’s hard to watch a kid struggle and to not give in and just show them how to answer it.  I can’t thank those 3 enough to show me that.  I am not perfect, and still struggle at times, but I am a constant learner.  I want to be better than I was, not better than anyone else. The goal in life isn’t to be better than someone else, it’s to be the best version of yourself.  Be better than you were yesterday, it’s really that simple.  (Thanks also JP, Steve, Ally, and all my my running friends.  You’ve shown me that you have to take a leap, and can’t wait til you are “ready”.  I waited years to run a 100 miler, and you all made me believe anything was possible. Seeing I could do that, it also gave me the courage to apply again for this job, even if I didn’t know if I was ready. You know I had to bring running into this somehow 😉 haha)

So with that..

I am a now a math specialist.     

Luckily, I’ll still be at my school.  I’ll get to work with the teachers, instead of students, although I know i’ll be working with them too, but they won’t be mine.  I get to be a coach of sorts.

I went through a tough interview process, had to get called in twice.  I was asked the other day the standard, “where will you be in 5 years?” question.  I paused.  I looked at the head of math for the city and said I’d like to have your job (maybe that’ll be a few more than 5 years down the road), but I also said I could see myself back in the classroom.  I like being with the kids. I admitted my lack of leadership training in education is not helping me, but I am a willing learner. I know my weaknesses, and will work on them.  I am not sure everyone believes in me, but I know my admin does.  They’ve gone to bat for me, shown a level of trust that I’ve never had before.  I told my principal the other day that I’d do anything for her, and I would.  She inspires me and trusts me, it’s a huge and welcome change from where I was a few years back.  I am also a bit sad because another person that has taught me and inspired me is leaving.  He started as my math specialist, became our dean, and now he’s gone on to another school, guess that happens.

It’s a bit daunting, but time to take a leap of faith.

To challenge myself.

To take a risk.


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