An Identity Crisis and a Fresh Start

Spring break is officially over. The light is at the end of the tunnel; 8 weeks until summer. And here I am sitting at a crossroad in my professional career.

For the last 6 years, I have identified as an English Teacher.
For the last 3 years, I have identified as a graduate student.

Once May comes and goes, both of these things will no longer be a part of my present, they will be a part of my past.

When it comes to the Grad school, I won’t miss the homework, I won’t miss staying up until midnight cramming the last bits of research and APA formatting to make the final touches on a project. I won’t miss the constant due dates looming over my head. But I’m a learner, and I thrive in that environment. In many ways, the last three years of grad school have taught me more about myself as a learner than all of my previous years of undergrad. I finally found my calling, my niche, my tribe.

When it comes to teaching English, I won’t miss the hours of grading essays; I won’t miss re-reading novels and articles I’ve read 8 times just to sharpen my lessons; I won’t miss the late work, or even the excuses that come with it. But the last 6 years have taught me so much about being an educator that I can’t help but wonder how I ever survived my first years of teaching.

I could list thank yous to every administrator, teacher, and student that has had an immediate and lasting impact on me, but I know that there isn’t time for that. So now, it’s not about looking in the past and reminiscing or missing, it’s about taking every opportunity I have in front of me to continue the work of a passionate educator.

It’s a bittersweet moment. I am in a liminal state of trying to find where I belong, of where I fit, of where I call home in a school. But I know having the experience of teaching for the last 6 years and completing my Master’s in Information and Learning Technologies has armed me with the tools I need to begin this new journey. To pave the way for my next adventure.

Onward and upward. In education, the journey is so much more important than the destination. It’s time to embrace my own motto of:

“True education is a kind of never ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.” ~Tolkien

To everyone who has helped me, guided me, counseled me, laughed with me, here’s to you. Here’s to my never ending story!

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How an Education Conference is Like the World Cup

There is an inherent buzz around the World Cup – a global community is actively following the results of 22 men kicking a ball around a field. Even in the United States where soccer isn’t a popular sport, fans jump on the proverbial bandwagon and get hyped for this large event.

I’ll admit it, I love futbol (soccer). And not because the World Cup is going on right now. In fact, I am watching a game with teams I don’t follow as I type this post. However, after just finishing up at InnEdCo (Innovative Education Colorado), I realized that there is a close similarity between education conferences and the World Cup in the U.S.

During the 3 years and 11 months between World Cups, I am following my team; what players are hurt, what players are getting starting time, when the team is playing, attending games if they by chance come to Colorado, etc.

The same thing applies to any education conference I go to. In the 360 days between conferences, I am following trends in education, reading blog posts, finding research, practicing new techniques, connecting with other teachers,  and figuring out the best way to teach my students.

Education conferences tend to have the same effect as the World Cup.  Educators come together from different districts, regions, and states to teach each other and learn from each other.  After presenting or talking to other teachers at a conference, I see a smile on teachers’ faces that says, “I can’t believe how this will help my students”.

I see teachers connecting through backchannels and collaborative documents. There is great learning happening.  There is great conversation happening.  Teachers are reaching out to people they don’t know to share resources and ideas.

After the conference ends, the hype goes down, the conversations diminish, and the people left talking are the equivalent to US Soccer fans between World Cups.  We are few, but strong. We carry on the conversation and try to keep up the hype all along hoping that more people will join us.

Chances are that if you are reading this, you are with me.  You are some of the educators who keep the conversation going.  But how can we keep the hype up between conferences?  How can we continue the collaborative learning? How can we engage in the conversation with people that don’t know about the conversation?

The biggest thing is staying connected – and that doesn’t just mean digitally.  Find other ways to meet up with colleagues and friends who challenge your thinking or who inspire your teaching.

The most important thing: invite someone to join the conversation personally. Sending a tweet to a user who only checks twitter during conferences won’t help. An email lacks personality. Some people don’t know that Google+ exists.

Your smile and your invitation can be contagious. Your passion is infectious. Help someone see that the conversation is still happening. Invite them in.

 

And for my fellow US Soccer fans, #IBelieve:

 

 

 

 

What is the public perception of teachers?

medium_3591571001This is not about education reform or changing the way teachers are viewed, but it might provide some insight into where our society places teachers in the professional spectrum.

Last week, I attended my cousin’s graduation from a private school in the Denver metro area. This high achieving school is known for its challenging academics and successful athletics programs. I was excited to go to the graduation to see my cousin give the valedictory address.

About the graduation:

  • about 160 graduates
  • graduating class earned about 17 million dollars in scholarships
  • because it is a smaller graduating class, they read the college/future plans of every graduate

There were some amazing college plans for the students. Degrees that I couldn’t spell or I didn’t even know existed–finance, biopsychology & neuroscience, and engineering in every possible field. Schools that I could only dream to have gone to–Stanford, Northwestern, Notre Dame, etc. Several students announced their plans for a gap year to pursue photography in the field.

What struck me was that not one of the students announced plans to pursue teaching. I knew from my junior year in high school that I wanted to be a teacher. If anyone asked me what I was going to major in, I would have responded with “English Education.”

I’m not blind to the fact that students change their majors all of the time, but it was pretty sad to me that not a single student was going to go off and become a teacher as their primary plans.

Some things this has caused me to think about (I don’t have the answers):

  • Does this add to the stigma that high achieving students don’t get into the teaching field?
  • Can/should something change to attract extremely brilliant students into the teaching field?
  • Is it really about the money? Is a low starting salary (e.g. teacher) really that big of a deal?

Keep in mind, I don’t want to take away anything from other noble professions that these students are pursuing. I hope these students go on to change the world through their passions, but I just hope that more would realize they could make a difference in the classroom, too.

photo credit: jeco via photopin cc