Friday, April 7, 2017

Day in the Life:  February 26, 2017
Continued Darkness and then an Unexpected Light

I do not have a timeline for this day.  I am stunned today but excited, and the course of the blog will explain it.

After returning home from Minneapolis for the second time at the end of January, I found that what I thought was a temporary funk about being out of the classroom had turned in to more of a darkness for me.  I had been out of the classroom for weeks, and my physical health had rebounded amazingly, but emotionally I was lost.   I never thought I would miss teaching as much as I did, and I felt completely empty without a classroom to prepare for and care for.  The daily interactions with students was still happening through tutoring, but not in the same way that teachers and students interact in the classroom through instruction and learning.   Also frustrating was trying to keep and maintain a tutoring schedule for a lot of students all of which had crazy schedules with spring sports, theater season, and field trips.   A lot of times students would cancel, and by the time I would see them again, there was not enough time in one session to review content and enhance the learning they had previously had with their teacher.  It felt like an endless game of catch-up, which is not uncommon to a classroom as well, but this was somehow different and very uninviting.   Because I felt so empty inside, I found myself without the energy to make the physical time of my days anything but empty as well.  I slept longer into each day, I accomplished less each day until it was time to tutor, I dreaded the long hours of tutoring, and I missed seeing my family because I worked at night. 

By mid-February I knew without a doubt that I wanted to teach again next year.  I knew that I could not break the cycle I was in until I started taking steps to make that happen.  I knew there would be job openings in my former district, so I re-applied and also check-marked substitute teacher thinking that if I did not get a position, I could at least get back in the groove by doing that next year.  At the same time, one of my tutoring student’s mom had gotten a job in a neighboring district this past year and reminded me about that district’s job fair at the end of February.   I had thought about applying to this district before, it is not far away at all, but to me I still saw my district as “home”.   I took her advice though and began to prepare for the job fair by applying to that district, gathering transcripts, responding to inquiry based essay questions about my teaching experiences and philosophies, and re-vamping my resume(that was the most arduous task trying to figure out all that needed to be added and what was dated enough to be deleted).   I worried that leaving one district in the middle of the year, although for health reasons, would affect my chances of consideration into this district.  The district I was applying for was growing by absorbing the most recent urban sprawl from Atlanta, and was becoming a very sought after district to apply in.  All former colleagues I knew that had gone to this district really liked it, so I was curious to see what the job fair was like.

Now, I do have a timeline for yesterday, Saturday, February 25, 2017

7-8am:   Nervously getting ready for the job fair and mini-interviews.  It has been awhile since I have
                done this – first impressions are everything for a competitive district.

8:15am:  Leave for job fair.  It is at one of the high schools closer to me and starts at 9am.  When I 
              arrive 15 minutes later I am glad I left when I did because there is bumper to bumper traffic 
              to get into the parking lot and park.  Further, they have student volunteers there to direct 

8:45-9am:  Pick up my name badge and job fair folder and instructions in the cafeteria.  Start towards
                the wing of the building that has the high school meet and greet mini-interviews.

9am – 10:00am:   Each classroom in the wing housed department chairs and admin from a specific
                          school in the district.  I hand in my resume to each, talk to a head counselor from
                          one high school and department chairs from 2 other high schools.  I am asked if
                          I am interested in an immediate long-term sub position at the 2nd school; they had
                          a math teacher resign the previous week.  

10:15am:  I am finished with meet and greets.  I go back to the room for school #2 and verbally
                commit to the long-term sub position.             

10:30am:  I leave the job fair for home trying to grasp what has just happened, but I am excited!

11am-12pm:  I arrive back home and email the department chairs with my intent to accept the job. 
                    Am I really going back so soon?

Here’s the thing – From the moment I parked the car and walked into the job fair, I was impressed.  From the sheer numbers that showed up for a potential job, the friendliness of the students and staff working to direct candidates to the right areas, to the organization of the whole affair, it was clear this was a desirable district to be considering.   The superintendent of the district was driving candidates from the parking lot to the registration and interviewing area in a golf cart, and he came and shook every candidate’s hand in line to do meet and greet interviews.  All administrators representing each school were so welcoming to all candidates, and everyone was just HAPPY…   It was clear that this district was full of pride and focused on community and relationships.   Having come out of the classroom because of exhaustion and run-down health due to a very toxic school environment, this was a breath of fresh air I was afraid I would never see again.   When I did the meet and greet with school #2, the department chairs were so kind, and I could tell they loved their school and department not just in what they said, but the pride in their face.   They talked about how awesome and supportive the administration was in supporting them and their department.  They told me that even though their department was large, it was like a family that always looked out for each other and respected each other’s knowledge and contributions.  They were impressed with my resume, but could not offer a permanent job.  Still, they immediately asked if I would consider a long-term substitute position for a teacher that had resigned the week before.  I told them I wanted to think about it and make sure my health was in a place to which I was ready for it and being there long-term for the students. 

I went to another meet and greet after that, but I could not get over what a positive vibe I got from those teachers.  I could not stop thinking about what it might be like to step back into the classroom in a completely different district so soon, but my excitement at the prospect rose with every thought I had.  All of the sudden I had more energy than I had felt in a long time, and by long time I mean at least a year or better.   I felt my physical health could continue to thrive in the environment they described, and I knew that my emotional health needed me back in a classroom.  I finished the meet and greet with school #3 and headed straight back to talk to the department chairs from school #2.  They were with another candidate, but they were talking with other candidates.  I talked to the assistant principal they had raved about and told him I would like to accept their offer.   He said to go ahead and email them and that they would be in touch the following week.  He thanked me and again reminded me of how pleasant and professional an administrator could be.

I went home and emailed the department chairs again and accepted the offer if they had not found someone else.   Now the waiting game begins.                      

Reflection Questions: 

1) Teacher make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.   When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried about?

The decision to go back to making a lot of decisions throughout the day as a teacher has me both excited and worried.  Am I going back too soon?  Did I gamble my physical health to save my emotional health?  Am I right that taking care of emotional sadness will help my physical health to maintain and get even better? 

I am proud of the fact however, that I made the decision to apply for employment in a new district.  New experiences can be scary and intimidating, and I am proud that I got out of that car pushed through the nerves to go to the job fair and not let the competition turn me away from fighting for the opportunity to teach again.

2)  Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like as a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?   What has been a challenge for you lately?

As told above, I have been in a very dark and empty place being away from the career I love.  I look forward to the opportunity of being in a classroom again while also getting a foot in the door to a new district that seems full of growth and positivity.

3)  We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with teachers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone lately.  

The relational moment came with meeting the department chairs of school #2.  I instantly felt at home while talking with them, and I felt that I would really enjoy working for them.  It is really nice when an interview, even a mini one, does not feel like an interview!

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and are often have specific goals for things to work on throughout the year.  What have you been doing to work on your goal?  How are you doing?

I applied to speak at Twitter Math Camp in July 2017; I am truly honored to have been selected.  I am giving a workshop on integrating socratic seminars into math classrooms, and I had implemented socratic seminars in a different way to my Algebra 1 classes last fall.   I have been excited to give the TMC session, but I was regretting that I would not be able to explore more with socratics during spring semester.   If I get the opportunity to go back into the classroom, I will be able to work with socratics again before the sessions this summer.   This is definitely another reason I am excited for the long-term substitute opportunity – to continue working on new ways to incorporate this learning tool for students to connect and problem solve in mathematics.

So – did I get the job?   Stay tuned for March’s DITL post coming after this one!!!

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