Photo by Duke University Archives on Flickr
If you are reading this blog as an Educator right now CONGRATULATIONS! You made it through almost a month of school. You have crossed the first finish line but there is still a long way to go into the school year.
I have said so far this year that if the beginning of the school year were a fraternity or a sorority and you were rushing it, then that means you have survived Hell Week; or month to be exact. Now don’t take that term the wrong way readers. I do mean this in a professional way.
For those who are not Educators or who are Educators let me explain. As Educators will tell you there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to get the school year started. School does not close in May. In fact as most of you know school is year round. After the final state test, the last report card given, and sending the students home for the final time Educators debrief about the school year, take a small vacations, go to professional development workshops, and then start back up getting their rooms ready for the new year.
It’s a lot! I chose, as an Instructional Technology Specialist, to work pretty much throughout the year to get a feel of what it is like to go beyond the standard nine months on and a couple weeks off. Don’t get me wrong I did take some time to rest and relax a week here or there in the summer, but I did go up to my school from time to time to start planning for the new year. My goal was to make sure that the new year went as smooth as possible for my teachers new and old. Did this new plan work. Well yes and no.
Understanding and Explaining my Role
I wanted to make sure that my Principal understood what my role was and what goals I had for our campus. I often do this at the end of the year, during the summer, and at the beginning with my Principal. I do small technology inventories and look at my campus to see what may be needed for the new year during the summer. It’s easy for me because it is like looking at a blank canvas. Some people may look at me weird when I say that but it helps my Principal and I understand what goals need to be set for technology integration for our campus. My Principal may have his vision and I may have mine, so we come together to make sure that we both have some common ground so the new year can be more productive. For us, it makes the year much more smooth for my position and his. I am fortunate to have a principal that understands my role and supports anything that I do as long as we have open communication with each other. I am lucky to have conversations where I can call or text him with ideas I have for the campus respectfully. Not too many people in my position, or any, have that rapport so I am blessed.
My Principal is a first year but has been in administration for a while. I totally respect his vision, but he is also trying to understand his new role as well and he is doing a great job. Like me he does a lot planning and of course is at the school year round with a vacation here and there.
All that being said the start of the new year is still crazy. I found myself doing things that I felt were not in my role. The stress was at its highest and I felt like all my summer planning was shot. I thought what would have happened if I didn’t plan during the summer. Moving, placing technology where it needed to go, and fixing things was really stressing me out. Meetings upon meetings upon meetings were held before the kids even came on the campus and after. My Principal was doing the same thing and we were both saying “Wait a minute, when do teachers have time to plan and start teaching?” It’s a crazy cycle and everyone is stressed.
New and old teachers are overwhelmed with all the acronyms like IEP, PLC, BIP, and ABC (just kidding with the ABC but you get my point). Scheduling is crazy, new students’ names to remember, forms to fill out, early screening of test, learning how to input grades, and learning new school or district policies. The list of Educator todos goes on and on, and it doesn’t stop. Again as an Educator you are thinking when am I supposed to do what I was hired to do? Where am I going with all of this? I guess what I am realizing is that it gets better. I am accepting that this just the beginning of the year and that I am learning that it's not just me feeling this way. Everyone, no matter what there role is, is having the same issues and concerns. What I have learned to keep in perspective is that I know what I was hired to do, I look at my role on paper, and I sit down look at my plans for my role on my campus. I say this often but a lawyer once told me to do this often and always read my employee handbook. It helps. Not so you can run out and start demanding and suing people but just for clarification.
Now this doesn’t mean that you start shouting to the rooftop at everybody and say “I am a [whatever your role is]and that’s all I am going to do” because that doesn’t work and people will think you have a big ego. Plus people will not want to work with you if you start doing this with an ego. What I am saying is to stop, reflect, look at your vision of your role, discuss your vision of your role professionally and come to some common ground. I am not saying that this is going to work 100% of the time, but it has calmed me down a little. During this crazy month I have meditated, prayed, and often leaned on my wife, friends, and people in my PLN about issues that I am having with my role at the beginning of the year. I have often come to school early in the quiet opened my Bible and read motivational passages for teachers. I have shared scriptures with some of my friends and colleagues through email and it helps us get our day started. I have been told that it has improved their day a lot. This is what works for me and I have found that because of this “doing what I am supposed to do” is getting better and better. Find a method that works for you that is healthy and helpful to get your professional role up and moving. Understand that there may be some hiccups in your professional journey, but it’s always good to maintain a balance.
Having a Balance
Now that you have an understanding of your role and you are moving, how do you balance that with your personal life? The reason why we are Educators is because we have a passion for learning and love watching all learners (and not just children) grow. Sometimes we find ourselves planning in and out of school to get things done. Again as stated earlier it is a lot. As Educators we often work on the weekends planning planning and more planning to make sure our day or week is a success. I have often found myself up late at night working. My Principal told me earlier this week that his kids told him to stop. I laughed because my family has told me the same thing. Which means I really need to listen them. If we are not careful as Educators we can watch our families pass us by. I often look at my own kids who are in middle school (one in 8th grade) and think where did the time go?
I had to come to grips that I need to SLOW DOWN and realize that it will be there tomorrow. Leave work at work. I make a list everyday at work to figure out what I need to get done. I usually only list up to 5 things and that helps. If I don’t get it done I still feel like I have had a productive day. I make sure that on most days I stop the running around 45 minutes to an hour before school dismissal, and I begin to pack up and clean up. At the end of the day I stop, sit in the quiet of my room, and let the “school noise” die down. I can literally feel it go down. I consider that my meditation and debriefing time before I hit the traffic home. This has helped me so much.
Now I am fortunate because I am not a classroom teacher anymore. However, when I was in the classroom I would sometimes stop class 15 minutes early and start winding my last class down before they transitioned back to their homerooms. We would clean up our areas and prepare to move. Trust me all of us (even the students) are sometimes tired and we need to have some type of rest. I wouldn’t do it all the time, but I made sure that I would fit it within my schedule so that the last class would not get behind. I guess that is one aspect of differentiating your instruction LOL. We would often talk about what we learned during the day in all classes or students would sit quietly and begin homework. So learning was still productive. It was appreciated. At the end of the day I still meditated and debriefed and headed for home.
Because of all this I go home, sit down, talk to my kids and my wife, and ask them how their day was. Did I forget to mention I have young teenagers. As a parent of teenagers some of you may know that it’s hard for them to even speak to you. I have often been called out by them when I do come home late. So I try to make sure that I have a good healthy balance of work and home life. I am learning (note I said learning)to leave work at work. It will be there, and as long as I maintain a task and some type of schedule everything will be fine. So far this has worked for me. I still have a lot of learning to do.
This may not work for everybody, but I think the bottom line here is understanding what your role is, share it professionally, anticipate the hiccups, stay calm, maintain some type of schedule and balance. Leave work at work and enjoy your home life. I think that this will help maintain your passion as an Educator. You have crossed the first finish line of the beginning of the school year, but there are many more hurdles and lines to cross and finish. Know that it will be ok and that you have support all around you and that as Educators we are all in this together.
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