Thursday, September 14, 2017

Priorities

When I began applying for administrative positions last fall, I applied because I thought I was ready to make a difference as an educational leader, impact student learning through careful observation, feedback, and evaluation of teachers, and have positive interactions with students that would give me my fix that I knew I would miss from the classroom.  I knew that administration was going to be long hours, multitasking, and making plans to do great things, only to have them dashed by the everyday grind.  What I did not know is just what kind of a toll it was going to take on me and my family.  

When I started my position as dean of students last spring, I got a taste of what the daily grind of administration can be.  The hours were long, stress was abundant, and deadlines and tasks were demanding.  At the time I chalked it up to being new at the position and that things would get better.  However, when I returned for the new school year at the beginning of August, things were not getting better.  More and more needed to be done on short notice, and this was before students even arrived.  Once students arrived, the daily routine included all of the duties and responsibilities, discipline, teacher observations, and so much more that made the days even more jam packed and long.  

After careful consideration and conversation with those nearest and dearest to me, I made the decision to request a return to the classroom and leave my role as an administrator.  Several factors went into my decision, but ultimately, it boiled down to priorities that were above any job.  

My number one priority is my family: my wife, Mary, and my two children, Elsa and Reed.  The long hours at work and the several hours of work that was brought home on a nearly daily basis were having a severely negative impact on my family life.  There were too many days to count where I would come home and get to see my children for less than an hour before it was time for all of us to go to bed, only to get up and do it all over again.  The last straw came a couple of weeks ago when my five year old, excited to see me after a long day at kindergarten, told me, "You're never home and you never want to do anything!" when I told her that I would rather sit and watch a show on TV with her than play a board game after a 12-13 hour day at the office.  It really hurt to see her walk away and hear those words come out of her mouth.  It was that moment that I realized that something had to change.  

For several months, I have not been shy about my struggles with depression.  When I finally admitted that I needed help from a therapist, I went on several occasions and was making progress.  However, because of the demanding hours, I have not been able to get into a therapist, and there have been several times in the past few months where I really could have used the conversation, but have not been able to.  A change in my role will free up my schedule and give me the opportunity to work on myself more, emotionally and psychologically, and hopefully physically (gym memberships are paid, gym memberships not used for weeks on end at this time).  

When I left the classroom, first as a learning strategist over technology, then as an administrator, I did not leave because I was sick of teaching, quite the contrary.  I've still been able to get my teaching fix through the various conferences and trainings in which I have presented, but it is not the same as working in a classroom with students.  Over the past several weeks especially, I have missed the classroom and the positive interactions with students, getting to know them and their interests, and sharing jokes and great times in the classroom.  My administrative role did not bring me the fulfillment that I had in the classroom and what I had hoped for when I applied for positions.  

It is with a heavy heart that I will bid my school and my position farewell on Friday, September 15 to start a new chapter in the classroom.  For the first 11 years of my career, I taught social studies, mostly United States History.  Starting on Monday, I will be stepping into a physical education position, something that I have never taught and have not given much thought toward since graduating from college 12 years ago.  I am also going to a behavior continuation school, a place where the students are assigned after making severe mistakes in a standard school and are trying to earn their way back.  I am going to strive to be a positive beacon in their life, help them get a little more physically fit, and selfishly, allow myself the opportunity to spend more time with my family.  

On a completely unrelated note, the past few weeks also included the application process of the Pear Deck Certified Coach cohort.  The process included a standard application, a sample Pear Deck lesson, and a Flipgrid response explaining why I would be an awesome Pear Deck Coach.  I was nominated by a Nick Park, one of the amazing employees of Pear Deck, which by itself was quite the honor.  Last Friday, I was informed that I was accepted into the cohort, which will include some training on Pear Deck, the opportunity to present the sweetness that is Pear Deck at a conference, and the ability to interact with the Pear Deck coaching community.  I am humbled and honored to have been accepted.  

I am hoping that with my schedule opening up some over the coming days and weeks, I am hoping to get back to another love of mine, and that is writing this blog.  In the meantime, I appreciate the love and support that so many have shown me through these past few days, weeks, months, and really, my entire life.  

Until next time... 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Goals - Revisited

At the turn of the new year, I went on the record with a few goals that I had for 2017, rather than resolutions.  My goals were to lose some weight, put some work into the beginnings of a book that I want to write, and to obtain a position as an administrator in my district.  As the new school year is set to kick off for me in a few days, I got to thinking about my goals and the progress that I have made over the past eight months.  Because I am very demanding of myself, I will say that I am not satisfied with where I am at, but even in the areas in which I have failed, that means that I am recognizing it and setting up a plan to still achieve my goals.

My first goal that I set back in January was to obtain an administrative position in my district.  At the time, I had applied and interviewed for a handful of positions but had not been offered anything.  As January and early February went on, I applied and interviewed for a few more.  Mid-February brought second interviews for two positions, then the waiting game.  If you have read any of my past posts, you know that I was offered, and accepted, a position as dean of students at a middle school.  My first day was February 24, which is a date I will always remember as my first day in administration because it is also my wife's birthday.  

Another goal that I set was to lose some weight.  I cannot say that my weight has been an issue for me my entire life, but between my family history, playing college football, and my love of food (I can count on one hand things that I will not eat, I am always willing to try something once), and the fact that I am several years removed from that peak "I can eat anything and not gain weight" time of life, my weight has crept up and has started to affect me in various ways.  Sadly, my goal to lose weight this year has not happened.  However, not one to give up on a goal, I am pledging to get up before work to go to the gym (I actually joined a second gym to get to one that is open and on my way to work, making the excuse not to go that much harder to make), make better choices, and politely refuse the doughnuts and other treats that will inevitably end up in the main office or staff lounge.

Lastly, I set a goal to get started on writing a book.  At the time, my thoughts were to write a book that was part personal memoir, part state of education in the world.  My thoughts for the book have shifted a little bit in the last few months, to more of a part memoir, part collection of short stories on teachable moments in my life and how they shaped me as an educator.  Examples of short stories would range from things like some of the most memorable (and sometimes agonizing) experiences during my first year of teaching, to what I learned from the toughest, but most compassionate, coach I ever had during my college days, to rigging a system that would fire Class C bottle rockets from a dock so that they would go underwater, hover, and explode, until a spark sets off a full package and 36 projectiles start flying around (this is a 100% true story of my 13-year-old self that could have killed me, but I definitely learned a solid lesson!).  Unfortunately, I have yet to put "pen to paper" on anything that would resemble a book, outside of my blog posts.  However, there are a few months left to still accomplish this goal.

I refuse to give up on my goals, and neither should you.  You may have setbacks, like I have, in achieving your goals. I wanted to quote one of my favorite Berenstain Bears books, Trouble at School, with "It's never too late to correct a mistake!", but it didn't' seem quite right.  However, this line from Will Smith's character on The Pursuit of Happyness seemed to sum things up very well.

Until next time...