Sunday, September 24, 2017
Last week, I revealed that I had made the decision to leave administration to return to the classroom. My new position in which I was assigned is physical education at a behavior school within my district. My first day in the new position was on Monday, September 18. While it has been drastically different than anything I have done in my 12+ years in education, I can say with 100% confidence that I made the right decision, for many reasons.
Prior to entering administration, I taught social studies for 11 years. During those 11 years, I taught United States History, United States History - Honors, AP United States History, American Government, and AP American Government. I have always held a license for physical education and health, but never taught either class. The nine years of coaching various sports were the closest I came to teaching physical education. However, when requesting to return to the classroom, my options were very limited, due to an extreme budget crisis and hiring freeze that is taking place in my district. Physical education was not my first choice, but as the old saying goes, beggars cannot be choosers when faced with limited choices and desperation to return. Needless to say, teaching a subject that I have never taught has made the transition interesting.
What also makes the transition interesting is teaching a new subject at a behavior school. My school is where students that have made severe mistakes are sent to correct their mistake prior to returning to a standard school. Students at my school have been assigned to it for infractions such as fighting, drugs, weapons, and other major offenses. Class sizes are very small, but many students can be very tough. However, in one week, I have determined that it is not much different than teaching in a standard school. Most of your students in a standard school are going to show up, do what they need to do, and do it with respect toward themselves, their peers, and their teachers. A few students will struggle in one of those areas. The biggest difference that I have seen is that my students are working to go back to a standard school. Most of them are going to make sure to do everything that they can do to make sure that when their release date approaches, nothing is going to stop them from returning to a standard school. So overall, my students have been relatively hard-working, respectful, and responsible.
My favorite part of my new position addresses the main reason behind why I wanted to return to the classroom in the first place: more time with my family! My administrative duties had me at school for 10-12 hours a day, and often times, bringing home several hours of work, which severely cut into the time I can spend with my wife and children. Very rarely was I ever able to pick up my son from daycare and spend some time with him before my wife and daughter got home. However, this past week, I was able to get my son from daycare every day, with the exception of Friday (and the only reason I didn't get him then was that my friend bought me a beer for my birthday, so I met up with him after school for an hour). I was able to eat dinner when it was cooked, not hours later, heated up in the microwave or toaster oven, or sometimes, just cold. My sleep schedule has become more stabilized and I feel better. And, the icing on the cake, because I am teaching PE, I am active all day, so if I don't make it to the gym, it's ok!
This week, I have so many great things to look forward to. I am starting a unit on hockey with my students, most of which know nothing about the sport. I get to continue to have positive interactions with students, helping them to achieve their goal of returning to a standard school, many of whom are set to be released on October 13. And, unrelated to my new position, the hard work of my CUE-NV colleagues and I will be realized as we host the Silver State Technology Conference on September 29-30 at Western High School in Las Vegas. We are going to have dozens of presentations from some amazing educators, featured speakers in Dr. Jesse Welsh, Mr. Pat Skorkowsky, and Mr. Jon Corippo, a student panel, and keynote speeches from Ben Cogswell and Ari Flewelling. There will also be tons of great educational product vendors. If you have not registered, you are risking missing out on an amazing event! If you live in the Las Vegas Valley, you have no excuse; elsewhere, maybe you need a weekend getaway in Las Vegas to learn with your PLN! Register ASAP at http://bit.ly/CUENV17STATE. Want to know what kinds of sessions there will be before you register? Check out the conference schedule at https://cuenvsilverstatetechconfere2017.sched.com/. We hope to see you there!
Until next time..
Thursday, September 14, 2017
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...