Tuesday, July 9, 2013

You never know what you've got...

I can hardly believe it's been over a month since I last walked through the doors of Heritage Elementary.  Much like the seven years I spent there, at times my last day seems like a lifetime ago, and at times, it feels like only yesterday.  Summer has a funny way of launching one into a time warp, one in which I've spent much time, myself, submerged in self reflection.

When I made the decision to move on, I had no idea it would affect me so much.  I was in denial about how many tears I would shed.  I should have guessed.  I mean, in my entire life, I have never been anywhere more than 4 or 5 years.  My own educational experience included 5 elementary schools.  Growing up, my family could be classified as somewhat nomadic, never staying in one place more than a year or two.  So the fact that I was part of the same community long enough to watch my first 5th graders become seniors in high school is a pretty big deal.  I was able to grow with families, and some of my students, I can remember their older brothers and sisters coming to me excited about their birth.

Of course, it wasn't just my students and their families that I watched grow.  I was so lucky to meet amazing educators who pushed me to become the teacher I am today.  I was one interview away from quitting teaching altogether when I stumbled upon the classified ad a week before school started in 2006.  I literally owe my career to this school.  While it is not perfect (no place is), I learned so much from the people who surrounded me for 7 years, and I made friendships that will last forever.

"Thank you" does not seem enough for all the well wishes and words of encouragement I've received since I announced I wasn't returning, not to mention the cards and cake...I didn't give much notice, and was overwhelmed by the sincere emotions shown to me from children, parents, and faculty. I assure you, these are things I will not soon forget, and at times when I doubt my abilities, I will remember the things shared with me in these final hours.

While I have thought and reflected upon these things daily, I have at the same time tried not to...not because I want to forget, and yet, you never know what you have until you don't have it anymore.  I know I will always be welcome, and I know that my next adventure will be wonderful in its own right.  Still, there are feelings of loss that I never imagined would be there.  So for any of my Heritage family stumbling upon this little ramble, please know you always have a special place in my heart, and trust me....I know what I have in you.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I am a rock, I WAS an island...initial ISTE reflections

I can't believe that it's already been over a week since I sat at the Opening Ceremony for the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Convention.  At a point in my life when I’m at a crossroads and consumed by personal introspection, this conference could not have come at a more perfect time.  I have yet to intensely review my notes or read others’ ISTE blog reflections.  I want to make sure my initial insights are truly my own.  Of course, this is only phase one, and I am just beginning to peel back the layers of everything that has transpired in my head and heart over the last few weeks (both ISTE and nonISTE related).  As I review and reflect and defragment and discuss, I know these insights will continue to shape and grow, but I’ve got to start somewhere. So what did I learn (or relearn) at ISTE?  Here are my primary thoughts and ideas.

1)   I’m doing some things right!
Let’s start with the positive here.  I might not be making headlines with all my educational accolades, and I still have a ton to learn, but I’m on the right track.  While it was a technology conference, more importantly, ISTE was a conference about best teaching practices, and my feelings that we need to instill social skills and creativity back into our children isn’t some crazy, out-there idea.  What an amazing experience it was to be surrounding by like-minded educators, excited about teaching the whole child, not just state mandated bits and pieces when time permits.

2)  There’s room for improvement.
While I know this, I haven’t always taken every step necessary to make sure it happens.  In my music classroom, it was easier to defend creativity and the organic process of learning.  Even so, sometimes it’s hard to venture out of the security and comfort of doing things the way I’ve already done them, knowing that this will get me desired results.  But are they really desired results or just safe results- results that will pass, but that could be better?  How will this change as I try to make my way into general ed?  I have so much I need to learn.  In the past, the flood of fear and doubts has overcome and allowed me to push away true innovation and moments of genuine learning in my classroom, but that leads to the next thing I’ve been dealing with in my introspection, and an idea that was crystallized while at ISTE…

3)  If I expect my students to face their fear of failure, I’ve got to be willing to do the same.  I’ve always been a perfectionist, and sometimes, I fear trying something because I don’t know if it will turn out exactly the way I want it to (case and point-I’ve been writing and rewriting this post for the past 3 days…).  But what better model for my students than seeing me try, fail, try again, fail again, persevere, try again, and eventually succeed.  More and more, teachers are becoming a guide and a facilitator of learning, but we will never cease to be models of what we want our children to aspire to be.

4)  Regardless where I end up, as the new school year begins, I need to remember the excitement I’ve felt connecting and creating with other educators- the newfound joy of my voice.  If this 30-something is reviving and invigorating her learning through collaboration and being heard, just imagine how my students, who still naturally crave this kind of curiosity will feel being able to explore life in an open and collaborative classroom.

While I’ve still got so much left to learn, it’s okay because 1- I’m a life-long learner, and 2- I don’t have to do it alone.  Perhaps one of the main reasons it seems like ISTE was just yesterday is because of all the connections I’ve made and been able to foster even after leaving the convention center.  Despite the uncertainties of my future, I am so excited of the teacher and learner I am becoming.  And regardless of what challenges I might face, I can continue to be a rock, but I no longer have to be an island.