11 August 2009

Looking Back and Forth

On Friday, it will be a year since I officially began the part of my career which exists outside of a school district. There have been a lot of changes and lessons learned during that time.
  • I've actually had my job position changed three times in the past year. Twice was due to my original assignment being reduced/eliminated. This most recent time is by choice. The newest job has a start date---and an end date, because of the funding. I have twenty-one months to figure out what my next move is. I think I know the destination, but need to figure out the path.
  • My successes this past year? Oddly enough, they were tangential to my job assignment(s). I poked people about grading practices as often as possible. The people tended to be science teachers (more often than not). If the feedback is any indication, there is going to be a lot of experimentation and rollout of standards-based grading in secondary science classrooms around the state. I may have been blocked in my position from providing a direct impact on the science part of science education, but I believe the seeds I've planted will be longer-lived and more important.
  • I have learned a lot about considering the motivations of others before accepting certain tasks and offers. I am sure that I should have learned this a long time ago, but the kind of politics I'm up against are not found in the classroom---they wouldn't have come up for any school assignment I've been in. Now I understand that I was originally hired not as an assistant (and certainly not for any expertise in education that I have), but instead to run interference for someone that nobody---including the supervisor---wants to work with. It has been a sterling example of The Peter Principle...on steroids...to observe. As for the job I was gradually moved into (and am leaving)...I don't know what to say. I've learned a lot about the sausage-making factory that is state testing: everything from how items are developed to how tests are built to how student responses are scored. I loved the work, but the job is terrible and, in my opinion, the leadership has some major problems with its priorities. (Case in point: they are so against telecommuting that they would rather pay me to do nothing at home today than work from home.) The new job will have its own issues and hair-pulling opportunities, but at least my co-workers are competent.
  • I have also learned that I am not so much a "science" person as I am an "instructional" person. I just changed offices in preparation for my new job and decided to take the science specific items I had home. It turned out to only be a box---while several carts of other items will transition with me to my new job. Having always identified myself as a science teacher, the realization that I am more about instruction than science itself is a very big thing.
  • As for my failures over the past year, they are numerous. Some of them are due to my refusal to play The Game---a necessity at the state level. I'm sorry, but I think the ego trips and vanity projects need to be set aside and the focus of the work be on students and teachers. I can't give that up...and because I won't, I won't be allowed to have much of an impact. I should have fought harder to get resources to teachers. I was stifled at every turn by a boss who was too threatened by having someone competent around and therefore directed not to provide support and ideas. I was told "Next year..." Now it is next year and no one is better off.
We'll see what Year Two brings. I have a job that exists on the edges of my comfort zone, and I think that's a good thing. It will require me to be open to new thinking and opportunities...to grow in knowledge...to be humble as I serve. It is going to be a year of many personal changes, too. But I have always looked forward to this time of year. For educators, it is our time of beginnings and renewed hopes---not for looking back.


Ms Characterized said...

Thanks for sharing and reflecting. I'm wishing good things for you this year, and hoping to read about them!

Nancy Flanagan said...

Went through the "I'm no longer a music teacher, but now play on a bigger stage" realization myself.

Hang in, SG. Your loyal followers are still...following.