17 August 2015

How Goldilocks Got Her Groove Back

I'm about to start my 25th year in education. That puts me slightly past the halfway mark of my career, and in that time I've had a variety of roles: middle school teacher, high school teacher, elementary instructional coach, district curriculum specialist, state program manager, and now back to a district level role.

Here's a little secret. I have always been jealous of those teachers who stay in the classroom for their entire careers. You know the ones (one of them might be you)---like the 60-year old kindergarten teacher who approaches each new school year with as much energy as when she was 25. I have long admired not only their devotion to the task, but also their contentment with the work. As much as I loved teaching, I never felt at home as much as some people do.

It's my second year with my current job. Last year was a blur. I had a steep learning curve for most of the work and spent a lot of extra time just getting my feet under me. I am looking forward to this year when not everything will be new---even if it is still demanding and time-consuming. More importantly, I feel like this job fits me. It suits my strengths and provides me with challenges that are just the right size. I look forward to going to work each and every day. I don't resent working evenings or weekends, when necessary, because I enjoy the tasks. It's been long enough that any "honeymoon" with the new job should be over. Is it possible that I've finally found the Goldilocks career opportunity? I like my work...I like my environment and the people with whom I work...I like my paycheck and responsibilities. I don't see this as a stopping point on the way to something else or even want to look around for other possibilities. Maybe I will someday, but for now it just feels good to head out the door each morning with a smile on my face.

We have three more weeks until school starts here. There's a lot of work to do between now and then---lots of professional development opportunities, data to crunch, and connections to make. But instead of feeling overwhelmed or sad to see the end of the summer, I feel excited about getting back into the groove of another school year. I hope you all get the chance to feel the same way.

09 August 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Calling it a vacation is a bit of misnomer. However, for the first time in seven years, I had two weeks off. In a row. It's the miracle that happens when you leave a state agency and go back to a school district. I am an administrator, so my contract is different from when I was teaching. I don't have summers off...but I do get those first two weeks in July. It was luxurious.

But back to my story.

I started work on an administrator credential. (I know.) And for those of you worried about me unleashing myself on some poor unsuspecting school, rest assured that I have absolutely no desire to be a principal. I've seen enough excellent ones now that I have too much respect for that job---I couldn't do it nearly as well. But the credential is important for my current role and with 20 or so years left in my career, I may really appreciate having the additional options that come with just such a piece of paper.

So, on July 1 I started an online program. (I know.) I looked around at a variety of options. If I had the money (~$18,000), there were two brick-and-mortar options that would allow me to complete the programs in a year. I think that if I was just leaving the classroom and had not had any teacher leadership opportunities, I would find a way to do that sort of program. But I've worked as a district and state administrator. That doesn't mean I know how to run a school, just that I understand some of the vagaries that go along with it. So, I picked a competency-based option.

Do you see all those little blue ribbons? Those are all the credits I've completed since July 1. Yep, since that time, I've finished every single course in the program except for my internship (the one in green with the 7 on it). I wrote 30 papers in 35 days and then took a final exam this weekend. Now, I need ~13 more weeks of hours in my job and in a school this fall. Poof. I'm a principal.

It's not much of a vacation. Okay, so it wasn't a vacation at all. But my job is too big to have to squeeze in all of the coursework---I already bring home a lot to do on evenings and weekends. This was also an economic option. I'll complete the entire program for $3000, including books. No travel, no parking or other fees to manage. It may be a budget credential, but the program is accepted for accreditation by the state. I will say that there were lots of opportunities to post on message boards and engage with an online community. I did none of it---just the required assignments. Again, if I was a complete n00b heading into this, I would probably feel differently. As it was, I was grateful to just jump the hoops.

The internship, however, will be a welcome addition when school starts again. I'll be working with and learning from two utterly fantastic elementary principals and am most anxious to have a reason to not be in my office...to be in classrooms with teachers and children. There is one other requirement of the program, and that is to take a Praxis test from ETS for administration. I'll take that this Friday. My state certification office doesn't care about the score---I just need one for the program. I think I can manage it.

It's a beautiful afternoon outside. I should be working on my presentation for this week's administrator retreat, but I think I will grab a bowl of ice cream and sit outside for a few minutes. I can pretend it's a summer vacation.