Monday, June 16, 2014

Year 10 In The Books

Year #10 is in the books! I really believe everything happens for a reason. Ten years ago my husband and I took a leap of faith and moved to Breckenridge, Colorado. I was able to pick up a one year teaching position in a elementary school while also coaching C-Team Volleyball. A year later we were moving to Bellingham, Washington where I was lucky to get hired as a volleyball coach at a small school literally at the end of the road, Mount Baker High School in Deming, WA. GO Mountaineers! About one week into my coaching job they hired me as a High School Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach, did I mention I had a major in PE and a minor in elementary? The school was in trouble, it needed to raise reading scores. The principals thought I would be a great fit in the role because I could connect to the students. Did I mention I was a PE teacher? I did not know much about secondary reading, let alone coaching other teacher on how to teach reading. I was lucky in that they allowed me to spend the first semester figuring out what the heck I was going to do because this was a brand new position in the district. They also asked me to coach two more sports that year, basketball and golf (never really played golf before either). To make a 5 year story short, in those five years I learned how to become a reading teacher, I was trained in a direct instructional model, I do, we do, you do. I liked to call it the “do do model”. I learned how to grow a thick skin while working with reluctant staff members who did not believe I was qualified to do my job (I can’t blame them, it was a lot of trial and error). I was part of a school that went from the bottom of the list according to state scores to the top! I watched teachers work together to make this happen, whether they agreed or not, they did what was best for students. Little did I know...

I am excited for the last day, Grace not so much. 
In May of 2010 I was on maternity leave with my second child, I had also just come off knee surgery (that is a whole other story). So the drugs were good, and when the opportunity arrived for us to move back to Michigan we went for it. I was hired as a middle school Reading teacher. Funny enough, I was hired back at the middle school where my mother taught for 20+ years and where I attended 6th-8th grade. I remember the superintendent at the time saying “so you came back to die?”, um yep, pretty much.  I was scared to death to teach middle school. However, once I got use to all the pimples and hormones I really liked their kind. Ironically, the school district was in trouble, reading scores were bad, the high school was giving a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), $3,000,000, and told to make changes or else. SO, in my second year I was approached by the superintendent and asked to become a high school Literacy Coach (at the high school I graduated from almost 15 years prior). Ironically, I was trained again in Direct Interactive Instruction, given a group of teachers to work with and told to help raise scores. One year later I was made into a full time 5th-12th grade ELA and Social Studies Instructional Coach. I am in charge of 30+ teachers, instruction, PD/PLC, curriculum, data, scores, and so on. It’s not easy, but I love it. This is why I know everything happens for a reason. Over the past four years I have fallen back on what I learned those first six years of my career to help improve my alma mater. I have grown so much as a person and professional. I work with a great team of people who all want nothing but the best for our schools.  

Of course with teaching there is the ugly side. I am in my 10th year of teaching and still being paid as a first year teacher (due to a frozen contract after receiving one year of service when I accepted the position). I struggle with the reality that others in the same position as me make MUCH more money that I do. I struggle with the fact that I love where I work, but will we ever be able to really make the changes we need to make to take us to the next level. I struggle with reality that I am going back to school this summer to get ANOTHER certification because as professional  we need a certification after certification to “prove” ourselves.

I tend to feel down at the end of each year. I wonder did I do my best this year? What could I have done better? Did I miss an opportunity? I feel bad for all the teachers that get laid off because of funding or bad staffing decisions. I get angry at the ones who get greedy.  I wonder what will next year hold? This year during that time I was scrolling through Facebook and saw this video somebody had posted. It is Jim Carrey giving a commencement speech. One of his final lines is “do what you love”. Those four words reeled me back in. If I was not a teacher that what would I be? I can’t answer that.

I love what I do. Yes, the pay sucks, yes it’s not easy, but I could not imagine it any other way. I have learned so much in these past ten years not only about the profession but about myself as a person and learner. I hope the next ten years are just as crazy as the last because, “Experience only teaches the teachable” -Aldous Huxley

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