School’s Out For Summer!

Friday was my last day of work for the school year, which, weekend not withstanding, means today is the first official day of summer vacation.

Ahhhh….

Of course, though our neighborhood does have a community pool, I don’t exactly envision myself spending the next two months relaxing by or in it. Wading around the kiddie pool trying to keep my toddler from falling and smashing her head into the concrete edge of said kiddie pool? Maybe that’s a bit more realistic.

(I jest. The kiddie pool is actually pretty sweet, and Babycakes totally loves it.)

In any case, it’s been quite a whirlwind of a year. Starting a new teaching job, putting Babycakes in daycare, taking Babycakes out of daycare and into Gramma-care, moving to our permanent home, releasing two novels (remember that Better Than Chocolate and When In Rome are both available for Kindle, and Better Than Chocolate is now in print!), and of course surviving my first year teaching fourth grade.

So what does the summer hold? Some training for work. Getting ready to change schools and grade levels. Writing Sweet Somethings Book #3, of course (and hopefully Book #4 as well). And a trip back to my old stomping grounds in July to visit friends and family.

And my first book signing! Details on that for those local to my old stomping grounds will be forthcoming once everything is completely finalized. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for the event announcement.

And the best is spending lots of time with Babycakes, who is now almost 2 and entering the “I won’t eat anything in the fruit or vegetable groups except carrots and asparagus and maybe some apple if you’re lucky” stage.

She also wants soup every day for lunch.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another, right? ūüôā

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to Work I Go

I made a very brief mention last week that I had gone back to work. This has been an interesting experience all around, for several reasons. The decision wasn’t made lightly, but it was made sort of last minute.

The original plan had always been to return to work at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Babycakes would be a year old, and my mom would be retiring soon after the start of the school year, making the baby’s full-time stint at daycare relatively short. I was never in any sort of panic about this plan, as I would be returning to my own classroom, to a district, school, and grade level I knew. The biggest unknown factor was whether or not something would come up with Babycakes that would require me to put off my return to work for another year.

And then we moved to Charlotte.

The original plan needed modification. Obviously there have been HUGE changes in everyone’s lives over the past 6-8 months, and the question did come up between me and the hubs if my going back to work was going to be worth it.

Because we’re effectively 750 miles from our support system at present, it all hinged on two things: landing a position at the right school, and finding the right daycare.

Both happened. I had actually narrowed our daycare choices down to three that I was comfortable with back in May, when I first started applying and interviewing. Similarly, I had three schools I would have considered comfortable choices if offered a job.

I was offered a one-year position at my number one choice of schools.

The kicker was that I was offered this position 13 days before teachers had to be back to work.

And it was a new classroom, which meant I would literally be starting with bare walls and some furniture, and that’s about it.

It was crunch time.

stunned

I’m two weeks into the school year, and while I still feel like I’m half-assing my way through every single day, I have to think, in general, it’s going well. As the hubs predicted, it does feel good to get back to my career and socialize with people who are, you know, capable of having conversations beyond, “Give that to Mommy,” and “Nononononono…”

(Babycakes is officially a toddler. Don’t let the fact that she’s not walking yet fool you.)

At the same time, I’d sort of forgotten what it felt like to have 20-some odd kids trying to get your attention and ask for help at the same time.

beauty-and-the-beast-birds-disney-Favim.com-368829

And given the fact that Babycakes is STILL not sleeping through the night and has also decided that 5:30am is the PERFECT time to wake for the day, I’m surprised I haven’t started an IV of Coca Cola by now just to get through the day.

i'm tired

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is also a HUGE district with literally HUNDREDS of schools, and there is way more paperwork and procedural stuff than was ever remotely dreamed of back at my little semi-rural district in CNY. I’m still slogging through the punch list of stuff I need to take care of within the first 30 days of work.

Hide My HEad

And of course, I’ve already caught my first cold of the school year. In fairness, I could have caught it from Babycakes, who could have picked it up at daycare. Or I could’ve brought something home from school and passed it on to her. Either way, we’ve been going through a lot of Little Remedies saline nose drops.

elsa cold

The hardest part – okay, second hardest part, because the hardest part has been actually making the decision to go back to work and put Babycakes in daycare – is allocating personal time at night and on the weekends to getting myself organized. Like, I went to school on Saturday morning for almost three hours and just did mundane stuff like finally posting the daily schedule. I’d much rather be spending my free time with my family and working on writing. But until things settle down and I actually figure out what I’m doing, I don’t foresee much of that happening.

Dowager Duchess weekend

As crazy stressful as it’s been, I am glad I decided to go back to work. I’d been starting to lose myself a little bit. I worked so hard over so many years to establish my teaching career, finish two graduate degrees, and land all the certifications I was qualified for. It wasn’t something I was ready to completely walk away from. Maybe someday I will, but not yet.

And while it may just be this one year and then I’ll have to start subbing until something permanent comes back around, so be it. At least I’m getting my feet wet again and making sure my teaching chops are still in top form.

lets do this

Though the sleeping thing has got to improve. After all, you can only consume so much Coca Cola in a day.

 

To Those Who Are About to Teach…

There’s been so much in the media the past couple years about public education and teaching, it’s easy to understand why many teachers are growing more and more discouraged about the career – or as it’s better known for most of us, the calling – we’ve chosen to pursue.

As many colleges are celebrating their commencement ceremonies through the month of May, sending pre-service teachers out into the world with what we hope is a solid foundation in pedagogy, it seems a good time to offer a bit of advice for those who are about to teach.

It’s a scary world out there. I know. I’ve been in your shoes. Most of us start our education programs with stars in our eyes and an intense fire in our bellies to get out there and change the world by impacting the lives of children, even if it has to happen one at a time. Some of us fizzle¬†out before we even start. Others find a way to stay on top of the latest reforms, methodological¬†trends, and best practices, providing the best instruction we can in an increasingly hostile environment without letting it impact the face we show to our students every day in our classrooms.

I’m not a guru. I’m just a teacher in the trenches. I’ve been “in the system” for ten years, eight at the helm of my own classroom. Now I’m looking to reenter that world after a year of maternity leave, and even for me, a veteran teacher, it’s a little intimidating. The advent of Common Core, which came on the heels of the much-touted Reading First initiative and the drive for data-driven instruction, has left a lot of teachers, including me, on the edge of burnout. And even since last June, so much has changed and so much new stuff has come onto the scene.

The question has risen in my mind, as I’m sure it’s risen in the minds of every new teacher – be they fresh from college or starting over in a second career.

Do I have what it takes?

In my case, it’s a “do I still have what it takes” question, because I’m looking to return after a year off. But for those just starting out, it’s daunting to realize how many challenges you face as a teacher. Not only in terms of what you have to do when you’re standing in front of that room full of bright-eyed (hopefully) pupils, but also when it comes to landing that job you’ll love.

So I have some advice for those who are about to teach.

  1. Stand out.¬†When you walk into that interview, show your stuff. When I first interviewed, I brought props in the form of an object box I’d created as part of my Master’s thesis project. Nowadays, technology allows us to create everything from PowerPoint presentations to interactive portfolios. Find a way to showcase your knowledge, abilities, and talents.
  2. Enter every interview as if it’s for your dream position. Even if it’s not. Sometimes we don’t get the call from the school we’d love to teach at, but sometimes landing a job at a school that wasn’t in the top spot on your list can become your dream position, or eventually lead to it.
  3. Even if you don’t get the job, don’t give up. Many schools, especially desirable schools, get hundreds of applications for a single position. If you interview and don’t get an offer, make sure you thank the administrators and interview team and express your continued interest in any future positions that may come available.
  4. Sometimes it’s worth taking a job you hadn’t planned to take in order to get the job you really want. When I first finished grad school, I was hired as a teaching assistant to work one-on-one with a little boy with autism. Was I over qualified? Oh yeah. Did I learn a lot? Tons. Plus I was able to sub for the special education teacher and inclusion teachers, and when a teaching position did finally open up at my school, I basically slid into it. I mean, I interviewed and had to prove why I was better than the other guy (see item #1). But if I’d turned my nose up at that TA position, I might not even have been considered.
  5. Don’t be afraid to substitute in the school and/or grade levels you want to eventually teach full-time.¬†Many teachers, including me, often end up having favorite subs they always request when they’re going to be out. If you make yourself available to sub, people get to know you. If you end up being a favorite who subs in the same classrooms over and over again, you will start to be known. You could end up landing a long-term sub position. You may rise to the top of people’s minds when permanent positions open up. In a lot of districts, subs are considered “internal”, so when positions are posted internally at first, subs can often get first crack at them. Plus, you really can build up your teaching chops, beef up classroom management skills, and often start contributing to your state’s teacher retirement system.
  6. Stay on top of current trends, programs, initiatives, and legislation. When I was finishing my undergraduate work, No Child Left Behind and Reading First were just starting to gain traction. Because it was in the nascent stage, it wasn’t discussed too much in my college classes. But within a couple years, it was all anyone was talking about. The same has happened recently with Common Core. We might not like it, but it’s here, and you need to know about it, because you will be asked about it in an interview.
  7. Always improve yourself. Take continuing education classes in areas you might wish to have more knowledge of. See if there’s coursework you can take that may lead to a different certification area or an extension to your existing license. Most professional development courses are facilitated, or at least made known to teachers, through school districts, but sometimes you can find a way to attend a conference or in-service if you’re willing to pay your own way.
  8. Know your state’s regulations for certification, both initial and professional, and stay on top of the requirements. The last thing you want to do is let your license lapse because you didn’t keep yourself aware of what you had to do to keep it valid. Most states require a certain number of full-time mentored teaching experience in addition to your Master’s to move from initial to professional certification. Additionally, most states also require a certain number of professional development hours each year/every five years to maintain professional certification. Know what you have to do, and make sure you do it.
  9. Network and use your contacts. It might be the principal you met at the job fair. It might be the cooperating teacher from your pre-service placement. It might be your Great-Aunt Sally’s third cousin who teaches at the school you want to work in. Stay in touch with those people and make sure they know you’re looking. They might at least be able to mention your name when positions come available.
  10. Keep your resume current. Even if you aren’t actively interviewing, constantly make sure your resume is up to date with degree information, work experience, training and professional development you’ve done, and you’re most recent contact information. If you stay on top of it, it won’t be so daunting to update everything when it comes time to submit an application.

Got all that? Ready to start applying, if you haven’t already?

Not sure where to start?

Many districts have online systems, or at least online listings, for applicants. You may also find some success using a career resource site, such as TheLadders, to find job postings in the places you may want to teach.

Now, my biggest piece of advice? It’s so big it’s beyond a numbered list.

Remember why you got into teaching in the first place.

It’s not the money. It’s not even the job. Yeah, you know you’ll have to put in extra hours outside of school, hours that will take away from your family and social life. And yeah, it will be stressful.

But why did you want to teach in the first place?

It’s the kids.

I guarantee you, the kids will make everything worth it.

At some point, you will know you’ve impacted a child’s life for the better. You will become the rock for 20-some-odd students at some point in your life. They will depend on you.

They will love you.

You will love them back.

And that’s what will make you a great teacher.

So to those who are about to teach…. I salute you!