Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The French Teacher Has Left the Building

As this school year ended, I was on pins and needles for a month waiting to find out if I had a new job.  I didn't blog during that time because I was so busy holding my breath and distracted by thoughts of what.was.I.doing changing things midstream???

The position of Assistant Director of Digital Learning and Library Services (it rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?) became available and after a lot of thinking about it and people telling me I should apply, I decided to give it a shot.

Some of you just had to pick yourselves off the floor because this is the first you've read about it and I'm sorry for the shock.  I'm not sure I really know what I've gotten myself into either! 
only just started, sort of, I'm just explaining it as I understand it will be.  Basically, I will be teaching teachers new ideas in technology, making sure they are up to date with any new software (like gradebooks) that they have to use and helping them use technology smoothly in the classroom.
Clearly, not the French I've been teaching for 20 years.

When I moved to the 4/5 building 3 years ago, that was a move that I didn't initiate and it really threw me for a loop.  I was glad to have a job, glad to be in the same district and glad to be teaching the same subject.  But 4th and 5th graders are not middle schoolers, so it was a 3 year transition period for me.

I loved the kids, didn't love the old institutional feel of the building and wasn't in love with only having each class once a week.  I felt like I wasn't making connections with kids. The schedule was crazy and I repeated myself ALL.DAY.LONG because I had so many classes.

The kids I made the biggest connections with were those that I had in enrichment, which meant I had them in their regular French class plus one or two more classes.  I really need to see kids more than once a week to feel like I know who they are.

I have been teaching French since my first day as a professional teacher, and I figured I'd do it until I retire.  I was good at what I did in middle school and I loved seeing the progress.  It took me 3 years in the lower grades, but I started to  like the small progress I saw there too.

But oh, that progress was so tiny because of the lack of contact time I had with them!

The girl who had been in my new position this past year is someone I've worked with for a long time and I was thrilled for her that she got the job last fall.  I kept an eye on what she did all year and kept thinking "I could do that."  She's my age, so I knew she wouldn't retire before me, so I figured it would be something I could fantasize about when I was repeating myself for the umpteenth time this week.

And suddenly, she told me she wants to go back into the classroom, so she told me to apply.

I thought the idea was crazy because technology is something I embrace, though sometimes reluctantly, but do I have the skills to do what the position requires?

As time went on and the position was posted, two more people actually came to me and said I should apply.  I am not one to make rash decisions, and change is the last thing I seek in my life, but when THREE people came to my door and told me this is something I should pursue, I thought maybe I better get on it.

It's a total leap for me because I will not be a classroom teacher.  As in, no teacher's union.  For those of you who don't believe in unions, I have to say that on many occasions in my 2 decades of teaching, our union has put a stop to some very ugly things that were happening from above and it's been something that I have happily been a part of because of the support they've given me.

To be out on my own is very scary for me.  I actually had to sign a new contract!

So what will I do?  We have 6 schools in the district, so I will be in and out of all 6 of them.  I will have mandatory things that I have to make sure everyone knows how to use, but then I will also be available to see individual teachers or small groups to share some exciting new apps, new ways to use technology, help them figure out why something isn't working, etc.

I will also have to teach a grad course in the spring and summer, which is something that people have always looked forward to because it opens so many doors into the tech world and using tech in the classroom.  It was one of those tech grad courses that helped me learn how to blog and I also  found a French woman with whom I did penpals for years.

There's also a lot of mystery to what this job will entail.  Some of it is carved in stone and I will just fill in the blanks.  But, I can also start new endeavors and sort of take it where I want to go.  That kind of freedom and unknown is really scary for someone who has lived by the bell for 20 years as a teacher, but really, my entire life because I went right from being a student to being a teacher.

I have no idea how to not jump up every 50 minutes to welcome the next class.

I've also never spent any time in an office.  I was never a receptionist.  I've never made phone calls in front of people.  And my desk will practically be on top of the secretary in the tech office, so to say things will be tight and not private is an understatement.

I will be like a wild animal in a cage, I imagine.

But then there's the bright light of not really being tied to a desk because I will be all over the place.

It's 15 more days than my current teaching schedule but those 15 days are not determined for me.  So, I could work some days during a school vacation and take other days off when everyone is in school.  I can decide when to go in during the summer and count those days.

Remember all the time I spent in August getting ready for school?  Now those will be legit work days and I won't be sweating and swearing getting my classroom ready.

After all that work to get a cabinet in my room the first year I was in the lower grades, packing this year meant actually packing to leave.  Most teachers just put everything away for the summer.  I've always been good about having my system of where everything goes.

This year, I had to pack to leave but also figure out what is  mine and what is theirs. There are many things that were given to me or donated over the years.  Thankfully, I always labeled everything as the school's or mine so I could just go through and sort.

But that was a lot of sorting.

And I didn't find out for sure that this job would be mine until the  morning of the last day of school.  So, my packing was not quite as organized or as pleasant and I had hoped.  I thought I might know in early June and would start bringing things home early.  Since I didn't know that early, I didn't start bringing stuff home in the event that I was actually returning to my classroom.

No sense bringing everything home only to bring it all back in 2 months.

I brought several car loads home but on the afternoon of that last day, I really needed the dumptruck to bring home those final big things.  I didn't want to leave that giant bookcase that we just made last year.

And after all those years that I refused to spend money on my classroom, I actually caved and bought some things because that classroom had no storage the first year and I couldn't live out of rubbermaid tubs on the floor.

But, that also meant I had to completely rearrange my storage space upstairs in my house to fit all of this in.  I knew how I wanted to do it, but it was a matter of moving all kinds of things in my house, just as I was moving things out of  my classroom.

And that last week of school was pretty  hot.  And humid.  Not the kind of weather that inspires moving a muscle, let alone actual furniture.  In the hot upstairs of my house.

And to top it off, I was planning to go to my sister's for a few days the weekend after we got out, so everything had to be in place before I left since I literally put most of it on the lawn under a tent when I first got home!


I left a cabinet full of things for the replacement they get for my position.  I have a year leave of absence, so if this isn't the job of my dreams, I can go back, having lost just one year.  I assume they will get a French teacher to take over while I am running around sharing the joys of technology, so I left some things in my room.  I left posters on the walls and some paintings that I had collected that I have no use for or interest in.  I left all of the materials that were from the district in that cabinet.  And I left 3 years of memories that went by in a blur.

It was pretty weird to take this sign off the door, knowing it will not go back up in August.

I'm excited, curious and mostly unsure about what's coming.  The director of technology will be my boss and I've known him for a long time.  He's witnessed everything I've done with technology in my classes, so he knows what to expect.  The technology techs will also be in the office with me and I know them well because of the wildly insane things that my computers have done over the years requiring work orders.

People keep saying "oh, so you won't be a teacher anymore?"  All of my teacher friends reading this know, once a teacher, always a teacher in every.single.aspect of your life!  I will still teach, but my audience will be adults more than kids.  I certainly won't hesitate to work with kids and there will be times when I will be in a classroom and can help kids.

But I've always taught at the gym.  I can't help putting on my teacher hat at the barn when someone has a question.  When I used to do promotions for liquor, I would find myself giving long explanations of the product.  I even teach my plants in my garden who's boss.

So while my position has changed, I'm still a teacher.  You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the teacher out of the teacher!

Thank goodness I know how to blog so I can tell you all about it!  I'm also on instagram as @thesassytechnologist where I plan to share all of my wildly juicy secrets about technology in the classroom!

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