A moment to brag about myself

When I look back on what I was doing a year ago, it’s a little crazy to think how many things have happened. I had just accepted an adjunct teaching position at Concordia while simultaneously moving into my new office at a new school. There were a lot of unknowns; a lot of new stressors; a lot of new expectations.

By December, I was officially hating life at my full-time job, but teaching at Concordia was seriously amazing. At one point, I left our night class, ravenous and exhausted, but still thinking, “This is the best three hours of every week.” Sure, it was hard to get up the next morning and go back to my “real” job, but Concordia gave me real autonomy and the opportunity to stay fresh in my field. I felt respected and valued by not only my students, but the institution itself.

In the spring, I took a break and returned for the summer term, where I taught two classes back-to-back. Again, I was starving. Again, I was exhausted. I complained to my friends that that I wasn’t lying on the beach getting my summer tan, and was instead grading papers. Bleh! But every time I left class, I thought, Today was actually fun, or Today I really learned something. 

When the term ended last week, I was honestly sad to see them go, but was ready for the break. After grading a bazillion portfolios and submitting grades, I allowed my brain to move into vacation mode. Puzzles, beach, gym. DONE! Tonight my course assessments popped up in my email, and they were beyond flattering. I’m always expecting criticism and negative feedback which then helps me refine what I will do the next time around – but this time there was none. NONE!

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Dude! Someone had a legit life-changing experience! I facilitated that! Holy shit!

Why am I bragging right now? Number one: because I worked my ass off, and I can be proud of my accomplishments. But more importantly, number two: if I had such a good experience teaching this class over the last year (and clearly others agree it went well), then maybe I need to look at the SIGNS. Perhaps this is really what I should be doing full time? Or is it only fun and rewarding because it’s polarized against working full-time for a totally dysfunctional organization? What does it all meeeeeannnnn????

I’m not sure, but it’s got me thinking.

Next week, I start my next new job, and I’m going to take a reluctant break from Concordia for the semester. Again, I have a lot of new unknowns and expectations. Here we go again. But what I do know is that one of those days (you know, those days), I’m going to pull up my Concordia assessments and remember that there are greener pastures.

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And if all this self-important bragging is rubbing you the wrong way, I’ll share with you that this morning I was so mesmerized by the boot camp class working out in the beach volleyball sand pit, that I tripped over their giant hose and went face first right into that sand. There was a lot of gasping and people shouting, “Are you ok?!” as I failed to be able to shake the sand off my sweaty, post-workout chest. Nobody’s perfect.

#8 – Find a new job. Check. (Ahhhh!!!)

That’s right. Today I accepted a new job. I’m just as surprised as you are.

Back in December, I had resolutely (and somewhat publicly) decided that my current position wasn’t what I had hoped for, and as Martha Stewart says, “Never accept an offer if you think it can be improved.” At the beginning of the year, I pulled out my brand new Passion Planner and set to work. Despite my complete and total misery, I mapped out a plan to find a new job, with a deadline of May 1st.

I really spent a lot of time working on this plan, which included a lot of networking with colleagues that I respect in and out of my school district. I also sat down and started collecting a mass amount of evidence of my impact in my current job, as well as ramped up my professional reading. Then I just put my head down and started plowing through, eyes on the prize, playing the long game.

At the beginning of April, I started to realize I wasn’t miserable anymore. In fact, I had some pretty fun days at work, and had made some awesome new friends and coaching soccer after school was super fun. My boss also got off my case, and in fact sometimes he even agreed with me (gasp!). I think I can do this again next year, I thought. As things go in the spring, people start asking each other, “Are you staying next year?” and I had this whole story of how YES, I WAS COMMITTED. I was even going to tell this story at a staff meeting to instill confidence for next year.

Suddenly I was approached about another position. A position I was somewhat dying to have in November, but now? How could I abandon ship? What about my commitment story? What about my soccer team?

In these times, I refer back to a book I read years ago called Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, And Why by Donald Ascher. It said that a job never comes at a perfect time, and you have to be ready to just take it. People who are always waiting for the right time and place end up staying in the same role forever.

So what is the job???? It’s got a fancy name, but basically it’s coaching the other instructional coaches in my district. I’ve been working towards this for awhile now – why wouldn’t I take it?

Technically it’s May 3rd, meaning I’m three days past my deadline, but the point is that it didn’t just fall in my lap. This is five months of strategic work that culminated into this opportunity, so yeah, I’m taking it.

I will miss my current coworkers, and my kickass office (today a student said, “I want my dorm room to look like your office,”), but they can’t get rid of me that easily. I’m pretty sure that I can still fit a cookoff and coaching a soccer team into my new schedule.

PS: Get yourself a Passion Planner – it works!

 

Make YOUR Bucket List

Tonight I randomly ran across this site: The Master Bucket List and instantly I was like, “Oh rad!” Basically, it has bunch of “bucket list” ideas all in categories, and it’s interactive so you go through each category, check off the ones you are interested in, and then it will spit out a compiled list for you. Genius!

Or not.

As I started to go through categories, I was like, “No. Nope. No thanks. No. No. No way…” and on the flip side, I had already done the items that interested me. How satisfying and disappointing at the same time.

What’s my problem? There’s too much to even explain…but I’ll try:

Famous Places – Sure, famous and exotic places sound cool, but first off I hate riding on a plane. My knee tops out at about 2.5 hours and then it is searing with pain. This was even before I blew it out and had to have surgery. This goes for being in a car, too. Second, I don’t want to see a big fancy exotic place when it’s filled with other tourists. I realize I would be a tourist myself, but I’m a self-loathing tourist. And third, I’m not religious, and it seems like a lot of famous places have spiritual significance, so yeah…does not apply.

See Exotic Animals in the Wild – I know this would depress me, and I would again be a self-loathing tourist. If animals are truly meant to be living out in the wild (like elephants and tigers and polar bears), then I don’t believe we should be stepping into their space. We, humans, can say that we aren’t disturbing them, but they know we are there. Duh. They are animals, with heightened senses.

Cruises to Exotic Locations – You can blame my friend, Megan, for this one. I distinctly remember her talking about an “Ocean Law” class she took in college and she told me all sorts of horrible things cruise liners do to the environment. HORRIBLE THINGS. Also, I saw some show on cable that was called What They Don’t Tell You about Cruises and I learned that close to 60 people (on average) go missing from cruises a year. Like NEVER FOUND. That’s 600 every decade. In international waters. No thanks.

Extreme Sports – Nothing about bungee jumping or skydiving or zip-lining through hoops of fire sounds mildly entertaining to me. I get my kicks at Bingo.

That being said, I still had the site compile my list, and who knows, maybe we have the 2015 list right here:

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Don’t you just LOVE that “Meet Martha Stewart” was an option?! It’s like they knew I was coming.

But for all my complaining, I actually think this list has some merit as I am drafting my list for next year. I always say, if you don’t have it written down, you probably won’t do it. This includes things like paying bills and cleaning the toilet, too. If you’ve been thinking about all the things you want to do, THEN WRITE IT DOWN. DO IT.

(And seriously, go to that website. Then come back and tell me what you discovered).

First Book of September – Get Promoted!

Normally, I post all three of the books I read each month in one post, but tonight I just want to focus on one I chose to re-read on a whim last week. (The other two will come later this week.)

550951Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why – by Donald Asher

Back in 2010, I read this book as I was coming to the decision I definitely wanted to move UP from my current teaching position, but I wasn’t quite sure where UP was (since there ain’t much in between teacher and principal). I laugh to myself that I bought this book for $1.99 when Borders was going out of business, and here it has become one of the most important books I’ve read in the last four years.

It gave me ideas and strategies to elevate my career, even when I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. A couple weeks ago, I thought I should give it a re-read with fresh eyes.

One of the most important points that resonated with me my first time around (and I have quoted it to many people) is that the perfect job never comes at the perfect time. You’ve got to be willing to just move, or move along, even if you feel like it’s not the “right” time in your life. Despite the fact that my last school was an incredibly toxic place to work, I wasn’t ready to leave. I didn’t know what to expect at a new school (or from a new boss!), but ultimately I remembered this important point. None of the jobs I saw called out, “PERFECT JOB!” In addition, preparing my resume and scheduling interviews came at an incredibly busy and stressful time; I just kept thinking, “…it’s never the perfect time…” Today, I can’t even believe that I hesitated. My school (and boss) are awesome, I’m incredibly happy, and other new opportunities opened up once I freed myself of the old place. If you sit around and wait for something that’s “just right”, you’ll just be sitting around waiting.

Next, I accepted that the world is set up for early birds. Back in my younger days, I could SLEEEEEP IIIIIIINNNN (ask my parents). I didn’t think I would ever become an early bird. The book states, “Every minute that you arrive before the official start of the workday is worth at least 15 of staying after the official end of the workday because nobody cares if you really work late.” My friends may joke that I am in bed at 8:30am, but frankly it has made me way more productive and happy. And if anything, I began to view at people who stay late as unproductive. Are they so inefficient that they have to stay late?

On top of that, when people hear that you exercise before work, it’s like you become a superhero in their minds, just a little bit. It takes a lot of mental toughness to get up earlier than you have to and workout, and ultimately that communicates that you are in no way lazy, and are in fact someone with awesome self-discipline. (Of course, I rarely workout before work anymore because my school is next to a beautiful new Nike track, but on the flip side, my colleagues often oooohhh and ahhhh when they see I’m regularly headed to a workout while they’re still struggling with the copy machine.)

Another chapter talks about having an Ascension Plan, where you pick specific job titles you want, obtain skills for those jobs, and learn to sell yourself without being a used car salesman or a Pollyana.

I knew by the fall of 2010 that being an Instructional Coach was a wonderful fit for me, no matter how green to coaching I was. I did everything in my power to learn more about coaching. I read every book, talked to those with more experience, and devoted myself to the position. Sadly, funding was cut and the position disappeared from the entire school district, but I didn’t give up. I literally spent my vacation money to go to Instructional Coaching workshops and did everything I could to openly publicize that I wanted to return to coaching. Although my district didn’t want what I had to offer, I was recently offered the opportunity to be a consultant for the very guy I was learning from all these years (holla!). Without constantly revisiting my ascension plan (no matter how bleak it seemed), I would still be wishing on something that might never happen.

If you are in a place where you are professionally stuck, I highly recommend you read this book and then have an honest conversation with yourself about why you’re stuck, and what it would take to get unstuck.

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Teaching Smarter, Not Harder

Today I was in my classroom from 7:45am until 6:30pm. It’s one of the very few days of the year I will work that many hours, but we had a family Ice Cream Social and even though it wasn’t required, I wanted to at least make an appearance. Most days, I show up a little bit early, and get out by my contracted 4:00. But as the new year has started, tons of my teacher (and principal) friends have been lamenting how late they are staying at school and how little they are sleeping.

I’ve had several of those same friends say things like, “I just can’t get out the door,” or “I have too much to do so I have to stay.” I, too, remember the pressure to stay late my first year of teaching, but I knew immediately that it working ten, twelve, fourteen hour days is a fundamentally flawed system. How many people on their deathbed say, “I wish I had stayed later at work…” ?? No one. That’s who.

Working late means you exercise less, sleep less, eat crappier food, and so on. On the most basic health level, it’s not good for you.

So how can you get out the door on time when the mountain of work seems insurmountable? I pride myself on efficiency; on working (teaching) smarter, not harder.

First off, checklists. Have you read The Checklist Manifesto by Atwul Gawande? Without a prioritized checklist, you are most likely wasting time on items that can wait, and not checking off the things that really need to get done. I even make my OWN checklist notepad.

IMG_2869Are you getting enough sleep? You may think that all those extra hours you are putting in are efficient, but studies constantly show that sleep deprivation makes you super inefficient. It also kind of makes you depressing and an asshole. No one wants to be around that. And on a vanity level, you’re ruining your complexion. Look at this excerpt from “Three Reasons You Need More Sleep” on Forbes:

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As a teacher, I expect my students focus and engage in their work, but at a certain point, they have permission to just put it aside and come back later. If they are managing their time well, then no one can fault them for not finishing an assignment.

Which brings up inefficiency and inefficient processes. I always tell people I didn’t get two Master’s Degrees to learn to use a copy machine. A teacher’s job is never done, but with some strategic delegation it can actually be easy at times.

For years I have created a “classroom internship” that gets high quality college students into my school to deal with the minutae of my job. It’s a win-win. They get real-life experience and a stellar recommendation, and I get someone to make copies, put stickers on student work, and make cool artwork displays. I also employ parent volunteers, student teachers, and students themselves…the message is that we must work together to achieve our goal. (That being said, I never want to exploit my help…I try to always repay them in a different way.)

I also highly recommend analyzing your habits and processes on a regular basis to figure where your effort should really be focused. One of my favorite books is Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier because it’s super interactive. A really easy tool is to use this map to plot out how you spend your day:

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Then you do one of how you wish you spent your day (within reason, of course…you can’t say 100% of the time on tropical beach). Then the book helps facilitate a change from your current reality to your desired reality. It takes some intentional thinking, but I can vouch that it really helped me find a lot of clarity in how I spend (and waste) my time.

What’s the most important part to getting home on time? Understanding that you are your worst enemy. You must be willing to change your current habits, but for me I rarely say things like, “I can’t…”Looking for more reading on this topic? Here’s a couple I also refer back to for my own personal and professional growth:

The Inefficient Frontier: Work-Life Balance

10 Signs Your Burning Out and What To Do About It

 

Back in the kitchen, or up at the microphone

(insert annoyingly long stressed out noise here)

Tonight I spent a couple hours reconfiguring my resume because applications to our school district Assistant Principal pool are due this weekend. Tomorrow I will start writing my answers to the four essay questions they require, and by Thursday I should have all my letters of recommendation uploaded. Looking for a job sucks, especially when you already have a good one and you a good kick in the pants to get yourself going.

That being said, I’m also working on a nifty flyer to advertise the class I’ll be teaching with my colleague, Angela, this summer at Portland State University. 

To top it off, my buddies over in Kansas asked me if I would be interested in leading a presentation on podcasting at this summer’s SIM Conference, to which I replied, “Of course!” 

Why am I telling you all this? Well a year ago, I was feeling like my career had no options. Angela and I were bemoaning our lack of professional movement (especially as the power team that we are). We decided to take things into our own hands and start a podcast about strategies/ideas we used in the classroom, and our experience leading workshops for teachers. Maybe this will get the word out, we thought, which is pretty rad because it worked…and the experience has been fun (for a couple of teacher nerds like ourselves).

Last weekend, my school had their big fancy auction.  At the end of the night, I sat at our table watching parents drunkenly bid and shout while the auction co-chair tried to corral their raucous laughter, and conversely the kitchen staff was scrambling to clear tables as we were already 45 minutes past our limit. I said to Thor, “I feel like I’m someone who needs to either be back in the kitchen, or up at the microphone.” 

After spending the night on my resume, I’m egotistically impressed with all my hard work and experience over the last seven years in education. From what I’ve seen, administrators are very often “back in the kitchen” or “up at the microphone” so I really hope this is my calling. 

Top 9 Fears I Have About Administration

For those who aren’t in the know, educators have to take very tedious (and expensive!) standardized tests in order to even apply for a license. While I currently have my elementary and middle school licenses (and passed multiple tests for both), today I had to again prove my ability to focus for 180 minutes while forking over $300. The upshot was that it was only 8 minutes from my house and there was ample parking.

I specifically scheduled the test for 11am so that I could have a leisurely cup of coffee, go for a run, and eat a nutritious breakfast before the test (every little bit counts, right?). I’m happy to announce that today I came one giant step closer to reaching my lofty goal of getting hired as an Assistant Principal; I passed my ORELA Administrator test.

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Here’s my issue. While I have jumped through the last official hoop, I’m still not 100% convinced going into school administration is the place for me. Ironically, two years ago, I felt more ready than I do today. On one hand, I’ve become very jaded after witnessing some of the unprofessional and unethical practices of my previous administrator. On the other hand, his complete failure as a leader helped me develop a necessary wisdom that things will not always go your way despite your best efforts. In some twisted way, I learned some very important things about myself that I could never have learned without his toxic leadership and utter lack of mentorship. 

So here I am, technically ready to apply once they start accepting applications. But I have so many reservations.

Top 9 Fears I Have About Administration

1. I don’t want to give up my summer. It makes me sound like a big baby to the rest of the working world, but people in education NEED time off from school. It is emotionally charged everyday. Whether you’re a teacher or an administrator, you’re job is to give give give all day and at a certain point you need to step away have some “me time” – or you will jump off a cliff. Plus, you’ve probably seen how much FUNNNNNNNN I have during my summers and I cringe at the idea of giving up that time.

2. I don’t want to be isolated from my colleagues. No matter where I have worked, I am a part of the social circle; happy hours, lunch time gossip, after school pranking. But when you become the “boss” things change. While I firmly believe that I would be an advocate of the teachers in my building so that they could do their best, I also don’t think I could be their “buddy” like I usually am. That’s hard to digest.

3. I don’t want to get fat. Another vain worry, but if I’m putting it out there I might as well be real. I’ve watched many administrators work VERY long hours, which means their personal needs get put on the backburner. There are only so many hours in a day, and I NEEEEEED my exercise, and eating healthy takes planning. I’m petrified that my personal time will be whittled away.

4. I don’t want to feel trapped by my job. If I make the jump to administration and I don’t like it – then what?? I can’t go back to the classroom, but what else would I even do?

5. I don’t want to hate teachers. Last year, I literally heard my AP last year utter the words, “I hate teachers,” more than once last year. She’s not the first to say something like that to me. Yeah, there are some crappy teachers out there, but some people WERE good teachers but the system demoralized them and over time they gave up caring. To become so distanced from the challenges the people you are supposed to be leading is troubling.

6. I don’t want to be stuck in meetings all day. I hate hate hate sitting in meetings. Anyone who has sat next to me for more than a few minutes at a meeting knows I get really fidgety and annoyed. My time is valuable! Sitting around listening to someone read off a PowerPoint or announce something that could have just gone out in an email is like take a cheese grater to my skin. 

7. I don’t want to be a pawn of the system. Have you figured out I can’t stand bureaucracy? I will not play political games or mess with the lives of students/teachers to make my boss happy. I’m not saying a lot administrators do this, but sadly I’ve watched the ones who are willing to climb over others move up faster than those who won’t. 

8. I don’t want to live at school. When I pull into the school parking lot, I always scan to see who is already there. I’m always early, and I see my administrators are always there before me. And they are typically still there when I leave. And at PTA meetings at night. And at sporting events on the weekends……..

9. I don’t want to give up my blogThere are some crazy people out there. Administrators are under constant public scrutiny, and I’m certain someone from the community could find something they don’t agree with. Being an educator at any level means the public expects a higher level of “morality” from you (and I agree with that!), but it also means your personal life can threaten your career. i’m not down with that.

 

I still fully intend to apply at this point because I feel like I can’t come this far and not see what opportunities might pop up, but I’m still not convinced it’s the right path for me.

The Calendar

Every year I have found that making a calendar is really important to planning and managing when I will attempt to achieve all of my goals. Granted, the calendar sometimes changes, but it’s good to plan ahead so that things don’t snowball at the end. Being a teacher means that I am super busy at specific times of the year, and then I’m super un-busy at other times (hel-lo summer!). So here’s my general plan:

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One big thing I considered (beyond my teaching schedule) was the weather. I consider myself a runner. I’m not a die hard, but I rarely go a week without a run (though I was just bemoaning my lack of December runs due to freezing conditions, and then my bronchitis). But I am SO Portland when it comes to running. I HATE HATE HATE summer running. Whereas some people can’t wait for the sun, I can’t wait for the rain. Give me 47 degrees and rainy any day for a good run; thus I picked April to attempt to run 30 days in a row (i.e. April showers). And if it doesn’t happen, then I have a future month to fall back on.

Keep in mind, watching a classic movie a month and reading three books a month are not listed on the calendar, plus I have a life outside my goals – so I’m busier than it may seem.