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Friday, April 22, 2011

Nice Guys DO Finish Last

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tim_norris/
     Being a military spouse always has it's good and bad.
     The good: moving every couple of  years to new places where you can reinvent yourself.  If you aren't happy with who you are you can just wait until the next move.
     The bad:  moving every couple of years to new places where you try to figure out who you really are.  If you screw it up you have to wait a couple of years before you can escape and reinvent yourself.

     I stopped being a military spouse (active duty-wise) 5 years ago.  That meant that when I  moved to my present location I got to reinvent myself with the knowledge that it might be quite a few years before I got to move again.  Then, there was this interesting thing that happened at the 2 year mark - I changed schools.  So, even though I wasn't moving, I got to change schools and reinvent myself one more time.

    Now I have been at the same school for 3 straight years.  This is a first for me.  At no time in my teaching career (since 1992) was I able to stay at one school for 3 years.  So, suddenly I am facing something I have never faced before - I need to reinvent myself while staying at the same school.

    Where do I start?  In a conversation with one of my fellow teachers, yesterday, I realized what I needed to do first.  And that was to go through the TAP (Teacher Advancement Program) Instructional Rubric and grade myself.  Like a good mentor or master teacher I then need to select an area for refinement.  Maybe even 2 areas for refinement.  That would give me one or two tangible areas for improvement that I could work on over the summer so that when the school year starts I am ready to be the best teacher I can be.

     Luckily(?) one area I need to work on has been an area of weakness my whole teaching career.  And that is my classroom management.  I have been blessed with really great administrators who have overlooked just how bad my classroom management was (is) but now that I am planning on being at the same school for the fourth straight year I owe it to my students, my administrators, and myself to fix this problem.

    This week I had a couple of reminders of just how bad things have become.  First, there are interesting things that come up at various times of the year because of our school's reputation and its PBL expertise.  In the first 2 years I was "the old math guy" and I got some cool opportunities.  But, as time has gone on I get less and less chances for the good stuff.  And I take that for what it is: you don't send your screw ups to represent your school on the national stage.  And, you don't reward teachers who are not doing very well in the classroom.

    The second reminder of just how bad things are was the selection of teacher of the year.  This year it was decided to send emails out to the students to get their input for this award.  For two straight days, this week, I kept hearing from students who had voted for me.  I should be honored, right?  Well, not when their reasoning was that I was the most fun.  I hope I don't end up in the running based upon the student input because I know my fellow teachers (who also think I'm fun) could never vote for me as a serious teacher.

    The last straw was my TAP evaluation from my principal.  For the third straight year he marked me really low in most areas (compared to the average teacher at our school) and he and I joked about the score and I signed it and we moved on.  Well, knowing I haven't improved in 3 years (in his eyes) hit me like a 2X4 between the eyes.  Yes, I really am THAT teacher.

    But, I didn't do 20 years in the military sitting around whining about injustices.  If I want to start getting good deals again; if I want to get rehired for a 5th year; if I want to be taken seriously by my fellow teachers, my students, and my administration;  I need to fix some things.

    Over the next 4 months I will be putting a plan into action right here on my blog for people to see.  There's no hiding and running away this time.  I need to start by sitting down with my principal and finding out what he thinks I can do to get myself better.  There's now 3 years of bad habits that I have accrued at this school and I need to fix each and every one of them.