How My Failure as a Teacher Began to Teach Me Lifelong Lessons.

I was a 2nd year teacher drop-out. I felt like a failure as a person and as a professional. Most of all, I felt like I had failed my high school science, biology and chemistry students.

photo-1453847668862-487637052f8aDropped out

I was a 2nd year teacher drop-out. I felt like a failure as a person and as a professional. Most of all, I felt like I had failed my high school science, biology and chemistry students.

It was November and I had been working long days trying to keep up the pace of lesson planning, grading and attempting to maintain some balance in my new professional life as a teacher.

I remember getting many warnings in my college days about the difficulties of being a teacher and especially in the first year, but I overestimated my abilities to keep pace with my own standards of perfectionism.

Burned out

Let’s be honest. I burnt out. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to resign half way through the year leaving my students stranded and the high school scrambling to find a replacement. I put my resume out to nearly any job I could find but the market was nearly as grim as my own outlook.

You know what the worst part of it was? I loved education and I loved my students. How would anyone hire me in the field when I resigned from a full-time teaching appointment? I figured I wouldn’t be able to ever work in education again.

Substitute teaching

So I decided to start subbing.

Yes, that’s right, I was a substitute teacher right after quitting a full-time teaching job. Being a substitute teacher is hard enough in and of itself, but being one after being a teacher drop-out is excruciatingly humiliating. But I knew I needed to swallow my pride, focus on my own health first and then re-build myself as a professional from the ground up.

Things I learned

It was difficult times, but I had amazing family, friends and professionals who supported me through the dark night. I wouldn’t wish the circumstances on anyone, but I also wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned at the earliest days of my career for the world.

I was blessed with hard life-lessons on understanding my own limitations, on developing a healthy work-life balance, on understanding myself on a fundamentally human level vs. viewing my own self-worth through the lens of an externally professional reputation.

Still learning

Do I still struggle with these things?

Yes.

Have I arrived?

No.

Am I making any progress?

Every day.

Silver linings

And you know what?

I still am an educator.

Mostly, I get to work every day as a human being helping other people through the difficult and important work of teaching and learning.

*I am forever grateful for the many people in my life who have believed in me even when I haven’t believed in myself. I wouldn’t be here without you and I stand on your shoulders as I do the meaningful work of believing in others around me. 

People Trump Technology

Image of Robin Williams, 1951-2014
Robin Williams, 1951-2014

“Before the internet there was just a man running around saying, ‘I know, I know” – Robin Williams

This morning, I came into work and was glad to see Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf using our new open office working space here in Wills House. Her recent campus open office working tour has been so fun to lurk behind to find new nooks to study and collaborate. Thanks, Leigh.

So, I walk in the door and she asks me if I know anything about birds. These are my favorite kinds of delightful questions.

I know a couple things here and there just due to personal interest. I have sat in on a college ornithology course once and I have met up with our Jackson Audubon Society on random occasions over the years.

Lucky for me, she had recorded the sound of the call that was distinct to her as she was walking to our building. She played it back for me. I thought it was an Eastern Towhee possibly, but I just had to get to the bottom of it.

Black-Capped Chickadee
Black-Capped Chickadee

So, I turned to my friend, Google. After grueling seconds of not getting anywhere due to having a hard time figuring out how to identify a bird on the internet with only the call sound in my head, I realized that a much more efficient searching rout would be to call up my friend Gary Mason who I used to work with at Spring Arbor University. Gary is heavily involved in the Jackson Audubon Society and knows more about Michigan Birds and other natural wonders than anyone I know.

So, I did what anyone frustrated with the limitations of technology would do. I used an older technology of the telephone land-line to give him a ring at his desk. He not only answered right away, but was able to identify the bird immediately even with my own botched attempt at trying to make the sound over the phone.

It was the Black-Capped Chickadee.

I was way off.

samsonite-i-was-way-off-o
A funny looped scene from Dumb and Dumber where Loyd and Harry mistake the last name of the girl they are looking for with the brand of the suite case they are holding.

Preparing learners for the online environment

Cube, Online icon | Icon Search Engine | Iconfinder http://goo.gl/a1DWmThis was an interesting article supporting the need for preparing students for online instruction. A noteworthy quote: “Through well-developed orientation courses and other online student support services, we can equip students with no prior experience with the skills to learn online.”
Concerning Online Learning: Experience Matters « WCET Frontiers http://goo.gl/eCZRU

President to Seek $8-Billion for Job-Training Partnerships Involving Community Colleges – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education

If enacted by Congress, the fund would “make for a huge positive impact,” said David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges. “Work-force-training programs are costly, and given sustained cuts from state and local sources, these proposals could greatly benefit local economies.”

http://chronicle.com/article/article-content/130758/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+chronicle%2Fnews+%28The+Chronicle%3A+Top+Stories%29

Interview with Shane Hipps – The OAT Podcast

Check out my interview with Shane Hipps for the OAT Podcast!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCh68gAOOBY&w=480&h=300]