Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ain't that Peculiar (Marvin Gaye)

November  1-30

 Looking back on November now, I wonder how I managed to do it all.  I was teaching full time, going to grad school and I had 13 TOY events and two conferences to speak at.  I was busy, but happy to be doing my part to improve the state of education in NJ.  I didn't just want to be a ceremonial TOY shaking hands and kissing babies, I wanted to get in there and make a difference.  I was energized and ready to go, but things were not as easy as they appeared.
      I was particularly stressed about my first big event, the NJEA Convention, where I would be introduced to the state and roll out my platform in my first substantial speech.  Grad school was killing me with a paper due every week, I had the normal work of school (and I would not allow my students to slack because I was busy), and I had started to experience push back from some of my colleagues in what I could only term "mean girl syndrome" although it certainly is not restricted to women.  Snarky comments in the hall, while making copies, at Board of Ed meetings, or at Professional Development workshops.  Really?  I have been told by others in my position to never read the comments at the bottom of articles because there are lots of haters out there in the world who just don't understand education.  I just didn't expect my haters to be people I knew.  I have spoken to other county, state, and national teachers and they have all experienced "mean girl syndrome" to some extent.  Some have colleagues that the moment they were named as winner, the colleagues would not speak to them again.  I can tell you this, no matter what level of TOY you are, being in a position of leadership is not easy.   Most of us did not nominate ourselves for the honor of Teacher of the Year.  You work harder than ever because now you are expected to be and speak at all sorts of events, you are under the microscope all the time (and anything that can be misconstrued, will be), and are all of a sudden the resident expert on all things educational.  You must be dressed and ready for pictures and interviews at all times.  I have had days where I was told during 2nd block that the media was coming in during 4th block.
     The point is, that this honor requires a lot of hard work, and we need all the support we can get.  Now, more than ever, we need to band together and celebrate the good things going on in education.  These teacher-leaders represent you, and do it with a smile, grace, and poise.  If you are a hater, keep it to yourself.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

Sorry for the little rant, now back to my November.

      The convention went well, I gave a presentation at High Tech Hall on how to incorporate technology into your history classroom, did a round-table discussion on diversity and the achievement gap, and finally my speech at the Celebration of Excellence.  I was nervous and for the first time, I had a teleprompter, so I felt like doing some presidential impersonations while up at the podium.  I am a little goofy after all.  I have since discovered that my best speeches are those that I don't write down, but I hadn't gotten to that point yet.  The first law of the teleprompter, it will move as fast as you do.  The second law, if you go off script, it just stops.  I have a REALLY hard time staying on script, and this was a speech delivered from the heart so of course I strayed in a few spots.
 Towards the middle of the speech, I got an "Amen!" from the back of the room and that just spurred me on even more.  It was a good speech, and people were impressed.  When the convention was all done and after three days of being under the microscope, I needed a release and so I went shopping at the outlets which were right across the street. 

       The following week I had a conference in San Francisco for the American Schools of Oriental Research.  I am part of the Educational Outreach Committee and so I was presenting my famous pottery lesson. 

Ready to present


 The following week was Thanksgiving and I was looking forward to some quiet time, but mostly so I could get research for my grad school paper done.  No rest for the weary!  However, before I went home for the long weekend, I was honored by my Freeholders with this lovely proclamation.

     While I am the NJ STOY (NJ State Teacher of the Year), I travel to many of NJ's colleges and universities to talk to the pre-service (student teacher) students in the teacher prep programs. After seeing me on Perspective NJ with Nora Muchanick on ABC earlier in the month,  Larry Fieber of TCNJ called on me to give a talk the last week of November.  At first, I couldn't believe that a college would actually want me to talk to their kids.  After I thought about it a while, I realized that there were a lot of lessons about education that you don't learn in college, so maybe I could impart some wisdom, and also that some motivation was needed in this current climate of budget cuts, disrespect, and job shortages.  The TCNJ students and staff were wonderful, and I had a great time talking to them.  They made a big deal out of me being there, and I was honored.    My students back at BCIT were also grateful for the leftover cookies from the night before, and began to realize that me having speaking engagements might be a good thing. 

Larry and the crew were wonderful and I have worked with the students in his programs a few times since.  I am the keynote speaker for the Future Educators Conference next October.