January- Named for Janus, the god of beginnings. The month of changes.
Little did I know when I started this month how transformational it would be.
Back to school I went after the break because I wanted to hang with my students as close to final exams as I could. After everything we had been through with me winning NJ TOY, it was the least I could do.
I started the week with an Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee meeting at Rider, which I have had at least once a month since September. What made this month different was that afterwards, I was meeting with my fellow NJ STOYs in Princeton for dinner. It has become a tradition that they take the new STOY to dinner and impart a few words of wisdom, warning, and fashion advice. We had a lovely time and they got me the makings for a scrapbook to help keep track of the year. I am not very crafty, so I know I am going to need some help, but I have been saving everything in a box. It was good to sit down with them because I was also feeling a little anxious about Dallas, coming up in a few weeks, where I would meet STOYs from all over the US.
The week after, I went to the Burlington County Education Association meeting and was given an award for my TOY recognitions. They asked me for some brief remarks and I felt a lot of love in the room from my former district, Willingboro, which is also where I grew up. Isn't it a cute apple? It was nice to be recognized by my hometown peeps.
The following day, I decided to try my hand at running some professional development. My topic was the achievement gap and my purpose was two-fold. First, I wanted to invite the NJ County TOYs to my school to see what a real Career and Technical Institute is all about. Second, I wanted to get people engaged in a discussion about the achievement gap. Both objectives were met. The CTOYs were incredibly impressed with BCIT and I think their visit in the morning gave them a new point of view. The achievement gap presentation and round-table in the afternoon was brilliant. I managed to get my friend Prof. Clement Price to come and give a talk about how we got to this point, and then we mixed up the tables so that there were current teachers, retired teachers, students, college, union or other organization members(PTA) at tables. We had them visualize, discuss, recommend and the day was brilliant.
That weekend, I was invited to the NJEA- MLK Awards. My brother was my date, and we had a pretty good time. The guest speaker, Dr. Adolph Brown, was fantastic, the choir was exceptional, and the band was good, but the big hit was my shoes. No teacher sweater and sensible shoes here! Why can't teaching be glamorous?
The following week was my last at BCIT, and it was gut wrenching. I tried so hard to keep it together, and even the principal caught me in the hall and told me there would be no crying. It was so hard to pack up my room, make room for someone else, bring them in and train them, and then walk away. I miss the kids terribly, but I look at this as the opportunity to effect change on a different level. I could not keep up the pace I had been because I probably would have collapsed. Would I like working on policy? I had no idea. I was very comfortable doing what I did in the classroom, and I am not ashamed to admit I am really good at it. But, no growth happens until you step outside of your comfort zone. Still, I was miserable and I cried all the way home, especially because that day someone sent me a sappy video about how much difference a teacher can make in the life of a student. Sobbed like a baby.
With all this on my mind, and the recent news that I was not a finalist for National Teacher of the Year after pouring blood, sweat and tears into that application, I set off for Dallas three days later feeling pretty guilty, rejected, and disappointed. I was determined to make lemonade out of the lemons I had been given and leave my mark, finalist or not. Little did I know that I would shortly meet some of the most incredible people I have ever had the privilege to be in a room with. Not only would they turn out to be wonderful human beings, they would understand exactly what I was going through.