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2016
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Starting a New Role

Posted by noproblem 27-Sep-2016

Starting a New Role

This content originally posted here: Starting a New Role – Educators Tell Us

Change isn’t easy. In fact, it’s plain old difficult. This year, after 7 years in special education and 11 years at the school where I started my teaching career, I begin a two-year contract as a Special Assignment teacher in the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board. I obviously wanted to leave the school where I was working – I had to apply to be hired for a new role – but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love what I was doing and working with the colleagues that have become my friends over the past decade or so. Why did I leave? Was it for a better commute? No, in fact my new role has me driving a lot more. Was it for a raise? Actually, no, my salary is exactly where it would be if I stayed in my previous role. I applied for and accepted a different role within the DPCDSB because it was time for new challenges, new learning and, hopefully, the opportunity to have a larger, positive impact on my profession.

My wife gave birth to our first son on August 13th, 2016. Now there’s a big, beautiful, mind-blowing life change to accompany the change in my career; it’s been an adjustment on all fronts. Going to work in the morning is bitter-sweet because it’s tough to leave my 5-week-old son, even though I’m eager to do an excellent job in my new position. How do I plan on meeting the elevated expectations that these changes in my life and career present? How does any educator handle a simultaneous change in life and career responsibilities?

I’ve learned that you need support from the people you care about most. If my wife and family didn’t support my decision to make a change in my career, I simply couldn’t do it. It’s an obvious piece of the puzzle, but it’s essential. It’s important to remember that people close to you will be affected when you make decisions that impact the amount of time you spend on your work. I’m doing my best to balance my new family commitments with my desire to excel in my new role. Sometimes I feel like I am burning the candle at both ends AND here and there I’m also holding the candle over a burning match; the matches are temporary, but they take their toll. Some of us need to be reminded that it’s okay to do nothing once in a while and our family and friends are great candidates for the job.

When you’re starting a new role it’s also vital that you find ways to de-stress. It may feel normal to narrow your focus down to only work as you try to wrap your head around your new responsibilities, but ignoring the need to do the things that bring you balance is a mistake. For me that means continuing to be an athlete and showing up for my hockey games, even when I feel like skipping one. De-stressing is different for everyone but whether it’s yoga, long walks, cooking, reading, writing, singing or dancing, doing what makes you who you are is never a bad idea. It’s also probably a good idea to have more than one “go to” when it comes to de-stressing. I think I’m lucky to have reading, music, writing and spending time with my family to go along with my hockey.

Professionally it’s a given that you will need to learn, learn, and learn some more when you start a new role (that’s why you need support and a chance to de-stress!). I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great team to work with and a coordinator who has facilitated mentorships and connections throughout the team. The situation will be different for each educator depending on the new role they’re moving into and the amount of support they are receiving from administrators, coordinators, etc. Regardless, it definitely helps to connect with other educators who are in your role. This might mean networking with educators outside of your school or even outside of your board, but it will be worth the effort.

It’s almost certain that the first year in a new role will be filled with challenges. No matter how much support we have, how much learning we do and how often we find ways to de-stress, we’re bound to struggle at times. My plan for the tough times is to be patient enough to give myself the time necessary to grow into the role and confident enough to believe that I will, eventually, be great at it. I’d suggest that anyone starting a new role should do the same.

What’s your experience with starting a new role? Do you have any advice to give?

This content originally posted here: Educators Tell Us – Meaningful professional development designed to match educator interests and needs.

 

 

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As many educators across North America get ready to start another school year, it’s a great time to think about ways to improve our teaching practice and things that we can ALL do to better serve our students and the school communities we support. When we’re able to improve as educators, we add value to the contributions we make to our classrooms and our school communities. Here are five ways to grow this school year:

Find a Mentor

Perhaps some of us think that finding a mentor means we need to find a guru who can teach us their wise ways. But, while we can all learn a lot from our more experienced colleagues, we don’t necessarily NEED to find someone with more experience than we have when we’re looking for mentorship. This year, find someone who has a skill set or knowledge base that you think will be helpful to your practice and allow yourself to learn from them. Even more importantly, find a mentor who can help you with methods and approaches that will best serve your learners. Your learning should find its way into your teaching and when that happens your students will ultimately learn more.

Be a Mentor

This one flows pretty easily from the previous idea; of course if we’re all looking for mentors, some of us need to also BE mentors. Similarly, you don’t have to be the Yoda of education to mentor a colleague. If you have strong tech skills, maybe you can support a colleague who isn’t as well-versed as you are. If you have a real handle on inquiry or project based learning, maybe you can work with a colleague looking to get his or her feet wet with the approach. When we are thinking about being a mentor or finding a mentor we simply have to make sure that learning and growth can take place. That’s the beauty of these kinds of arrangements; we often find that the relationship becomes reciprocal almost accidentally. In this way finding a mentor sometimes also equals being a mentor; we all have something to offer each other and that’s really what collaborative relationships are all about.

Reinvent the wheel for some of your lessons

This one is especially important for those of us who are in the same placement for the third, fourth, fifth or fifteenth year. Maybe you feel that you have amazing units that cover the content of your grade level curriculum very well. Maybe you have received compliments on how wonderful your lessons and units have been. If that’s the case, well done! Now, do something new. Even if your lessons seem to have been amazing, let’s remember that every year you are teaching a new group of learners and, almost as importantly, the ways in which you can reach your learners are changing almost daily. Take the brilliant ideas, content and approaches that made your previous units amazing and use them in new and exciting ways that fit the needs of this years’ learners. Technology may play a big role in your innovation, but it doesn’t have to. Again, don’t think of it as scraping lessons that are “still good”, think of it as improving your already-good material to match the needs of your learners.

Connect with educators outside of your workplace

Mentorship requires that in-person touch, so when we talk about finding and being a mentor, we’re thinking about colleagues that you have consistent access to. We all can and should, however, connect with educators who don’t teach at the same location we do. Educators at other schools within your board can be quite helpful but to really get a wider perspective and “learn something new” we might want to consider expanding our professional learning network (PLN) well beyond our board, district and maybe even country. When we open ourselves up to a wide range of experiences, opinions and practices, we gain a greater sense of perspective and can’t help but learn something worth learning. Several communities already exist and we’d like @educatorstellus to be one of the communities you consider being a part of! But, to be fair, you can easily find a number of learning communities on twitter and other social media that will help you begin your perspective-widening journey.

Read books that AREN’T about education

So, this one definitely sounds counter-intuitive, but it makes a lot of sense. A lot of books have been written about ‘good teaching’ and related topics. Some are great, some not so much. Regardless, many of us fall into a bit of a trap when it comes to our reading. Professional reading is a must for all of us who wish to improve, but we simply have to read books that nourish the OTHER parts of our identities. When we forget to feed our own interest and curiosity we run the risk of narrowing our creative vision. Ironically, reading about education too much can make us less effective as educators (at least in my opinion). Every novel we read, every biography, every collection of short stories or science-theory text has the potential to impact us as individuals and as educators. When we live our lives as actual ‘life long learners’ we’re a lot more likely to instill this kind of attitude in our students. When we read texts out of sheer interest we expand our knowledge base and build our perspective-taking and critical thinking abilities. When we “do it right” our personal reading can improve us as educators.

When we grow as educators we stand a greater chance of reaching our students and helping them to grow as well.

What are your plans for professional and personal growth this year?