Friday, September 9, 2016

And we're off...

The start of the 2016-17 school year has begun and so have the challenges.  One of the most frustrating hurdles has been the loss of our internet system. Even during our days of teacher professional development leading to the much anticipated first day, our internet was sporadic at best. The tension was palpable as teachers tried to overcome. With out the internet, there is not email, Google docs, and what we all wanted the most - printing capabilities. Many of us began to look at our screens frequently hoping to see a network connection and frantically trying to make the most of the moments of connection. It has been trying and I've mentally made the necessary adjustment. The students adjusted quickly and almost seem to enjoy it. The moment during class when the precious connection fails, they are immediately full of great suggestions of how to spend the remainder of class, as if their teachers are so weak and distraught that they will just give in to idea. Sorry team, plan C is always in the back of my mind.

I decided at the end of last year to step outside my comfort zone and become a specialist teacher as part of the Teacher Leadership Initiative. I wanted to challenge myself professionally and improve what I do. I'm excited about the opportunity to work with my peers and am preparing for the unknown. This is a new experience. There's a heavy mix of excitement and vulnerability. I'm far from perfect but I know that I can share my personal experiences in the hopes of having some great conversation about teaching and learning. More meetings and trainings are in the works which add to my busy schedule.

I look forward to the challenges ahead and the opportunity to dig deeper. I know there will be great experiences and days that could've gone better but I'll carry on.  Let's learn!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The challenge of February 1st and a glorious snowday...

While all ag teachers deal with it, everyone's last few days of January can make you wonder what you are doing. National Chapter Awards, proficiency applications, National FFA Scholarship recommendations and Iowa Degree applications can truly test your sanity and patience. I have a light load this year compared to my colleagues in the neighboring districts. I have a couple scholarship recommendations and one student trying for her Iowa Degree. No big deal right? Well it really depends...on the students and the current reality of your program.

This is my first year at Jesup Community Schools so there's the mystery of what's been done before, getting to know my students, and getting my school life organized in a manner that makes sense. Learning our students' personalities and personal challenges makes it better. I'm grateful that my students are quite open and share with me. They've been finding out more about this strange lady and are realizing that I'm in this for them. This is HUGE! Students need to know that I'm invested in them and their success. Repeated texts and emails about scholarship applications that have minor errors, suggestions, encouragement and sometimes a reminder of the reality.

I continue to learn from my students. I'm discovering areas that I need to work on and what skills they need to be pushed to develop. Asking better questions and rephrasing ideas is increasingly important. I'm working on providing feedback more quickly and having conversations about progress on particular tasks. The students seem to appreciate these straight forward talks and I'm able to guide them in the right direction.

I'm finding I spend more and more time at school. From my regular duties as an educator to prepare lessons, make copies, organize labs, etc to the FFA side of CDE practices, records work, and planning for future activities, I'm spending about 11 hours a day there. Trying to accommodate students' schedules and my own family is tough but I think it's working out alright so far.

This past week this ag room is becoming a regular ag room. I've had 6-10 students in after school to work on records, applications, Career Development Event preparation, and some just to hang out and support their friends. Our Jesup Ag Ed family is growing and working. Last night as a member worked on final degree preparation, fellow members found ways to help by grabbing papers from the printer, providing mini-breaks of comic relief, bringing snacks and just helping in any way they could. Mom, grandma and former ag instructor all made time to come in and sign SAE agreements. Love was visibly in that room. These are the the things I'm blessed to be apart of everyday and the part of ag education many don't see. I wish I would've taken a picture of my student surrounded by her family all there to support her. It was beautiful.

The gift of snowday is giving me the break I needed to snuggle my own kids, relax and catch up on grading. (That's right...educators never really stop working...we can't...our clientele is too important and there's so much to do!)