Change is a Gift

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by stevendepolo

Well I have some news. While I have enjoyed my first year as an administrator immensely  and learned so many great things, I will be leaving my position at the end of the year and returning to the classroom. The reason for this change is due to a wonderful opportunity I have to pursue a coaching position with a small university in Edmonton. It will require a significant time commitment which means I won’t be able to continue as an administrator at this time. My division, my principal and my colleagues have been immensely supportive of my decision and I am extremely excited to take on this coaching role.

Looking towards the future and preparing myself for the changes in my jobs as coach and as an educator, I am reminded of the times in my career where I took a new opportunity and started a new chapter. The excitement, the nervous anticipation, the energy, it always ends up bringing the best out of me. I have always said that I am far more effective at whatever I do when I am challenged, and change always brings with it a challenge. Times in my career where I grew complacent or disillusioned always centered around a lack of engagement or a job that rarely included any type of struggle or adversity. A change in position or teaching assignment always remedied that, and I quickly found myself running on all cylinders and invigorated by my new direction.

It makes wonder about those people who end up spending a long time or even their entire career in the same building. I am sure people can find ways to challenge themselves without changing their assignment or building but there are also some who fear the change. It is these people I worry about and wonder if someone needs to provide a supportive “push”. Change to some people presents a daunting and intimidating unknown. To these people, it is safer to stay in the job or keep teaching the same classes they always have because the unknown is too scary to take that chance. I think there are a few benefits that this type of thinking will miss out on.

1) We better ourselves through new experiences and new connections: Every time we change classes, grade level, building, community or school division we have the opportunity to experience new things. New colleagues, new families, new buildings, new ways of thinking, new strategies, new resources, there are so many opportunities to learn and to grow as a professional.We gain perspective with each new connection or with each building or division we work in as we see how things work in other successful classrooms.

2) We learn and grow, everything we want from our students: We need to continually challenge ourselves as professional and what better way than to take on a new experience. By going through the adversity of a new position or assignment we will be familiar with the frustrations that our students go through when they encounter a new learning experience. As educators we are always trying to confront our students with an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and develop new skills, how can we not live this way ourselves?

3) We have the opportunity to find a new (or renewed) passion for our craft: So many friends and colleagues have shared with me the same story; they had to teach something new and in the end it became their favorite subject or class to teach. People take on a role in an alternate school and they end up loving it. PE teachers become administrators, Science teachers become music teachers, a Junior High teacher becomes a Gr. 1 teacher. We teach kids, not subjects, and there are kids EVERYWHERE, and connecting with a student has less to do with WHAT you teach and far more to do with HOW you teach them. That being said, we are at our best when we are engaged and excited to be there, and trying new things means we have more opportunities to find our most rewarding experience.

I have had a great year as an assistant principal and it will be hard to leave a job that was such a rewarding yet demanding assignment. I have the opportunity to live a dream I have had since I was a kid, and it will make me a better coach, a better educator, a better leader and a better person. Change means giving up something, that is a certainty, but change also means gaining something too. Change is a gift, a new opportunity waiting wrapped in the unknown, and something you shouldn’t be afraid to open. If we can look at change this way we can open ourselves up to the opportunities to become better at what we do.

I Took The Red Pill

Well into April of my first year as an administrator and its time to start planning for next year. One of the hardest things for me this year has been not being in the classroom, and I am hoping that as the planning continues to take on a bit more of a teaching load, specifically in Math. I have always loved teaching Math, and a recent full day session with Dan Meyer has made me miss the classroom even more.

The biggest reason I have wanted to get back in the classroom has been my PLN and my connections through Social Media. I only started connecting through Twitter and blogging in August, so I never had the chance to utilize all the great resources and strategies I have read about in the classroom. I am very excited to think about teaching a core course such as Math now that I am so lucky to be connected with so many great people. I thought I was a pretty good teacher before and did a pretty good job of getting my students excited about my lessons. I was able to do a decent job when my connections with other educators was limited to 2 or 3. Now I am connected with over one thousand educators and the potential for my lessons and my ability to reach my students will have grown immensely with all the ideas, resources and strategies I can draw from those connections. It is very exciting to consider.

So as I was thinking about this enormous paradigm shift in my teaching I was reminded of a conversation I had with George Couros about technology in the classroom. George is a big proponent of all that technology can provide for our buildings but is quick to remind us that it needs to be for the right reasons. When discussing the validity of technology in our buildings, George asked me a question – “What if the book was invented after the internet? Would we go back to books simply because they would be the NEW technology?” I am guessing we all agree that it would be silly to scrap the internet in favour of books. It’s about what is right for our kids.

So I know if I get back into the classroom it would be silly to scrap everything I have learned to go back to teaching using the old strategies and practices I used before. It would be silly to ignore everything I learned from Dan Meyer and simply deliver boring Math lessons that turn my students off of the material. It would be irresponsible to continue assessing my students’ progress in the ways I did before. It would be insane to isolate myself and not learn from all the amazing people in my PLN to ensure every lesson I deliver is the most interesting and effective lesson I can provide. Starting a PLN is kind of like taking the red pill on the Matrix, even if you wanted to go back, you can’t.

Everyday I connect with my PLN, I become a better educator. The last year has been spent involved in administration and not a lot actual classroom teaching, but my potential as a classroom educator improved in spite of that simply because of my connections. It’s silly if you don’t have a PLN. You are really missing out if you don’t try to draw on as many resources as you can to improve at your profession. I would argue you are not doing your job if you are not moving forward as the profession evolves.

I look forward to the next time I have a Math class, and I look forward to providing them with the education they deserve now that I am connected and more equipped to do so. I took the red pill, and there’s no going back.