A Letter to Educators

Teaching is hard. Not the actual teaching part of it. The planning, designing, orchestrating, thinking and delivering is the hard part. Good teaching takes a lot of work in the background that only educators understand. Great teaching means other things get sacrificed in your life. Time with you family can be reduced. Ability to just sit and relax (what’s that?!?) can be non-existent. Often educators have a second or third part time job just to try to pay the bills.

Non-educators might have gotten a better idea of what it means to be a teacher when we shuttered our schools and students were learning from home. Many families began praising teachers and thanking them for the work they’ve always done. This is greatly appreciated. Now if only that could translate to income! Just kidding. Kind of.

Educators didn’t go into the profession to get rich, or even to earn a livable wage. While it SHOULD support a family, the reality is that it doesn’t. We became teachers because we believe in people. We believe in growing a young human into a better one. We want the best for every single one of those children and young adults. For those of us that teach adults, we want what’s best for them too.

By now you might be nodding your head and thinking, “Yes! That’s what I want!” But, you’re tired. You’re stressed. Maybe you’re even a little fearful in the environment that we find ourselves in right now. It’s hard to find joy in things when everything seems different and maybe even scary.

So, what to do? How do educators manage to survive?

I know that I don’t have all the answers. Nor do I even have the right answers for you. You need to find the right answers that fit your situation. But, I DO know that we need to provide self-care and find the good where we can. I DO know that it’s hard. I DO know that we can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude about them.

I have needed an attitude change. I have to remind myself daily to stay positive, remember the goal of education, and give my best every day. Even if it’s not 100% some days, it’s still my best for that day. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I might have less to give, but I’ll still give as much of me as I can. With grace, I might even be able to give 100%. But that’s never a given.

Give yourself grace. Remind yourself that you never know how you might affect someone you meet, or work with today. Shine your light brightly. Thank you for being an educator and know that you make a difference. 🎹 BV

What’s In A Title?

I look at the title of my blog and realize that I have written less about tech lately than about life in general. Tech seems somehow too impersonal to write about. I can share the latest gadget, or deal on some new device. But, I find myself wandering into what I really care about: Other people.

30+ years in education has made a profound impact on my life. The teacher and person I was when I began this journey has long faded away. Thank goodness! Those early years of teaching had so many failures. (No one was permanently injured that I’m aware of…)

Now that I work mostly with adults, I hope I convey the compassion that I have for fellow teachers. I understand feeling so tired that there is literally zero left at the end of the day. I understand isolated when you are a specialist and there is no one in your building that shares your struggles.

My title is Digital Learning Coordinator. My title is also teacher, facilitator, specialist, Mom, Wife, Daughter, friend and Grandma. Notice what titles come first?!? Why do I identify with what I DO instead of who I am?

Your title brings you a sense of importance, or power, or belonging. But it still can be an empty title if you forget your real purpose. Your real purpose is to care about others and to develop strong family ties. No matter what your family looks like. No matter if your family is your four legged pet or a significant other. Or your church friends or most importantly, yourself.

Work is important. Teaching is extremely important. But living your life caring for others and self is the most important role of all.

What title guides your life? Will your friends remember you for what you did at work, or what you did in life? Or best yet, both of those!

Should I retitle my blog? The title is Vinal Tech Blog. Maybe it should be Something Else? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

Friday Night Musings

teachers at training As I reflect back on the previous week, I find myself returning to the same conclusion. Using technology and using technology well is an ongoing goal. While some might think I know a lot, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I have so much more to learn.

Maybe it’s age. But the more I work with teachers and principals, the more I realize I need to learn much more than I know.

I have never considered myself an expert. I know a lot about certain things but I have so many areas that still need so much work.

Where are you in your Digital Learning? What are you doing to build your skills?

Fortunately, those that I work for have a vision of building capacity and reaching as many teachers as possible. In our 24 schools, we have worked with more than 475 teachers since the creation of this position. We have begun building relationships that I hope will sustain the work that we have started.

After three days as part of the NCTIES Conference as a learner, partner in education and presenter, I am further convinced that I have so much to learn.

#NCTIES19

How will you sustain your excitement about your latest professional learning? Will you share your excitement when you return to the classroom? Or will you tuck your knowledge away in the “been there, done that” file?

Let me encourage you, no, implore you, to extend your experience. Step out of your comfort zone. Take a risk. Fail forward. Model this growth mindset for your students and colleagues.

Public education is an amazing place. You make it an amazing place. WE make it an amazing place!

Spread the word, the ideas and most of all the enthusiasm that you have for each child, every day. You’ve got this!!

The Depth of the Educator’s Heart

Teacher mug and penWe don’t do it for the money. We don’t do it for the long vacation time. We don’t do it for the short hours. We teach because we truly believe that every student has potential. Every teacher has potential. Every administrator has potential.

While we may never see the fruits of our labors, we never stop trying to impart knowledge. I view my role as a chance to give teachers an opportunity to grow and learn. I also view my role as my own chance to grow and learn. It’s truly all about the journey.

I’ve worked in many school districts in multiple states. Each job in varying roles provided the foundation for where I am now. No job is without its challenges – big and small.

How you handle and grow from those challenges is what defines you. It’s the unreasonable administrator (who ultimately drives you to earn an advanced degree). It’s the difficult colleague that sets you up to fail. It’s the challenging students that turn your hair gray. And each one of them is part of your story.

We can choose to be defeated by the negativity, or we can choose to find the positive side of the equation, even when we don’t really feel like it. Never let someone else’s bad day define your day. Sometimes much easier said than accomplished!

If your passion for what you do has diminished, maybe it’s time to renew your strength. Maybe it’s time to adjust your job. Maybe it’s time to adjust your attitude. teacher heart

How deep is your heart? How passionate are you about educating others? How do you find what you need to carry on in the face of time constraints, new curriculum and pressing demands? I look for the little things. The student in the hallway that needs a shoe tied. The educator who suddenly discovers how to use a technology tool. A colleague who reaches out to share their frustration. Every moment is an opportunity to reach deep into your heart and share with someone else.

I feel so honored to be where I am. My journey, much like yours, has been rocky and full of challenges. But I wouldn’t trade it for a different journey because I wouldn’t be where I am right now. And where I am is full of excitement, wonder, challenge, and joy. My heart will always be an educator’s heart. How about yours?

The Nature of Summer

Every day of summer vacation includes some professional time. I’m not one to take the summer off. Even if I could truly take the summer off, I’m sure I’d fill my time with professional development or a project of some kind. I’m not good at vacating!

While summer gives me time to regroup and change up my routine, it also allows me time to reflect on what’s truly important in my career as well as my home life. What parts of your work life spill over into your home life? If you’re an educator, then probably a lot.

beach during sunset
Photo by b. on Pexels.com

Educational professionals lead a different kind of life. There is a constant need to reinvent oneself as technology changes, curriculum changes, schools change and demands change. It can cross into your personal life in such a way that you never truly feel like you are away from your job.

So how do you balance it? Every person does it differently, but I find that I have to still teach all summer. Maybe you teach at a summer camp. Maybe you give professional development sessions to other teachers. Maybe you teach your own kids. Or maybe you teach yourself new things. I try to combine as much of that as I can but on a less demanding schedule than the traditional school year.

I teach teachers online for the New England Institute for Teacher Education. Two of my established technology classes are running concurrently right now. The summer is the only time to run two at the same time while working full-time! This adventure is full of new things every time I do it. These teachers find new angles that I hadn’t even thought of! I get a “2-fer” – I get to teach and I get to learn at the same time. Now that’s a great summer!

The nature of my summer might look a lot different than yours. Yes, sometimes I long to go take a really long walk on a beach somewhere, but my family has other demands that just don’t allow for much of that. It’s all good, though. I’m able to help them out and still get to do something I love: educate and learn.

How about you? What’s your “Nature of Summer”?

 

Am I Really Making A Difference?

At least once a week I ask this question: “Am I really making a difference?” I don’t ask it out loud. Sometimes it’s so subtle that I’m not sure if I really want to know. But every educator asks the question sometimes. I just find myself asking it more often lately.

No, I’m not looking for a pat on the back or even an affirmation that I’m really functioning well. Mostly I’m wondering if I’m “doing enough” or “making my work worth it”.

Do you ever feel that way?

So why do we question our ability when we know we’re doing the job?

Because the true educator is never satisfied with pretty good or finished. The true educator tries to find a better way or a more engaging topic. The lesson plan always evolves.

It feels like a restlessness. It might come across as if I’m unhappy with my job. I’m not. Not really. Mostly I’m feeling as if I could do more. Help more. Facilitate more. Listen more. Communicate more. Care more. Okay, answer fewer emails and phone calls!

Yet, I’m passionate about learning. My learning, my students’ learning and the teachers around me learning. But I can’t do it all. There. I said it. “I can’t do it all”. Not at work. Not at home. Not anywhere. So I start to feel like less than what I am. Silly, right?!?

Maybe you’re nodding in agreement right now. It’s okay. All educators feel it. Even you. Maybe especially you.

So do we look for a different job? Always. Do we change up what we do? You bet. Do we try to stop long enough to let the truth sink in? Probably not enough. The truth, friend, is that we are burned out. Our emotional bank is overdrawn. Our light is dimming under the bushel basket. And our energy is depleted.

Does that stop us? Briefly. Or maybe it paralyzes you like it can me.

So I cope. And I look for jobs. And I realize that I am what I do. I AM a teacher. I AM a coach. I AM a mentor. And all of those things meld together nicely in my life.

Do I need a change of scenery? Maybe. Do I need to reinvent myself yet again? Maybe. But the bottom line is that I love people. People of all kinds. People who need me just as much as I need them. To quote Barbra Streisand, “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”

So, am I really making a difference? I think I am. Are you making a difference? Don’t be afraid, speak up. Tell someone. Tell me. We are stronger together.

Did someone say vacation?!?

Teachers as Professionals

I am fortunate that my principal treats her staff as professionals. I have been very blessed to have several principals throughout my career that were in this same category. Staff members are expected to do what needs to be done, provide quality education, integrate technology into daily teaching and continue professional development with very little intervention. I feel valued and respected in my job.

So why aren’t there more principals like this? My principal makes it look easy. But I’m sure that there are many facets to developing a good leader that allows for autonomy while nurturing growth.

Our educational system needs reform. Of that there is no doubt. The Boston Globe article “Learning from Finland” has valid information to share. Not pitting school against school. Not relying on standardized tests. Providing state funded education for teachers to encourage the best and the brightest. Should we be listening?