November 05, 2016

Supporting Teachers?

It is my 16th consecutive month as an assistant principal. While I haven't written much here, I have much to report. The job is hard – way hard. Much harder than I an anticipated, or could have imagined while I was teaching. I saw administrators as… well, you can read about it here and here and here. I have now apologized to my previous administrators, and I will continue to do so. In fact, I met up with my most recent past principal last week. She actually asked me, “do you see now?” Yes. I see the light in the darkness.

If the teacher I was then sat across the desk (although my office is setup with the desk behind me so we can sit next to each other – I do this so that I can work without being distracted by the many people who walk past my window). Let me start over; if the teacher I was then sat across the desk from the administrator I am now, I would see my teacher self as passionate in presentation, but myopic in view. I didn’t feel supported as a teacher. Not all the time. Sometimes. Not usually. Not from the administrators.

Not that I wasn’t appreciated, it was more like I was ignored. I wasn’t a problem. I built a great program and never wrote a discipline referral. That’s because my students were engaged. But I was hungry for approval from what I believed should be the “Super Teachers” on campus. And they left me alone. Most teachers would appreciate that, and there were times when I did. But not always. I wanted to be recognized by professionals. Sure, the kids and the parents appreciated my hard work, and told me so. But not admin. Not often enough for my ego.

Teachers have BIG egos; it drives what we do. We like to be smart and we like to know that we are helping others. We also like to be recognized as professionals, which we rarely are (recognized as professionals). Just look at competitive salaries. Look at our lunch break. Ever try to work by a bell schedule? Unfortunately, this has a counter effect motivating some teachers to choose to stop acting like professionals. This creates a vicious cycle that must be addressed by administrators. Remember, we are the Super Teachers sent to save the day and make all things right.

To that end, I read a perfect (yes perfect Danny Steele) Letter to a Tired Teacher post. Please go read it now (then come back). We administrators need to stand in the gap for our teachers. We need to encourage and defend them whenever and wherever needed. Teaching is hard work, harder than most non-educators understand. And being a great teacher requires a level of dedication and personal sacrifice that you cannot imagine until you have lived it. Sure, anyone can teach. But only a few reach the level of master teacher. All teachers must be supported by their administrators.

July 17, 2015

Last Class?

I taught my last class today at the school where I served for 18 years. It was surreal and strange. (Well, it was summer school, so that might have had something to do with it.) My run lasted longer than I expected, but then, what differences have our expectations ever made on our outcomes? My eldest daughter was born the year that I started on this campus; she graduated last month. I think the timing is rather poetic.

The first year that I worked there my classroom was down the hall from a teacher who taught the same subject in the same classroom for his entire career (35 years). I asked him if he ever felt the desire to change. He said no. He said he felt content. He liked his job, he liked his classroom, and he liked his students. So why make a change? I feel the same way about the job I just finished. So why did I make a change?

I tell people it was because of my desire to help my own children (I have six), two of which are now in college. I want to help them and my oldest son with their college debt. I also want to do a better job of preparing financially for my youngest three to attend college, many years from now. When I talk to people I share about the value of growth, and the desire to do something different, to “change it up.”

But the bottom line is that, just like Walter White, I did it for me. And I’m proud to be moving on, and moving up. My new assignment is a big step up, and will be a real challenge. I’ll still be working in public education, but at a new campus in a new town in a brand new position where I have no history of accomplishment, no familiar colleagues, and no idea what to expect. Awesome fun!

This is all happening faster than I expected it to, and not without some trials. I will be commuting about an hour each way, my days will be longer, and I will not see my children and wife nearly as much. Hopefully that will be temporary. While I could never have predicted the circumstances that brought me here, I look forward to the unpredictability of this new challenge and all of the opportunity it will provide.

March 23, 2015

Administrative Qualifications?

Before launching my teaching career, I spent five years working in Hyde Park, South Central Los Angeles. My father bought an established wholesale barbeque rib business where I worked in sales and delivery. It was an amazing experience in diversity. All of our employees spoke Spanish, and most of our customers were from West LA. Koreans and African Americans owned most of the surrounding businesses. When the riot broke out in 1992, our shop was looted, but not burned down. I believe the business was saved because of the excellent relationship we established with our neighbors.

That was my “day job” while I worked on television and commercial production on the weekends. Production work is high-energy and complex. It requires excellent time-management skills. I learned how to create and keep a tight schedule, and how to complete tasks with precision. For example, I was once given three hours to find, purchase, and transport a size 54 orange jumpsuit (without the benefits of the Internet). I delivered the costume on time. I understand working under the pressure of a deadline, and the importance of accuracy.

In my first two years of teaching drama in middle school, I directed a group of traveling actors knows as Mime and Madness. Next, I brought my production experience with me to Redlands High School. I was asked to create a new media arts program. Today, the students in this program use technology to create their own short films and animation projects. They send their projects to competitive student film festivals. The "Digital Dogz" won top awards in the PAH (Project Accessible Hollywood) Festival sponsored by Christopher Coppola; the Inland Empire Media Academy Film Festival at San Bernardino Valley College; and the SLATE Short Film Festival.

In addition, I advised the RHS Associated Student Body while teaching Student Government and Leadership for two years. I also advised a service club of students who built houses for needy families in Mexico with the Hands of Mercy organization.

March 15, 2015

Administrative Application?

I am deep into the administrative application process. I have answered essay questions, listed my references, and uploaded my transcripts many, many times so far. My goal is to apply to 12 districts in 6 states before April 1. I’ve finished 6 applications for 9 jobs, so I’m well on my way. Each application process is a little bit different. Sometimes I luck out and can import my basic data from other applications or profiles. Most of the times I have to start from scratch. I’m glad that there is a vetting process; I just wish it wasn’t so repetitive.

Each time I respond to an essay question, or write out my personal statement, I feel compelled to answer the prompt, and I do. But I always feel like I’m leaving something out. How do I share my passion for education in 300 words or less? I’ve written 150 so far right here! I’ve published over 100 essays and articles and even a book. How do I zip everything I love about teaching and learning into a one-shot essay that is scanned next to a pool of other applicants? How do I stand out and share what I’m all about?

Let me try:

I am an educator. I teach people how to learn. When I work with a student in a classroom on an assignment, I serve as an instrument that actively changes their life. Their life! I guide and shape and mold and lead and engage and push my students to grow not only in their relationship to the subject matter, but also as people who will change the world. There is no better, more rewarding, or more exciting job on the planet. (Well, maybe obstetrician.) But a doctor only passes the ball; teachers take it to the house.

I make a daily effort to improve the people in my family, my classroom, and other areas of my life. I focus on being a positive force that encourages people by showing them how smart, capable and able they are to do anything they choose. I firmly believe that we are all unique creations gifted with talent and purpose. I think many people miss that. We all need someone to challenge us so that we can discover for ourselves just how powerful and successful we can be. That’s what educators do for their students each and everyday in the classroom.

I want to be an administrator so that I can encourage not only the students in one classroom, but also all the students on campus, along with all of the teachers, support staff, parents, volunteers, walk-on coaches, and anyone else involved. Imagine a campus where collaboration was a fundamental strategy for instruction. The whole staff working together to improve the lives of all of the students. Student success in the classroom was contagious and continued throughout their lives after commencement. It’s possible. It’s what’s best for kids. We can do it all together. I am so ready to get started!