Sunday, February 28, 2016

Starting Over

This year I started a new job.  I'm still a teacher (not sure that will ever change) but now I am no longer a classroom teacher.  My new position is two-fold.  I am the teacher for gifted and talented 4th and 5th graders in my school and the Lead Teacher for PLTW, a STEM science program.

I started training for PLTW (Project Lead the Way) last year.  This program was designed for high school and middle school students.  This is the first year they are bringing it to the elementary school and my district signed on. 

What I love about this program is that it is a project-based learning program focused on engineering design.  It uses iPads and other technology to teach children how to think, plan, design, and follow through on activities surrounding engineering, biomedicine, and technology.  It is my job to help the teachers learn how to use the program and how to use PBL.  This mostly means helping the teachers learn to let go and let the children be successful.  It is very exciting to see it all come together.

The gifted program in district is a pull-out program that is being entirely revamped within the next few years.  For now, there is one Gemini teacher in each elementary building and we are planning humanities lessons and activities for our students, designed around the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

So what has all this change meant for me?  Lots of learning, lots of laughs, lots of tears.

1. I am so grateful to be out of the classroom and away from all the testing.  I had gotten to a point where, after 30 years, I just couldn't do it anymore.  I felt guilty having to give the tests, guilty planning for them, guilty taking away time from more important activities, like connecting with online classes.  I am just glad not to have to think about it anymore.

2. I have a much more open schedule than ever before.  I see each group of students twice a week and the rest of the time is set aside for PLTW.  This means I do not greet children as they walk into the building and do not let them go at the end of the day. It means I do not take much work home with me on the weekends. It means I have more time to walk into classrooms and see what everyone else is doing.  It means I have more time to give assistance to others.  This I love but it did take some getting used to.

I do not have my own class of children.  Yes, I work with my Gemini students and see them each week.  And, yes, I use Responsive Classroom still and we are a community.  But it isn't the same as having your own class.  I miss that.

4. All of the children in the building know who I am.  This I love!  I have been in all the classrooms, watching and assisting with science lessons.  The children get excited when I walk in - "Are we doing PLTW now?"  And I get lots of hellos in the hallway.

5. I get to visit kindergarten when I need a break.  Kindergarten has to be the hardest grade of all to teach.  But, oh those children are so wonderful.  I walk in to hugs and stories and tugs to come to their area and see what they are doing.  I love when I walk in and a random child comes to me to tell me about his new puppy or show me her boo boo.  It's a nice break from the chaos of dealing with two new programs in district.

6. I am learning to be a team player with a team I have never worked with before and who are not in my building.  It is very much like being a team member in an online collaboration.  You always have to be thinking about the other members of the team but, ultimately, you are on your own.  Very strange.  This is the most difficult for me to deal with.

7. I have been working much more with administration.  This is very new to me.  I am the liason between the teachers and the administration with regard to PLTW.  And, while I have always had a good relationship with my principal, I am learning some new things.  I am learning more about the big picture in the district.  It's no longer just about my kids.  Now it's also about PR and parents and other teachers and the Board of Education and, oh yes, the kids. I keep them in the picture always.

8. It's hard getting global projects going.  I don't see my students enough to work on a project so I "borrow" the students from the class next door.  I have been dragging my colleague and friend, the next door fourth grade teacher, into projects.  So far she has done postcards from around the country, has started blogging, and is starting If You Learned Here.  I love that she is willing, even as she worries about the timing involved in it all.  

It hasn't all been easy but I really do love this new job.  Next year should be much easier.  And, for now, I am enjoying the ride.  What are you doing this year that is new?

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