Day 1: Are You Where You Thought You Would Be? #AprilBlogADay
I have committed to the April-Blog-A-Day Challenge from Chris Crouch (@). I have been blogging regularly on my personal blog for the last year an a half. I have found it a great way to reflect and process some big experiences (weight loss surgery followed by thyroid cancer this year!). As things happen personally one has to keep working professionally, at least I know I do. I am thrilled to begin this April Blog A Day Challenge.
When I read this question, the first prompt of this project, my thoughts immediately went to my career. I think this is because this has been a year of shifts and changes for me. But let's go back...Last school year I joined the staff of a new school at the end of it's first year, excited to help a school grow, continue to gain it's footing in NYC Schools, and to learn a new community and new population of students. Then last summer, because we are a PROSE school, applied and was selected as a Model teacher for the NYC DOE. I applied because I love the process of coaching and working with teachers. Spending this year in this role opened my eyes to just how much I enjoy this collaboration. I am so inspired by the work and thinking of my colleagues and I become a better educator through the conversations I have with them and work we do to support student learning and development.
The odds are not in the favor of teachers here in NYC. The turn over is about 3 years and I am heading into the end of my 7th year. There were times in the first 5 years where I didn't know if I could make it another year, but I always did. I always came back because I loved my kids. I was working with an alternative population in what NYC calls transfer schools (over aged-16-21 and under credited- they are behind, sometimes way behind in credit accumulation). I was passionate about my kids and wanted to see them succeed more than anything. All kids should have access to great education, passionate educators and challenging curriculum that pushes them to grow and learn. So I have stayed with it. I have stayed with the kids.
This year I have also taken on teaching AP Lang for the first time. Professionally, as an educator I think I have grown more this year than any other since the first year. I have worked hard to design and implement a curriculum that does all the things I think are important. I was off to a strong start, students are making progress, growing as writers of nonfiction and using strong rhetoric to support their thinking. Then at the beginning of February I was diagnosed with cancer and it threw me for a loop. Is this where I thought I would be? What does this mean for me? For my kids? How will I give them my best work if I am not 100% me?
Two weeks before my surgery to remove my thyroid and a large baseball size tumor in my neck, I told my AP students. I, like any good teacher, put together a powerpoint with pictures and diagrams to explain to the room of 16 and 17 year olds that while I did have cancer it was not something I was going to die from. It was going to impact my life and my time with them as I went through treatment and recovery. I had planned to be out Wednesday through the following Monday and would return Tuesday but I had complications, hypocalcemia and as a result landed in the ER Saturday morning, and as a result pushed back my return by a week. My first thought was, what about the kids? I am going to lose so much time with them! (I only see AP 3 days a week for an 80 minute class.)
As we know, kids are resilient: they bounce back and most are able to roll with the punches. I got a ton of emails from kids, I was able to tap two to collaborate on leading a reading and discussion of a short story connected to our larger unit theme of Community. Kids rise to the occasion and are amazing. I have to also. That is my responsibility as an educator, mentor and teacher leader.
So, am I where I thought I would be? No. Life is unpredictable and fast. It's ok that I am not where I thought I would be, personally or professionally. I never thought I would have cancer (especially not at 37). The best thing I can do is demonstrate resilience- for my peers and my students and hold on the enjoy the ride. We will get there, eventually.