T is for…

Transition! This year I am switching contents from Math to English. Call me crazy, but one of the reasons that I pursued life as a #speducator is because it was intriguing that you are certified/licensed to teach any subject (grades K-12)…That’s what my license says, anyway. I’ve never been one to make these easy for myself. I like a challenge and I like to keep things exciting. Just a forewarning: this post may be more for me emotionally, than insightful and earth-shattering for anyone else, but it is necessary nonetheless.

Although I have enjoyed my time teaching math, I feel like I can make more of an impact in English. The other harsh reality is that I was never a #mathnerd and I mean that in the nicest way possible; I was never a natural when it came to math. I have learned to develop an appreciation for math, and strongly affirm that my struggles as a student (and in “re”-teaching myself math throughout my first year teaching) led to my success as a math educator. That’s not to say all of my students passed their standardized #soltest (which is the one of the most cruel acronyms in education… #SOL); they did not. However, I know that I inspired them to think creatively and not to fear math. In my book, that is a tremendous revelation and success. I hope that my students will continue to believe in themselves and in their ability to achieve understanding and success…even in math!

Because I was never inherently good at math, I lacked the unyielding passion that the majority of my colleagues hold in the math department. Try as I may, I couldn’t shake the daily woes of “I hate math…” and “math is the worst class ever” and (my personal favorite) “Ms. Cronin, I don’t hate you…I just hate this class!”. I tried to persevere and reassure my students. “Come on guys! Math isn’t that bad!” I made math fun for them, as my students told me. However, it wears on you to keep hearing the negativity and trying to keep your chin up. I was honored to attend the Virginia Teachers of Promise Institute this past spring, and it was one of the most motivational and inspiring anything (not just training, conference, etc.) I’ve every attended. I got to meet several recipients of the Milken Educator Award and 2 teachers inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame (which I didn’t even know existed)!

Side note: If you aren’t familiar with either of these organizations, I strongly encourage that you learn a little about them…their missions are inspiring and encouraging in a field that rarely gets the recognition we are due! Just to give you a frame of reference, Inductees to the NTHF are honored at the White House and one of the inductees from 1999 was Jaime Escalante, a math teacher in East LA who (along with his students) inspired the movie Stand and Deliver. If you haven’t seen that movie, rent it or buy it immediately! It’s truly inspirational and even though it’s set in the 1980’s, my students are still able to make connections with the movie and the characters and be inspired by the potential for success.

Back to the Teachers of Promise Institute, I was nominated by my grad school professors at George Mason University (THANK YOU, by the way!) along with a handful of other future educators, each one of us selected by the professors in the departments in which we studied/were studying. I was there to represent #speducators and was truly honored, but back to my point…There were several speakers, presenters, mini-sessions, etc. of meaningful and enlightening tips, words of wisdom, encouragement, positive energy, and rejuvenation (which is always appreciated in the midst of #marchmadness during the school year). One of the presenters, Dr. Alex Carter was highlighting the key aspects that define the difference between a good teacher and a great one. I already felt a connection towards this guy because he also attend JMU for his undergrad #godukes and he now lives in Colorado, which after living there will always have a special place in my heart.

There were 3 key points that were highlighted, and I wish I could share a transcript of the presentation because it was truly captivating message…What makes a teacher great?

  1. Passion–for content
  2. Excellence in pedagogy
  3. Ability to have a rapport with students

Without a doubt, number 3 is the most important! “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” (John Maxwell). I’m not exactly a seasoned veteran from my mere 3 years experience in teaching, but it’s enough to know that #3 is without a doubt, paramount. That is a quality of mine that I consider a strength. #2 well I think “excellence” is a strong word, but part of knowing is being open to learning new things. I am always learning new things and seeking training that will help me to be an even better educator, so I think I have that covered too. #1 passion for the content…math? I can’t exactly argue that I have an undying passion for math. So I decided that’s something that I can control, and so begin my #transition. In that moment, I knew it was time to switch content areas. If not forever, at least so I could share my passion for what I truly and naturally enjoy. You guessed it: writing! Obviously reading is a tremendous aspect of English, but the 2 go hand in hand. Arguably, the majority of my students will graduate from high school and never again use Algebra in their lives and that may be true. However, it is inevitable that they will write. I want to help my students to build that skill and help them unleash their creativity through their words. For me, writing can be an outlet and a powerful coping mechanism. I hope that my students will be able to experience something so profound, but if not, just the basics of grammar, how to format documents on Microsoft Word and Google Docs, and digital literacy will help them to be functional and contributing members of society!

I know this is getting long, but I wanted to introduce my #transition as that is something that is inevitable in all of our lives, in various forms. As a #speducator and #casemanager one of my responsibilities is to help my students develop a #transitionplan to help prepare them for life “post-secondary school” (aka after high school). This is such an exciting opportunity, and there are a ton of awesome resource that make this a lot easier. Sure, everyone wants to be a model (maybe just me as a child) or a professional basketball player (most of my male students), but that’s typically far from realistic. No matter a student’s goal, part of the transition plan is to identify a goal to work towards and figure out what steps (training, education, experience, etc.) are necessary to achieve the end goal of their dream job.

Transition Plan Resources:

Transition Planning Resources-Books, Articles & Web Sources

PACER’s National Parent Center of Transition and Employment

US Department of Education’s (DOE’s) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Youth and Students with Disabilities (May 2017).

CareerWise Education-Prep for the Job Application Process & Interviews

National Technical Assistance Center on Transition