Friday, September 23, 2011

A Thousand Things Done Well

Pink 'Knock Out" roses in my corner scree garden

Reviewing the last few posts, I realized they are fairly scattered across a wide range of topics and events. I have attempted to make these posts as go-to information for the gardener attempting to garden in the not so hospitable parts of central Wisconsin. Life seems to get into the mix, though.

And more than anything else, although I have raised only one child, I have come to realize through blogging, that more than anything else, I am a nurturer. I nurture plants, gardens, landscapes, my son, creativity, my nephews, my village, and also students.

Something I don't mention often and on which I spent quite a bit of time is the substitute teaching I do throughout the school year. Yes, people like me, but more typically retired teachers from the school districts in which they used to teach, are spending time "teaching" your children.

I substitute in two smaller school districts. A couple years back I was spending so many days in one of the two school districts, that I realized if that continued I would spend more time with any particular student by their graduation than any other teacher in the district. This might be a scary thought, except that I can't think of a better person your child could spend that much time with other than their parent or their regular teacher.

Every day I come into a classroom, I look at that one day as a day to get it absolutely right. I want every student in my class, for that class period, to have a perfect day. I want them to have learned something, to have thought about something in a different way, to have stepped outside the box of how their normal classroom teacher sees them.

As a substitute, I know there are some students that want to "make my day". As a substitute, all I need to do is complete the lesson plans as written, keep your child safe from harm, and maintain the school's assets in the condition they were in when I unlocked the classroom door. After nine years as a substitute, and a flexible one, who feels like she has learned to dance on the head of a pin at this point; the typical expectation are generally a piece of cake.

But, I also want your child to grow his or her brain and take another step to learning who he or she is that day.

Teachers have been bitterly abused these days, in the press, by politicians, and administrators trying to keep federal tax dollars by fulfilling their school's expected test results and "leave no child behind" in the process.

Teachers are good people. They want the very best results every day. They attempt to keep politics out of the classroom, yet prepare your child for the "real world".

Today, I walked into the teachers lounge and was confronted by a staff member in tears. Typically, staff members can keep a tight rein on emotions; they leave the drama to the students. But not today, and not for this staff member; there was obviously plenty of drama to go around.

I couldn't help but think about this incidence in contrast with the exercise on which my day's students were working: fulfilling dreams using SMART goal-setting. I'm sure the days like teachers in Wisconsin have been having lately, with the virtual elimination of their collective bargaining rights and higher contributions to pensions and insurance costs, were not considered when they dreamt of becoming teachers.

So it especially poignant when one of my more intuitive students asked me if I ever wanted to be a "real teacher".

Although the teacher I was subbing for today teaches keyboarding, workplace readiness, and business classes; I just wrapped up a fairly long assignment as the high school librarian.

Librarians aren't what you think they are and this librarian's title is actually Media Technician Specialist. You might think, "Okay, fancy words for someone checking out books, videos, and DVDs." Truth is as the Media Technician Specialist, I was responsible for 75-80 of the latest computers and their cloud-like software apps, a couple very high-end document server/printers/copiers/, scanners, and an assortment of other cameras, laminators, and audio visual equipment.

Not only equipment, but more importantly, ensuring students and staff can get logged in and actually get the software to do what they want it to do and be the facilitator for the Distance Learning classroom. And did I mention, everyone got new logins and passwords this year. And...sometimes, a "How do I find this book?"

So like one of those defunct television dramas where each week the star tries on a different role, and convinces everyone he really is that; the goal is to step right up and be the Media Technician Specialist and actually have the answers for each and every particular problem.

It was challenging. It was engaging. It actually tested my abilities to step up with answers and quickly. I had some problems I had to work through and find solutions. It required me to pull all sorts of things out of my skill set and use them in new combinations. I think I did it well. I received compliments, to my face (wow), and inadvertantly repeated praise from administrators (double wow). And, it was an assignment that many retired school teachers being just 10-15 years the wrong side of the digital age, would find comparatively daunting.

I felt good about it.

So, it was easy to reply to the inquiring student that I completely enjoyed being the librarian recently, but not so sure I would want to teach business skills (although I do have quite a bit of real life business, management, and supervisory experience).

I don't have to deal with meeting curriculum, testing, parent conferences, politics, endless on-going education requirements, and today, drama. That's for the "real teachers". A salute to all you teachers out there, by the way, who have to do a thoudsand things well everyday!

I get just the fun parts.

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