Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What?? Teacher of the Year?!?!

I'll warn all readers at this time that this post will be painfully long; and, probably pretty boring. But, because this is supposed to be my "journal" and intended to be read by my children and grandchildren once I'm gone, I guess I have to put in the good and the bad.

I am a naturally shy and reserved person. I have never been one to seek attention and have never been competitive.  For those reasons, this process that I seem to have been sucked unwillingly into is a living nightmare!!  For about 6 years now, our district has participated in the National Teacher of the Year "Recognition" Program. Basically, it is a competition, I don't care if they do label it a recognition program. 

The process is pretty lengthy. The representative for each campus is selected from 3 candidates nominated by the sight based decision making team (SBDM for short) and then entered into the competition for district teacher of the year.  For many of the past 6 years, I was part of the SBDM team and managed to keep my name out of consideration.  I knew the amount of work that this "honor" would require, and quite frankly, didn't want to mess with it.  Unfortunately, this year my name came up for consideration and I wasn't there to squash the nomination.

As one of the 3 finalists for our campus, I initially tried to turn down the nomination. However, my principal wouldn't take no for an answer. I thought after a while that she had changed her mind because a friend of mine was also nominated, and she mentioned one day getting her invitation for the campus interview. I was overjoyed to say the least because I hadn't received the evite! I thought for sure my principal probably felt I had enough on my plate with Dad's poor health, and had decided to get someone else to take my place.

Sadly, I was completely mistaken. I happened to be in the office one afternoon to make copies of a 504 file when one of the assistant principals asked if I was there for the interview. I was confused and initially thought I was being asked to sit in on a new hire interview. I must have had a pretty blank look on my face when I asked her what interview she was talking about, because she laughed and said, "Your teacher of the year interview!" I vehemently said that I wasn't even being considered and hadn't received an invitation to an interview. She told me I was and went into the conference room to see what was going on. I was dumbfounded when she came out and said I was due to be interviewed in 15 minutes. So, I sat there in the office waiting area trying to figure out how I got stuck with this mess.

I went through the interview with my admin team, consistently saying, "This isn't me! I'm not a competitive person!" I left thinking what a mess I had made of this whole thing and pretty comfortable they would pick one of the other teachers. Unfortunately, when our weekly reminders for the week email went out a couple of weeks later, there it was in plain English; "Congratulations to our 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year representative, Gwen Searls!" I was sitting on the couch at home when I was reading it and this huge hole opened up in the pit of my stomach and I felt it sink to the very bottom of my gut.

The idea of being recognized by my peers and co-workers IS a great honor, and I do sincerely appreciate their vote of confidence. However, the district selection process is a nightmare! First, they send out a 2 page time line of the steps in the process, AND a 14 page application!! The application has 2 pages of simple fact regurgitation, but the rest of it was 2 page essay questions! What are the background, people and events that persuaded you to become a teacher?   Describe your most significant contributions and accomplishments in education. What is your teaching philosophy and how are your beliefs about teaching demonstrated in your personal teaching style ? Describe service-oriented involvement, such as volunteer work, civic and other group activities that you participate in. What do you consider to be the major issues in public education today; and, what outline possible causes, effects and resolutions? What do you do to strengthen and improve the teaching profession? What should be the basis for accountability in the teaching profession? And, my favorite question of all, "As the National Teacher of the Year, you would become a spokesperson and representative of the profession. What would be your message and what would you communicate to your profession and to the general public?" They gave me 2 weeks to get it typed, proof read, and submitted. Thank goodness I can write coherently, and that my friend, Sue, is a phenomenal editor. I got the thing typed and submitted a day early.

The next step was an initial meeting to explain the procedural process of the district and to get a head shot taken by the district photographer. Headshot??? I do NOT like having my picture taken, and, I'm in the middle of struggling to let my hair grow out! I just barely got my hair over my ears and thought, "Oh well, I don't want to win anyway, who cares what I look like." I went to the meeting, got my picture taken, and checked 2 more things of the time line list.

At the meeting, we were told to submit 5 photographs of us interacting with our students and a 30 second video of ourselves sharing our teaching philosophy. Thirty seconds is NOT enough time to share the 2 page philosophy that I agonized over for the application, so I spent the next week trying to condense it into a 30 second infomercial. Thankfully, Ron was able to come in to my room and record it for me. On a side note: I have NO business being filmed doing anything! Talk about looking and feeling awkward!!  But, it was one more thing to check off of the list.

I thought finding 5 pictures would be a breeze! I have ALWAYS taken pictures of the things my classes have done each year; and, most of them are pretty cute. However, I did NOT take pictures of myself! Imagine that??!! So, I have had a very difficult time finding 5 stupid pictures. Luckily, Ron took a few when he was here filming the movie. My selection of pictures isn't great, but I got to check off another item from the list!

The most recent thing I have had to do was schedule and attend a district level interview. We were asked to sign up at the procedural meeting, and I was lucky enough to get the first time slot. The interview was this morning and it wasn't bad; just typical questions asked by a panel of district personnel. I knew a few of them by name and through work experience, so that helped. However, before I went into the interview, I had to complete a writing assignment - in 30 minutes! As you can probably tell, I don't have trouble writing; I have trouble STOPPING the writing. I wrote right up to the 30 minute deadline. Unfortunately, the last paragraph was crap; but, what's done is done. Another thing off the list; check!!

So now, the only remaining hurdles in this exhausting process are an unannounced classroom observation by someone from the district sometime between February 23 and March 27, and to attend the New Teacher Induction Success Celebration on May 5th and The Excellence in Teaching Showcase on May 21st. That that will be when all the campus nominees and their admin teams meet with family and friends to be recognized. It is also when they will announce the district Teacher of the Year. (Please, God, don't let it be me??? That leads to the Regional competition!!!!)

Sounds like that's not too bad, right? Oh, no! The agony isn't over yet!! I have to build a 4 foot wide display for the Excellence in Teaching Showcase to represent my philosophy and teaching style. What??? Maybe I'll get my son-in-law Edward to build it. He got a pretty good grade on Seth's solar system model.


The Monkeys said...

oh, wow- I would have given up long before this and just missed a step, making me ineligible. That is way, way too much work. My philosophy of teaching- teach, so I have to get back to it and not answer any more of your silly questions! Seriously! Congratulations, however!

Anonymous said...

seems like applying for a job all over again. the light bulb went in my head though about how the process might discourage and even eliminate some very wonderful educators- so keep on filling out that paper work