Early Reflection on 2015 ‘Oh and Star Wars Comes Out in Two days!’

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Like today’s title? Well, I do, so I guess that’s all that counts. I actually see the Star Wars film tomorrow with my dad. I tend to get emotionally attached to imagery and symbols that evoke my childhood or at some point found residence in my soul. So seeing Star Wars almost a day ahead of many others and sitting next to my dad to experience it all together gives me all the feels. I have already consumed a few spoiler-free reviews and they only continue to pique my excitement. Anyway, in today’s post I reflect on quite a year with a look to 2016. Enjoy!

I Got a New Job

I started at my current high school a year and half ago as an academy lead and English teacher; however, in early 2015 I was offered a chance to step into a administrative-like position. To be clear, I am not really an administrator in the true sense, which was important to me when I took the job. My job is to help my school build authentic learning opportunities for our students and support our teachers in that effort. Most days I love it. I am learning about who I am as an educator and leader everyday. There are really good days, ‘normal’ days, and days that make me feel like I have a vice around my heart, but each day I grow and that is what I want. I realize in hindsight one of the reasons I left my old school is because I was afraid I would get stale. I began to wonder if I would just become okay with status quo approaches to education, shut my mouth, and show up and just do my job. I want a voice in how my school is run. My current position–while not what I had ever envisioned for myself–allows me to have that voice.

I Earned the Clendenin Scholarship

In April of this year, I learned I was selected for the Clendenin Scholarship. To say this has been life-altering may be an understatement. Two years ago I applied for the same scholarship but was not selected as an interview candidate. While disappointed, the rejection only renewed my desire to go after it again the following year. As haughty as it may sound, I told many that if I got an interview, I would win the award. Well, I got that interview and the rest is history as they say. Call it a gut feeling, but I genuinely felt I was the right one for the scholarship. The opportunities from earning the scholarship alone have been wonderful thus far, but certainly the money will help me finish my degree pursuits strong. One of the more interesting opportunities already is my chance to help several deans at the university design a Clendenin Society program. More on this soon.

I Became a Teacher of the Year Finalist

Not gonna lie–I wanted this. BUT as I mentioned in an earlier post this year, Brooke Webb who won was incredibly deserving and probably much more so than myself. Being a finalist was a great honor, and it certainly validated the work I try to do with my students. It was an honest reminder that I am not quite ready to leave the classroom. While that complicates what I am doing now, I know my heart and my talent (if you want to call it that) is still with kids.

I Published my First Article in a Journal

This was super cool (to use very technical language to describe it)! Given, the article is not research. It is short description of what I do with the poem “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes. Still, the fact that it was selected by blind review and published in November felt like an awesome professional win. Certainly, I feel encouraged to keep writing and finding ways to contribute to future articles and publications. My piece, “Our Dreams Deferred” was published in the fall issue of Connections–Georgia Council of Teachers of English’s journal.

I Presented Twice at NCTE

This was also super cool! I have participated in round table discussions for the last two years, but this was the first year I was able to help give a panel presentation with other teachers and professors. I had a blast presenting on my authentic writing work in my classroom where I use everything from class blogging to remixing images to making zines. Of course I also love the networking I get to do there. For my fellow Atlanta-area teachers, NCTE is in Atlanta this next year; I highly encourage you to attend!

I Passed Comprehensive Exams

I am officially a doctoral candidate and no longer just a doc student. While difficult, I enjoyed some of the challenge of piecing all my readings together to show I have a handle on my theory, methods, and the research that has come before me. Currently, I am in the thick of my proposal (the first three chapters of the dissertation). Chapter one is basically done, but chapter two and three are coming along slowly. My hope is to have them ready for review by early January so I can collect data starting in February.

I Learned How to Network

Professionally, this was big for me. What I lacked at my last school when I developed the Studio program was the ability to network with community members and professionals. I think this might have been the program’s undoing to be honest. This past year I have spent a great deal of time learning how to reach out to professionals and work towards mutally beneficial goals. The results have been awesome! My advice for anyone looking to network better to get more authenticity in your classrooms is simply go to your local business alliance meetings, introduce yourself, and follow up on your contacts. The community wants to work with schools and teachers. All we have to do is ask and have an idea of what we both want from the relationship.

In 2016…

I will defend a proposal, collect data, analyze data, and begin writing the final three chapters of my dissertation. I will help launch the Clendenin Society. I will get blindsided by something unexpected and grow from the experience all the same. I will work to be a better friend, colleague, mentor, and leader. I will continue to love on kids. I will continue to be thankful for those who believe in me and invest in me. I simply could not do good in this world without those who support me.

Until January, Cheers!

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