The Challenge of Change

1. Change is Exciting!

So I totally jumped all in to gamifying my class this year.  Full year, items, badges, mini-challenges, THE WORKS! It was incredible to watch students buy in to the learning process and challenge themselves to be more creative and embrace failures and feedback as steps in the journey.  It has revolutionized my teaching and I became more engaged with students and their learning process than I ever had before. I looked forward to how my teaching was going to improve, how my students would love the non-traditional social studies class.  I got that nervous energy back at the start of the year that I had been missing from knowing too often exactly what I was going to do at each and every step of the year. The journey became the exciting element, and that made the shifts worthwhile.

2. Change is Overwhelming

That said, I made soooo many mistakes!  I struggled to keep my theme going and use the new terms for the everyday stuff we did or used in the classroom.  Some days, nothing had changed in the class, other days, none of my students were buying what I was selling. I struggled to keep up with the XP totals, the leaderboard, who had earned items & badges, and struggled to celebrate those amazing moments in front of my students.  As the year went on, I struggled to keep up with consistent feedback. I found myself not taking the time to keep connecting with students about their lives outside of school. I became distant and isolated in my teaching, restricting my only collaboration and reflection to the once a week team meeting that I regularly had to leave early to get ready for practices. That distance and isolation left me feeling unwanted and unneeded at my school. By the midpoint of the year, I realized I wasn’t happy.  I was frustrated by my efforts that I didn’t feel were being rewarded, either by students or my colleagues. So I looked at how I felt, talked with my amazing wife, and she reminded me about my why and that it’s okay to make a change. So I updated the resume, got a call for an interview, prepared myself, and nailed it! Then nothing. No update. I sent out Thank You cards and a follow-up email. Some response, but nothing official yet. This continued for about a month, and sometimes I felt like I was becoming that annoying person who just doesn’t get it.  Then, as I’m coaching my soccer players, the phone call came! I got the job! I was so excited! And then, sadness. I was going to have to leave my players, my friends, and the place that was my second home for 11 years.

3. Change is Necessary

To be honest, I wavered.  I wavered more than once. But I always had to remind myself why I started teaching, what I needed as a teacher, and why I needed this change.  I went through the entire range of emotions from happy to sad to disappointed. I definitely wasn’t as a good a teacher for my students after I got that call.  I wasn’t “all-in” with them anymore. I was too focused somewhere else, and that is not who I wanted to be, and it wasn’t who I was a teacher, and my instruction suffered for it. My collaboration with my colleagues suffered for it.   That said, the change was needed, as I feel challenged and excited again about my teaching, and I can’t wait to meet my new students! I’m energized and have a renewed positivity that was sorely missing. Sometimes a major shift is necessary.  It’s okay to change the Summit you are seeking, or take a different trail to it. Ultimately, changing the Summit, the Trail, or the equipment in your Pack, the one thing you can’t do is quit.

Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: Each week I want to highlight some of the amazing educators I have learned from, met in person or on Twitter, or read their book(s) to make this blog a place to encourage others to find the resources to become a Summit Seeker too!  This week, the honor must go to the amazing team of teachers I worked with at Turner Middle School. There are FAR too many to mention individually, but I wanted to highlight a few and encourage my fellow educators to follow them on Twitter and encourage them to share the amazing things they are doing in their classrooms.  Matt Martin is an outstanding math teacher with a knack for engaging and building relationships with students no matter their background or interests.  Andi Schutz & Rachel Schrag are the most amazing first year teachers I have ever had the privilege of working with.  They connect with students, build engaging lessons, and always bring the positivity in any situation.  Caitlin Thompson is a fellow US History teacher who just flat out brings it every day!  She designs great experiences for students, while never forgetting that they are people and need our kindness and compassion first and foremost.  Finally, Betsy Schirmer & Tonya Eddy (who needs to get on Twitter, BTW) both provide crucial support to our students with unique learning needs and always have their classrooms available for students to work or even simply just to have a place to calm down when stress overwhelms them.  Follow these amazing educators and encourage them to share out the great things they are doing in their classes!

Matt Martin: @MrMartin202

Andi Schutz: @msschutz

Rachel Schrag: @rachelkschrag

Caitlin Thompson: @misst202