Career, Change, Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday January 7

It’s Thankful Thursday hosted by Brian of Brian’s Home. He wants us to post what we’re thankful for. It’s a great way to focus on the positive. Make sure you link up to the Blog Hop at Brian’s Home and get the code to put on your blog. Then visit all the participants.

This is an image I took on my last day of teaching. I taught the day, packed my stuff, and walked away from an 18-year career that I loved. The school was wonderful. Administration was supportive. I had a great group of students.

Education and classroom instruction has seen many changes over the years. The expectations, administrative tasks, and teaching challenges were becoming too much for my stress management.  It was time for a change.

I left the classroom and stepped into a learning and development role.  Over these three years, the role has changed and grown, and I have been able to shape it into a job that incorporates technology and creativity, as well as instruction. I really love what I do and have a manager who guides me in my weakest areas and allows me to use my strengths. I’m thankful that my husband helped me figure out the skill set transfer. I am thankful for a manager who was willing to take a chance on a teacher, even when others weren’t as certain. I’m thankful for a company that has let me be a part of their learning program and have input.

Happy Thursday. I’m looking forward to reading all of your Thankful Thursday posts this evening. Comment or Linky Link below and I’ll stop by!

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace. 

Career, Education, Empowerment, Learning and Development, Self Improvement

Coachability

If you’re not coachable, how can you be a good coach? When you think you can’t learn something from someone or an event, you won’t and that’s a dangerous place to be.

Coachability means employees have an awareness of those around them and how they impact them positively or negatively. Coachable employees are also willing to relinquish control to improve their work performance and accept feedback without becoming ruffled, angry, or dejected.
study.com

According to Forbes.com coachable people share five different traits.

  • Humility
  • Willingness to action
  • Purity of purpose
  • Willingness to surrender control
  • Faith

Coachable people recognize they still have something to learn and they can’t always learn it on their own. They are willing to make changes and are more interested in personal growth for the sake of growth rather than pure financial or power gain. A driving force for the success of a coachable person is the willingness to accept being coached, even if they can’t immediately see results. They accept that change and self-improvement is a journey and have faith that the time and effort will be worth it.

According to a Huffington Post article by Laura Di Franco, What it Means to be Coachable, coachability is a key element of success in health, happiness, and attitude. We’ve all experienced those who feel they have nothing to gain from a workshop or they’ve been doing something so long that checking for a new way isn’t worth the time. The negativity is frustrating. It can also be contagious.

Being coachable doesn’t mean you have surrendered and don’t have an opinion of your own. It means you have the awareness, perseverance and determination to seek out someone to help you be better.

Huffpost:What it Means to be Coachable

Self improvement is hugely satisfying and can have both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. By being coachable one can improve their own coaching. Coachability is not just for those starting out, it is a trait to be embraced at all levels of an organization. Everyone has something they can teach you, and everyone has something they can learn from someone else.

Career, Empowerment, Life, Quotes, Self Improvement

The Atmosphere Around Us

We respond to the atmosphere around us. Just as a smile can be infectious, negativity breeds negativity.

Words to think about.

My favorite quote, and words to live by, is by Charles Swindoll.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

A favorite teacher had it written on her board. In fact, she is probably the reason that I love quotes and seek out tidbits of wisdom from them each day. To a teenage girl struggling through life, these words were profound. This quote became a call to action and a driving force for my direction. I couldn’t control the situation, but I could control my response and my pursuit for something better in life. When in the classroom, I kept this quote posted above my whiteboard in hopes that it would reach some other struggling teen.

You never know what some are going through if they don’t say. It’s important to remember this as it will help with how we react in negative situations. We respond to the atmosphere around us and that response is a choice. You can choose to respond negatively, positively, or make a conscious choice to not respond at all. Making that choice is not always easy. Sometimes our instinct is to be reactive. That’s when it is important to stop, wait, and make a choice. You can continue the negativity, embrace the positive, or change what you are surrounded by.

Every day we are faced with both positive and negative moments. Sometimes work is stressful. It is easy to join in the lamentations of the frustration. Does it help?

Workplace negativity is an increasing problem. Follow social media, read the opinions and editorials you find on LinkedIn or other business related sites. Increasing work demands and an overextended workforce, changing office policy, open work-space policies, and any number of other frustrations are written about on a daily basis. Not all frustrations are actually work related. The demands of life and increasing personal stress increase the negativity brought to work. So that negative comment or perceived slight may actually have nothing to do with you personally. Joining in the negative, feeds the negative.

Again, you can continue the negativity, embrace the positive, or change what you are surrounded by. What if you change the narrative? What if your positive attitude overpowered the negative atmosphere? What if you tried it to see? You don’t have to be super up-beat or over the top. Smile more and avoid participating in negative conversation. Smiling is proven to be beneficial to both self and others- even when you don’t feel like it. It won’t fix everything, but it’s a great step in the right direction and in the chaos it is something we can control when the negative threatens to take everyone down.

Smiling or fake smiling not an option for you? Try to find the positive. Point it out and express hope for improvement. The situation really sucks and there is no positive? You don’t have to participate in negative conversation. You don’t have to listen to the gripe session or participate in it. It’s as simple as polite acknowledgement of frustration and excusing yourself to do something else.

To keep it in social media terms, don’t feed the trolls. (Even better, don’t be one.)

It’s not easy to avoid getting sucked into the negative, but it is a choice.

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.

Career, Empowerment, Learning and Development, Life, Motivation, Self Improvement

What motivates?

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. – Og Mandino

Motivation is your general willingness to do something. It can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but WHAT compels you to action?  Simply wanting something is not enough. One has to be motivated to walk the path to pursue goals.

Reaching the next level in one’s career or getting in better physical shape sound worthwhile, but they are much harder to turn into reality in the absence of meaningful goals. – Psychology Today

Motivation changes over time. Two major factors influencing this is maturity and stage of life.  What seems important in our younger years is less important as we mature.  What drives our career at the beginning is not what drives our career as we advance.  Relationship status and parental status can drastically change one’s goals over time.  Money isn’t always the driving force of our decisions.

Forbes.com outlined nine factors that motivate employees. Below are my thoughts on their nine listed factors.

  1. Trust: Employees desire trust in their workplace and managers. Clearly communicated expectations are essential.  Feedback must be direct and valuable.  Trust and consistency go together.  If an employee never knows what to expect from a manager, trust will be hard to establish.
  2. Being relevant: Employees want to feel like they matter and they have the opportunity to remain relevant in their jobs.  They desire opportunities for continuous improvement, opportunities for professional growth in their roles.  Employees also want to utilize their strengths.
  3. Proving others wrong: This one is rather odd.  It is better explained as having a drive to achieve and exceed expectations.  “Never underestimate an employee’s need to perform until you have properly evaluated and tested their abilities and potential.” (Forbes.com) Managers should embrace innovation in their team by being open-minded and willing to listen.  While specific ideas may not be 100% on point, those ideas can lead to greater discussions and progress.
  4. Career advancement: Employees need opportunities to grown in their jobs and advance.  There is no joy in just spinning your wheels.  If they can’t advance in their current role, the motivated employee will find a place where they can.
  5. No regrets: The journey for personal success is made up of failures, successes, and changes.  Having enough perspective to value all three is an important motivator.  We learn from our failures as they are opportunities to grow and succeed.  Success and change also provide opportunities for growth, but our failures are hard lessons learned.
  6. Stable future: Change is inevitable.  However, constantly feeling like your time is limited or feeling that your job is always on the block–very much a de-motivator.  On more than one occasion I have heard “good employees don’t get let go” and that is just not true.  Due to decreased funding and reduction in force I’ve seen good teachers lose their jobs because they didn’t coach.  I’ve seen employees let go because they were the most recent hire and someone had to be released due to budget cuts.  If a company is always in the news for their cuts, potential candidates are hesitant to accept a position. Candidates who will accept the position expect more in compensation and they will always have an exit strategy ready.  With an exit strategy in place, that means they are a greater risk for accepting a better offer if it comes along.  They’re the one’s who are always looking.
  7. Self indulgence:  It would be unrealistic to not include personal goals.  Personal goals are a driving force.  However, perspective is required to balance short and long-term benefits, or repercussions.
  8. Impact: Employees want to leave their mark, they want to make an impact.  Want to deflate an employee?  Ask for their opinion, and then tell them what will happen not even taking their thoughts into consideration.  Please, don’t bother asking if it doesn’t matter. That’s insulting.
  9. Happiness: Self-esteem and self-satisfaction are fueled by happiness.  It’s important to enjoy what you do. Happiness isn’t just a smile. Happiness radiates.

It is not possible to motivate someone who refuses to be motivated.  While motivating factors can be intrinsic or extrinsic, motivation is non-existent if one rejects it.

I recently heard a story referencing 3M’s approach to motivation.  With significant expense a study was conducted that resulted in 900 pages pertaining to employee motivation.  Deciding that was too long, the study was repeatedly condensed from 900 pages until it reached one page, then one paragraph, and finally one sentence. “Employees respect what management inspects, not what they expect.”  In other words, hold employees accountable.  This is not to be confused with micromanagement. Ask how things are going, follow-up, give feedback.

A few responses I’ve heard when asking people what motivates them:

  • At first it was monetary. Now, it’s doing a job that’s meaningful, making a difference, and doing something that I enjoy. I’m making a level of money that I’m comfortable with.  I’m not going to sacrifice everything else just to make more money.  It helps that I believe in the mission and goals of the company I work with.  For the most part, employees are aligned with the mission statement. 
  • Appreciation
  • I work for my family first. The paycheck is the prime motivator, because that’s how we keep food on the table and gas in the tanks.
  • I chose my profession so I could make a difference in someone’s life. 
  • Having the ability to be creative.
  • Freedom to do what I want is my motivator. Setting my own hours and being my own boss.
  • I want to leave my mark and when I walk away know that something I’ve done was a positive for the company.

While money is necessary it isn’t the primary motivating factor for employees. Most will leave a job if they can find a better work environment that pays just as well.  Many will even take a pay cut in order to have a better work environment or a job that aligns with their personal goals and direction.  A recruiter recently told me that potential employees were more interested in PTO benefits than increased pay. Personal time and personal satisfaction are increasingly important in motivating employees in the workplace. A toxic work environment will push employees to be on the lookout for something better. In today’s job market, employers can’t ignore the desires of a changing workforce. Flexibility and adaptability are important if they wish to motivate attract and retain quality candidates.

 

 

Career, Life

Flexing Your Creative Mind: Home or Office?

Work-Life balance, flex scheduling, telecommuting, and working remote.

It goes by different names, and people have decided opinions about the effectiveness of such work arrangements. If you ask people how they feel they will likely fall into one of two groups.  One group thinks it is a waste of time, stifles creativity, and people who work from home won’t be as productive because of immense distraction or laziness. The other group believes those who work from home are more productive, creative, and focused…it is the wave of the future.  Those opposed typically cite lack of productivity, declining work place relationships, and communication struggles as their primary concern.   Supporters proclaim increased productivity, improved work/life balance, and decreased stress.

It is not a one size fits all plan. 

Working from home requires effort to stay focused and productive.   So does the office. If a manager is concerned about the productivity and real work they are getting out of their remote employee, one has to wonder what kind of person they hired?  Managers should not have to micro manage in order to have productivity.  That may indicate a hiring problem and not a work location problem.

Clayburn Griffin: Digital Marketer on working from home:

I really hope employers start to realize (the benefits) and offer more time to their employees to work from home. I think they don’t because they’re afraid of abuse and because it feels like there is no oversight. You can’t see what an employee is doing, and that feels like giving up some control. All that should matter, though, is that they’re getting the work done.” 

The truth is, success of either home or office work location is dependent upon the person. Working from home requires organization, dedication, and strong communication skills.  It isn’t for everyone. Managers and employees have to be willing to make it work, and learn how. Telephone, video conferencing, as well as clear and concise email communication are essential. Regular check-ins are important for maintaining rapport and clear expectations. Skype/IM chat features are an excellent tool that more should utilize.  IM is more efficient than email for quick questions. If a long response or explanation is necessary, pick up the phone.

My husband works from home 90% of the time.  I do not have that luxury, but love it when I can.  My ideal would be part time office/part time home.  We have found that having a dedicated work space makes working from home much easier.  Our home office has two desks, one is your typical office desk and the other is a stand up version of the same. Each has monitors for docking our computers. Having a dedicated workspace helps us to stay focused on work, and feel like we are going to work- not just sitting down at the table.  The dedicated space limits distractions. Each day he gets up and gets ready for work, just as if he is going into the office. Getting ready doesn’t change, even if everyday is casual Friday. However, the stress free commute down the hall is refreshing.

Sitting at the kitchen table, the hub of the household, would not be a productive place for anyone to work in our house.  While four of our five kids are off to college or adulting in the real world, even when home they understand that usually at least one of us is working. Unfortunately, our elderly mother doesn’t quite get the concept. One of the drawbacks of working from home is the distractions others can cause when they don’t know or understand the concept of working from home. In our case, barking dogs or an elderly mother needing something is an issue to be managed. The dogs understand only that they have a lap to nap in when we are working from home. They don’t get the work thing or that the delivery person is not their enemy. Children and/or elderly parents have to be reminded. I will address any non-emergent need at such and such a time, when I’m at a stopping point.  On the flip side, one of us is home for any emergency needs. It offers a peace of mind that going in to the office cannot.

The bigger issues to manage are household chores that beckon for attention. Rosie (the Roomba) handles our vacuuming needs.  However, sometimes “Rosie is stuck on a cliff” and needs attention. Laundry is always waiting and dishes usually need attention. When we really don’t want to face work tasks there is always dusting, yard work, or car maintenance.  Resisting the urge to do anything but work is a discipline that must be established.  Using the laundry as a work timer helps. Put a load of laundry in and work until it’s done. The next work break is to put the laundry in the dryer. The next break is to take out, fold and put away.  Instead of taking time to chat at the water cooler, you are taking time to complete a home task during your work day.  Organizing the work day and managing your work/home tasks is essential to success.  There is nothing wrong with completing a home task during your work day, but the trick is to not let it pull you away. That’s the same with social media or any other distraction. 

Truth be told, it is the same in the office. There are office distractions and not all time in the office is productive. It requires focus to stay on task and meet daily goals no matter your work location. 

If I had small children, I do not feel I would be able to work from home and be productive.  Some manage. They have developed a routine that works for them and the children understand.  It can work, but not for everyone.  Here I should note, the primary reason for working remote should not be personal care needs or so one can run errands in between completing work tasks. There are many reasons to have a flexible work schedule and environment, but should be pursued with the clear intention of better productivity. If distractions are going to be beyond that of the office, one should probably rethink the flex plan.

Flex scheduling or flexible work spaces should not be a one size fits all approach. Some need more social interaction than others.  Building a team rapport is not impossible.  Everyone does not have to be in the same office, or even same city.  Establishing clear lines of communication can help build the rapport.  Chat, video conference, call, email. Don’t be afraid to build relationships. There are individuals that I have never met, yet consider friends. We have interacted regularly in the web space and I feel that a relationship has been established. I could consult with them on topics of interest and receive valuable, honest feedback.  There are individuals I have worked directly with and cannot say the same.

Working from home also does not guarantee work life balance.  You are usually logged on earlier than if you had an office commute. It is also very easy to get lost in the task and still be working into the night, either straight through or off and on into the evening hours. 

Not every job can have flexible hours or remote options. Businesses have to move beyond the brick and mortar requirements and everyone has to have the same benefits/perks. Every job in the office does not allow for it, and that is OK. It’s also OK to give it a trial run first, or pull the benefit if productivity falls.  Just because it doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. Just because it works great for you, doesn’t mean it will work well for someone else. 

Andrew Sonstrom of Deep Core Data does a great job summarizing the pros and cons of both working in the office and working at home.  

The Office

Pros
–  Innovation is born in close quarters
–  There’s a definitive start and stop time
–  Structure is a great motivator

Cons
–  The dreaded commute
–  Office life encourages a sedentary lifestyle
–  The environment is inherently more disruptive 

Classroom to office has been an adjustment for me.  In the classroom I barely sat down. Constant motion, high energy, would be the best way to describe my teaching.  In the office, I have to get up and walk every hour and a half or so just to walk off the daze and keep from getting too stiff.  I find the constant chatter around me to be disruptive.  Cube life has been an adjustment. Noise cancelling headphones are my friend.

It is important to realize that face to face discussion is not required to collaborate and be innovative.  However, it is beneficial.  Communication without body language is sometimes difficult. Sharing presentations, shared screen collaboration, and video calls are helpful in overcoming the communication barrier that telecommuting can have.

Working From Home

Pros
–  No commute
–  Relaxed Environment = Productive Employees
–  You can work for anybody, anywhere

Cons
–  Life doesn’t stop for work
–  Work tends to bleed into non-work hours
–  Extroverts tend to wither when left alone all day

Social interaction is valuable. Finding opportunities to interact with others is healthy. It takes effort to communicate clearly and make a point to get to know your business partners when you are not in the same building. 

There is research supporting flexible work environments and research supporting the brick and mortar office solutions. 

According to Erik Devaney’s HubSpot article, “How to Work From Home: 20 Tips From People Who Do It Successfully”  

51% of workers would change jobs for a role that offered them flextime and 37% would make a move for a role that allowed them to work remotely at least part-time.

I can’t say I disagree.  I would love to be able to work remote on a regular basis.  It takes an effort for me to get going in the morning.  It would be great to ease into the day in the comfort of my home office.  Even better, location would not have to be specific.  I can think of nothing better than waking up on my favorite island vacation spot, setting up my work space and accomplishing the days tasks while enjoying the beautiful bay view.  Then, wrapping up the work day and walking straight to the kayak launch for an early evening paddle with the dolphins.  We would stay on the Island for weeks at a time if our work schedules allowed it. 

There are ways to make it work and opening the door to telecommuting broadens the talent pool for employers.  The market becomes much more competitive, forcing those being hired to be more productive whether they are working in the office or at home.  Some corporations have extended the work from option and are now pulling back stating that office rapport is suffering.  They contend that coming to the office is essential for team building and collaboration. Corporations who have offered work from home options have met with resistance when pulling this benefit. Employees want flexibility. Maybe it’s time to be more creative and establish processes for boosting collaborative environments while still offering flex options. 

Career, Empowerment, Life, Rambles, Self Improvement, Self Reflection

Work Life Balance (Part 2)

What is work life balance? It doesn’t matter what you do, work can take over if you allow it.  For that matter, so can life. Work-life balance requires life management.

Work-life balance defined:

The balance that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life.

“The balance that an individual needs.” That statement indicates that it is different for everyone. Stage of life, married or single, children or not will all play into what a person needs regarding balance. Personality, work style, job type, and personal ability are also factors. A little research will provide a plethora of resources for achieving balance and what it actually is.  Three things remain consistent.

  1.  Work life balance is not equitable time between the two.
  2. Work life balance changes…and sometimes frequently.
  3. Work life balance is not a one size fits all approach.

When work disrupts life or life disrupts work, it is time for reflection and change. Time to evaluate the two and discover management changes necessary.

Think about your work day. What is your scheduled arrival and departure? How much time is spent commuting? How much time is actually spent working? If you just thought “all of it” stop lying to yourself.  Did you check your phone? Your personal email? Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? Did you chat with a co-worker around the water cooler? No, we aren’t counting that as networking, not for this. Review your day for the things not work related. Now, if you still got the job done was the balance of work and life disrupted? Probably not.  Those things external to actual work keep us sane. Taking a the occasional brain break is beneficial. When the job doesn’t get done, there’s imbalance.

When you left work, did you take work home? When at home, did you stop thinking of work? Were you able to do what YOU wanted to do?  What if what you wanted to do was work? Does that count as imbalance?  Remember, balance is based on personal need and it is different for everyone. If your life outside of work suffers because all you can think about and do is work, life and work need better management.

Establishing your personal balance is essential to success in both areas. It is extremely important to your health, both mental and physical, to find your balance. If you are unable to step away from work and recharge, you will burn out. Stress will consume life. Taking time to relax and detach from work can make you more productive. Increased productivity and efficiency, in turn, leads to less work after hours.

When balanced, work and life have a nice symbiotic relationship. Work provides the necessary resources for life needs and life enjoyment allows you to recharge for work. Let’s not pretend life is always easy and if all is balanced then all is right with the world. Not the case. It’s easy to say work needs to be during work and life takes place when the work day ends.  However, it unfortunately doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes the paths will cross and creative management is the only solution.

Balance is just one piece of the puzzle. Sometimes life throws lemons and what you really need is a lime. There are so many ways to helps us achieve balance. Increasingly workplace management is coming on board with creative solutions. More on that another time.

 

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace. 

Career, Change, Life, Rambles

Work Life Balance (Part I)

As June begins, former colleagues are wrapping up their work year, preparing for their “summer off”. This will be the first time since I started school at 5 years old that I have not done the same.  Many of my years spent in education I wrapped up the school year, took a few days, then jumped into my summer school teaching opportunity.  There have been only a handful of years that I remained unemployed over the summer.  Those years, I attended training workshops for teaching AP courses, special needs students, or technology improvement. From 2003-05 I attended classes for graduate school.  Summer 2016 and 2017, my husband insisted that I take the “summer off”.  By “summer off” I mean I did not get paid for any of the work I did, and relaxed a few hours each day.

Disclaimer: This is not a complaint. I chose the path and I chose to work without pay. This is more of an explanation or evaluation of my time in the classroom…

Why work for no pay?  Short answer= Long term planning to make my life easier.  Long answer, keep reading.

In 2015 I went from teaching AP, IB, advanced, and general classes at the high school level to teaching, 7th graders.

Culture. Shock.

Middle school was new to me, a complete surprise, and extremely difficult.  There was NO time.  I had never had so many meetings. I had never had to watch students during my 25 minute lunch. With only three minutes between classes, where students still had to be supervised, there was no time to relax or take care of personal needs.  Life in middle school was a considerable adjustment. My teaching style had to change. Not a new stumbling block, but there was no textbook. Every resource I had for World History was too advanced for this group. Since planning periods were reserved for meetings at least three days each week, I was spending immense amounts of time planning before and after school.  Work-life balance had been completely destroyed. Grading and planning were nightmares, nothing new. Middle school parents? Vastly different. It is very difficult for some to allow their child to grow and accept personal responsibility.  I was not prepared for the level of difficulty and extreme change middle school brought.  Fortunately, I had an amazing teammate who was my sounding board and middle school adjustment counselor. Others were also helpful with resources, and guidance. At least there was a support system, and one that I desperately needed.

Middle school students cry rather easily. Their parents pounce rather quickly. The transition to increased personal responsibility is difficult for both student and parent.  It wasn’t that I didn’t know this, I simply did not grasp the magnitude until I was too far in to get out!

After that extremely stressful school year, I vowed to not struggle like that again. My “summer off” was spent gathering resources, planning lessons, and building my entire course in Canvas LMS. When August came, I was ready. The year was planned and I was not planning on spending all of my personal time, after school hours, working.  Yep, I felt good about the upcoming year.

Any teacher reading this knows what’s coming. It happens all the time and there is little to be done.

My principal called.

School starts in less than a month, and I’m assigned to 8th grade.  “Do you mind?” YES I MIND!  “Well, all of my plans are done for 7th grade and I already have the course built in Canvas.”  After explanations of being needed etc…  “No sir, of course, whatever is needed. Thanks for letting me know of the change.”  RIGHT BEFORE CLASSES BEGIN AND NOT AT THE BEGINNING OF SUMMER TYVM!  “Yes, you have a great rest of summer too.  See you in two weeks.”

In hindsight, I should have said no.  I should have insisted. Despite explaining how 7th grade was 100% planned and I was ready for the school year teaching world history, I was needed in 8th grade. I politely tried to maneuver out of the change. I did not insist.  Would, shoulda, coulda.

August was spent scrambling for 8th grade. At least it was predominantly US history and I would figure out the state component.  The bulk of my career focused on US.  That was why the change was “needed” and crucial that it be me.  Yay, experience.  I still should have said no.

My first year in 8th grade was not as difficult as my previous middle school year.  Despite abandonment by my middle school adjustment counselor who chose to pursue new adventures, I still had great team mates and I have come to a place of forgiveness for said abandonment. There was still a support system and the content was much easier. The year was still difficult, and I still hadn’t found my way out.

2017-18 was to bring new challenges. The school was moving to a brand new building, the other team went from 4 to 3, and all would have to teach social studies on top of their regular preps.  All were inexperienced with the curriculum. The bulk of planning and course guidance fell to me.  I embraced the challenge.  Why should they have to struggle with the extra prep? I have to plan for myself anyway and it is mostly done.  In an effort to reduce the upcoming chaos we met as an 8th grade and as a social studies PLC numerous times during the summer. I outlined the course pacing, matched it with state and local requirements, and took the Canvas course from the previous year and improved it.  By August, we had met several times over the summer and the team was essentially planned and ready to go for the year. It was a great “summer off” and I was starting the school year prepared. Just like I like.

Summer work and summer planning make the school year smoother. Summer workshops bring new ideas, and reinforce known tactics.  Training is an accepted part of any profession.  In education, sometimes it is paid for by your district, and sometimes not.  You become a borderline hoarder of ridiculous materials…just in case you find a lesson use.  I can look on my side shelf now and see a gallon bag of marbles, a tub of beads, and a container of pipe cleaners.  I used marbles as currency once. Beads and pipe cleaners were part of an assembly line simulation. Last week I consolidated my books to a single bookshelf.  I have various US History textbooks, each presenting a different perspective on the same topic. With difficulty, I donated many of my grad school books. It’s been 13 years, I didn’t enjoy them the first time I read them, and I wasn’t planning to read them again. I kept my favorite history reads, a few classics, and books that I want my children to read to their children. Most of what I read these days, I read on my device. It is portable and I have an unlimited library through a monthly membership service. What I describe here is a characteristic of most teachers. Books and lesson plan materials are what we collect.  Our minds always on our students. Consuming knowledge and collecting supplies. It never stops. From August to June we harbor guilt for papers ungraded and time spent not preparing for the week ahead.

From 1999 to 2018, I suffered from an unbalanced work-life.  The above very long explanation is only a snap shot. My entire summer was not spent planning and creating. Only a few hours each day. I still had some to do during the school year, but it was reduced and manageable.  The summer sacrifices made the work year more balanced. Grading was the only major concern. Grading is like laundry, it will always be there for you.  During my teaching years, my mind was always on school.  It was constant, and I couldn’t turn it off.  Common teacher problem.

Now that I have left teaching, I clearly see how unbalanced my work-life was. January of 2018, I reclaimed my personal time. In the six months I have been out of the classroom, taking work home has been minimal. There is no longer Sunday stress, prepping for the upcoming week. Grading is no longer looming over my head, inspiring guilt and building stress.  I don’t know what I could have done differently in my teaching career. The last several years were mostly easier than the first few years as a new teacher.  You learn how to manage.  Middle school threw a wrench in that for me, but adjustments were made.

Changing careers has been the #1 factor for me restoring work-life balance. Stress is reduced. Enjoyment of personal time increased. Evenings and weekends are mine!  Even without “summers off” I am happier…and probably easier to live with.

My next step is to take a look at what work-life balance means in this new world I’m in. Right now, I’m feeling pretty balanced.

Career, Change, Life, Rambles

Hire a teacher…no regrets

I recently spoke with a recruiter who brought up a few points that I found interesting. The recruiter recognized my experience and acknowledged that I had the qualifications for the position and would likely do well in it.  A few concerns were raised. The recruiter felt the position would be a step back and that I would be bored with the role. I asked for clarification. She pointed out that the position only required 2-3 years of classroom experience and that was mostly who filled the role.  I have 18 years of experience and am seeking a career change. Here’s what I wish she understood…

Someone with 2-3 years of classroom experience barely has experience relevant enough to offer any understanding of the classroom.  If that is all you have, you did not make it long enough to develop professionally. That is not a slight, but a truth. It takes at least 3 years for an instructor to get acclimated to the demands of k-12 education.  It is not easy. Most teachers will tell you that the first year was awful and they don’t know why they stuck it out.  They didn’t figure things out until the 3rd year. I stuck it out because I refuse to fail.  Lasting 18 years is the result of diversifying my experiences. I was fortunate to teach in rural, suburban, and urban (inner city) teaching environments. Opportunities for curriculum and course design were given to me.  Developing and coordinating programs to increase achievement and graduation rate were a part of my inner city adventure. My job description, although still in the classroom, was changing on a semi-regular basis and I embraced each opportunity.  That change kept me in the classroom during times when I was ready to walk away.  I learned how to manage a classroom, deliver content, and make a difference in my organization. Now I seek a career change and bring to the table a variety of educational experiences and a skill set that is easily transferable.   I know that I will not start out a manager level, but I hope that through hard work and dedication I will eventually be able to make a difference in the organization that will give me that opportunity.

Why should a company hire a former teacher?

They have a lot to offer. Think about it.  A veteran teacher can offer instruction and explanation that is clear, concise, and relatable.  Multi-tasking is an everyday requirement for teachers. Juggling multiple projects will not be a problem.  Planning, both short and long-term, is essential to the success of a teacher and a new hire to any corporate role.  As an excellent researcher, both as a historian and educational specialist, I am able to quickly find what is needed.  Analytics is also a part of the teacher’s role. Today’s schools are data driven and instruction is frequently adapted to improve areas of deficiency. That brings me to one of the most important skills and characteristics of a good teacher, adaptability.   Flexibility and the ability to adapt at a moments notice is essential.  Technology fails. Students fail to grasp an essential concept and instruction has to be quickly adapted. Schedules change regularly.  Finally, teachers are trainable. New technology, requirements, and assignments change regularly. Implementation requires training, and exploration of whatever new tool is the requirement.

As for being bored in a new position, I am seeking a career change and have done so with great research and thought. Interacting with adults on a daily basis and working with technology is what I am seeking. I assure you there will be no boredom with the new adventure. I will not miss a classroom of 35 students all with different learning abilities and instructional needs. I will not miss my 21 minute lunch taken with 200 of my favorite students where I am interrupted numerous times for “I forgot” requests.  I am ready for a new career challenge and I am ready for a new opportunity to grow.  If the pace is slower than the classroom, I am embracing it. If it is just a fast and furious, I will still embrace it.  It is the choice that I am making. If the salary target is close, the other benefits will far make up the difference.  I am ready to be out of the classroom and accept all the differences that come with it.

Recruiters, if a candidate has the required qualifications and seems like a good fit, give them a chance. If the only thing holding you back is  your perception of them being bored in the role…let the candidate decide after more investigation.  Let the candidate decide if the compensation and benefits are enough to pull them away from their current position.

Give a veteran teacher a chance.

For more information on why teachers make excellent additions to a corporate team, check out the following:

7 Reasons to Hire a Former Teacher

Why You Should Hire a Teacher

10 Reasons You Should Hire Teachers

 

Thanks for reading. Remember: Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.

Career, Change, Instructional Design, Learning and Development

In transition

I am opening the door on the next step in my professional journey. I wish to transition from the secondary classroom into corporate learning and development/instructional design. My research is proving to be disheartening. There is so little respect for the k-12 educator. There is little understanding that the skill set required to educate young minds transfers to the corporate world. In fact, I presume that it is easier.  Let’s face it, no one in corporate America is going to require an IEP or 504 plan so that their instructional experience is differentiated to their very specific learning need.  No one in corporate America requires a PEP for their specific learning need…actually, you know, that is probably not true.  If corporate America is anything like working with my teacher colleagues (and my husband works in corporate America so I know that there are shocking similarities) some absolutely need a PEP in order to complete the technology tasks expected of them.  It amazes me how many professionals in the 21st Century cannot perform basic computer tasks.

I recently completed a brief synopsis on why I am seeking certification in Instructional Systems Technology.  My response is below.

With 18 years of education experience, a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Science Secondary Education and a Master’s in American History it is time that I broaden my career options. I am applying for the Instructional Systems Technology certification program so that I may further explore instructional design and current theories of learning.

I have a proven ability to design instructional models to meet the needs of a diverse audience.  Flexibility, creativity, and management skills have allowed me to successfully implement curriculum requirements and deliver content in an efficient, appropriate and beneficial manner.  I am skilled in technology usage and evaluation models, as well as possess excellent communication and time management skills.  My current classroom is 80% paperless using Canvas as my LMS platform. I am familiar with multiple LMS systems and with Instructional Design programs. Achieving certification for Instructional Design is the logical next step for me to transition my career to a corporate setting.

My diverse teaching experiences have prepared me for this area of study. In my previous post as teacher and site coordinator of ‘”my school’s” online credit recovery program utilizing APEX learning systems I was able to design multiple courses using the platform available and discussing curriculum needs with subject matter experts.  Data from student use and program completion was a key tool in our push for implementation of school improvement goals and program use increased graduation rate. It was my responsibility to utilize course instructional modules and site coordinator reports to monitor progress and ensure completion to improve graduation outcomes. Working with a small team of educators, I helped grow the Apex utilization program from a brief, twice a week, credit recovery program to a year-round program- taking place during school, after-school, and as an independent credit recovery option for struggling students.  Initially we were using the Apex program as designed, but found it necessary to customize content to suit “state and local” course requirements.  I was responsible for the design of multiple courses. As Apex course offerings and our own understanding of what Apex could provide improved, our credit recovery program was enhanced. We expanded from using Apex as a credit recovery tool to a comprehensive credit recovery program; I was instrumental in creating teacher-training tools and implementing broader strategies for utilization.

In preparation for this career transition I have begun the process of further refining my personal brand and enhancing my skill set. I am refreshing my understanding of learning models and studying current trends for instructional design and adult learning theory.  I am also gaining additional knowledge and expertise with programs such as Captivate and expanding my utilization of blended learning strategies in my personal classroom. I have begun providing professional development for colleagues who need assistance with k-12 technology implementation and tools.

In the future, I plan to transition out of the classroom and offer my expertise in the field of learning and development, as well as instructional design. The Graduate Certificate Program in Instructional Systems Technology will help further my career goals and provide the necessary means to transition to areas outside the k-12 classroom. It will also allow me to hold the necessary endorsements to continue in K-12 technology instruction if the opportunity presents.

The delivery format of the certification program allows me to continue my career in the k-12 classroom. The content knowledge gained will also help me be a better instructional specialist for my clientele.

My next considerations have to be: Is a certification program enough?  I feel like it should be. However, my research shows that industry leaders look down upon educators. There is no confidence in the transferable skill set.  I assure you, the skills are there. The juggling act of a k-12 educator is rather impressive. Until he met me, my husband had no idea what teachers faced on a daily basis.  He has been shocked and saddened.  I think that corporate America shuns the transitioning educator because they are uninformed and lack the knowledge that a personal association provides. Also, currents trends are to vilify teachers who are overworked and (I would say underpaid, but I don’t think that is always the case so…) underappreciated.

Thanks for reading. I will leave you with a quote from fellow teacher Keith Hughe’s

Where attention goes, energy flows.

 

#livelifegivejoybeatpeace