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What a Difference a Year Makes

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365 not-very-simple days. At this time last year, I had just joined the faculty at a school new to me, TJHSST, but not new at all in the sense that it was stocked with 30-year veterans at the top of the public school teaching heap. You couldn’t spit without hitting a PhD or someone who was known in their field-- for running a conference say, or being a nationally recognized expert in xyz.

I had no clue how being at that school would rock my teaching world, throwing me back to rookie status in many ways and forcing me not only to reexamine basic assumptions about my teaching (was I going deep enough?) but also compelling me to rely on more experienced colleagues in a way that I hadn’t needed to for many years. For the first half a quarter I took notes on what my trailer-mate was doing, and then taught the same thing the next day.

A year ago I also had no clue that at this moment I’d be a card-carrying candidate for National Board Certification, another set of rapids in my journey down stream that will force me to examine basic assumptions (how is this related to student achievement?) and compel me to rely on the kindness of those who were not too long ago strangers, but are now in many cases valued colleagues, including a handful of the more than a dozen board-certified colleagues in this building.

Nor did I anticipate, at this time last year, that I would have just completed, for the second time, the Northern Virginia Writing Project’s summer institute at George Mason. Nine years ago, the five-week immersion in process writing was foundational for me as a journeyman. This time around, it has had the same electric effect, but on a different dude. I’m once again inspired, energized and renewed in my faith in process writing. Yet now I’m in the prime of my career, in many respects, experienced enough to take on great responsibility and strong enough to carry the weight.

And what a weight it will be. Looking around at a planning session for my ninth grade team this week, I suddenly realized that I had literally gone from being the youngest person at the table to being the oldest. Seems I arrived here at TJ just in time for the changing of the guard, and guess what? I’m a captain of the new guard. I paid for the 23-year old’s lunch -- he’s at that great moment at the start of his Fairfax County teaching career when he’s been hired and works for two months before his first paycheck makes it through the pipeline.

Add to the weight of a green team the unwieldy bulk of green log that will somehow become a dugout canoe over the course of this coming year. Last year while I was busy being broken down and built back up again, I managed to write and win a grant to build a Native American canoe with traditional stone tools. Along with the cool project comes a new prep, a team-taught Humanities class for tenth-graders.

Did I mention that I’m teaching a writing project course in the fall for teachers in Arlington? Gotta keep my two boys, ages 2 and almost 6, in crocs. And so I’m on the cusp of a what promises to be a fun but also profoundly challenging year. How will it go, I wonder? I do know this: I’ll be certifiable by the end of it, one way or the other.

3 Comments

Thanks for your insights. I'm thinking of heading down the certification track & will greatly appreciate your feedback-Thanks.

How do you have the energy to accomplish a professional level of work, in addition to parenting 2 small children?

Dear Emmet~I'm so glad to see your latest post. I received MY BOX~cue scary music~this week. You are a wonderful writer and a great inspiration. Best wishes. :)

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