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Creating Opportunities

No matter how hard I work, I am never going to get a promotion. I will never get a bonus. If I want a promotion I have to go back to school (even though I am already 30 credits beyond my master's) and take a job that is no longer in a classroom. Working directly with students is why I got into teaching and I'm not ready to leave that behind. So, according to the definition, I am in a dead end job. I can work my butt off, create fantabulous lessons, give all I have to my students and next year be in the same position making essentially the same money.

Every four or five years I have a teaching crisis of faith. I question what I am doing and why. I think about the other things I could be doing with my life (though as I get older some of those other options are becoming much less likely - I don't think NASA wants to send me to space or that my career as a rock star is going to take off). This most recent crisis was the "I will never get promoted" crisis. Right now, I know that I don't want to be an administrator. I have a lot more to learn and a lot to offer in the classroom and I am not ready to leave. So, what's a woman to do? I will always be "just a teacher" because I don't really want to be anything else. After much soul searching I realized it was time to create my own opportunities and that being "just a teacher" is not a bad thing.

I started with a little help from my friends. First, a colleague of mine suggested I apply for an organization called Math for America.  She had been accepted as a new math teacher and was really enjoying the PD they offered. MfA had recently started accepting science teachers and offering science PD.  My first look at the application almost sent me running. It was a bit of a bear. But, I stuck it out, completed the application, got called in for an interview and got accepted into the organization as a Master Teacher. From my first meeting at MfA I was so honored and excited to be a part of an organization that supported and elevated teachers. I love being around other science teachers that are dedicated and passionate about their craft. Lately I have been gobbling up everything they throw my way. The PDs are interesting and engaging, they hooked me up with the Amateur Astronomers Association who bought a telescope for my school and helped me organize our first stargazing night and they also hooked me up with a series of PDs from NASA that have inspired me to incorporate more engineering into my classroom (even though it is not a part of the curriculum).  MfA has inspired me to take more risks in the classroom and try new things and has greatly expanded my professional learning network.

I also owe a huge shout-out to my good friend Starr Sackstein (author, NBCTE, amazing educator and one of my favorite people). At my last school I had begun to stagnate. I was stuck in a rut and it was a bummer. Starr had started to innovate  in her space and I was started picking her brain for new ideas and ways to integrate more reading and writing into my science classroom. Starr was (and is) my sounding board. When I left that school one of the hardest things was leaving my friend and work wife. Then, in the fall of the next school year, I got a letter from the Gates Foundation. I had been invited to their ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching) national conference in San Diego. And this invitation was thanks to Starr. In January of 2016 I flew to San Diego and spent three inspiring days with top notch educators from all over the country. The focus of the conference was becoming a teacher leader and making educators feel celebrated. When I left California I was super pumped to be a teacher and ready to start creating my own opportunities (and start blogging and expanding my online presence). I hope I get another opportunity like this (in order to help in that regard I helped plan the NY regional ECET2 conference spearheaded by Ann Rose Santoro who did a fantastic job).

I had been at my previous school for 8 years. I started in the school's second year of existence.  I was high on the totem pole. In my current school, I am just the new science teacher. There are no leadership positions to me so I've been creating my own opportunities. I snatch up PD opportunities and I am always trying to bring new ideas into my classroom. I take my students on a three day science trip to Frost Valley in upstate NY. I have been taking risks and, for the most part, they have been paying off. I have grown as an educator and my students and I are more engaged and interested.

I don't know where the future is going to take me but I know that I am not done in the classroom. And if the DoE is never going to promote me or give me a raise, then I have to keep creating new opportunities for myself and my students.


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