A New Chapter: Transitioning from Teacher to Administrator

It has been about two weeks since I was named Vice Principal. I really have not been able to fully wrap my head around the news.

The realization has not felt real yet due to the fact that I was in limbo of starting my administrative job. I started this school year as a teacher. Being able to welcome over 150 bright shiny faces was such a unique experience. Starting a new school year with students, and knowing I wouldn’t stay the full year, was very hard for me. I enjoy building relationships with my students every year. However, due to the circumstances of this year, I knew I had to view these connections differently. Luckily, my replacement came within the beginning of the second week. It was hard for me to say goodbye to my students, but I knew I was leaving them in great hands.

Leaving my job on the last day was extremely hard. I was fortunate enough to open up the school as well as work to help create a powerful culture on campus. My role at this site consisted of various duties. To no longer have those roles, was hard to wrap my head around. (I’m not going to lie, having more time to think and enjoy life has been nice, but I felt like I lost a part of who I am.) After getting over that realization, I had to say goodbye to the wonderful office staff I had worked with over the past 8 years (some even longer). Driving to the gym that day, was full of tears, hope and excitement.

Walking into my job on day one, felt like an out of body experience. My new secretary and another secretary that works within my area, surprised me and decorated my office. They made me a huge welcome sign, blew up tons of balloons, as well as made me a super yummy pie. I was so shocked. Their thoughtfulness and sincerity was extremely touching. Day 1 was full of planning, understanding my role, meeting new staff and students, and job shadowing. Needless to say, it was overwhelming.

My first week was a lot of getting my feet wet and understanding that my role as an educator is vastly different. Although I am a teacher at my core, my day to day schedule no longer set by class period bells. Often, I am working on two things at once, juggling new issues,  and never fully knowing what time it is. I know that this new role is going to stretch me more than I have ever been before. With that being said, I am thankful that God has placed me where I am at, doing what I am doing.

The vision/purpose of the school site and leadership team, is uniquely refreshing. Being able to enter into a schools’ whose vision aligns with mine, is truly remarkable. I cannot wait to add to it in any way I can, as well as learn as much as I can.

As I look forward to the future, I see a year full of new experiences, new relationships, new lessons about life, new roles, and pretty much anything else my new chapter has in store.

#KidsDeserveIt

This summer, I have been on a reading frenzy. Aside from reading required texts for my last PASC class, I have been able to read for my own enjoyment. One of those books was, Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome.

This book is a must read for any educator.

I have been a teacher for over ten years and ensuring the success of my students have always been at the forefront of my mind. In education, there are so many obstacles, defeats, changes etc., that can often be discouraging. However, there are often victories, opportunities, successes etc. that can be so rewarding. As an educator, I have had my fair share of both worlds.

After reading Kids Deserve It, I have been so encouraged to share out a few takeaways that hopefully encourage you.

  1. Push Forward, Move Past the Alien Look

Have you ever met with your Principal, colleagues, peers etc and shared an new innovative idea and….they stare at you with “that look”. You can hear a pin drop or they literally laugh out loud at you? Well I can honestly say, I have. I felt the size of the old school toy Polly Pocket. However, regardless of that feeling, I get excited when I get “that look”. I’m a pusher, I love to challenge the status quo.

I know rules are set for a reason, however, I do not enjoy the saying, “it’s the way we’ve always done things”. When it comes to kids, if it requires me to pursue the task because it will benefit kids. You better bet your bottom dollar, I will do whatever it takes. I love what it said in Kids Deserve It, “If we don’t, we don’t push education forward. We don’t inspire innovation and creativity. We just get more of the same. Be glad when you get the alien look. It means you’re thinking differently and trying to push the envelope with new ideas. It means even though not every idea will come to fruition, you keep pushing to give kids what’s best. Because your kids deserve it!”

So ask yourself, what new exciting program, activity, field trip, instructional strategy etc., would you like to implement in your classroom? Do it. Risk it. You have to be willing to set the bar higher than mediocrity.

**Note, if you are a Principal: Be willing to listen. We live in a world that is different from when we grew up. Students don’t learn the same way we did, they don’t experience life the same way we did. Know the legality of issues, but if it’s something new that is worthwhile, let teachers try.**

Thank you to all my administrators that believed in my crazy ideas. You have encouraged me and supported me in everything. I am so grateful for that.

  1. Build Relationships, with Everyone!

A huge part of growth in education takes place when you build relationships. Building relationships and connections has always been something I value. I have been able to build and maintain relationships with many people within my district. I love being able to say I work in the same district, I went to school in. With that being said, I have a huge level of comfortability. However, that didn’t get established until I lowered my guard.

All too often we as educators and people feel like if we ask for help, others will think we are subpar, incompetent, or incapable.

I will be honest, coming into the teaching profession, I didn’t have my teaching credential and did not have any experience (other than my years in school) in a classroom. With that being said, I did not know where to start when it came to teaching ALL students. I had to lower my guard and lean on the people who walked with me during my time as a student. Seeking advice out of my four classroom walls, was the most rewarding experience of my teaching career. As Nesloney & Welcome state, “we want to break down the walls of our classrooms and become partners in the journey.” So many stakeholders in education are ready to help you!

Aside from gaining perspective and knowledge from many in my district, I’ve also been able to gain a worldly perspective from educators around the world. Twitter has been one of the greatest resources I have had in seeking new ideas, building/fostering relationships, and is a place of continuing support for me on my journey.

I know so often, we get overwhelmed with the job and may encounter the following (according to Nesloney & Welcome):

  • I don’t have the time.
  • The new technology is too confusing.
  • My district would never approve it.
  • I don’t really understand the value.
  • I’ve been doing fine for years; why change now?

My rebuttal is that fostering relationships and expanding knowledge out of your repertoire is worth it. Not only for you, but for your students. It takes time, it takes effort, but life is different than when we were students. We owe it to our students to give them the best instruction and environment to be successful. Just do it. I know you won’t regret it.

  1. Let everything we do, come back to kids.

Think about why you became a teacher?

I’m hoping your decision is similar to what Nesloney & Welcome said, “people choose education because they want to make a difference — to change lives and impart wisdom to future generations.”. I know my reason is very similar to that. I want students to have a prosperous and successful future. I want them to be able to be successful in the 21st century.

If you are in a rut. Go back to your initial answer. Then find a friend. Someone you can confide in, that will push you and encourage you to pursue your passion.

In you are still fighting the good fight. I encourage you to share out with others. Share your successes and setbacks. You never know who you may be encouraging.

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Remember, kids are the only reason we have our profession. They inspire us, motivate us and empower us. We in turn should do the same for them. They deserve to have the best future and we need to be the ones who pave the way for them. After all, kids deserve it.

It works, It works, It really works!

 

I could never imagined my classroom the way it exists now. About three years ago, my life, classroom and outlook on education changed. I attended my first CUE conference and I was in awe. I’ve also enjoyed technology, but never really understood the value that it holds in the world of education.

Upon recent interactions with some amazing teachers and technology guru’s I was introduced to HyperDocs. The organization, planning and interaction that HyperDocs initially provided through being explained to me, made me excited and a little nervous. Introducing anything new to high schoolers, is a little scary. Let’s be honest, they tell it like it is. So through some careful planning and an anxious heart, I started a HyperDoc unit on Genetics. Let’s just say…..WHOA!

Let’s just call it the ultimate game changer! It impacted my classroom in numerous ways, I’m going to highlight 5 ways in which it has transformed my classroom.

  1. Improved Attitudes

Ten years in a classroom can play mental games with you. Your outlook can look fuzzy, discouraging, and repetitive. This year I have 5 different classes, that I either am preparing lesson plans for or some kind of product. Along with that I’m in school to obtain my PASC for Administration. Let’s just say my brain and focus is spread thin. Wanting to incorporate some fun and a variety of lessons components in my classroom, I branched out and began to incorporate HyperDocs. My attitude began to shift, because although I’m swamped, it motivated me to reach a high caliber of instruction for my students.

As my students started with HyperDocs, they were a little apprehensive at first. They were a little weary, but since they are honors students, they were resilient. At first they somewhat enjoyed the process. As more units structured in HyperDocs continued their like turned to love. They thoroughly enjoyed using various programs throughout the process to showcase their work as well as reflect. I think for my honors students the SHARE part, was their favorite. They enjoyed viewing other students work and giving them feedback. Most students cringe at critique, but they thrived. Every project or assignment just got better and better.

  1. Improved Test Scores

At the end of the first major unit my students took a formative assessment. My students were actually the ones who told me, Miss Calderon, since we’ve been doing HyperDocs our test scores have increased. To my surprise, I looked into it.

Looking at their scores from pre-HyperDocs they averaged anywhere from 65-79%, post HyperDocs they averaged anywhere from 85% to 95%!!!!

Data seriously speaks volumes when it comes to the successfulness my students had with HyperDocs and retaining information.

HyperDocs are for all students -The HyperDoc Handbook

  1. Accountability

Students became more responsible for their learning. The individuality that HyperDocs provides for students through the first few steps (Engage, Explore, and Explain) really allow the student to gain understanding and knowledge on their own. They were able to go at their own pace and for those who struggled with the content were able to have one on one time with me or group discussions regarding matters they did not understand. This was vital! They knew that they needed to have subject matter comprehension before they could move ahead to the Apply component. In my use of HyperDocs, I created “deadlines” and times where assignments were due, so that way my students could share out and receive feedback. My students then had opportunities to correct mistakes they needed to, in order to receive a better grade.

  1. Implementing Growth Mindset…silently

For many of my students, they’ve grown up with Direct Instruction. Teachers often giving them answers as opposed to them finding it on their own. Also they’ve lived in a world where there is one answer as opposed to several. Really making my students understand these two concepts was hard. Many would express their frustrations in the beginning because it put more responsibility on them, than it did in our prior ways of learning.

Normally, their solution would be to give up. However, through coaching and encouragement I was able to get them to focus on a Growth Mindset rather than a Fixed Mindset. Many of them thrive at the opportunity to make themselves better. I am currently having my students create Animations using Slides. They are doing amazing with them and really enjoying the process. (I will share the success in another blog). It has been great hearing their dialogue. I continually hear, “hey how did you do that?” “That’s so cool, I want to do some cool things like that in mine” “Whoa, yours is better than mine, I’m going to fix mine?” “I’m going to start over, I want a fresh start”. Never before have I heard or had students so engaged in learning.

  1. Hidden Curriculum that benefits my Ss for the future

Being able to share out the tips and tricks that Google has to offer brings me so much joy. Many of my students have had Chromebooks at their disposal at a young age, however they are still learning various aspects of it. Being able to show them how to use extensions like ColorPick eyedropper, Screencastify and Side Screen has been enjoyable. Also, being able to teach them shortcuts and faster ways to complete a task is so rewarding. I always tell my students, I’m not only teaching you Biology, I’m teaching you life skills. Yesterday one student said, “We know, and we appreciate it”.

My Story!

My name is Jennifer Calderon.

My life as a teacher started roughly 10 years ago. I was on the verge of graduation from Biola University, and had no prospects of a job in sight.  I had discussed my career goals with my Professor, and to my surprise he said I would be an excellent teacher. (Well, if I’m being honest, I knew I was meant to be a teacher, ever since I was in third grade. Not to sound sure of myself, but I put my passion on the backburner to pursue a job as a Doctor). My dream of being a Doctor was thrown out the window when I experienced health issues during my Junior year in college.

So here I was a girl with support, passion and no job. Upon conversations with my Mom, I decided to apply at my Alma Matter in Hesperia Unified. My interview was perhaps the scariest experience I had ever been through at the time. They asked me questions regarding State Standards, teaching strategies and questions I had never even thought about. I knew that only having a Bachelor’s in Science, I was ill prepared for a job in Education. I owe it to a past Principal and Assistant Principal for giving me a chance of a lifetime. They offered me a job that same day. Ecstatic, I accepted. Saying “yes” was the best career choice, I have ever made.

My first few years were rough. Being fresh out of college and fully immersed into a classroom where finding my pedagogy, defining my classroom management skills and dealing with rowdy students  was overwhelming. It wasn’t until my second year teaching that I finally felt, like I kind of knew what I was doing.

I say all that to bring you here in my story: I’ve always had a interest in learning. My mom always tells me the story of being a curious little girl who carried a notepad and pencil behind my ear. This story always makes me smile, because it literally describes my outlook on life. I no longer use a notepad and pencil, but a laptop and my cellphone to discover many facets of the world, but specifically how I can become a more effective teacher in the 21st century.

Learning is something that resonates with me deep to my core. In the years I’ve been a teacher, I have always had the desire to learn more. To never stay stagnant with teaching strategies and ways to incorporate new fun and exciting technology in my lessons. I am so grateful for the passion that was placed in me at such a young age and that has continued to burn presently.

Currently, I am my school site’s Team Technology Lead. I want to take my passion for education and share it with my colleagues who in turn can share it with their students. I will continue to use this blog to document stories within my classroom and a place to create tutorials for my fellow teachers.

I leave you with this: Our students deserve the very best everyday. We make the choice to go to work and be teachers, so let’s give it everything we have. Step out of your comfort zone and take a journey with me to educate our students in the 21st Century.