When I started student teaching at McLane High School in 2005 I had no ideas what the next ten years would hold!
As I have mentioned in other places online, after 10 years in Fresno Unified and 14 years in Fresno, Friday June 19th is my last day.
Fresno Unified Career Synopsis
McLane (2006-2011): Taught a lot of different classes, coached probably more than I taught between a year-round sport I invented at the school and water polo+swim programs . Made lasting relationships with kids and teacher friends here.
Computech (2011-2014): Really developed as a math teacher here. Less emphasis on coaching, but really developed some mentors and friends there.
Teacher on Special Assignment+Admin Cohort (2014-2015): Main focus shifted from math to technology and literacy knowledge. Admin Cohort was intense but very powerful and I wish I’d done it sooner. The TSA job stretched me far beyond any other job I’ve ever had and I loved most parts of it!
This is obviously a simplification of the variety of experiences I’ve been able to have that have shaped me- Turning Points Academy at McLane was HUGE for me, and none of this can top outside events like getting married and having a beautiful daughter. But that’s not what this post is about.
So in a simplistic format, here are the top 5 lessons learned in Fresno Unified School District:
1) Kids first, subject matter second: My first principal, Frank Silvestro often said something like – “We are teachers of kids first, THEN our subjects.” That resonated with me at a time when the focus seemed so much to be on test scores. Data-driven instruction is good for the big picture, but the day to day needs to focus on kids being kids, not numbers.
2) Be creative in how hard you work: Do I miss the 6am runs to Fresno state and back before school then hours of water polo practice after school? Sometimes, but it was the relationships being built that mattered more than the physical workout. It also meant I had less time to devote to being a math teacher and sharing my work with others. “Working hard” looks different for different people – and is often working ‘smarter’ not harder.
3) Be cynical only when it’s necessary: What I mean by this is some people that I know seem to always assume the worst. I’m an optimist by nature and look for the best in people, which means I do get taken advantage of sometimes. I know this. But I would rather wholeheartedly support a kid/teacher/administrator and have it pay off then never trust or believe anyone when they say they want to do good. Being cynical and not trusting of kids and adults is a necessary skill sometimes, but should never come at the expense of seeing the bigger picture.
4) *Sarcasm kills relationships: Ok, this one is actually from Sugar Pine Christian Camps (Timber summer ’02, ’03). But time and time again I have found it to be true. Especially with kids – and I never feel better for talking bad about someone.
5) There is always more to learn. 15 years ago, I discovered Statistics my senior year of high school and loved it. That changed the course of my life. I have studied and loved math as a subject for 14 of my 31 years, and this past year learned quite a bit about ELA (anchor standards? ELA Standards in Science and History?! I had no idea about any of this until about July of 2014) and got to practice/use a lot more technology – video-based reflection, etc. Now I am much more confident and aware of my place in the world thanks to the colleagues, bosses, and friends I’ve made in and around Fresno. I would have been happy always being a math teacher, but my life path is much more diverse now and I’m better for trying new things.
Everything I have done before has prepared my amazing family and I for this next step. God knows where it will lead, but I am reminded of this verse from 2 Corinthians 4:7
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
The meaning of this verse is basically that we as humans are so frail. But what we can do (through God in this case) is so much more powerful and lasting than we can ever know. Some of you reading this will know about another recent event that really contextualized this thought as well.
I don’t have the next 30 years of a job practically guaranteed anymore, and that’s scary. But my wife Meagan and I know that this next step is on the right path. For my family, I couldn’t be more excited and ready to face the challenges head-on.