Saturday, October 25, 2014

Title In Progress

Post by Daniel Van Winkle: Daniel is in his first year of teaching Social Studies at Bettendorf High School.  You can follow Daniel on Twitter @MrVDubz

I have been thinking over and over again about what to write in this blog, there are so many topics.  Not to mention, so many ways to try and write (funny, serious, sad, inspirational). However, I think I am just going to write in the style of how I try to live my life, which is saying what I feel and going with my gut instinct. Even though I’m only part of the way through my first full year of teaching, I have already encountered many moments that could not be taught during a college course, professional development session, or a handbook. When these moments arise, I have to rely on my own critical thinking, feelings, and gut instinct.  All ways in which I also plan to write this blog post.

            When I think back to one year ago, I would have been sitting at this same desk, counting down the days until I was finished student teaching. I was so ready to graduate, get out into the world, and start making the big bucks (did I not know what career field I was going into?) I was scared- I was graduating in December and as far as I could see I had no job prospects. Although, I was not too worried because I was having a blast student teaching- I had great classes, a phenomenal cooperating teacher, and a fantastic department who made me feel like part of the team from day one. I think the thing that I was most scared of was leaving. The next few weeks went by, I had some difficult goodbyes, and I graduated. Time for the real world.

            From December-February I was jobless, I moved to the Des Moines area to find work and could not find any. I was running low on hope when I received a call for a job opportunity where I student taught. I came back and was hired on for a new position working with students struggling academically, and being a guest teacher. What an eye opening experience. I was able to work with so many parts of the school- the administration, paraeducators, student services, special education, etc. I was given the opportunity to see everything that makes the school work, and it is beyond impressive. I was jumping department to department every day, subbing in a new spot, visiting a new classroom, and seeing different students. The only thing that was the same every day was the work ethic and passion I saw from my coworkers. Every day I witnessed how dedicated and professional everyone who I worked with was.  They would do anything and everything they possibly could so that students were given the opportunity to succeed and learn. None of them are ever satisfied with what they have accomplished, and it is truly amazing to see such a premier academic facility strive to make themselves and their students better every day.

            Now let’s fast forward to today, where I am currently teaching history and psychology at the same school where I was just student teaching the year before. It has been a dream opportunity and scenario I plan to take advantage of.  The title of this blog is Title In Progress not only because I went with my gut on what to write on, but because ‘In Progress’ is how I would label myself, my students, and my team. I am in progress every day, trying to improve my teaching skills, my relationships with my students, and ultimately trying to improve myself as a whole.  My students are in progress because they are always learning more, striving to discover their identity and how they are going to make their mark in their lifetime. My team is also in progress because I know every one of them out there is trying to make our school and community a better place.

            In closing, I will end with a couple points of advice- Do your best to be ‘in progress’ at all times, never settle, and the people around you will not settle either. Make someone part of your family; we all need a sense of belonging, especially our students so bring them into your classroom family.  Finally, make sure you become part of a family. When I hear people come to me in my life and complain about their jobs, and how pointless they seem, I cannot help but feel blessed that I have found a career at a place in a community that has allowed me to become a part of a family.  A family with my team and students, at Bettendorf High School. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Take That First Step

Post by Brad Bannerman: Brad is in his first year as an Academic Interventionist at Bettendorf High School. You can follow Brad on twitter @bradbannerman

In the Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, Bilbo Baggins recites the following poem:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

I love this poem, the journey to success is a road, and like a road you can get on it at any point in time. But in order to get to success you must take a step on that road. The first step is the most difficult, but once the walking has begun you can negotiate the bumps with ease.

Being housed in the depths of the school, I don’t get out as much as I’d like, so if I haven’t said hello, or you haven’t heard from or met me about one of our mutual students, then let me introduce myself; I’m Brad Bannerman, Academic Interventionist (thunderous applause).

I've taken a long road to the position I now hold. I graduated high school (yep, the rumors are true--I was a Spartan) in 1999. Due to extended indecision I didn't get my Associates degree from Scott Community College until 2006 (so yes, o’ students it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after high school). I received my Bachelors in History in 2008 from the University of Iowa. I fruitlessly searched for a job (any job) for almost two years. During this time, I gained my substitute authorization, and began subbing in the Pleasant Valley school district. While in a long-term position, and after the birth of my first daughter, I realized that I have a passion for education and teaching, and that I want to make a difference. This led me back to school for a Masters of Teaching and Learning from the University of Iowa in December of 2012. I was hired to my current position in August 2014.

In brief, that’s how I got to my current place in life. But I don’t just want to let you know my biography. I want to talk about the feelings of negativity, frustration, and hopelessness I experienced; more importantly, I want to discuss perseverance.

In my extended time between high school and college graduations, I experienced a long period of feeling lost or uncertain about what I wanted to do with my life. As I worked in a job from which I derived no joy, I finally came to realize that I needed to return to school to find a job I would enjoy.

With a sense of hope I attended and graduated from both Scott Community College and the University of Iowa. After graduation, I was certain that I would find a job I loved and could work at forever.

With a growing feeling of frustration, I found  no jobs available for which I was qualified. This was not a unique situation, as the year 2008 was an absolutely abysmal year for the entire world. The stock market crashed, hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. As a stopgap measure I received my substitute authorization and began subbing.

Now, to that point in my life I had always considered becoming a teacher, but had ruled it out because I wasn't certain I could handle working with so many students at once. Then I had my first daughter, I long term subbed and realized that I loved teaching and working with students. These two events completely shifted my paradigm and completely rerouted my life.

I subbed as I attended grad school at Iowa, graduating in December of 2012, once again full of hope and high expectations. The job market still was recovering however, and there were few teaching positions to be had. I can’t truly describe the frustrations and pains I went through while searching for a place to launch my career. Looking back, it’s easy to see that everything worked out the way it did for a reason: to lead me to the position I have here at Bettendorf today. I love what I do. I love working with the students I do. I find I’m once again full of hope and optimism.

My message here is for all of the students out there who feel frustration, hopelessness, even rage. I want you to know that we've all been through those feelings. Your teachers aren't immune to those feelings, even now. We are human, we all make mistakes, we all deal with problems, everyone feels their problems are insurmountable. But I want you to know that you can succeed. If you persevere, success is attainable. Will it be easy? Maybe, but probably not. Here’s the trick: don’t feel stupid for failing--no one begins anything as an expert. All of your teachers have failed--often miserably at one time or another. Failing is nothing more than a curve on the road to success. So I implore you, wherever you think your road will lead, take that first step, the ones after will come more easily, I promise.