One Sunflower

turning of the tide

Slice of Life sponsored by Two Writing Teachers

If I count my days of summer vacation from my last official work day of 2011-12 to my first official work day of 2012-12 then I passed the half way point two weeks ago.  But I wasn’t paying attention; the low tide came and went and I was blissfully unaware.

I wasn’t counting until I received an email from a special education colleague  describing a few of the children who might be enrolled in my class next year.  AHHHHH! If I’m going to stick with the metaphor, I only just freed myself from the seaweed, kelp and barnacles of last year.   I’m high and dry on the beach and don’t really want to move.

Yet. I will.  I always do.  I’m not sure what shift happens in August that makes it possible for me to swim towards September’s cresting waves.  But  like a baby sea turtle , I seem to know when it’s time to nose my way out of my rubbery shell and paddle to the sea, into the approaching tide.

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positions of limbo can be good

I have an interesting position at the school I work in.  I am not “classified staff” although my time sheet has that heading on it.  I’m a certified teacher but my position only requires a certain amount of early childhood credits, not a credential so I’m not paid at a teacher’s rate – but receive a bit more than an aide.  My title is Early Childhood Specialist and as a “specialist” I am lumped together with others who have responsibilities that require special training but not necessarily a certificate – custodians, cooks, some of the district office staff.

Being in this position of limbo between the two tiers that dominate educational staff, I sort of have a foot on both sides of the door, so to speak.  The way I report and record my work time, and the way my position is staffed if I am sick or gone is in line with those who are para-professionals or teacher’s aides, but my responsibilities and obligations regarding professional development and my response to students and the community is more like a teacher.  I attend staff meetings and am expected to participate in district directed learning at my grade level or whatever the kindergarten or primary teachers are doing.

Except for the part about the money, (and sometimes that is hard to forget,) I like having the flexibility of serving in different ways.  Sometimes I do things that are in line with the teachers, sometimes my duties are more similar to an aide, sometimes I do work that is in a category all by itself.  Such is my work this summer at our summer school program.  I worked with the principal to come up with an outline for the program, sort out the responsibilities of the staff that signed up to work, established systems to support the flow of the week and purchased supplies.  I showed up the first two days to help with tie-dying t-shirts and problem solve with bus issues, the serving of snack and using our 6th grade helpers, but now I get to let it go – and go on vacation.

I plan on going out each week to touch base and will work the last week to interview each student and compile photos or other memorabilia, but my responsibilities are minimal now that the program is up and going.  I feel honored that my principal valued my interest, ability and previous knowledge about our past summer school efforts  to figure out a way to create this minimal position for me in the program this summer.

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my next job

My sister sounded anxious on the phone. “I’m going to be teaching preschoolers.  I watched another teacher and she was using little songs with the kids.  Can you teach me some songs?  I keep thinking this would be a good job for you – maybe when you retire.”

But wait, you’re thinking,  don’t you already teach preschool? 
Yes, but my sister is teaching swimming lessons.  And, actually, I have thought about doing this when I retire.

I love the water and taught swimming lessons before and after college.  I was on the waterfront staff at Girl Scout camp where I taught swimming and water safety, canoeing and sailing. 

When I graduated from college and needed to work while I got my teaching certificate, I worked at a YWCA teaching to all ages, (including the man I eventually married!)

My sister began her employment career the same way I did and returned to teaching swimming when she left computer programming.

I would love to resume this work when I retire and just hope some pool somewhere will hire a flabby, veined-leg old fogey to teach.  I’ll know the songs!

My sister continued to vent her anxiety about the age of her new students.   “I’ve always taught adults. Kids can smell your fear – just like horses.”  Well yes, I admitted, kids do seem to know when I’m not feeling very secure in my work with them. We chatted some more and I gave her a few song ideas but she didn’t think she could keep them in her head.

She called this afternoon to update me after her first day of classes.  She taught 3 sessions and felt more confident as the day progressed.  “I admitted to a dad this was my first time teaching young children.  I probably shouldn’t have done that.  But he made me feel good when he told me how pleased he was that his son was so comfortable with me in the water.  Maybe he was just doing that to make me feel better.”

Maybe so, but you know what sis, all those techniques you use to teach adults — they’ll work with kids too.  Routines and baby steps, ending sessions with skills students are most sure of – the same things you do in your other lessons.

Songs?  Just call me again and I’ll sing you some songs.  “5 little speckled frogs, sitting on a speckled log…..”

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