Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lessons Learned

This school year was very challenging, ramping up to my role and responsibilities as a Department Chair. In the end, I feel that it has really helped me grow professionally; I now think constantly of all students in the school as mine. I have a responsibility for the learning of each child, not just of those in my own classes. When I make an instructional decision in my class, I immediately consider how that impacts my colleagues and our collective pacing, in addition to how it impacts the individual child. I have learned to talk to student parents more effectively -- when to listen, when to acknowledge them, and when to explain our procedures in a gentle way that helps the parents realize that 1. we're working in the best interest of their child, and 2. the school makes the ultimate academic decisions regarding the child. I have had to deal with some unhappy colleagues. Being the middle-person between management and teachers, sometimes you have to communicate unhappy decisions and still find ways to hold everyone together. Some days, it was hard to respond to my students and my colleagues all at once, so I had to choose whom needed my immediate attention. I have had to become more organized. In addition to reminding myself of deadlines, I had to look ahead in order to plan for all of us and to communicate deadlines, expectations in advance. I had to also mediate conflicts, and sometimes to create them if it meant to stand by a fair decision.

Sometimes, some things may seem like a lot of detailed work. It's not easy getting 4 teachers to give an identical end-of-year exam, when they each customize pacing and content instruction slightly to fit their classes. It's not easy to all agree on project deadlines months in advance, and to sit down amid very busy times to moderate grading and to create class lists for next year. It's not easy to get teachers to grade consistently across different grade levels. But, the better you can coordinate these things which may seem like minor issues when taken independently, the better they will pay off in the long run, resulting in less confusion for students and fewer complaints from parents, and thereby less bureaucratic overhead for everyone.

Today, I was quite touched by my senior colleagues coming to me to say that they've really developed respect for me during the past year. Although I had never looked for it, it was a validation for the work this year had required of me. If I could go back, I would have waited until I was several years into the school to apply for the same position, because then my learning curve would have been a bit less steep. But, it was still a great (albeit challenging) experience, and one that will help me in the future to maintain a balanced perspective of all the considerations that go into a seemingly small decision at school. Most of all, I have appreciated the friendships that I have formed with these colleagues. In ways big and small, they have supported me as much personally as they have supported me professionally.

But, the departmental work is not over quite yet. As I'm counting down the weeks to summer, I'm also making a list of the endless things that still need to be done. Only about 3.5 weeks to go! That's hardly a blink away! This summer, I OWE MYSELF A VACATION!!*

*Obviously, this is not just because of the department chair work. I got married this year, found a job, did a bunch of prep work to move overseas, and had battled allergy for months. I think I have earned some time off this summer, just sayin'

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