Monday, May 16, 2011

Teacher of the Year. The Whole Story.

In March, I had the privilege of earning the title of Teacher of the Year for my school.  It was an honor to know that  my colleagues believed in my teaching so much that they would nominate me. A few people have asked what I received as a reward for this award and seem surprised when I respond with a parking spot, a little cash, a medal, and a name on a plaque at district office.  Oh and a lot of extra work!

The extra work comes in to play as you then go on to attempt to win District Teacher of the Year.  This past Thursday night was when we had our final presentation.  There are actually three steps to the District Teacher of the Year process.  You first complete an application which is pretty much a resume of your work along with essays answering three questions.  Next you submit a video of your teaching showing your interaction with students, classroom management, and organization.  Finally you create a 15 minute presentation to present to a panel of people which include board members, parents, and colleagues.

So last Thursday night it was time to shine.
I was pretty excited about my presentation as I had poured my heart and soul into it.  I carefully put together my SMARTboard show, edited a slideshow of pictures taken from my classroom throughout the year, created a montage of short videos of my students talking about this year and even had snacks to share with them.

The whole focus of my presentation was that I like teaching because I love the students.  My "gimmick" was that my class is a bag of trail mix.   We all have different strengths and challenges, likes and dislikes, families, values and beliefs, cultures, etc. Each student brings something to the mix and together we create something fabulous.  So I then shared baggies of trail mix with each member of the panel along with one of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou, "The sum of us is greater than all our parts."

I had considered what would happen if my software didn't work and had a plan b and c for that.  What I didn't consider was that my videos would become a nightmare.  Of course I was a wreck as I sat outside the room waiting to begin.  But, when I started my presentation I found my groove and became excited to share what I do.  Everything was flowing along nicely until I got to the part when I said. "I could stand here and talk the whole time, but a picture is worth a 1000 of my words" and clicked on the link to my slideshow.  Off to it goes and up pops "Flash Player not installed, please download".  NOOOOOOO!  We do not have any rights to download anything on district computers so I knew that wasn't happening.  After being told that nobody could download it and I couldn't leave the room to get my own laptop from my car, I headed back to the front of the room to salvage whatever I could.

Inside I was dying.  I had worked so hard and it seemed that everything was unraveling around me.  So I thought of what a teacher friend had told me a couple hours earlier, no matter what...just keep smiling!!  So I did.  I smiled and then joked about how I was prepared for other problems, but not this one and that I was just going to have to talk them through my show.  Of course as I'm talking my mind is working on overload trying to figure out a way to get that slideshow working.  I thought of one more way I may be able to get it to work, excused myself to give it a try....and holding my breath...and praying like I've never prayed before...I opened a couple files...and slideshow WORKED!!!

It was heaven.  The angels were singing. I thought I was going to pass out.
At least I got to sit down for the 4 1/2 minutes to enjoy the slideshow too.  Somehow watching the slideshow and listening the music calmed me.  As I watched my students and thought about what had happened when each of the pictures was taken I was reminded that they were the reason I do what I do.  No matter how the panel judged me or if I won district teacher of the year or not, I had already truly won because my students were enjoying learning.  They were having fun. I was making a difference!

So three and a half hours later I got the call that I didn't win.  According the caller it was very close, but in the end it wasn't me.  That wait of course gave me lots of time to think about how I was going to react when I got the call.  Would I cry? Would I throw up? Would I just be?

In the end I didn't cry.  I didn't throw up. I was OK.
I'm a big believer that things happen for a reason.
I know there is a reason I didn't win. 

But, I'm glad I had the opportunity.
I'm sorry that I let some people down especially my students who were cheering me on.  It was humbling to have so many people tweet, facebook, write me notes, supporting me during the process and believing in me.

The one thing that I enjoyed the most from the whole process was just being able to reflect upon my teaching.  To go back in time and see all that we have accomplished this year in my classroom, to listen to what the students had to say, to write about my philosophy of teaching and the rewards that come with it.

These are the things that are truly important!

**Thank you to all of my bloggy buddies who have sent me words of support and encouragement through this process.  You all rock!!!
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