Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer Reflections

It is hard for me to believe that summer is ending. It seems like we just got started. It has been a busy one for me and before I start school, I feel I must take a few minutes and reflect.

This summer has seen me in my car more than any other. I have been on numerous committees. I was honored to be on the Governor’s Summer Study committee to examine our state’s Teacher Compensation Assistance Program (TCAP). I learned so much through this process. I always feel torn when we discuss teachers wages in the state of South Dakota. I know I don’t teach for the money – I love what I do. But I also believe we deserve more than being 51st in the nation in pay. I know that we are losing teachers to surrounding states that pay more. I know that we are struggling to find good teachers to stay in our state and that it has been through creative problem-solving by superintendents, principals, and the DOE that we have avoided a full out teacher shortage so far. I don’t think that is going to be enough in the near future. I know a number of excellent teachers that have left the profession to do something else to be able to support their families. It is our students that pay the ultimate price for that. I also understand that our money in the state can only go so far. We are one of six states in the nation that does not have a state income tax. That limits us even further. I remember when limited gaming came to the state and that was supposed to be the savior for education. What happened there? It was rewarding to see that all members of the committee – teachers, superintendents, legislators, association leaders, and the Department of Education all agreed that teachers deserved more, but I think it is going to be a long time in the making before there are any real solutions coming.

I was also on the Governor’s Teacher Leadership Conference planning committee. I have taken part in the Governor’s New Teacher Academy for the last couple of years and this is being combined with the Leadership Conference this year. I think it is a good melding of two ends of the profession that can learn a lot from one another. I love being with the new teachers and witnessing their enthusiasm. It rejuvenates me in ways I just can’t explain. South Dakota has some of the finest teacher leaders around and they also give me the boost I need to try new and innovative things in my classroom. The conference is in October and I am so looking forward to it!

I had the opportunity to meet with the seven regional teachers of the year that are in the running for the state TOY. What a talented group of people! That will be announced in October at the Teacher Leadership Conference as well!

I serve on a teacher advisory council to the Department of Education. It is so wonderful to meet with our department and know that they truly care about what teachers need and work to provide that if at all possible. They care what we think and really listen when the council meets. I feel like we have had some input on what should go into the highly qualified teacher standards in the state and I know we want high quality teachers to be in classrooms.

I had the opportunity to go to the NECC conference in San Antonio this summer. This was my second year and I find it to be an amazing experience. I get tons of great ideas and feed off the energy of the thousands that attend. I am so inspired that I am looking for a topic to present at NECC next year. Okay, I want to present so I can be certain my district will send me to Washington D.C., but I still want to present!

While at NECC, I learned about Plurk. I have been a Twitter girl for a while now, but think I may have totally switched. Plurk is a micro-blogging site that I have made great connections at. I have this fabulous PLN (personal/professional learning network) that inspires me as well as shares great educational ideas. I know I spent too many hours on Plurk, but it has been worth the time!

On a personal level, there were many wonderful highlights. We moved into a new house and I made some gains in getting some things sorted, purged, and organized. (If only I were finished!)

I got to go to Kansas on the way to and from NECC and see my oldest son in his new surroundings. It is such a humbling experience to see what was your child become this amazing man. I am so very proud of him and all that he has accomplished. I am glad I got to see where he is living. I hate that he is so far away, but I have no worries that he is going to do great things!

While at NECC, I got to finally meet Heather and Glynn. After several years as online friends, it was beyond wonderful to meet these two wonderful people. Heather and I are truly Soul Sisters and kindred spirits. They were both everything I expected and more. What a blessing they are in my life.

I just got back from a vacation with my husband. Michael and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary this month and this is the first real vacation we have taken together. It was much needed and long overdue! We drove to California and, while that is ever so many hours in the car, it gave us many hours to just be together. We stopped on each end in Las Vegas and played in a couple of Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. I do well when we play in our local home game, but I just don’t seem to have the hang on the Vegas scene. Michael finished in the money in one tournament and 12th in another. We went to California to visit his family. His brother had a heart transplant in June and it is simply amazing at how wonderful he is doing. He is living with their mother and I needed to see for myself at how she was holding up to the stress and worry of the situation. She is a strong and resilient woman who is doing just fine. I will still be glad when things get back to normal and she has more of her own space. The vacation was wonderful in all aspects!

I have one more bit of business before I am all about school. My youngest son is heading off to college this week. We will drive over to Minnesota on Wednesday and he moves into the dorms on Thursday. I am not particularly looking forward to this, but on the other hand, he is excited and ready to move to the next phase of his life. I will only have the middle son home finishing school here locally. Not quite an empty nest, but given how little we see of Tony, just about!

I am going to start my principal internship this week and will be working on it all year. This is part of my doctorate program in Educational Administration. I hope to spend a few years as an assistant principal and then go on to prepare teachers to enter the profession.

While I have truly enjoyed my summer, I am really eager to get back to school. I miss the students and I am excited about starting my second year as an English and Social Studies teacher. That still astounds me after so many years as a computer teacher. I have a lot of ideas and I can’t wait to implement them. I get to do a Technology In-service for our teachers on the 26th and I have been working on my presentations. I hope they enjoy what I have to offer as much as I have enjoyed preparing it. I won’t get students until September 2nd, but I am truly looking forward to that day!

Let the school bells chime! And a special thanks to Terry Shay for encouraging my finishing this post!


TJ Shay said...

Sounds like you had a full summer! I am glad you were able to take a trip and relax a little.

I love that your dream is to someday teach new teachers...They need more kind compassionate people like you!

loonyhiker said...

It sounds like a busy summer! In South Carolina, there is a shortage of teachers also and we also have the pay issue. I think recruiting and retaining good teachers should be the state's priority but they don't ask my opinion! LOL I love to be around new teacher too because their enthusiasm is infectious! Good luck in your training to be a principal!

Sharon Elin said...

Sherry, your enthusiasm and commitment to teaching and excellence are inspiring! I'm so glad to hear that you work from within to motivate teachers and make changes in a state where the pay actually discourages teaching. Your state legislators need to take notice and perhaps you can become a spokesperson! Thanks for publicizing the value and importance of the call to teach.

SherryC said...

Thanks for the comments and the positive feedback. I love getting to reflect! Thanks for the encouragement!