Thursday, June 28, 2012

How I spent my first week of retirement

I suppose this photo is upside down because I shot it on my iPad and since I'm left-handed, and the iPad can be used in any direction, I tend to use it with the home button on the left which probably makes the photo upside down in the traditional sense. Anyhow, I just spent 4 days in training that I'll talk about below, and from the first morning I made the point of announcing to the instructors that I doodle compulsively, and that if I'm not allowed to doodle my mind will wander instead. (I didn't want them to think I wasn't paying attention. I was.) This doodle was opposite the agenda in our binder of materials, so I returned to the doodle every day. Here it is right-side up. Sorry I don't have the agenda right-side up too!

My 4 days of training were spent in Albany, NY at the NYSUT building. (That's the NY State United Teachers for those of you who don't recognize the initials.) I was training with the ELT program which is their education arm, the Education Learning Trust) for those (most) of you who wouldn't know this. This training was for new instructors, to introduce us to the program. There is another week of training in August, held in Lake George, where instructors are trained in a specific course that they will be eligible to teach. Each year, instructors attend this training and take/add another course to their repertoire.

You might have recalled my talking about this opportunity here.

The concept of ELT is that teachers are teaching teachers; who would be better? ELT provides a menu of offerings including graduate classes for graduate credit (through several universities) or for inservice credit; and also seminars, workshops, and more. Courses are offered at locations selected by the instructors, who operate as independent contractors. So they can be offered in your own school district for example, and thus make it easier for people to get courses they need without having to travel. Courses are also available online and on CD.

However, I would not be eligible to teach courses for graduate credit, because, ironically, I do NOT have a masters degree (though I have 36 grad hours). Certification regulations did not require it when I became certified, and I didn't live in a location that had access to a degree program that related to me, so I never pursued it. Big mistake maybe, but too late to fix now.

Back to my week. We talked about adult learners versus the kids we usually work with, we learned about the structure and hierarchy of the program, the types of classes offered, how to schedule and drum up students for your classes, the portfolio expectations, the grading rubrics, and more. The small group of trainees (9 of us) spent all our time together and worked together nicely. The program ended Thursday with each of us demonstrating our presentation skills with a presentation of our choice that incorporated technology, and a subsequent private evaluation with the instructors. We had been asked to bring something with us that we could use.

Everyone knew, going in, that I was different from the rest of the group. I do not have my masters degree. I have not taken a grad class in, um, DECADES. I have never graded a written portfolio. I have taught many adult workshops but they were about stuff like how to use papier-mache with kids or how to fold a trihexaflexagon. So this was a smidgen out of my comfort zone. But I consider myself an intelligent and articulate person and I was told they were looking for a new voice for the organization that included the arts, since they currently have nobody.

But the class ended oddly for me. Each person went in for their evaluation and came out knowing what course they would be taking in August. I was last because I had the shortest drive home (45 minutes) and some people had drives of 4 to 6 hours, so I exited to an empty room. I had done my presentation using a PowerPoint on altered books. I thought it went very well. (Two of my classmates have already emailed me about it. One, a retired math teacher is going to make an altered book out of an old math textbook, and another a high school English teacher, is going to incorporate making an altered book into her course curriculum next year! Cool.)

So I was a little stunned when the instructors said they had something a little 'different' planned for me. They thought my PowerPoint was lovely, but wished that I had involved the class more (I guess I should have brought them each a book to fold? Keep in mind, we only had about 10 minutes and my presentation was culled from a former 50 minute workshop, so I didn't think there was time for a more interactive element.) It as clear the instructors didn't know quite what to do with me. The courses I am most suited to teach (Multiple Intelligences, and anything that has to do with the brain, which REALLY interests me) are taught ONLY for grad credit because of the universities involved, and therefore I am not eligible to take/teach them. I cannot teach courses such as data management, or reading in the content areas, or beginning literacy, or other offerings, because they do not think it would be appropriate.

I've got to say, I'm a little upset and angry. I have spent years reminding people that I am a TEACHER first, and art just happens to be my subject area of choice. I was my local union president for 10 years and in positions of leadership for many more. I have taught workshops to other art teachers for the past 9 or so years and have gathered a following of workshop 'groupies'. I am a freak when it comes to spelling and grammar and often have been called upon to edit what others write. As I said before, I consider myself to be intelligent and articulate. But here's what it comes down to. I guess I'm still 'just' an art teacher. Grrrr.

They want me, as a retiree, to help present workshops and seminars in schools. In other words, they want me simply because I am retired. Active teachers can't do workshops in other schools during the school day. In August, the others from my trainee group will arrive to take their class from Sunday through Thursday, and then head home. On Thursday, as they head for home, I will arrive and participate in a two day training. None of my wonderful trainee group will be there. I do like the idea of presenting workshops and seminars, but am appalled that they don't think I am capable to take/teach a course. I was always an excellent student academically (other than learning French) and I feel quite rejected, diminished. I also feel that I was misled. I had been through the requisite application process. I had gotten a recommendation from an administrator in my building who used to be an ELT teacher. I had completed the interview successfully and was no more nervous about the training than any of my other classmates in the program.

I had only just retired the week before, yet I sat all week in training rather than celebrating my first week of retirement. I could have been out on the lake in my kayak instead of learning to use the online class management/grading system. I could have been sitting on the dock with a good book rather than learning the grading rubric for the courses I would not be allowed to teach.

I emailed my classmates to let them know I would not be seeing them in August and some responded that they were surprised and disappointed; I provided a "piece missing from the puzzle".

I guess now I need some time to process this and decide whether I even want to go at all in August, or whether I want to back out of the whole thing. I think I could provide something unique, but if they are having trouble seeing where I fit in, maybe I don't really belong at all. The big irony is that I did NOT seek this job; I was contacted specifically BECAUSE, I was told, I offered something they were currently lacking.

I guess that's enough for now. Next on my list of things to accomplish today is submitting my workshop proposals for my state art teachers' conference in the fall. At least I know that they want me!

17 comments:

  1. Wow. I'm just speechless; I feel for you. I get the whole bureaucracy of you "can't teach for graduate credit when you don't have a master's degree," but then why did they contact you at all? I'm sorry it hasn't been as positive as an experience that you are hoping. I know you'll find your way!

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    1. Thanks, Amy. I knew going in that I couldn't teach for grad credit but I was led to believe I would still train and then teach a course for inservice credit. I was even told that in my area, that an inservice course could be an 'easier sell' since the homework requirements are less demanding and the inservice classes are simply pass/fail, and since the fee to enroll is lower, and since some teaching contracts offer salary bumps for inservice as well as grad hours. Silly me; I believed it.

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  2. That really sucks! I'm sorry that happened to you. Especially since they recruited you.. that's really lame!

    Your doodles look beee-u--ti--full!

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    1. Thanks, Marcia! I even had the gal who sat next to me in class (the English teacher) doodling by the end of the week. She was so excited about it! Too funny!

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  3. Wow Phyl.
    Your comment "they don't quite know what to do with me" must be a common phrase used by other people to describe art teachers (or creatives)...I hear that often enough to have realized the people who say it have difficulties thinking outside the box!

    Maybe you should go back to the person who nominated you for this program in the first place so they can help you figure out whether it is a good fit for you? It sounds like that person can see something in you that needs to be shared with your facilitators this week or the program people? If you were enthusiastic prior to this week, then obviously there was something worthwhile about the program and it is worth trying to figure out?

    Best of luck!

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  4. Hmmmm. Doesn't sound like the ideal way to start what I am sure will eventually be a wonderful retirement one way or the other. But, as Amy said above, I am sure you will either figure a way to make it work, or say "Bye, bye!" That is one of the cool things about retirement -- you really don't have to do anything you don't want to do:))

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  5. Hi Phyl, I too am sorry to hear you had a less than perfect first week of retirement! Anyway, I wanted to give you a suggestion on taking photos w/ your iPad. It does not matter how you hold the iPad, but as you take the picture wait to see what position the little camera icon is facing. To adjust the direction of the camera icon, give the iPad a shake in the direction you want it to go. When the icon is facing the direction you want the photo to be taken, then snap the pix! That little trick should help you! Where is the Ny Art Ed Conference this year??? Enjoy the rest of the summer and RETIREMENT!

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    1. Susan, I LOVE iPad advice! Thank you! I have a silly little doodle app that you shake when you want to erase the pic, just like an etch-a-sketch. Too funny! Makes me nervous though to shake it like that.

      The NY conference will be in Rochester in November.

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  6. I don't completely understand what they want you to do. These workshops and seminars are not inservice courses? What would be the subject matter? I guess I also have a bit different attitude about it, as I would normally consider that I am artist before teacher. I think I feel even more strongly about that now. In my current state regular elem ed teachers are considered "highly qualified" to teach art, and, I consider myself to be much more qualified than that :0 However, I would never want to be seen as less professional or less qualified as a teacher because I teach art.

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  7. I'm with Angie...I don't understand what they are going to have you do....what a opportunity they are missing by not letting you do in- service classes...you could do amazing stuff helping classroom teachers find ways to incorporate the arts into the core curriculum..I agree if you find that you are not enjoying it bow out and do something that makes your heart happy...you deserve it!

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  8. Ugh! I guess as art teachers we have to develop this tough, thick skin...in my 13 years of teaching I've definitely developed it---and as tough as we make it, words still hurt ;( I'm sorry your class seemed like a waste of time- I would definitely contact your nominator to express your concern(s).

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  9. Well, that's some pretty crumby business there. They sought YOU out. Well, they should have made it more clear what they wanted from you. It sounds like they don't have their act together.

    Kayaking on the lake sounds more fun in retirement anyway.

    jan

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  10. Too many to reply to one at a time - so I want you all to know first of all that I'm a tough cookie and this isn't going to bring me down. I'm going to take some and decide how or whether to proceed with the program. Their loss not mine, if I decide not to participate at all. Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments. We art teachers need to stick together!!!

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  11. Phyl, I am so sorry they don't appreciate your talent and expertise. On that note, there are a lot of people who would. I think that community would be very limiting for you (if you don't mind me saying.) This is the time to find things that make you feel like you are stretching your wings, whatever it might be! I am so sorry they wasted a whole week of your time. I am hoping they at least pay you for that and be glad that you got their number sooner rather then later.

    Now go fly Phyl with a dragon in your heart! This is your time!!!

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    1. Oh dear. I don't want you to think I wasted a whole week. I did not. I met wonderful people learned things I didn't know, and the cost to myself was minimal. They paid for double hotel rooms (my roommate match was great), they fed us every meal, and I still have to decide whether I want to go ahead with the August mini-training. I need to investigate more to decide. In the meantime, I haven't even discussed the outcome with my husband yet! Oops I'm missing a comma after "wonderful people" but sometimes when I try to edit on blog comments on the iPad, it won't move. So it's easier to just skip the edit this time!

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  12. I'm glad you enjoyed the week!!! Can't wait to hear more about what you decide. I'm along for the ride whatever train you get on.

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  13. Phyl I'm sorry to hear about that! I can only imagine how frustrated and upset you were left feeling. I wish you good luck with your decision and I hope that something good does come from your time and effort.

    I wanted to let you know I have been having a blast exploring your older posts (which is a lot since I'm fairly new!) and I am clipping the ones I want to try for next year onto Evernote. Have you heard of this? It's a note keeping app and website that you can record audio recordings of notes, take pictures to save for notes, type notes and you can 'clip' webpages and articles as well. There's an iPad app if you're ever interested in checking it out. I had been trying to figure out a way to save all the wonderful ideas I receive from fellow bloggers in a easy to access, visual way and Evernote has been an awesome tool for that. So thank you for all the inspiration and ideas!!

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