Reflection on Shame, Social Media, and RESA

It’s an open secret that when we post online to social media, we often do so to show our lives through a rose-colored lens. Look how solid my relationship is. Have I told you how good I am at my job? Look at me, I’ve reached another milestone in the game of Life. We carefully curate our self-presentation to put our best face forward online. We want the ‘likes,’ so we post things people can feel good about liking. We’re seeking out dopamine and oxytocin. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
 
Even when we share the bad, it’s the kind of bad that happens to us, not the kind of bad we bring on ourselves. Our illnesses, our grief – we’re calling out for support, and we often receive it on this platform. I’m sorry for your loss. You’re in my thoughts and my prayers. This is also very okay.
 
One thing that we don’t post about as much are the things that make us feel ashamed. The dissolution of relationships. A venture failing. Our insecurities. We want to put our best face forward, and a head hung in shame does not make a good impression. But sometimes it’s important to share, because we all, at some time or another, feel ashamed.
 
So I’m sharing something, not because I’m seeking sympathy or support, but because I want my friends to know I struggle, and that struggle is normal. Right now I’m struggling in my career, something that I consider very much a part of my personal identity. I feel shame about it. And, frankly, it sucks.
 
I have to do a five-part summative assessment in order to transition to a more permanent teaching license in the state of Ohio. I started doing this assessment in 2015, and have since passed four out of five of the parts. I should find out today if I have passed the last part, on my third and final try. If I pass, I can apply for a new teaching license. If I fail, then I can neither renew or advance my current license. I will also not be eligible for a one-year interim license. I would perhaps be able to be a long-term sub for my own job in my district while I did remedial coursework and experience, which would be a blow financially and also to my self-esteem. I’ve spent many hours reflecting on my teaching this year; while I believe I am a good-enough teacher, I am not sure I want to be in a classroom if the state of Ohio does not believe I am a good-enough teacher.
 
Failure was not a familiar feeling to me when I was a student. It took years for me to be okay with it, for myself, as a teacher. It still doesn’t feel good. But it is more instructive for me to confront and overcome obstacles than it is to never face obstacles at all. It allows me to relate better to, and be a good role model for, my students. It challenges my subconscious beliefs on the nature of learning and cognitive processes. It forces me to acknowledge what I truly value in learning experiences. It causes me to increase, or better manage, my effort.
 
I just wish the stakes, in this case, were not so high. Failure can be a constructive and even essential aspect of learning. Dead-end failure that results in loss of opportunity, stagnation, or regression? Not so much.

Oh, RESA

Where have I been for over a month, you might ask? Oh ho ho, I’ve been right here this whole time! Just, you know, less chatty.

The thing is, I had to redo some RESA Year 3 tasks. What is RESA, you may ask? “RESA” stands for Resident Educator Summative Assessment. It’s a performance assessment that, in Ohio, a beginning teacher (“resident educator”) must pass in order to obtain a five year professional license.

I am actually on Year 4 of RESA, but I needed to redo some of the tasks from Year 3 because I failed them. I failed both tasks that required video of a lesson. Because I had procrastinated a fair amount, I found myself panicking over uploads last year as the deadline barreled ever nearer. I did something that was against the rules — I edited the videos before I uploaded them. I was thinking smaller file sizes would upload faster, but that was against the rules. So my submissions were automatically failed for me to redo this year, in addition to Year 4 tasks.

If you find yourself required to video lessons, I have some tips:

  • If you can, practice recording before you need to record. That will help you work out any audio or angle issues in advance. Plus, video recording myself teaching over and over has been a very beneficial reflection tool for me this year — I’ll talk about it in a later post.
  • Try out different devices and settings, considering what you truly need. Originally I was recording using high definition, which was contributing to long upload times and processing errors. The uploading part of the process went much more smoothly when I switched to recording in standard definition.
  • Ask for help. Other teachers may have had to record lessons before, and may have really good tips for you. I even had a colleague hold the camera for me during part of their prep period once! (Thank you again!) One of my other colleagues this year has been on the phone with the RESA support folks trying to upload her video. It is better to ask for help than to move forward wrongheadedly and fail the task, like I did.

1197119420758017922nicubunu_Film.svg.medUltimately I used an iPad and a device called a Swivl that I really enjoyed using (but that I had to practice a lot beforehand — I will probably write a review of my experience sooner or later). It worked really well, except for the times I messed up while using it!

Anyway, the point is, I finished and submitted my last make-up RESA tasks last night. (Not only did I need to submit video, I also had to answer several extended response questions along with it.) Nine days before the deadline instead of bumping up against the deadline, because I learned my lesson last year! Therefore I hope to be using this blog again to reflect more starting this month. Thanks for hanging in there!

 

Time Management

I struggle with time management. I always have, it was definitely something I struggled with as a kid. I have developed strategies to help me deal with time management, though I suspect this will always be an uphill battle for me. In fact, sometimes I think I benefit more from the structured schedule of the school day more than the students do!

According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object at rest will remain at rest, unless acted on by some unbalanced force. I struggle with inertia before I even get up in the morning. Because an object at rest… wants to stay in bed. I have learned to give myself lots of time before I actually need to leave for work, because I am a first-class dawdler, no matter how much coffee I pour into my mouth. I especially like to have time to pick out my outfit and play with my hairstyle. I try to curb this by planning both my outfit and hairstyle the night before, but golly if I don’t experiment at least a little bit each morning.

Luckily, once an object is in motion, it tends to stay in motion. Once I actually get in my car, I am ready to go, go, go, and keep going.

However, during actual lessons, I do sometimes have to set timers. I will use my phone or a kitchen timer, depending on what’s going on. I tend to get just as absorbed in what the students are doing as the students are. I have to remind myself to give students time to transition into my room, and out of it. To smooth that as much as possible, I have to keep the necessary materials organized. Headphones are kept in baggies with any login and seating information students may need, labeled by name, so that once those go out, everything they need is within their own reach. The baggies are kept in buckets, organized by homerooms. The buckets are shelved by days of the week — I happened to have five shelves, so it’s Monday through Friday, all the way down. I take them out as needed and try to put them back as soon as a lesson is over.

Routines also help with transition. I have started calling them “algorithms,” or a list of things that need to be done in order to finish a task. For example, when I say, “Time to go!” students know they need to log out of the computer, unplug their headphones, put away their headphones, stand up and push in their chairs, and listen actively for the direction to line up. We spent weeks practicing this routine, and now kids can do it quite quickly. Sometimes it doesn’t matter which tasks they do first (for example, they can unplug and put away headphones before logging out), but sometimes it does (can’t put away headphones if you didn’t unplug them first!).

I struggle more with the beginning transition, when students come into the classroom. When we are working on the approved vendor assessment our district uses for evaluations, it’s smooth as Jiffy — the kids know exactly where to go and what to do to log in, and what to once they’re on. Regular classroom lessons are a bigger struggle, especially when introducing new topics and systems. Is the material best delivered with all kids sitting in front of the projector, watching as I model? Or is it better for them to sit at their seats and follow along as I vocally explain step by step? To be honest, different deliveries work better for different groups, so I frequently deliver the same content one way on Monday and a completely different way on Wednesday. But still, the switch-ups get me.

I am also prone to overestimating or underestimating how much can be done in an amount of time. Sometimes I overestimate the cooperativeness of my lab computers. Sometimes I don’t have an accurate understanding of students’ background knowledge or skills. I don’t do this as often as I did when I first started this position several years ago, because I actually know the students and have rapport and communication with the other teachers. This helps me keep my expectations reasonable. I especially have to be careful about balancing ambition, enthusiasm, and reality – if I want to do something big, and am really excited about it, I need to remind myself that I can’t freeze time like the girl in Out of this World when I need to catch my breath.

Other tools I employ include Google calendar, which helps me keep track of lessons, lesson-planning, and who is using which Chromebook cart when. I also keep a small planner in my purse to help me keep track of personal and professional matters. (I realize I could use my phone, as it is synced to my Google account, but I find that the act of writing something down helps me remember what I wrote.) I also have a calendar hanging in a shared area of my apartment, so my spouse and I can write down shared and separate plans. This helps me manage my time for longer periods – for example, I know I need to accomplish task X by Wednesday, because on Thursday we’re having game night with friends. This also helps when counting down the days to the next holiday break!

I also schedule my downtime in. If I’m frazzled then I am even less able to keep track of time than usual! I guard my eating and sleeping times too — it’s very important to me that I get enough sleep, especially.

So, time management has been a big struggle, though less than it used to be. And I may struggle with it forever, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to deal with it. Do you struggle with time management? If so, how do you handle it?