A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Added Suspense

"Having a healthy and mature attitude about the past can make a major difference in anyone's life. One of the best ways to approach the past is to use it as a school, not as a weapon. We must not beat ourselves to death with past mistakes, faults, failures, and losses." - Jim Rohn, The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle.
 I have long suspected that some sort of Human Resources (HR) flag was preventing me from getting teaching opportunities whenever I submitted an application. Immediately after grad school, I spent 2 hours with the Director of the Lab School, only to get beaten down by another person when invited to the second interview. Last summer, I was confronted by an openly hostile administrator who demanded to see my prior evaluations from my first year of teaching. Frankly, I was not at all impressed the school she was representing and rationalized that I would not have been a good fit there. Good riddance!

Dr. P sort of confirmed my suspicion when I met with him Monday, thinking I was going there to sign a contract, only to be confronted with questions about what had happened in my first two teaching engagements (2007-2008, and 2008-2009). Having not signed a contract, feeling in my gut something might happen, I had dressed in suit and tie, put on my game face, and took time to review my interview prep notes before arriving.

After we exchanged pleasantries, Monday morning at 9:00 am, Dr. P told me that he was upset because he felt that I had not been totally upfront with him about my struggles as a new teacher. I looked him in the eye and calmly tried to reassure him that I had made no effort to hide anything. I explained to him how I had used these experiences to make me a better teacher, which is exactly what I had written in my revised cover letter. My explanation was congruent with what Dr. P had discussed with the principal with whom I worked as a 3rd grade teacher, and the assistant principal with whom I worked as a 4th grade teacher. Verbally, Dr. P agreed to submit a recommendation to HR for a 1 year contract, instead of the 3 year contract he was originally planning to offer me. He agreed to chalk up my perceived lack of forthrightness as a "learning experience" ...

If for some reason I am not offered the contract, that's it -- I won't be able to take it anymore! If denied once again, I will simply chalk it up to experience and change direction, submit my application to Home Depot, where I will take whatever position I can get, whatever schedule, nights and weekends, whatever ...

As somebody who was never been anointed as a "great teacher" until recently, except when my Old Dominion University (ODU) evaluator recommended me for initial licensure in 2007, having witnessed my performances when I was in a state of peak "flow," with students responding to me, not when I was floundering, which happened when I became overwhelmed, particularly when certain administrators dropped in, set up a laptop, and began to tap-tap on their keyboards with my every move, how others in the teaching profession have viewed me has always been divided between those who have championed me and those who I felt had me square in their sights, as they looked for every possible way to disqualify me as unfit for the teaching profession. HR Professionals, protecting their organizations from "the Dance of the Lemons," perhaps had me flagged as a risky candidate. Highly likely!

Dr. P, with 28 years of experience, did his due diligence. To my benefit, more recently, from a performance standpoint, "the numbers speak for themselves." In the small sample size that Dr. P was able to observe, clearly I was not the same "greenhorn" I was 5 years ago.

The call from HR just came, and I have just accepted a 1 year contract. I can now change my Linked In Profile from "Substitute Teacher" to "Teacher." God's delays are not God's denials.

Joe, my son, was the first person with whom I shared the news. Joe was "relieved," not happy. Then, I called Karen. She suggested that I think about teaching summer school.

In a few minutes, when I am finished with my blog post, I will call Mom in California. She is going to cry.

The Discrepancy Model is an old, perhaps outdated, way of evaluating who might be eligible for services because of a "Learning Disability." According to the model, a discrepancy between capacity and performance is an important clue that might indicate a Learning Disability. In my case, I suspect what my particular learning disability, if professionally diagnosed, might be categorized as "Other Health Impaired" (OHI), which is generally how students with ADD are able to qualify for Special Education services. ADD is a disability that is typically comorbid with other conditions, but generally these comorbid conditions cluster around developmental difficulties with executive function, or disorders of the prefrontal cortex, the brain's center for planning and decision making. A diagnosis of ADD seems consistent with my lifelong "high-low" pattern of star performances and flameouts, which some non-clinical family members have "diagnosed," in efforts to be helpful, "bi-polar disorder," a condition that is, in fact, often comorbid with ADD. As a teacher of students formally diagnosed with Learning Disabilities, and a co-teacher in general education inclusion classrooms, I can empathize with students who have to come to grips with loved ones frequently telling them there is something wrong with them, when ADD for them is a normal state.

One explanation might be that my Amygdala, the brain's emotional center, which has primary responsibility for new memory formation, is particularly sensitive to emotional cues. Perhaps socially learned biases to always "tough it out" have led me to habitually disregard warning signs such as elevated blood pressure, shoulder tension, and reduced processing speed. I have tended to be a bit rigid and somewhat resistant to making needed adjustments such as taking care of my blood sugar, getting necessary rest, controlling my facial expressions, and modulating my tone, expression, and habitual exuberance. Self monitoring has never come naturally to me, as I have always preferred spontaneity

Negative feedback, I have learned, can be a positive thing. One year ago, I accepted Dr. Prinz's feedback that my blood results indicated a marker for prolonged elevated sugar, i.e., diabetes. In response, I began making changes to my diet and exercise habits. Although I have regained 10 of the 20 pounds I originally lost, and still need to lose an additional 20 pounds, the results of the blood test I took a few weeks ago showed considerable improvement, especially the marker for prolonged elevated sugar. While I have not yet fully controlled my diabetes, my numbers are moving in the right direction, although I now realize that I am going to need to consult with a nutritionist, since the roots of my dietary problems are highly complex, and I have come to the realization that in this case I need professional help. Dr. Prinz suggested that I might try going back to a more "interval style" of training, which was working for me, so I have begun to adjust my workout routine to elevate my heart rate.

Mom called. She did not cry.

I shook hands with Dr. P and he walked me over to his secretary to ask whether she had mailed me the new teacher orientation letter. Mrs. H gave Dr. P a knowing look as she removed the letter from her pendaflex. I resolved to use questions about my past performance as fuel for my future performance. "You understand my drive," I promised Dr. P as we were shaking hands, and resolved to become highly focused on my professional responsibilities.
"Results are the best measurement of human progress. Not conversation. Not explanation. Not justification. Results! And if our results are less than our potential suggests that they should be, then we must strive to become more today than we were the day before. The greatest rewards are always reserved for those who bring great value to themselves and the world around them as a result of whom and what they have become." - Jim Rohn, The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle.

  • Handle my business
  • Exceed expectations
  • Prove to Dr. P that he made the right choice in believing in me when no one else would give me a chance
  • Use adversity as motivation
  • Leverage past adversity as a teaching tool