Last Spring I found myself in a place countless educators have experienced and will experience in their career: a job posting for a position that calls to you. No matter how many times I would walk away from the posting, I would continuously reopen the webpage and reread the job description. After days of torment, I did the unthinkable… I submitted my resume for the position, despite loving my current role.
During my interview, I was confident in sharing the ways in which I would be the best candidate to fulfill the responsibilities with the position. The role was my passion and I was ecstatic when I received a phone call with my job offer; however, as I packed my desk at the end of the school year, I started to question the change. And, as the summer ticked on, my previous confidence in my abilities started to wane and I started questioning my capability of fulfilling what had previously been my dream role. Has anyone else been here?
Eventually, as my return date got closer on the calendar, I realized that I needed to find “me” in my new role in order to regain my confidence and excitement going into the school year. I removed myself from the situation and tried to picture how I would coach one of my colleagues through a change similar to my own and came up with five pieces of advice.
Finding a network of professionals is essential for success in any role in education. This is not a solitary career. Reach out to others in similar roles, both in and out of your district. Utilizing the experience of those around you is a way to help streamline how you want to approach your first months on the job.
Beyond just colleagues within your district, social media is a way to build a strong Professional Learning Network. Educating 21st Century Learners requires our educators to be 21st Century Professionals. Following educational organizations, bloggers, and twitter feeds of other educators allows you to gain new perspective and is also a great way to ask questions and gain new and unique ways to problem solve issues that are sure to arise during a transition.
In a world where we are digitally bombarded with seemingly perfect anchor charts, comical teachers with perfect student engagement, and flawless lesson plans, it is easy to be afraid of vulnerability. Where are the postings where the fire alarm goes off during class or a student gets sick all over a laptop in the middle of an assessment? Having imperfect moments is a part of life and should be expected when changing jobs.
As you’re learning your role, embrace having a time of vulnerability—this makes you human and shows a growth mindset coming into a career change. These characteristics show adaptability and perseverance. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and clarify that your work is helping the team towards achieving their vision.
Learn the Mission and Vision:
Having a clear picture of the purpose and goal of your role will allow you to prioritize projects and focus on the right work. There are few things more frustrating to me than wasting my time on work that isn’t impactful or necessary. Acquainting yourself with the mission of your organization helps you to tie your work back to the big picture.
Reread Your Job Description:
There is a reason you applied for or were assigned to your new role. Rereading the job description helped me reacquaint myself with why I applied for the job in the first place. While my nerves were making me feel underqualified and unsure of my abilities, when rereading, I could physically highlight my personal strengths within the description. The items I didn’t feel confident about were transferred over to a list for growth and goal setting.
Set short- and long-term goals:
As a lover of to-do lists, fewer things bring me greater satisfaction than getting to check off my accomplishments as I complete them. Before I even have stepped into my new office, I’ve set myself small goals to be able to mentally check off. Get my new office key. Access my department’s materials from our shared drive. These items will be easy to learn and will give me quick wins for my first few days on the job.
Looking towards the long-term I made myself answer the question, “At the end of this school year, what will determine if I have been successful in my first year? What do I hope to achieve?” Thinking long-term allowed me to process and set guidelines for my professional growth. If you’re unsure, ask the same question to your colleagues and supervisor. This allows you to paint a clear picture of success so you can set out to surpass it.
Tammy Martin is a member of the ASCD Emerging Leader Class of 2017 and an educator in the Wichita Public School District. She is currently transitioning from an Elementary Building Instructional Coach to a K-5 English Language Arts and Social Studies Curriculum Specialist.