Sunday, October 25, 2015

Enjoy the journey because the destination can change

This post will not completely be about flipped classroom, but rather a look back at my teaching career and life, which has been an interesting ride.  I'm sorry if you get bored reading this, but I consider this blog to be a great release of thoughts and I ideas and I feel this is a story that people may appreciate So, here we go:
Part 1-college.  Being a high school science teacher I have many opportunities to talk to students about college and what to expect.  I often tell them that I transferred from the University of North Dakota to the University of Wisconsin-Superior after my freshman year because I made a career change decision.  I tell them, and others, that I hated my first months at UWS for one reason, it wasn't UND.  I loved UND!  This was the place that I was bred to go to, and making the decision to leave was hard.  So, 19 years yesterday, October 24, 1996, I emailed UND to get an application to return to the place I felt I was meant to be.  Things changed the next day, October 25, 1996.  On that day I met the women who became my best friend, my soul mate, and for reasons known only to her, my wife.  Once I met Amy I had no desire to return to UND because I knew I wanted to be with her, and I began to look at things differently and really enjoy where I was and had a great 4 years at UWS.  We did great things and really got everything out of a college experience we possibly could.  We travelled a lot, representing UWS across Wisconsin and the midwest, and we did travelling as a couple for fun.  We learned a lot from each other and it was a great time.  We graduated, got married, and attempted to enter "the real world"
Part 2-getting into education.  I loved my student teaching experiences and thought I was doing a good job.  I graduated from UWS in December of 2000 and by March had my first long-term sub position.  I thought I would be teaching right away the following year so I looked forward to interviewing and beginning my career.  Twelve interviews later and we were into September and I still did not have a full time teaching position.  Needless to say, this was huge blow to my ego and my plans.  But, just like in college, I had Amy there to help and be the rock for me to hold onto.  Then, lucky number 13 came when I interviewed at St. Francis High School.  The committee saw the spark in me and gave me the opportunity to teach.  A choice I am still amazed by.  I remember after the first year asking for a letter of recommendation because I didn't think they would be hiring me back and my principal looked at me and said "If you were not coming back, we would have told you by now."  I luckily have never heard "you are not coming back next year."  Honestly, I don't know what I would be doing professionally if they had not taken a chance on me.  And I'm shocked that this will be my 15th year being allowed to teach at St. Francis High School.  I have been able to teach physics, a subject that I had not taught before this, and love the topic, to create two difference classes and the administration has seen to allow me to teach a college level physics class.
Part 3-roadbumps and swift kicks in the butt.  In 2004 the rock of my life, my beloved Amy, suffered an injury which ultimately led to her not being able to work full time.  This was a huge blow because I was still early in my career and she was the primary income provider.  After the initial blow and shock and fear about what we would do.  We knew we could not have children, which was a big blow, but this blow was one we were not ready for.  These things led me to making a great professional decision of going back to UND to get my  Master's degree in the program that initially led me to UND out of high school.  In 2011, after much pain, a long time commitment, and much research, I graduated from UND with my Master's in Science Degree in Space Studies.  At that time I was the first member of my family, both my mother's and father's side (all aunt's, uncle's and cousins) to earn a Master's degree.
That pride in accomplishing a goal was gratifying and has really made me look at education differently.  It also was part of what led me to the flipped classroom.  During this time Amy stopped working for a while and ultimately made me the primary income provider.  This was not something I was prepared for.  We had hard decisions to make during this time.  I was looking at possibly working for NASA in their Education Division.  This was part of my dream.  To work for NASA would have been an amazing opportunity!  I was even offered a position with NASA!  An opportunity most people jump at.  Yet, when I was offered the position I had to sit and think about if I really wanted to change what I was doing and move along to another adventure.  As a linear thinker I made pro and con lists about the entire process.  But my final reason for not going was "it didn't feel right."  Not a very scientific reason, but it was the truth.  It was a decision I never regretted and opened up other opportunities for me.
During this time of turmoil I saw an opportunity to be involved in professional development in our district.  When asked why they decide to jump into these type of leadership roles most people say "because I want to further my career" or "I want to help others succeed."  For me my answers were "I like talking to people about education and how to do it better", but my main reason was "because I need the bump in money to be able to survive financially.  Honestly, if I had not gotten this professional development opportunity we probably would have filed for bankruptcy.  This is not the reason I like to give but, just like when I started at St. Francis,  I needed the job, it was the truth.  Now in my fourth year of professional development I really enjoy working with all of the different people.
Also during this fun time I was coaching basketball, a sport I had been involved with since 1988!  I really enjoyed working with the kids and the coaches, both on our team and the other teams.  But one day we were told that our staff was going to be no more and if we wanted our jobs back we were going to have to reapply for them.  This, like everything else that has happened, made me take pause and re-evaluate what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do them.  I first decided I wanted to stay in St. Francis, but quickly decided that for many reasons I wanted to be out of the athletic sports area.  So now I am in my third year of coaching speech and debate.  There are many similarities and differences between activities and athletics, but I really enjoy the change.  This change came at the perfect time for me.  Amy told me she saw my stress level decrease dramatically when I stopped coaching sports, which is something I drastically needed.
Part 4-the future:  With all of this going on, I find myself looking at where I want to go in the future.  Amy's health is stablizing, she is able to work a little more, we are in a much better place financially, and Amy is still my rock.  I'm trying everyday to be her's, but often times I feel that I don't quite live up to the role of "primary care provider" that I should.  I really don't know what or where I am going or what I am going to do.  I enjoy what I am doing at St. Francis but I find myself thinking "what else can I do"  which leads me to....
Part 5-my flipping road:  So, if you read this far, congratulations and I hope you are ready for some more!  Here's how I got to flipping my classroom, and how I want to continue moving forward.  In high school I was part of distance learning for calculus.  I liked this idea, but in the early 1990's it was not easy exchanging work.  Fast forward to my interviews with NASA.  I got to see the interactive programs NASA was producing and what, if I would have taken the position, I would be doing.  I loved the idea of interacting with professionals.  The big lead that led me to the flipped movement was my Master's Degree.  You may be thinking how does a master's degree in Space Science lead to wanting to flip a classroom?  Well, my program was an online program, where we did many different activities such as watch videos online and discuss them, have chat sessions online, and complete assignments online.  During this program, that I loved and still want to continue with research, I began to look at different ways to incorporate technology into my teaching.  This program, along with technology professional development about moodle, led me to the beginnings of my flipped experience by using message boards.  Then I was lucky enough, mainly through my increased work at St. Francis, to go to an ISTE conference and hear more about this process.  This may not have happened if all of the above had not happened.  I have been able to share my excitement of flipping the classroom with many in professional development areas, and with teachers in my own building and district.  Everyone I tell about this seems interested and I hope they at least try this approach.  Now I am in my fifth year of flipping my classroom and am enjoying it more every year, because I get to lead the students down new and exciting roads.

So, hopefully you enjoyed reading about my interesting journey with many twists, turns, roadblocks, and challenges.  I think of my journey like the theme song from my personal favorite Star Trek Series, Enterprise.
I am learning to enjoy the ride, enjoying more the amazing wife and travel partner in this journey who allows me to be who I am, and helps lead me at times and stands by me at others down this long road.
I hope you enjoyed reading this.  I know many people have similar stories, but I wanted to share my story with you.  Please feel free to comment and ask me questions.  Thanks for reading this.

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