As I have mentioned in other posts, I generally try to go out of my way to avoid situations that make me feel vulnerable. I like to know the outcome of a situation, so I can prepare myself mentally. I do not like going into situations with uncertainty. But I’ve been working on being more vulnerable in my life, so when an Elementary S.T.E.M. teaching position became available at my school, I applied. I felt excited about the opportunity as I was encouraged by my peers and principal to go for it.
As I mentally prepared myself for uncertainty, I went back to Brené Brown’s keynote on Daring Classrooms. I reflected back to the time I wrote my persuasive essay as a mentor text for students on building my own self-confidence. These things were sources of motivation for me. I knew there was the possibility of not getting the job, but I knew I had to at least try. If I want my students to be vulnerable and do hard things, I must model this same behavior.
The Perfect Ending
Inside, I had a few doubts about my qualifications as I haven’t had too much experience with coding or robotics, but I am always up for the challenge of learning. Plus, going through the COETAIL program made me feel confident about my knowledge of meaningful educational technology integration.
Getting this opportunity also felt like the perfect ending to my COETAIL experience. I started to picture myself in one of those COETAIL success story posts on Twitter like Patrick Holt’s down below. Additionally, I would be doing a podcast with Kim Cofino soon for the Coach Better Podcast. They’d ask questions like:
- What was the key outcome of graduating from COETAIL for you? (could be learnings, mind shifts, next steps career-wise, etc)
- How did COETAIL impact / change your career trajectory?
If I got the job, this would be the perfect news to share!
A different Plan
After interviewing, I felt pretty confident. There were a few other strong candidates interviewing as well, but I still had a good feeling I would get it.
I was wrong. I interviewed on Wednesday and by Friday afternoon I got the email. They had chosen another candidate. I’m not going to lie, I had to read the email a few times to make sure I had read it correctly. However, I had read the email correctly; I hadn’t gotten the job.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” -Brene Brown
So the outcome was not what I had wanted, but I felt good about going for the opportunity. More importantly, the outcome made me reflect on a realization I had come to while preparing for my interview.
Leaving my Mark
Before I had my interview, I practiced thinking of possible questions and answers with my husband. When my husband asked me why I wanted the job, I explained to him that I do not feel like I had left my mark on my current school yet. When I leave my school, I want to be remembered for making a difference. We aren’t planning on leaving anytime soon, but after three years, I felt like time was going by quickly and I had not yet made a lasting impression. I hadn’t left my mark, yet. Or had I?
At my previous school, I left feeling like I had contributed to making the school a better place. I helped develop a new curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, led a fundraiser for Heifer International that raised more than $15,000, and spent weeks organizing years of boxed up science materials that could be used by teachers and students, and I turned an unused space into a Science Room for teachers to bring their students for lessons. When I prepared to move onto my current school, I could feel that I would be missed because of the work I had done there. I had started things that would be around for a while. I made a lasting impression. I could feel my value.
The night before my interview, I explained to my husband that I wasn’t confident that I would have that same feeling if I were to leave my current school at this moment. I felt that if I were given the S.T.E.M. teaching position, this would be my opportunity to make my mark on the school. The program is new. There is room to grow and lots of work to be done. I shared these feelings during my interview.
I shared this sentiment with the Head of School and Elementary Vice-Principal during my interview when they asked me why I wanted the job. However, after hearing I had not gotten the job, I quickly came to the reality that my plan for making a mark wasn’t the plan they had for me. I would have to find a way to make my mark in a different way.
At this moment, I am not sure what my mark will be. What if I have already started making my mark? Maybe, I am just not aware of it yet. Or perhaps not getting the S.T.E.M position helped me realize that I have done more than I think I have.
As I thought about this some more, I thought back to Brown’s keynote again. In addition to vulnerability, Brown speaks about The Four Pillars of Courage. Rising Skills, which is having the ability to get back up when we fall, is one of them.
The Four Pillars of Courage
- Clarity of Values
- Rising Skills
After hearing I didn’t get the job, I was disappointed. But instead of being down and out about it, I looked at the bright side. I got back up! I reminded myself that I love being a classroom teacher with the ability to have a huge impact on the 20 or so students I teach each year. Leaving my mark doesn’t have to come through the opportunity to build a program. Maybe leaving my mark, had already begun right here in my very own classroom.
Beginnings of a Mark
I want my students to be change-makers. I want to foster students who care about others and the world around them. Being in the classroom gives me the power to spark a passion in children that leads them to do something that makes the world a better place. I want to nurture students who are good citizens of the world!
By being given the opportunity to teach grade 4 this year, I was able to ignite a passion for making the world a better place through my Social Justice Issues Unit (my Final COETAIL Project). Students not only learned about injustices using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a start, but they saw first-hand how these goals impact the place we live right here in Vietnam. They got to speak with experts and explore solutions to complex issues. Throughout the unit, they developed empathy for others. They learned how the actions of one person can have a huge impact. They saw what it takes to make a change.
Maybe this unit was the start of something bigger. Maybe my mark will be the passion I spark in students to make the world a better place. Since teaching my Social Justice Issues Unit, I notice students recognizing injustices around them. I’ve seen students paying closer attention to picking up trash they find lying on the playground. I’ve seen students reminding each other not to use single-use plastic.
Ultimately, I want to help foster students to become caring, citizens of the world. If I am able to inspire, even just one student, to make the world a better place, I am happy with that. This will be my mark on the school. My ability to leave a mark doesn’t have to come in the form of a new job opportunity.
If I can be vulnerable and do things that are hard for me, they can do hard things too! We all can! It’s how we model vulnerability for our students. It’s how we face those obstacles and get back up when we fail that matters. It’s how we treat people and care for the world that matters.
Instead of feeling sad about not getting the job, I will forge ahead and continue to make my mark.