Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Journey's Milestones - Time to Reflect and Give a Tearful Thanks

To reach a meaningful goal, there is a journey.  Along the way, milestones signify progress, help maintain focus, and provide encouragement.  In my journey to become an effective educator, I've reached such milestones.  Today, I am proud to pause for a brief moment in my journey to reflect as I graduate with a Masters degree in Childhood Education.

Recently, I completed my degree requirements with an amazingly fulfilling student teaching semester.  A few months later, I attained state certification to be a teacher.  While these were significant achievements, I treated them as mere steps towards my goal with little fanfare.  When my wife asked if I was excited to walk in this spring's commencement, I was indifferent seeing it as just another step.  I viewed all the hard work and sacrifice during the past 45 months as a foundation for the future. However, as today's ceremony drew nearer, I began to appreciate my accomplishment.  I even grew increasingly emotional about it. 

I've been thinking about all the genuine encouragement from family, friends, and acquaintances who know about my journey.  I recall sharing my decision to leave a wonderful career that I loved and the many colleagues who wished me well.  I think back to presenting a TEDx talk to spark young men and women at my former high school to define their dreams.  I am grateful when caring, experienced educators have generously shared their expertise and given me their confidence.  One recent moment that has made me particularly emotional is hearing from a young man how I inspired him to pursue his own passions. 

I also cry when I think about my mom who would have been so darn proud of me today. 

As I continue to share my journey with my children, I know they have learned a great life lesson.  They have motivated me.  Additionally, none of this would be possible without my wife who has been my biggest fan and has provided a tremendous amount of support in countless ways.

I am so extremely humbled by all the love, support, well wishes, and encouragement I continue to receive.  Just thinking of the many kind words have moved me to tears throughout writing this blog post.  Thank you so very much.

The journey is far from over however.  Now, back to work towards my goal of being an effective educator!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

One big step done... a bigger one ahead.

Three years ago, I became a student again.  It sure felt weird.  The last time I was a student, there was no internet and the first George Bush was president. But, there I was, in September 2012, in front of my laptop starting another step in my pursuit to be an effective educator.  

22 classes and thousands of working hours later, I embarked on the final semester of my graduate program.  On September 1, I became a student teacher.  I was beyond excited to get in the classroom to learn from experienced teachers and to work with students.  I looked forward to connecting, engaging, and teaching children who hopefully would be forgiving as I learned my craft. 

My expectations of this experience were surpassed greatly.  Those four months were amazingly rewarding and fun.  I learned a great deal from some outstanding teachers. I also learned from each of the fantastically unique students.  

With lots of hugs, well wishes, encouragement and an armful of unexpected gifts from a great group of boys and girls, I bid farewell on my last day as a student teacher.  I absolutely loved being a student teacher and can't wait to have my own set of students one day.  

It is hard to believe that I have finished my graduate degree program and received state certification.  Three years have gone by so quickly.  However, my journey to be an effective educator is not even close to complete as I will join many others in the hunt for a job so I can have the opportunity to teach.  Until then, I have been cherishing the many wonderful memories that I will always keep of being in a classroom as a student teacher for 17 weeks.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Curveball, Fastball, HIt!

There are times in one's life when things just work out well.  In such occasions, reflection can provide a fulfilling perspective.  For me, missing on an unexpected curveball thrown my way gave me the chance to hit an ensuing fastball out of the park. (Yes, a baseball reference is apropros considering I am writing this during a World Series game).  For the past nine weeks, I enjoyed being a student teacher working with a wonderful, experienced teacher who served as a terrific mentor.  We developed an outstanding working relationship complete with mutual respect from day one.  As I gained valuable practical experience, I learned, contributed and deepened my desire to be an educator

During this placement, the class went from a challenging number of students (27) to a more manageable one (19) when a new teacher was hired six weeks into the school year.  A number of school holidays, half days, and even fire drills made efficient planning necessary to accomplish our teaching goals.  It was a rich learning experience in a short time indeed.

During this last week, the teacher, students and I counted down the days to my final one with sadness.  None of us wanted to part company.  Today, while holding back tears, I bid farewell to students who then overwhelmed me with a minute long group hug, lots of individual hugs, and a book of heartfelt letters that conveyed how I helped them learn.  

I'm still so moved as I read these letters for a third time.  "You make me more confident", "I would not have figured out math without you", "you are a funny teacher and a fun one", "you made learning fun", and "you will find a new set of cool students like us but we will never find another awesome teacher like you."   Comments like these inspire me tremendously as I complete my journey to be a certified teacher.  Making positive impacts on young minds.  That's why I want to be an educator.   

If it weren't for that curveball, I wouldn't have had the chance to meet really great kids and their amazing teacher.  Don't despair over the curveballs that come your way.  Something better to hit may follow.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Life is Long Enough for Detours, Pauses and Bumps in the Road

Last month, I started the final semester of my graduate studies.  After two years of online coursework, I was more than excited to begin on-the-job training as a student teacher.  Not only did I have a short commute to the school, I knew several parents, students and staff members including the outstanding principal.  It seemed like an ideal situation but one critical element was missing.  Perhaps blinded by my eagerness to be in a classroom, I underestimated the importance of an effective working relationship to foster a productive learning environment.  It would not be fair to share just my point of view here but suffice it to say that differing expectations led to a lack of healthy communication - or was it the other way around?

After the first few weeks, I reflected upon my education which I take very seriously so I can be prepared as much as possible to be a novice teacher.  With just 14 weeks in one's life to learn as a student teacher, I value this apprenticeship greatly.  Unfortunately, I was not in the dynamic learning environment I expected and wanted.  While most student teachers would try to just "get through" with hopes of a passing grade, I do not want to compromise my commitment to learn.  The opportunity is just too valuable and would be wasted if I'm not learning as much as I feel I can.  It would be a disservice to me and my future students if I didn't take this critical learning experience earnestly.  

After much deliberation with my wife and my supportive professors, I chose to withdraw from this semester and start over in the fall with an increased focus on the critical success factors.  With a great amount of thought behind my choice, I am confident this is the best decision for me.  It's not the first time I've made bold but deliberate decisions about my career.  Thankfully, they have all worked out really well.  Besides always believing things happen for a reason, I will still be ahead of my goal of graduating in May 2016.  I had intended to start my degree program after enjoying a year as a stay at home dad.  Instead, I got ambitious and hit the books hard just a month after retiring from my corporate career and haven't stopped since.

My unexpectedly challenging situation has been a great teaching moment at home.  I've been transparent with my kids with my thought process and decision.  I've shared that it is important to make personal goals, to stay true to those objectives, and to make decisions with thoughtful consideration of information and consequences.  I also stress that their happiness and well-being are paramount factors.  I tell them that with age comes the wisdom to know that life is long enough for detours, pauses and bumps in the road. Our actions are vital lessons for our children. I want my own to feel empowered to make thoughtful decisions about their own choices.

No rest for me though.  My wife has already started a to-do list for me! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

As I wake up on my birthday, I find myself contemplating a few things.  First, there's a new number to my age and it is indeed quite odd.  What is 47 anyway?  Am I still in my mid-40s? Am I almost 50?  It's kind of in between, isn't it?  

When I was much younger, I could not fathom what I would be at this age.  It just seemed so distant and so old.  Perhaps, I am considered old to those who have not achieved the maturity to appreciate life.  But, age is a relative thing and certainly an inaccurate barometer for health, attitude, wisdom and happiness.  

I can look at this day as just another one in a life that goes by too fast.  Or, I can use this as a time to reflect.  

Am I better husband, father, brother, and friend?  Have I matured, learned, and grown?  Have I pursued my passions and enjoyed life?  Have I made those who I care about laugh or made their lives better in some way?  Have I given more of myself than others have given me?

I ask these particular questions of myself often and when I cannot find answers that satisfy me at the moment, I chalk it up to life's continuing challenges and press on.  

So, as I celebrate this day so my children can have a moment to treasure, I remind myself of the never ending goal of being a better person.  I think of my mom and dad who would accept no less of me.  I think about all those people in my life, young and old, near and far, personal and virtual, real and fictional (um, that's a joke), and am thankful for their friendship and support.  I think of my children and hope that I make them proud, make them laugh, and teach them enduring life lessons.

I am far from being the best person I can be and each birthday is a reminder to me to keep trying!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cruising fun on NCL Breakaway!

We just got back from a super fun week on the brand new Norwegian Cruise Line Breakaway which is billed as the largest cruise ship ever to home port in New York City.  We had an unforgettable family cruise on the NCL Spirit in 2007 and a great trip on the NCL Jewel in 2010.  While the Breakaway had the same itinerary to Florida and the Bahamas, we figured we would enjoy the amenities of the larger, six month old vessel and we sure did!  The Breakaway was immaculate, the service was terrific and the entertainment, activities and food were all fantastic.  Check out this 2 minute review of the seven days of fun.

We have our eyes on Breakaway's sister ship, the Getaway, which arrives in Miami in early 2014.  And, we are looking forward to an even larger ship, the NCL Escape in 2015.  It's time to start saving again!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My first summer as SAHD was awesome!

Backpacks are ready. Kids will be in bed early for the first time in over ten weeks. Another school year is upon us.  While new memories are ahead, I look back at an amazing summer - my first as a stay at home dad.

We enjoyed so many new experiences including our first Six Flags theme parks (Great Escape and Great Adventure), daring ropes course, NFL football game and visits to the Bronx Zoo.  Two Bon Jovi concerts and All Star Game Weekend events at CitiField were thrilling. Road trips to Albany and South Jersey were fun.  Throughout the summer, we played lots of baseball and tennis, competed in town field activities, swam in the town pool and just enjoyed time with friends and family.

I thoroughly enjoyed creating and leading an instructional sports program and coaching my son's baseball team.  The players and their families even won a contest by cramming 25 of us into a VW Beetle at a minor league baseball game.  This summer, I somehow managed to complete three summer courses and deliver a TEDx talk at my high school.

So, while the summer break is over, I am satisfied we made the most of it. I hope you enjoyed these few months as well.  Time moves so fast for many of us and we can only aim to enjoy it to the fullest.  Now that the first day of school is upon us, what do we do next?  We're off to Disney World!

Click here to watch 25 of us cram into a VW Beetle in 35 seconds.