I’ve spent the last week or so with things percolating to write about, but in the midst of Not Doing Anything At All, I lacked time for the blog. That was not necessarily a bad thing, but this week I’ve become very conscious of the waning days of my summer.
At the moment, I’m holed up in a nice hotel in Chicago, two days in to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States’ (ISACS’s) New Teacher Institute. I’ve had this event on my calendar for two months as one of the highlights of my summer (which has been a busier summer than I’ve had in a long time, despite years of research trips). After vacations and conferences and teaching, this event seemed to be a good turning point moment in my book: a time to gear up for my career transition.
Being around professional educators is far different than spending time with academics. I phrased that intentionally, because in my experience academia is not about training people to be good teachers – at least not in my field of history. I suspect there are exceptions to that, but most people I know get a teaching orientation and maybe a few workshops throughout their teaching assistantship years in grad school. Really, learning to teach as a grad student is about trial by fire.
There are pros and cons to trial by fire, but spending time with people who have consciously dedicated time to formal training on “how to be an effective teacher” definitely has its perks. It’s also a lot more touchy-feely than academia. As I said in morning reflection – as I navigated sitting (in a skirt) on a gymnasium floor – “I spent the past six years in academia, and no one ever once let me sit on a gym floor or throw around a koosh ball.” That might not sound “touchy-feely” but my point is this: personal experience and feelings count a lot more towards helping you learn in an environment like this. It’s part formal research on education and learning and part experience and gut instinct.
There have been things I’ve really liked about this institute and things that would be better if they’d been done differently. So far, however, I’m meeting my general goal of starting to switch gears. I’m thinking about things like how to structure my first day of classes, creating policies and procedures, and getting things in order. I really wish someone had told me all this stuff way back in 2007, but it’s better now than never.
August long held a special place in my life as a moment of transition, and it looks like I’m keeping the trend for some time to come. Two weeks from today, I’ll be knee-deep in orientation and on my way to some serious class planning. Before that happens, though, I have a lot to do and a lot I’d like to say here. It’s time to update this site to reflect my career transition, and I want to spend some time writing about the academic job market, my decision to take a job outside of academia, and maybe a little bit about the future. I’ve put it off all summer, thinking it was too soon. When August starts calling, though, it’s time to get things moving.