When you make a difference even though you’ve been dunked

Almost two years ago, I was two weeks away from the 2015-2016 school year starting. I had just finished getting my sign out sheets finished for the students our our iPad one to one program to roll up to all grades 6-12 and I had just gotten the family finances balanced. Then I was asked to follow our high school principal over to our new superintendent’s office. Shortly after I had stepped in, I was told that they were cutting my position as part of a long plan to get the school budget back in order and my last day would be in three weeks. As shocked as I was, it was not to be talked about with the students and it didn’t take long before the staff had found out over the last few days that my position was being cut. Yes, my leaving was kept quiet to the students while school started and I went along doing my daily job as technology facilitator for the school like everything was fine with the world I showed up when a teacher needed me, I answered my door or stopped to help a student with their project or lesson if they asked. I was happy to help and then came the last day of school and it was announced to the student body I would be leaving.

Many students were in shocked, I even had a few ask me: “Mr. Read… don’t you like us anymore? Why are you leaving?” I told them, that it wasn’t the plan, but I had to go and after several tears and hugs as I walked those halls a final time as an employee at the school. I left telling them they would be fine without me. As you can tell, I was dunked, as explained by Rick Jetter and Rebecca Coda in Chapter 10. I was dunked, I was not around when my previous school’s iPad program had started and helping to guide and nurture it and move us slowly to using iPads and moving us from Edmodo to Google Classroom to become more paperless and having students work more on engagement than just simple tech for the same lessons and projects they had done in the past. Our new superintendent was cleaning house because he was told to do three things when he was hired:

  1. Get the new SSID set up.
  2. Get our tuition more flexible for families for the school.
  3. Fix the budget no matter what!

Sadly, number three was taken to heart way, way too much. Sadly over the next two years, the budget got fixed, but several staff members left, certain programs were cut and the person who was meant to be my replacement ended up leaving to take a career opportunity.  “Fixing the budget” ended up backfiring and the superintendent was gone after his second year. Was I mad about losing my job? Of course, I had a mortgage, I had a wife with epilepsy, I was trying to get my state certification finalized and that went out the door in a second. However, did I yell at my former superintendent? Nope. Did I try to leave the school ablaze and not do my job? Of course not, I showed up every day like normal and helped and taught where I could. Then luckily three weeks after I left, I did land a new job next door and started to slowly get things back together (of course my bank account questions that thought process until this past January).

I moved on with my life, took what I was good at and returned to a new school and began again. Then seven months later, I returned to see several of my seniors graduate who were so happy to see me there. I congratulated them on their accomplishments, graduating and moving to the next stage in their lives. Many people were shocked I came to the graduation, but saw how much it meant to the class of 2016. I saw some old friends and then left. Flash forward to now and once again I returned to see the class of 2017, who were all 8th graders when I first started at my previous school and they were so happy to see me come to graduation. So many of them came up to me going: “We’ve so missed you, Mr. Read.” “We have needed you so much when something went wrong with our iPads.” or “Because of you I kept trying.” A few students when I saw them, I told them not only how proud I was of them, but how much they had grown in the last five years and I promised them five years ago, I would see them at graduation. Many cried, many were lost for words and many never stopped smiling.

I drove home that night with a rush of emotions because I was given some crushing news a few hours before (I was not being offered a contract for the next school year). Yet, I pulled out of the parking lot smiling. I am coming up to my 8th year in education and many times I have wondered if what I have been doing has made difference. I’m an instructional technologist or as they say: “IT”. I’m one of the most replaceable positions currently in education. As much as technology has become a fixture in schools, a person who works in technology most of the time if they are meeting what a school needs, is told to turn their stuff over to the administration and move on to their next place of employment, However, despite my full license and a few other things, I’m an “Instructional Technologist” my first part if instruction, as in teaching as in learning. As in teaching students and even teachers about education. I’m not a person who just fixes a chromebook then goes on make sure the wifi is working by kindergarten (which I do). I learn ways to use technology to use a tool for education. Having students step outside of just doing a digital worksheet and having true engagement anything from Google Classroom to Ozobots. However, sometimes you are made to feel that you are just seen as a computer geek with too much time on his hands. Instead of the many days and hours spent trying to learning something new from scratch and then applying it to teaching to be successful. Like anything new, it takes time and as we know many pitfalls before we get it right.

However, it wanes on you and you question if what you are doing matters. At these graduations, I saw that it does. In fact, I have been seeing it for months in the various classrooms I have been teaching STEAM too and when a student runs up and hugs me when they see me. I make a difference to them and now seeing as I am once again facing an uncertain future in a more trying time than I did two years ago. The question if what I’m doing really matters, isn’t a question anymore because I know I am. I’ve been in the dunk tank before, I was when I was a 21 year old kid trying to finish up my undergraduate in college at a local movie theatre. Having a manager I had trained  make my life utterly miserable. Leading me to quit with a car payment due every month, a student loan about come due and no full time job lined up. I got up and quit one day and when I did, the place went into chaos because when I left, the people I trained quit too and they were left with no one, but the people the manager had hired who didn’t want to do their jobs. She left less than six months later. I had another position a few years later where I had embarrassed a supervisor in food services who said they were out a particular drink for a fundraising function. On a stock run I found a box of the said drink that had been misplaced and brought it over. Instead of the supervisor being happy over it, he instead started saying things that I wasn’t a great employee because he felt embarrassed over the situation. Three years later, he was fired because he did the same to the daughter of a very important person and was discovered he had a long history of it. My fault… trying to look like a dedicated employer.

However, this isn’t a poor me story, I can’t control budgets, people’s person views or situations I have no control over. I have control over how I react to it and where I go next with it. Something I did learn in those two incidents after I left, was that I did make an impact on those former co-workers. I never staged a walkout after my moving theatre job ended at 23. They felt that no one respected them, but me and were not going to continue to work in that environment. The food service job a few years later, I didn’t pass a secret file or anything. The people I worked under who wasn’t that supervisor knew I showed up each day, even worked over time when I didn’t get paid for it and would admit if I did something wrong because I always tried to clean up my own messes. They said it took years until that supervisor was gone before they started having a dedicated employee who was just trying to pay his bills and wanted nothing special in return. They tried to do better after I left because I as an example.

Now, in the last two years feeling while I have made my mistakes, and even admitted to them and said: “I’m sorry, I can do better.” That maybe, I was just some nameless computer guy who was still trying to just pay his bills instead of make a difference for others. In less than 24 hours, I saw that I wasn’t nameless and that I had made a difference to others and that I’m doing that now. While we may find ourselves in the dunk tank for whatever reason from situations we’ve caused or just from other’s short sightedness. We have to rise above it and believe in ourselves. Life isn’t perfect and we know life is full of twists and turns, but as we know as Charles R. Swindoll once said: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” My 90%… I made a difference to those kids and I know I make a difference to others and it was a good thing, never a bad thing. So even if I have found myself in the dunk tank once again, I know I will find away out.

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