The Planning, The Process, and The Prize

Photo Credit: Sura Nualpradid
I seem to quite good at setting goals, but not so good at seeing them through. In the rare instance that I have seen a goal through to the end (either because of the genuine desire or genuine necessity), I've often reflected in how I felt after I've achieved a goal. I am beginning to see a pattern.

First, I am excited to be starting a new project. It is usually all I can think about or talk about (to anyone who will listen). I know I'm deep in a project when I begin dreaming about it. This happens with any goal I've set. When I started researching the low carb way of eating a couple of years ago, I submersed myself in information that would allow me to learn all I could about it. When I completed a NaNoWriMo challenge back in 2008, I lived, breathed, and slept my novel(ette).

Later, I become overwhelmed at the sheer size of the task in front of me. This is when that ugly self-talk comes creeping into my brain. ("You'll never finish this." "What made you think you could do this?" "You're going to disappoint everyone?" "They're all going to laugh at you...") This is usually the stage where goals are not realized. I never move pass the anxiety to work through it. For the goals that are reached, I usually have some form of accountability that sees me through to the end. (For my degree, I knew my family depended on me. That and the fact that I had taken out all of this money in student loans and knew that quitting was not an option.)

A little while later, the euphoria comes back. "Yes, I can do this!" "Yes, I can finish." This stage usually occurs when I'm deep in a project and things are going well. I have a momentum that keeps me going. (With my low carb eating, I was losing inches and weight and it felt good! People were beginning to take notice, providing me with that external motivation.)  

Enter another bout of anxiety This stage actually repeats itself quite frequently through the process, depending on how long the project lasts or how big it is,

Finally, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am almost there. It is going to feel so great to finally reach my goal!

Until I do.

After reaching a goal, I feel a moment of euphoria and then an unbelievable feeling of let down. Suddenly, reaching a goal has become terribly anticlimactic. I forget about every struggle I went through to get to where I am currently standing and instead have inner dialogue with myself:

"That wasn't so bad." (When it really least at the time.)
"I could have/should have done it better/differently." (Maybe or maybe not. But the truth is, I did the best I could at the time. And why don't I just bask in the glory of my accomplishment?)

The doozy - "What now?"

"I've lost 25 lbs. What now?" (Do I lose more? Do I start an exercise regime?)
"I've graduated college. What now?" (Do I go back to earn a more advanced degree? What area?)
"I've written a 50,000 word novelette. What now?" (Do I write more? Do I edit it? Do I start another one?)

I was so concerned with this facet of my psyche that I asked the Man Beast his process in accomplishing goals. He agrees that for him, goals are anticlimactic and he finds himself searching for more. So, either we're both very broken or both very human.

What about you? Do you enjoy the planning, the process, or the prize?

Until next time...

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Life as a Paraprofessional vs. Life as a Teacher: Part 2

To read about the first part of my journey on the road to becoming a teacher, please click here.

So, here I was, gainfully employed. In a position where I didn't have to wait for a phone call every morning telling me where I was to be working. I knew. I was working at the Middle School Down the Street.

I had no clue that taking this position would lead me on such an incredibly journey - but it did.

My first job as a paraprofessional was working in a self-contained classroom, serving students with severe and profound intellectual abilities. Many of them were non-verbal and some of them could not walk.

The first couple of months were challenging. Nowhere in the world will you find a room full of students with hearts more pure - or honest. If they like you - they love you. But if they don't - well, sorry about your luck. Naturally, it took some time for me to find my niche (both with them and the teacher with whom I worked).

But find my niche and I did and soon, I felt a yearning in my heart that I had never felt before. I decided soon after I started working with those Special Kiddos that I wanted to go back to school to become a teacher. (Admittedly, this was not my first round at a college - or at education. But this was the first time I had ever considered special education. And to be honest, I don't think I would have ever given special education a thought if not for working with these kids. But like has a funny way of working out. Not only would I become a college educated woman working with children with special needs, but my daughter would be diagnosed in the middle of it all.)

I began my studies online through Grand Canyon University. A representative came to the school and spoke with many individuals about various degree programs they offered. For one reason or another, they never spoke with me. But I did speak with a co-worker who spoke with them and went online to do some research. I filled out my information and was contacted by Michael - my enrollment counselor.

Online classes tend to be accelerated. As such, I took one class every eight weeks. For two semesters, I took two and it was a challenge. Still, after all was said and done, in four year's time I had a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education/Special Education. (I had to quit my job at the middle school in order to complete 16 weeks of student teaching. While completing it, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of great students and a handful of great educators).

Before I finished, I began putting in applications anywhere and everywhere I could find a position open. After talking teachers, I decided that I shouldn't narrow my search to just local schools, but instead, should branch out an hour in each direction. (It wasn't ideal by any means - but my chance for success was greater by spreading my search field.)

Even while I was putting in applications, in my heart of hearts, I knew I didn't want to take over a classroom mid-year. I felt it would be too much of a challenge and to be honest, I just didn't want to do it. I briefly contemplated working as a sub for the school system to keep my name "in the system" but in the end, I didn't have to: I was hired on as a paraprofessional at one of the elementary schools where I completed my student teaching. (I later found out that many teachers begin their teacher careers as paraprofessionals, waiting for positions to become available).

Long story short, one became available, I prepared for the interview with a lot of input from fellow teachers, and was offered the position.

After 7 months as an educator, I can report after being on both sides of the fence that my Life as a Paraprofessional varied greatly from my Life as a Teacher.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of Life as a Paraprofessional vs. Life as a Teacher

Until next time...  
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Life as a Paraprofessional vs Life as a Teacher: Part 1

hyena reality

Eventually, I will write a lovely end-of-the-year post (probably entitled something original like: "What I Learned as a First-Year Teacher"), but this morning, I want to write about something a little bit different.

The differences between my life as a paraprofessional (teacher assistant) and my life as a teacher .

I'm sure many of you are aware that I began my life as an educator, not in the classroom, but in a lunchroom. After I had home schooled The Boy and Baby Girl for a couple of years, it became apparent that it wasn't working out any more and some changes needed to be made in our family. So, on that fateful day in November, I dropped both of the kiddos off at the Little Elementary School Around the Corner, The Boy, a 4th grader and Baby Girl, a 1st grader, while I headed off to work in the school cafeteria. 

As a substitute cafeteria worker, filling in for the ladies who had to be out for whatever reason at various schools around my city, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of kids. (I realize that I didn't technically "work" with the kids. I fed them breakfast and lunch. But when you connect with kids, you connect with kids. It doesn't matter in which capacity it's done. It just is.) In every school I worked, I adored the kids. It didn't matter if it was a pre-k center or the elementary school - I loved it.

When you wake up in the early morning hours to prepare a meal for 600 students, you tend to use that time to catch up with your co-workers (mainly, to stay awake!). One day, the ladies were telling me about a job I could do which would bank me more of a steady (and larger) income. 

After I took the exam, I was ready to began applying. As luck would have it (as if!), there was a paraprofessional  position opening up at the middle school. And also as luck would have it, the woman I went to church with also worked there as a paraprofessional. And as luck would have it, this lady is a born sales person. When she gets an idea in her mind, she works it and works it hard. 

So, she told me about the position and told me where I needed to go to apply. As a stay at home mom for the past 10 years, I didn't have any so-called "references" of which to speak, so I had to rely on "character references": people who knew me and could vouch for my character. Not only did she vouch for my character, she also put my name front-and-center where ever she went. (I owe everything to her; I really do.)

On that fateful day, I received a phone call for an interview. My friend said she would watch The Boy and Baby Girl while I went. So I went. And it was intimidating. And I was honest. But I was willing and as I was driving to my friend's house contemplating the whirlwind interview, the principal was calling my friend and my character references. He liked what he heard, apparently, because I received a call an hour after I left the school, informing me that I had gotten the position!

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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