A Dream Job- Teaching at the Downingtown STEM Academy

The middle of the school year is difficult- short daylight hours, post-Christmas lulls, midterm exams, grading, grading, and grading. This time of year has always been difficult for me. I have seen similar feelings among my colleagues this week. The International Baccalaureate Learner Profile, guiding principles for my school, identifies ten character traits of learners. One of the traits is reflexive. Midyear, I became reflexive on my school. I’ve reaffirmed how lucky I am.

I started this reflexive thought process by imagining I was applying for teaching jobs in other districts (I’m not looking for jobs, just in case anyone I know really reads this!) If I were offered a position, I would set forth to change my environment in the new school. What follows is a list of changes I would make, in the order of importance, to make the new position comfortable.

  1. Trapezoidal Desks. Desks in my school now are trapezoids. The chairs are unattached from the desks. Every day, nearly every period, the desks move. Desks are never in straight rows. This flexibility and adaptability lets my students know every day is a new adventure with nearly limitless possibilities. Mindsets change with a simple furniture change.
  2. Abandon Textbooks. I love teaching social studies without a textbook. I never want to return. So much information is available to students in so many other ways. Why would I want to waste money on a text.
  3. 1:1 Internet Access. Key to teaching without a book, students would need 1:1 access, at least in the classroom, to tablets or PCs. Worlds come alive with an onramp to the information superhighway (remember that??).
  4. Educational Technology Surplus. SmartBoards, document cameras, teacher laptops and iPads. Tools to teach. Not overhead markers and photocopies.
  5. Freedom. Allow students to work in the hallway, library, cafeteria, or common area without a pass. Trust they will come back. Eliminate bells. Students and teachers have enough structure without adding some of these superficialities of institutionalized school.
  6. Change. Teachers and administrators who are willing to adapt and change to new ideas and who can admit past ideas were not perfect. Administrators and leaders who ask for your input and act based on it.
  7. Willing Students. I know. Teachers cannot control this one, but it would be nice wouldn’t it.

How much would you trade for such a work environment? How much are the above ideas worth? By engaging in the reflexive activity, I recognized how special my job was. Apart from having the BEST JOB IN THE WORLD (spending every day teaching students), I teach in one of the best schools you could come by. I am blessed.

Sometimes we get so involved in our daily routines that we cannot see the forest from the trees. After some midyear reflections, I realize I couldn’t be happier with where I am. I hope you are just as happy as I am with your job

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2 thoughts on “A Dream Job- Teaching at the Downingtown STEM Academy

  1. J. Scal January 12, 2013 / 9:39 am

    Good thoughts Dr. Staub. it is easy to lose sight of how special your situation is when you’re right in the middle of it.

    You should also add the that list “challenges” – after reflecting this week myself I’ve realized that the challenges are what help us grow and that I wouldn’t give that up. In the environment that we are in, we are constantly challenged every day by our students, their parents, the community and the administration to be better educators. In turn, we challenge our students to be better learners. And although it is hard, we continue to rise to the challenges every day. Whenever I think about where I would like to be, I remember that for all the complaining I do about grading and planning and all the other stuff that comes along with the job, I do truly enjoy the challenges. I feel confident that I have grown as an educator over the past year and a half and that I am in an environment where that will continue to happen every year. We model “effort” for our students every day!

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