Why I’m leaving the Board Office and going back to the classroom

Yup, it’s true: in September 2014 I’ll be teaching in a high school and I won’t be the e-Learning Contact for the Algoma District School Board. That means I’ll also be giving up the positions of Regional Chair for the Sudbury-North Bay Region, Secretary for the Northern e-Learning Consortium, and of course Chair for On The Rise.

This isn’t precisely news; I “made the announcement” in June of 2013, but a lot of folks are just hearing about it now. With On The Rise approaching I’m having a lot of conversations with eLCs and other edtech folks from around the province, so it’s come up a few times in conversation. I wanted to clear some things up and explain myself for everyone.

They’re not forcing me back

Just wanted to get that out of the way. No one is making me leave the eLC position, although that’s a popular misconception. I applied for and was offered a position as the Subject Area Head (department head) for Math at Superior Heights C. & V. S. in Sault Ste. Marie. That process happened in June, and the principal and I agreed to wait a year while I tried to transition out of the eLC role. We’re eight months into that year now.

I like being the e-Learning Contact

This is work I’m good at, and it’s work I enjoy. I have contact with every school in the system and lots of great people from around the province. The eLCs are wicked-awesome and it’s a pleasure to collaborate. I like planning conferences with them. I like getting free PD. I like having time to explore new ideas and talk to people with other perspectives and from different contexts.

But I’ve been doing this a long time

This is my sixth year in a central role, and my fifth year as the eLC (I spent a year in Numeracy support first). I last taught daily in a classroom in 2008. Think about how long ago that was. Really. Take a minute.

Wow, eh?

It’s a good idea to get back to the routine and rewards and challenges of daily classroom teaching. I don’t want to lose touch with what it’s like to struggle with content, with WiFi, with supervision, with all of the dozens and hundreds of things that teachers live with, deal with, and overcome each day.

I once had a teacher tell me I’d been out of the classroom too long and that I couldn’t understand what it was like to be a “real” teacher anymore. That was almost two years ago, and I want to ensure that she doesn’t become right about that.

And I have other things I want to do

I’m going to teach math. I like to teach math. I’m excited to try Blended Learning and e-Learning and using my YouTube channel and graphing software and graph paper (I miss graph paper) and….

I want to work with the math department at SHCVS. They’re good people and I’m looking forward to digging into our instruction together to make things even better for students and for each other. I want to spend time every day in the same place to help people. I want to go deep into instruction, not just wide.

And I also miss being part of a larger staff. Working on Program Team is fairly isolating in a lot of ways. I spend a lot of time in my office at my computer. That’s not the way it’s “supposed” to be, but that’s the way it is. I talk with most of the people who work in our building, but we’re not having after-work social gatherings as a rule.

Plus there’s a lot of travel as an eLC

I have a family. They don’t get to see me when I’m out of town, and although I have travelled less this year I’ll still be out of town over 20 days this year. I realize that’s not “bad” compared with some of the jobs out there, but it’s a lot more than what I’ll have as a classroom teacher.

I’m also tired of travelling. I’m tired of driving and flying during the evenings and on weekends. I leave on Sunday. I get back at 1:00am on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. I have to eat out for three days. I work in the airport lounge. I have to get rental cars. We have to have two vehicles because I’m going East and my wife and kids are going West. I have to pay for stuff out of pocket and get reimbursed later. Six years of that is a little exhausting.

Also, someone else should do this for a while

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who can do this job. Then I look around and see that there are over sixty other people in the province who do the same job every day, often with fewer resources, more resistance, and less time. Perhaps I am the only person in our board with my skill set and experience. But I developed this over the course of years, and someone else can do the same (or better!).

Also, I probably have biases and baggage that prevent me from making progress in certain parts of the work. Maybe I’m not pursuing a project or strategy, or maybe I don’t know about a teacher whose work should be shared. Maybe I am stubborn about something that I really shouldn’t worry about. The problem with these gaps is that I can’t see them all, and only bringing someone else in to do the work can make them clear.

But who’s going to…?

The work will get done, or not, as the case may be. Frankly, it’s not all getting done now. I am a terrible bottleneck at our board. My to do list is mercifully digital, because if I was to record it on paper I might need a logging permit first.

Sometimes I think it’ll be good if someone coming in can’t do some of the things I do. This is a highly technical job right now, and I don’t think it should be. The eLC is a teacher, and the work should be work that only a teacher can do well. I feel that other kinds of tasks should mostly be given to the people who are best suited to looking after them.

Some things will be different. My successor will have other ways to accomplish stuff, novel approaches to tired problems, and generally a lot to offer. I certainly wish them well, and I’ll be here to support them in the transition and beyond, because that’s who I am.

I think I’ve done well in this role, and I can look back and see objectively that we’ve come a long, long way from 2008 by any measure. I’ll miss the near-constant contact with everyone in my Skype group most of all, and I hope that catching up at 3:00pm and on Twitter and at eSymposium, ECOO14, or OTKR12 will be enough to maintain those relationships.

I have four more months as the eLC, and I plan to cram in as much as possible (including OTRK12 and an EdCampSault). I want to leave things both easy and awesome for the new eLC so they can focus on effective instructional practice instead of technical issues and clerical work.

Thanks

I’m not gone yet, but for the last few months of my eLChood I want everyone I work with to know how fantastic they are and how much it means to me to have been a significant part of what we’ve done in our board, in the North, and in Ontario.

Thanks for a great time, everyone. 

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7 thoughts on “Why I’m leaving the Board Office and going back to the classroom

  1. Brandon, I love that you are able to transition back into the classroom to now help your students leverage all the great learning tools you passionately promoted and implemented on a system and provincial level. All the best!

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