Starting over

I am a 39 year old virgin… again!

It has been over 15 years since I was on the job market. That practically makes me a job seeking virgin. Yes, throughout my tenure at Kehillah Schechter Academy (aka South Area Solomon Schechter Day School), I looked at job postings, but that was as far as I went. I felt at home at Schechter. My colleagues were my extended family and the students… they were like my children. Yes, there were days when I swear it was my last or that I would have preferred to swallow a pitchfork, but we all have those days with our family, too. I had… or thought I had… an everlasting symbiotic relationship with Schechter. She took care of me and I, her children.

The day the staff found out that the school was closing felt like we were just told by the attending physician that a loved one was going to die. Except this time, we knew the day/time… June 19th at 2pm… the doors would close… forever.

The day we found out of KSA’s untimely demise, I ripped open a resume template and began composing my cover letters and thrusting them into emails. Not long, I received emails of inquiry, followed by interview requests and within 3 weeks I landed a job. I know it doesn’t work like this for everyone. I was lucky… I was blessed… and I acknowledge that.

On my first day, I pulled up to Hebrew College as the new Director of Makor and Director of Online Learning, I felt this strange nervousness along with the little voice in my head saying, “Hey! This isn’t Schechter!”  Thank you, Captain Obvious! That nervous feeling was one of “Surprise! You are the newbie! It’s your first time! Hope you can perform well and that your stamina will last and last and last….”

I remember when new staff at Schechter would come and seeing their nervous faces or the typical eye contact of “I have no freakin clue where to go or what to do?” I would do my best to put myself in their shoes and make them feel comfortable. I would go out of my way and smile. I would check in with them and offer to meet with them. Whether we became friends… only time would tell… but at least I was glad that they felt a bit more comfortable.

Now, I literally was in their shoes. I was the newbie.

As I walked into the entrance of Hebrew College on that first day, I was warmly welcomed by Tanya, the receptionist. And that was the start of what has been a fantastic adventure!

It’s been 10 days… 10 days of meeting new people and taking everything in… from learning which staircase goes where to how individuals prefer to communicate. The culture of Hebrew College is akin to Schechter… where people care about and for one another… and are in the business of educating the future!

Each day, I am feeling more at home here. Emilia, Leah, and Noah – my co-workers – have been gracious in helping me out and as such, I have been more comfortable being me (you know, the caring guy with the quick wit who laughs like a hyena). Michael & Dan – my supervisors – have guided me and given me projects that push me and allow my ideas to take flight – how cool is that??

Each day, I make sure to take walks around the building to say hi, reintroduce myself and ask people to remind me of their names. Each day, I make sure to take in the art and learn the names of the rooms. Each day, I am reflecting on the culture of Hebrew College so I can immerse myself in it as best as possible.

Perhaps that is why the transition has been so smooth… I remember my first job and not doing any of the things I just mentioned. While it might surprise some of my readers, I am shy. It takes a lot of effort for me to put myself out there. I have to quash the judging that the little voice in my head spouts of “No one will like you. You have a big head and your pants are on backwards.”

 

I learned to do this from my years in the workforce, my coaches (Jane Cohen and Larry Levine) and coaching other newbies… now I put them into practice and Holy Cannoli Batman, they worked!

I walk into Hebrew College each day feeling more connected, more included, more comfortable. I am excited about the work that I have been given. I am mindful that I will make mistakes and will work hard to be kind and gentle with myself. I am open to learning from the mistakes as well as everything Hebrew College has to offer.

The first day has come and gone. Remove that V from my forehead. Now, onward to better things… which way is the bathroom?

 

Oh God, not another blog!

Yep! Go Ahead and groan! It’s ok. I can take it!

But, before you remove your eyes from the screen and defenestrate your laptop, tablet, or monitor (for those few who still have a desktop), answer me this:  HAVE YOU EVER BEEN SO UNCOMFORTABLE THAT YOU WERE HOPING TO CONTRACT LEGIONNAIRE’S DISEASE TO STAY HOME?

Ok… now, I got your attention (I hope).

I hate crowds. I hate meeting new people. And, I hate new environments. Yet, in spite of all my loathings, I took a risk and went to my first EDTECH HACK NIGHT this past Wednesday. Not being a hacker, a coder, a developer, I imagined I would be sitting alone, looking despondent, and wishing for that stomach bug to come right on. Or worse, I would be sitting with all the other “non-techies” (if there are such people), which would have looked very similar to the members sitting at Table 9 of “The Wedding Singer.”

So, why did I go? Why did I go?

As a teacher who incorporates a lot of technology into the classroom, I am fascinated as to how there are so many edtech companies producing amazing products for MY students (yes, I realize that other students use them, but I will be selfish and focus on MY students).  I love seeing my kids tinker with the new product. I get a thrill working with the developers offering suggestions to better their product and to learn about the process of developing the software.

Yet, why did I go? Why did I go?

Sponsored by LearnLaunch, this Hack night was for coders and non-coders to create and network. I am a teacher with no coding skills (among others that I lack). But, since I have become an edtechie (which I proclaim as a new word and a promotion from being a Trekkie) I am intrigued by all that is out there. And I imagined that some edtech CEO would say, “Hey! You have so much knowledge about teaching and using technology! I want to offer you a job that pays 3x what you are making as a teacher (which means I can actually afford my car payments) and give you the opportunity to create!”

I also imagined driving to the event in my new sleek black BMW… yet, alas, I drove my mini-van.

I took a deep breath and walked into the room. I was nervous… sweating… and trying not to let on that I was sweating. I took another deep breath and sat down. From there… the evening took off… and so did I.

No, I didn’t leave… I stayed…. in fact, I didn’t want to leave! I met so many cool people and learned about upcoming and new technologies that will help students and teachers. Steve from LearnBolt, David & Lee from Testive, Boris from LearnLaunchx - each of them were so passionate about what they were creating and wanted to learn from ME! ME?! How do I teach? How I use technology? How I get buy in from stakeholders? They wanted to know. And, they actually listened!

I came out pumped! Ready to take on the world. My mind was racing with so many ideas and follow ups. Most importantly, I came to the realization as to why edtech fuels me: it’s the relationships!

The teacher & edtech developer/CEO relationship… it’s very much like a ying/yang or symbiotic relationship. Both have passions – to help students ( for the developer it could be through the software for kids to use, for teachers to use, or both. For the teacher, it’s meeting their students’ needs and engaging in the students’ interests). Yet the passion stems from the same place – wanting to help students (be it from their own experiences or experiences of others). The teacher has the direct experience and knowledge and the developer/CEO has the tech and leadership know how to produce the product. One can’t exist without the other. We need teachers who are willing to hear the developers’  dreams and vision and try out the product,  give feedback, and collaborate to not only develop the product but also promote it and market it to other teachers. In turn, I (and other teachers) need edtech developers who want to test out their products and  hear my experience, vision and dreams to help better the product to meet students’ needs. Because of this collaboration, we are seeing a huge Precambrian explosion of how developers & teachers are shifting the learning experiences of the primary stakeholders – the students.  Through technology teachers and edtech developers  can connect, collaborate, and make the richest most meaningful learning environments for our future – that is, the children.

None of these would be possible without the combined collaboration of edtech dev. & teachers… all pointing to one thing… the human connection.

My energy level is still sky high and my passion for edtech and teaching grew exponentially.

So, why did I go? Why did I go?

I’ll tell you why…  wait, I just told you!