REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (firstname.lastname@example.org/haroldshawjr.com)
The first year in any new position/profession is the most difficult, you are learning new procedures, systems, terminology and a host of other things. After the first year, we all tend or need to look at where we are, the progress we are making and if the direction we are going is right for us.
I have reached that professional crossroad…I have been in my new job for almost a year. I am “loosing touch” with theeducation profession, but I at the same time I have never totally accepted becoming a Volunteer Manager/State Employee. I have always had in the back of my mind that I could go back to teaching, if/when I got “tired” of what I am doing now. Looking honestly at myself I have realized that I can’t keep that attitude and that to remain uncommitted to either world any longer, is unfair to where I work today and to myself. I have to choose between continuing to progress in my current position or go back into teaching before most of what I learned is no longer pertinent or current.
Since I started in my new position, I have learned a lot professionally and personally. The things that stand out the most are:
Volunteer Management basics: It took me quite a bit of struggling to understand and accept that Volunteer Management is different than just human resources or managing/leading people in a workplace. Volunteers are just that volunteers, they don’t have to be there, but they want and need to be treated as fellow professionals, know what is expected of them up front, use their actual abilities (not just be used as low-end free laborers) and be recognized for freely giving their time and efforts. This took me longer than it should have to figure this out, but 30 years of Personnel Management experience, was difficult to unlearn and was a lot different than what the Volunteer Management profession actually is and the direction that it is headed. Looking onVolunteerMaine is a great place to see what I mean.
AmeriCorps program management: AmeriCorps members and programs are great. The hardest part of being a Grants Program Officer is balancing the need to have programs/members abide by the regulations and still go by the AmeriCorps motto of “Getting things done”. It has caused me my share of headaches and heartburn, but as they say the first year is always the hardest and I know that I have learned a great deal about this balancing act. The hardest thing that I have to had to wrap my head around was that AmeriCorps program management incorporates the best practices of Volunteer Management into its program management practices and I think that others may have this same problem. But as I have gained more experience, I am understanding the inter-relationship between AmeriCorps and Volunteer Management to a much greater degree.
Emergency Management: Although this is a much smaller part of my job, it is also one of the most important parts to me. As a retired “Coastie” I believe in being prepared for emergency situations and have participated in a few emergency/disaster events. During the past year I have gained a deep appreciation for the tireless work that the Emergency Managers at the local, county and state levels do and the time and effort that their volunteers provide to others (before, during and after) the actual emergency/disaster situation. I have learned a multitude of new acronyms like COAD, VOAD, MEMA, VRC, VADM, NCCC and NIMS that sounded at first like a different language and really it is. If you can’t speak in these terms you will be at a significant disadvantage during an emergency response/recovery situation. This is a part of my job that I have a real passion for and is becoming more a focus for my position.
State Government: The stereotypes of most State government employees are wrong – period. I have worked in military, education, nonprofits and private industry fields, so I have seen what actually happens in those different venues and believe that my insights are very accurate. Most of the individuals that I have had the pleasure to work with over the past year in State Government are dedicated, very competent, and willingly work many long hours (beyond the simple 40 they are paid for) that the public never sees. I am proud of being a Maine State employee and no we don’t always agree (on interpretations or how something should be accomplished), but most are working towards the “greater good” rather than just a paycheck. This positive attitude of State workers was a very eye opening and gratifying experience for me, because many others, only seem to give a very different (negative) view of State employees, not the true professionalism and camaraderie that I have seen on a daily basis.
Like most of people, I tend to have a unrealistic remembrance of a previous job or profession, that things were better than they really were. We don’t remember the “other” reasons why we left. I really wanted to look at my teaching experience as objectively as possible to help me through this crossroad one way or another and went back over many of my personal blogs that I wrote while I was a teacher, and which brought back the “other” reasons why I left teaching: the hours that a teacher spends on their “own time” doing school work; during the school year school comes first, family second; staying after school for this event or that event (without compensation); creating lesson plans that no one looks at; the endless changes to what or how you are supposed to teach; local, state and national standards; standardized testing; being sworn at (I’ve been called some pretty interesting things and told to do things that are physically impossible), spit on, kicked, hit, or bitten; being sick and tired of being sick and tired (burnt out); the general lack of respect that many in the public give teachers and a variety of other reasons. The scheduled vacations and amount of time off are great, but the time off isn’t really time off most of the time, it is catch up time, time to reduce the burn-out factor to a reasonable level or take classes towards re-certification.
Looking at going back to teaching with a romantic eye only – yes I would love to go back. Those “aha” moments by students are so rewarding, the connections you make with students or other faculty are fantastic. But this honest reflection on my teaching experiences caused me to look differently at the ”why’s” of why I left last year and dispelled much of my romanticized remembrance of teaching.
Somehow the below picture was predictive, it is the last picture I was taken of me as a teacher. Although I am dancing around and having fun around some of the students, it looks as though I am waving goodbye.
I have finally come to the understanding and acceptance that teaching is no longer my profession and that I need to move on. Will I miss the classroom – yes…who knows maybe when I retire next time, I will volunteer and give back to a local school. I will know what a good volunteer is supposed to do.
Did I come to this understanding easily or overnight…no, but when I looked carefully and honestly at this professional crossroad, I faced the reality of why I left teaching and recognize what I have gained over the past year. I have seen the passion and willingness that Volunteers initially show up with and I want to be a part of the changes that are underway to ensure that they keep that passion and remain assets to the organization that they have chosen share their passion with.
It is time for me to actually commit to my new profession – Volunteer Management. So I will learn more about my chosen profession, its varied responsibilities and change my online presence away from being an educator and move towards being a Volunteer Manager and all the other collateral duties that volunteer managers accumulate. My journey as a Volunteer Manager is just now beginning and I am looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. Maybe in six months or so, an update will be in order.
When I was younger, I never would have done this indepth reflection and could very well of done something impulsively that I may have regretted later…like going back into the classroom and leaving where I am now for the wrong reasons – a romanticized memory of how teaching was and should be. Experience and patience is coming to me “slowly” as I get older :).
What do you think? When was the last time you honestly reflected on your present job versus a romanticized version of what or where you were in the past. Do it, you might be surprised, I know I was, I originally believed that I was heading back to the classroom.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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