Year-End Reflection

Every three years, I am evaluated by an administrator. Part of this evaluation involves setting a professional growth goal, and then reflecting on meeting that goal at the end of the year. I set a goal to become Adobe Certified in Adobe Illustrator. Here is an edited version of my reflection I turned in to my administrator. After I wrote it, I sent it to Stueve, who said it was damn good writing and I should post it on my blog. I thought Teacher Appreciation Week was good timing for that.

Well, what a year.

We started the school year with technology problems on a scale I’d not seen in all my years at BPS. It took me most of first semester to realize that if I was going to get anything done during my plan time, I needed to hide, because fixing tech issues as Building Tech Coordinator was seeping into my plan time, which made just the daily work of teaching more difficult, let alone setting aside time to do Illustrator tutorials. But I did complete the first of three training modules 1st semester and vowed to set better boundaries 2nd semester.

And then my colleague Mr. Stueve got sick.

For most teachers in the building, a sick colleague would have minimal impact on daily life. But over the past eight years, Stueve and I have created a program that can only be sustained in its present form with two teachers. Suddenly I found myself needing to manage basketball broadcasts, check out equipment, help editors of two staffs occasionally make changes and improvements to content, recruit students for next year’s staffs, and at times even help students in Stueve’s introductory classes with minor technical issues. All of this, of course, happening at the same time as I’m learning all the music for the school musical and attending those rehearsals, still teaching my own classes, and producing a newspaper and website.

Oh, and there was the added mental stress of not knowing whether Stueve was going to be okay, and my own two-week bout with some kind of virus (corona? Until I get an antibody test, I’ll always wonder…) that really knocked me out at the worst possible time.

I looked at the reality in front of me, and the first thing to go was the after-school Adobe work sessions for students, which was time I planned to use for my own certification. So there was another six hours of time lost toward meeting my goal of becoming Adobe certified in Illustrator. But I figured once the musical was over and Stueve returned to school after a two-month absence, I could get back on track. No problem.

And then, COVID-19 shut down the school. And to an outsider looking in, you might say, “Well Ms. Rowse, you are single and have no kids and you have all the time in the world now to meet this goal! This is quite the opportunity for you!” And yes, that’s fair, except for a couple of problems.

First: The mental toll of being completely isolated with no one in my home was much greater than I initially calculated. It is difficult to motivate myself to complete Illustrator tutorials when I am unable to share what I learn with students or colleagues.

Second: I can’t actually take the exam, because it has to be proctored by Mr. Stueve, and he is (wisely) keeping his family in isolation, and I’m pretty much keeping to myself as well to protect my parents, in case of an emergency where I might have to go to their home and help them with something. So to complete all the tutorials now, when I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to take the exam (will we be back in August? Who knows!), would be foolish.

So this leaves me, for the first time ever, as not meeting my professional growth plan as I had envisioned. However, I know I still grew as a professional this year. Here’s how:

I took students to a national journalism conference for the first time ever and attended sessions about how to continually improve our program.

I took 3 graduate classes via Augustana College which made me reevaluate how I design all instructional materials.

I read the book “Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom,” which is giving me ideas for how I can improve my courses.

But most important, I learned how to set clear boundaries when it became evident I had too many responsibilities simultaneously crashing in on me.

I had a good plan. In any other year, I would’ve met this goal well ahead of my self-imposed May 15 deadline. So I guess I can sum up my professional growth plan for 2019-2020 with this: I did grow as an educator, I did grow as a person, and I hope that is enough.


April 28

Rediscovering my happy places and old friends:
Bartlet’s White House
Sacred Heart Hospital
Santa Barbara Police Department

It’s these places keeping me sane
Letting my head escape
And forget all I am missing.

April 29

“Just do the mile,” I repeated
Bracing against a spring-chilled wind
“You will feel better,” I repeated
Shoving my weight against gusts

But when I returned
I did not feel better
And there are days, I suppose
When no matter the tools–
Walks, writing, watching–
Wallowing is the only true and restorative course of action.

Two Short Poems

April 26

Things I hope I keep:

Leisurely walks around my neighborhood
Books books
Sunday family game time
Virtual hangouts with friends when schedules and distance keep us apart
Cleaning random items when I notice their grubbiness
Isolation-induced perspective

April 27

A rare visit to family
Socially distanced, of course
An ache filled, to see people in the flesh
An ache amplified, six feet apart

It’s keeping us safe,
I repeated in my head
Until the ache became too great
And I waved goodbye

Ozark and Hugs

April 23

Watch Ozark, they said
It’s so good, they said
It’s not too scary, they said

Beware: the characters on Ozark are liars
Beware: so are the people who tell you to watch it
Beware: it is scary.

April 25

I am not a hugger
I flinch sometimes when touched
I was not always this way
But when I realized I faced
A life alone
I retrained myself to not be a hugger
Lest I constantly miss being touched.

The last time I was touched
By another human being
Was March 7
And while I’m glad I retrained
My hugging tendencies
This lack of human contact
Is starting to gnaw at me
Keeping me up late
Wondering if adults have ever withered
From a lack of touch.

Markers and Scales

April 21

Every night I hold five markers in my hand:
Gray, Blue, Pink, Green, Yellow
A spectrum of emotion
To track my days

I write down the key happenings:
People I talked to
Movies I watched
Tasks I completed

And I assess: what color is today?
For weeks, I was stuck between grey and pink
Devastatingly sad to numb.

But this past week?
Green every day.
It is a gift, this week of good days
Evidence that nothing is permanent.

April 22

A small step today,
Moving my scale from my bathroom to under my bed

I decide this after stepping on it,
Seeing a number I haven’t seen in months
And I felt sad
And immediately felt mad
Letting a number affect
My mood
My thoughts
My value

I decide it’s time for different metrics:
Every day, did I eat
Some fruit?
Some vegetables?
Some fiber?
Some protein?

Every day,
Did I walk?
Do some yoga?
Maybe lift some weights?
Do a few pushups?

Most important:
Do my jeans still fit?

And if I can answer yes to most of those questions
Then my scale is irrelevant
And doesn’t need to judge me every morning.