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  • shelhusk

Get out of your silo.....

I am not a farmer, but this concept of a silo applies to so many things in education. A silo is a tall, solitary building usually used to store grain. The key word there is solitary. Having taught for 30 years, I know a lot about silos- and the one thing I keep going back to is-get out of your silo.

Teaching is hard, and keeping yourself in isolation will make the job miserable. There are numerous studies that tell us a teacher will decide in the 1st five years if they stay in the profession. Studies also show that mentoring these new teachers has a profound effect on their decision to stay or leave teaching. Many states, including North Dakota, have a program that matches new teachers to mentors teachers. It's an amazing program, but it is not fully funded (not enough money to cover every new teacher) and requests to increase the budget of that program to cover all 1st and 2nd year teachers have been dismissed. Some districts have their own programs to mentor teachers, but they often also fall short. So then what?

If you are a new teacher, get out of your silo and make friends with your colleagues and other new teachers in the building. I cannot emphasize enough the role good colleagues will have in your teaching journey. They become your go to when you have questions as simple as how to enter grades and as complex as how to handle a difficult student. You will not survive without this network of support. As an introvert, reaching out to others is difficult, but it is worth the effort. I look back at all the teachers I have been lucky enough to work with and realize how big of an impact they had on my career.

My first 4 years of teaching required a 45 minute commute each way- not ideal, but there were 3 of us who were new or relatively new in the science department and we car pooled. Some of my best memories are from those car rides. Thank you to Lisa Hines and Chris Ann Johnson for those memories.

Then a move to Lincoln where I was teaching a subject I was uncomfortable with (physics) and I was alone- no other physics teachers and in a new town. Perfect silo situation. But I went to some workshops and met other physics teachers, including one of my best friends, Nancy Argano-Rush. I made enough noise in my classroom to annoy the teacher across the hall and got another best friend- Molly Thomas.

My work with the AP program while in Lincoln led to my AP Physics family- Bill & Elaine Pappas, Mike Rulison, Jeff Funkhouser, Delores Gende, Dee Dee Messer, Briant McKellips, Jiang Yu, Matt Sckalor, Frank Norton, Becca Howell, Julie Hood, Terri McMurray and many more who should be named, but I have things yet to do today :)

Moving back to North Dakota meant that once again I needed to push myself out of my silo and I met Sarah Volk while at Oak Grove. Moving to West Fargo HS led me to my newest family- and they are family; Mike Preston, Joan Baltezore, Brad Amundson, Susan Duffy, Annette Kreft, Matt Glende, Mandy Oanes, Tarah Dahl, Carla Maahs, Jordan Nepstad, Jenn Hoime, Mark Berntson, Jamie Zuel, Jane Holland and many others.

Taking the leap with the Einstein Program has been amazing, but I am once again fighting to get out of my silo. It's so easy to just sit at home, but I have been trying very hard to get out of my silo and make connections with current and past fellows.. This is especially important since I am here without family. This group is amazing and fun and supportive. Thank you to Carla, Laura, Jackie, Tyler, Alfonso, Jess, Luke, Candyce, Tom, Zach, Danielle, Kelly, Nicole, Vida and Jennifer. You are my new, somewhat crazy family!

Moral of the story is the while getting out of your silo can be hard, what you will gain is priceless. I am beyond grateful for all those wonderful people who have shaped the teacher and person I am today.

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