Happy New Year and welcome back to second semester!

Charles Sykes once wrote something to the effect that in the real world, life isn’t divided into semesters, there are no do-overs, you don’t get to start again, you just have to keep showing up everyday. This “rule of life” has been repeated in print by Ann Landers and broadcast by Paul Harvey. It has been mistakenly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, and most famously to Bill Gates. Everyone it seems wants to make sure that there is no misconception about what happens in the “real world”. I wonder then, where does that leave all the people who make New Year resolutions with such hope and determination? And where does that leave those of us who work in education? Perhaps new beginnings are a luxury few in the real world get to experience. If that’s the case, then we are very lucky indeed because second semester is a new beginning, for both our students and us. With the holidays behind us and the second half of the school year ahead, this is a great time to take a look at what we can do to improve as educators. Of course we will decide to be a little more organized, to not get behind in grading, to improve certain lessons, etc. Overall, we set second semester goals that will make us better educators. To that end, second semester affords so many opportunities.

Professional development abounds during the second half of the year. Coming up in ACTE and ACTEAZ alone are some amazing conferences. In February ACTEAZ will hold its Mid-Winter Leadership Conference in Prescott. In March ACTE sponsors the National Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. This conference offers the chance to meet CTE educators from around the country and advocate for CTE directly with our members of Congress. The Region V Conference in Salt Lake City follows NPS in April. These are open to all CTE educators. There are links to each of these on our website.

ACTEAZ is also very proud of its Premier Program. This is a series of professional development opportunities designed to offer support and training for CTE teachers to help increase understanding of CTE and improve classroom and lab performance. These courses are available for certification and college credit. A CTE 101 class will be held in Prescott in February. Specific information, including course objectives and registration procedures can be found on our website. I urge you to take advantage of these exciting CTE professional development events. Within CTE you can also find content-specific experiences and training. Look to your affiliates or contact your state supervisors for what may be available. I also encourage you to look around for other chances to learn. Attend the in-services offered in your local building and/or district. Look for training in the common-core standards. Be open to professional development in any areas that can impact your classroom such as math, language and literacy.

As you can see there are many, many opportunities to help us become better educators. I recognize this can be overwhelming for new teachers, but I would urge you to begin the professional development journey. You don’t have to learn everything at once, but each new experience can enhance your classroom and make you more comfortable in your role. Once you start this journey, continue it for there will always be something to learn. I sometimes hear more experienced educators say they have given up on professional development or don’t like a particular offering because “there is nothing here for me”. Don’t believe them. Yes, you will come to that one startling moment along the path where you are listening and suddenly realize how knowledgeable you have become. You may even think, “WOW, I know as much, if not more than ‘that guy’ “. But keep listening because this is when it gets exciting. If you keep an open mind, you will begin to collect nuggets from these professional opportunities. It may be something motivational. It may be a better way to say something you’ve been saying one way for years. It may be a new organizational tool. It may be a new colleague. It may just the comfort in knowing you are not alone in this effort; others share your goals and frustrations. It may be… who knows? But I promise, if you remain open to it, there will always be something more to learn. The “aha moments” will abound and you will be stronger and better for them. John Wooten, the famous UCLA basketball coach whose teams won 10 national championships in 12 years, often told his players, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts”.

Please explore all of these opportunities on our website. Choose at least one, or as many, as your situation will allow. I look forward to meeting you, and sharing with you, these opportunities to grow as educators.

By the way, I don’t agree with Mr. Sykes. Maybe it is because I grew up and lived my life in a world that was divided into semesters, but I believe we all get the chance to start over… any time we choose to. It doesn’t have to be a new year or a new semester. Any time we set a new goal, make a new resolution, seek to improve or learn something new, it is a chance to start over. Any day that we plan to be a little better than yesterday is a new beginning… even in the “real world”.