A year later, I’m a happy graduate of the Staff Development Program!
The what? Clemson has a program that tries to reward staff that makes the effort to develop skills based around three areas: professional, personal and service. In the end, you get a nice little raise, so it seemed like a no-brainer.
Except there were a few snags. First, at my age, I’m already doing a lot. I’d organized several conferences for my professional organization, I’d taken up running and run several halfs, and I have taught Sunday school for the past seven years. So, I had to find new things to do. Second, I don’t think I’d calculated how much 150 hours truly was. It’s about a month of work hours! (And, you have less than ten months to complete it, during non-working hours.) And third, I didn’t anticipate that I’d do it in a year that I’d plan another UCDA event (the Summit, not quite as daunting as the Conference), decide to run a marathon (NOT on plan) and that my father’s health would decline. (He’s stable now.)
I also should have taken the planning period a little more seriously. I was distracted by things at work and at home and, I didn’t realize the importance of the plan. I’m completely grateful to the flexibility of the SDP volunteers who let me add some different goals to my plan.
So, what did I learn? Let’s do this the way the program does this: by the three categories in which we need to complete our hours. I’ll do it in the order in which I started each category.
Service: 40 hours
I have these friends at Eastern Illinois University who are big fans of Girls on the Run. They coach, they fundraise, their kids participate and they talk very enthusiastically about it. I’d been running for about 3 years (after years of only Jazzercise) and I knew that at some point, the Health Science students had coached as part of Creative Inquiry. An email and I found out they were planning to do it again. So, I signed up!
God bless the three college students stuck with me. We must have seemed to be an odd quartet: three cute college girls and a middle-aged woman who could have been their mother. I bought snacks (paid for by GOTR), chaffeurred everyone up to Liberty Elementary and even supplied the clipboard for sign in and sign out. (This hadn’t occurred to the other coaches.) Oh, and I was apparently the official photographer.
I will admit that after ten weeks of driving up to Liberty twice a week to do these lessons, when the kids would be cranky and the weather was getting cold, maybe I would be less than happy to be there. But, more often than not, I enjoyed those little rascals. Did we see a difference in those girls after 10 weeks? Absolutely. They started as little smart alecks, unwilling to give us serious answers, to girls that were willing to share important sentiments and feelings. My absolute favorite moment had to be at the end of the practice 5K, watching all the girls run together to encourage the last girl to finish, except one. That girl was holding up a sign at the finish line for her. That was even better than the real 5K, which was also great. Not every girl who signed up at the beginning finished, but the ones who did finish crossed the line as changed girls. (And bonus: some of them were really good runners too.)
Personal: 30 hours
I’d done Jazzercise for 17 years, and run for three, plus I have become a pretty good knitter, so what on earth else would I do? I went with yoga and meditation. There’d been a lot of frustration at work and I thought those might help me deal with some of that. I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of that goal, but I needed something for 30 personal hours.
What a surprise. I, like many, thought that yoga would be just stretching. It turns out it’s very hard to exercise by standing still. And, it turns out yoga is totally accessible. When I took my next-door neighbor, she came back very excited that the yoga instructor was so nice and so helpful and not at all snotty. I confess that I had the same fear when I first started. That and I thought it might be boring. It’s completely different than how I’m used to exercising, but it turned out to be a lovely companion to Jazzercise and running. In fact, it helped my running a lot. (So come! A couple great options in town: the Purple Mat in Pendleton and my friend Christine, who teaches at the G7 Studio in Central on Thursdays at 7:30.)
Meditation was tougher for me. It’s completely different for me, with my iPhone and iPad and TV and laptop, to sit still for an hour and not do or think anything. Does it help? Surprisingly, it does. I was much calmer during the week when I sat aside an hour to sit and do … nothing.
Professional: 80 hours
I did a LOT of different things to get to 80 hours on this. My goal was to learn more about how admissions worked, since I am primarily an admissions designer, and perhaps learn a little more about teaching. So, I traveled to NY, to Greenwood and Atlanta, to see how admissions events worked. I sat with various counselors in the admissions office to learn how their jobs worked. I watched a lot of online training videos. I even guest lectured a PRTM class. There were things that I thought I would never, ever use (um, Flash) and it was the first thing that I ended up using.
In the end, I developed good relationships with the folks in admissions, got a much better understanding of their challenges and gained a lot of good software skills. And, I learned that I like my job just fine and that teaching thing is way harder than it looks.
But, what I really gleaned from the Staff Development Program was unexpected. It forced me to meet those goals we all want to do and never get around to doing. That’s a problem for everyone. Sure, there were good skills I picked up, but forcing myself to actually write down goals and then do them in a defined period of time meant that maybe I watched videos when I might otherwise blow it off. Or keep trying yoga until I got the hours in … and then find at that point that I’m actually getting benefits from going.
And the nice little raise will help pay for those new kitchen cabinets.