First day jitters as an NEA SISP Fellow

The needle is just being placed on the turntable vinyl and the song is shortly to start. What song will it be? Will it be one that is familiar to me or one that I will have to take some time to listen to before I start to dance? Will I stumble or make a wrong step? Will I sail through the choreography as a well-trained ballerina in a recital? Who is watching? Are they focused on my moves or me? Will I know what steps to do as the songs mix from one to the next? My dance is now underway…

As I get ready to step out on the dance floor, I ponder all that is ahead of me as this is the eve of my first day of the NEA Fellowship. Know that by the time you read this, I will have been on that dance floor for approximately a month. I will have learned some new moves and shared some of my own with the other dancers on the floor.

I do want to say that although this may likely be my shortest message to you, it is probably the most important one, knowing that first impressions matter. First day jitters. An array of emotions and thoughts that are going through my head. I’m wondering what some of the first interactions will be like with members of the team I will be working with for the next nine months. Will my voice and input add value? Will my dog bark on the days when I am working remotely from home, interrupting an important meeting? Will my internet connection drop?

Many, many thoughts and feelings, but I’m so happy and blessed to be experiencing this opportunity and truly having the support of family. My husband, two sons have all been sharing in my journey thus far and wouldn’t want anything else for “us.” From the setting up of a new home office space to picking up additional tasks. I couldn’t ask for anything more. They as well as other family members, friends and colleagues are all there for me as I travel further on this journey. Tomorrow, that dance floor spotlight will surely be beaming down on me.

I just checked my NEA email inbox to see what is in store for my first day. I already have meetings lined up for the day with the department and in nationally based platforms that will be discussing how schools can address health and wellness in meaningful ways.

Children spend the majority of their time in schools. Knowing this as educators, it is vital that we contribute to their needs in manners that support health, safety, security, and an educational environment that is welcoming and open to listening to what their needs may be as well as the needs of their families and the school community as a whole. We are important partners to the success of children.

So, as I start to research different genres of music and figure out what steps I will start with tomorrow morning. I do want you to know that my dance shoes are lined up—character, ballet, tap, jazz, pointe and even athletic dance shoes, ready to take to the floor…

Until next month.

Shelia Caldwell, BSN, RN, CSN-NJ

Sheila Caldwell is a certified school nurse in the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District. She is on leave to participate in the SISP Fellowship described in this article. In addition to receiving numerous national and local awards, Caldwell has received the American Academy of Pediatrics-NJ Chapter School Health Advocate of Year (2016) and the 2021 National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Recognition Award for “continued support and unique contributions to NASN and school nursing.”

 Caldwell can be reached at