Graduate school orientation at Nazareth College back in July or August was not a problem. Registering for my classes, also not a problem. Purchasing texts (while surprisingly expensive) was not daunting activity. And organizing and setting myself up for the coming semester played into one of my strengths. Finally making the decision to return to graduate school at my age, and in the field of Childhood Education, however, was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made as an adult. Am I too old for this? Am I ready for the challenge and rigor that is graduate school? Will I make a good teacher at the end of it all?
One of the worries about pursuing a career as an engaged member of this profession is my perhaps misguided idea that kids and classrooms are so different from the ‘good old days’ when I was a student. The world has changed so much since then, and technology has played an integral part in that change. The tools available to kids (and teachers!) today are so different from when I was in the classroom. And when I consider how technology has changed (for good or bad) how we interact with each other and how we perceive and learn about our world, I mostly focused on the negative:
- ‘virtual’ friends vs. ‘real’ friends and the shallowness of those virtual relationships;
- our growing impatience because we want what we want when we want it, and being connected to the internet seems to foster this;
- the spread of informality;
- our seeming inability to focus on one thing at a time because let’s face it, it’s easy to get distracted with all that information so readily available.
I also did not consider that I was focusing on technology in social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) rather than on technology in the work place. For educators and students, the classroom is the workplace. In other professions, technological advances and tools are, for the most part, considered beneficial and desirable. From my own experience, I never could understand why anyone would use a Word document to create a table once I learned the tools in Excel – the end product created using Excel had so many more advantages. And who would argue that a punch clock is ‘better’ than an online program or application that has the same (and more) functions? Why do so many of us balk then at using technology in the classroom? Is it because we genuinely believe that the methods and tools we used as students are inherently better than the methods and tools that students use today? Or is it because we are uncomfortable with these new technological tools? because we don’t relate to these tools as well as some of our students? because we don’t really know how to use them effectively?
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein. My blog tagline is a quote that is relevant to the issues I’ll be exploring not only during this semester and for this EDTS class, but for the rest of my career as a teacher. It speaks to the idea that we are responsible for changing our way of thinking in order to effect a change in the world, in my classroom. It hints at the idea that change can be difficult, that it is easier to continue with ideas, technologies, and/or methods we find familiar and comfortable. I realize that as a future teacher of children who are (seemingly) so different from when I was a student, it is my responsibility to challenge myself, to adapt to and learn to use tools that take me out of my comfort zone. How can we ask our students to venture out of their comfort zones, to challenge themselves, to work harder in our classrooms than they have ever worked before if we are not willing to do the same personally and professionally?
Students have tools available to them outside (and inside) the classroom that I never imagined as a student. And they use these tools. Technology won’t go away; it won’t disappear. That’s the reality of our society and our classrooms. I can long for the ‘good old days’ and become increasingly irrelevant, or I can adapt and try new things. It’s about taking that first step and trusting that the ground will rise up to meet my feet.