For a few weeks, we’ve been examining the idea of using technology in our classrooms – whether building on practices that were in use previously and in lower grades or introducing new practices – and just how to go about doing so effectively.
I recently watched the video, The Myth of the Super Teacher in which Roxanna Elden, a Hialeah High School teacher, describes the challenges she faced as a first year teacher. The video struck some familiar chords and made me think a bit about more about my own ideas of what my first year teaching is going to look like. I wasn’t naive enough to think that being a first year teacher would be easy, but I also had some notions that i know I’ll have to leave behind (or modify at least) in order to (a) be successful and (b) remain in the profession longer than three or five years. Particularly poignant for me was 1:19 through 2:26: “There’s a short period of trail and error. And then the teacher figures out the secret to teaching, which is showing kids that you care. And this works really well, because all of the other teachers in the movie, interestingly enough, got into teaching because they don’t care about kids.” I’ll admit it, this was me – or at least my notion of what my classroom will be like. My students will bloom because I’ll be the one teacher in the school who ‘gets them’ and shows how much I care. This very short segment of the video reminds me to keep perspective in mind. A later, portion of the video addresses the idea that as first year teachers, we’ll need the support and advice of the veteran teachers. To whom will we be able to turn when we need help if we come in with the misconceived idea or attitude that veteran teachers are in it just to keep their jobs and no longer care about the kids, that they just are too set in their ways to ‘try something new’ and genuinely engage their students?
For one of my other classes, we’re using the text book, How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, by Carol Ann Tomlinson. In chapter six, she discusses the idea of integrating differentiation practices into your classrooms at a pace with which you are comfortable. In essence, if you as the teacher are uncomfortable and overwhelmed with new methods or practices, those methods and practices will be ineffective and very likely dropped and sadly, we’ll return to methods that we are comfortable with.
The above ideas (perspective and pacing), are relevant to the introduction and use of digital technologies in the classroom. It’s important for me to remind myself that one course in Educational Technology is not going to make me a techie-whiz teacher who is going to revolutionize the way learning happens in the classroom. I need to remind myself that perhaps some teachers don’t use digital technologies because they aren’t familiar with them or know how to effectively integrate them into their lessons and classroom practices, not because they don’t care about their students. And most importantly, I need to remember to pace myself. In my youth and early educational career, there was no digital technology in my classes – it has been astonishing to see the amount and the different types of tools there are available now. As incredible as I find some of the technologies we have been looking at, I still need to figure out how to use them effectively, perhaps introducing them to my practice slowly – and to be unafraid of trying them, just trying them.