Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Share, Share, Share

Motivated by Kelly Hines (whom you should follow) and her post on her goals for the new year, I've been thinking about my own. I already had goals, but it's always good to write them down. It's going to be a different type of year for me. Even though this will be my eighth year teaching, I feel like it's my rookie year. Twenty years ago I began teaching high school math. After fifteen years away from the classroom, I came back to my first love last fall. That in itself was an adjustment. This summer my principal asked me to get certified in science and teach 6th grade! And more changes will come next year for me.

I've been blessed to land a position in a school with a progressive minded principal who is willing to let his teachers take risks. I never have to worry about trying to convince him why we should try to implement something new or different that will benefit the students. It's great having lots of technology options. When I left teaching the first time, cutting edge technology was the graphing calculator. But it's not about the technology - just read here and here. It's about how you use the technology. Both are part of my goals and here they are.

1) Learn from Others

2) Provide Plenty of Opportunities for my students, colleagues, and myself to Explore, Inquire, and Create

3) Implement Technology with Good Pedagogy

4) Share, Share, Share

Honestly, when I look at my goals, I really only see two - Share and Implement. I'm excited about the sharing part but it's hard. I came up with what I believe are some cool activities to do this year. It would be so easy to keep them to myself and then say after the fact, "Look at the cool lesson I developed." But, if I'm doing it for the good of my students, shouldn't all students in the school benefit? Shouldn't I want to help my colleagues instead of sitting back and pointing out how they never do stuff like this? So, I shared these ideas with the whole faculty. Now they can all modify my activities to fit their situations. All students will be better off.

I've learned a lot about sharing this year. The other math teacher on my hallway last year was a huge help. She shared her experience, wisdom, and resources with me. My kids were so lucky I had her as a teammate. I began my PLN on Twitter and literally hundreds of people have shared their experience, wisdom, and resources with me. My students will continue to benefit. I look forward to continuing to share back and forth with my PLN.

Sharing is the only way to make positive change. Some people really want to change but have no idea where to start. Remember what it was like to be a first year teacher and you had all those questions? There might be a twenty year veteran who feels the same way about implementing technology in an effective way. Soon your generosity will have others coming to you, asking for help. In the end, students benefit all the way around. And that's what it's all about.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Just Doing My Job

Last week my family experienced the vacation from hell. We spent several days camping in the mountains near Cherokee, NC. The final two days were spent in Asheville in a hotel and touring the Biltmore Estate. I spent much of the evening in the hotel assisting my wife with her newly sprained foot. At one point I needed to go out and look for some crutches, an ankle brace, etc. to help out with the issue. I asked the desk clerk for directions to several pharmacies. Because we were nearing the end of an exhausting couple of days, I know my face communicated all my feelings. The young man assisting me was quite helpful and very customer service oriented. He sensed my need and went out of his way to print maps and directions, offering any other help he could provide. I was duly impressed and touched by his actions. When I thanked him, he responded by saying, "Just doing my job."

Now I know he meant nothing negative. I'm pretty sure his meaning was, "I'm supposed to do everything I can to help you because you are the customer." I honestly believe he was genuine in his intentions. However, it made me feel less special. It initially made me think he only did it because he had to, despite the other indications that said something else. I immediately thought of myself and all my colleagues who will be returning to work over the next couple of weeks as school resumes. How many times are we guilty of "Just doing my job"?

That phrase can be taken both ways, just as with the hotel clerk. We can be student focused, learning focused, reflective and adaptable because as teachers that's the best way to do our job. Our efforts can be motivated by a sincere concern for the well being of our students. OR we can participate in the principal's latest vision or the superintendent's latest mandate because "it's our job" and we have to. Both ways are correct but one is better.

"Just doing my job" means also seeing my students as people. Yesterday I ran into one of my kids from last year. (I almost never call them "students" - it seems to impersonal for me.) She ran up to me and gave me a big hug. I'm glad that when I did my job for her last year, it meant more than the imparting of mathematical knowledge. I hope that as I do my job this year that a whole 'nother group of kids feel the same way. I firmly believe that the nature of my relationship with my kids has as much influence with their eventual progress as my teaching will. OR we can say, "My job is to be your teacher, not make you like me." Both ways are correct but one is better.

Teachers in my county officially report back to work tomorrow. Let's all go out and do our job.