Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time to Breathe

So, I planned on writing a really nice reflective post on the past school year which turned into a based-on-last-year's-experience-here's-what-Imma-do-next-year piece which became a Start 'o the School Year Here's What's Happening that morphed into a Dude, Do You Still Have a Blog? kind of thing.

I missed the deadlines. But I have a note.  Ask Alex.

Last year, the district bought my afternoons so I could get out there and work with other teachers in the most organic way possible.  It really looked like an opportunity to be part of something pretty cool in that there really wasn't a detailed description other than "let's try to get teachers talking about best practices."  The flexibility was what drew me to this but it also scared the heck out of me.  The problem was that I had "technology" attached to my name and began fielding questions like "how do I turn this thing on?"  Not what I signed up for. But, all in all, the conversations I had with teachers and administrators were very good.  Based on the feedback they received, the district office wanted to keep it going this year, but my site took a beating in the afternoons.  Class sizes were high and test scores were low due to the fact that the sections I'd normally teach were just absorbed by the other teachers.

I learned a lot about myself and the profession last year.  I learned that I love to talk about teaching and really trying to figure out the best way to help kids understand this thing we call math.  I also learned that many other teachers don't like to talk about it quite so much.  But I can't really blame them.  The system we are in has made many teachers feel like Big Brother is looking over their shoulder.  This creates quite a dilemma in that innovation is not a chance many are willing to take.  We've created a system where teachers want to be told what to do so that they are covered if it doesn't work.  Tough to grow in that soil, let me tell you.

I learned that I'm not really interested in being a "tech guy" although I do believe that technology has it's place and if it can be a conversation starter, then I'm for it.  Some of the things I saw in the classrooms I visited showed me that elementary teachers work their butts off.  I don't see how those people do it.  But it was also apparent that we need vertical articulation.  We have to have a common vision K-12 with respect to how we have our kids do math.  We have pacing guides, benchmarks, common formative assessments and even a standards based report card, but there's really not much continuity between how kids approach mathematics from elementary to middle to high school.  I think that needs to change.  We can spend all the time we want on unpacking standards and developing assessments, but somehow, it has to affect what happens in the classroom.  We have to go beyond using the ancillary materials that come with a textbook adoption and start teaching our kids to do math. Now, if that job opens up, I'm interested.

Even though there is a lot of potential with having a teacher have some flexibility in the schedule, my site needed a full time teacher and the district wasn't ready to make what I did a full time position.  So I'm back in the classroom full time this year.

More to follow; gotta get the kids to bed.


Sameer said...

Wait, you have kids? Also, my computer has this funny blinking thing in the ...


Dan Anderson said...

I'm with you on the not wanting to be "the tech guy". It certainly has its place at the table, but not the head seat.

Terry Kaminski said...

I agree. The job you were doing half time needs to be fulltime. Glad you chose the students at your school. They will benefit from your great teaching and other teachers will learn from what you do in your classroom.

CalcDave said...

I am somewhat of the de facto "tech guy" at our school even though we have an actual tech guy and a "tech coach" who does what you are describing. It annoys me that I get consulted so often about it, but mostly because there are other people who are supposed to be doing it. I think I wouldn't mind if it were my actual job to help with those things.

Anyways, those instructional coaches (at least in our district) seem to be under-utilized. I don't know any teachers who work closely with one to develop themselves or their classroom. Also, in my rare interactions with them, I feel like I know more about what they could do than they do.

Maybe that's the job I need next, but I so love teaching math!

Anonymous said...

Now you're making me want to spend some of my free time heading to Elemtary and Middle Schools to see how things are done. You definitely make it sound worth a personal day or two during the school year.