Wrestling the invisible

I took some time to do some reading last week during our February break. There were many great posts and ideas that are circulating via my RSS Reader but three posts really caught my attention. The first was Linda‘s post about the difference she sees between “front line teachers” and those who are contributing to the edublogosphere discussions. The second is a set of posts by Nancy McKeand and a take on an artcile about teaching. The third is a post by Dave Sherman which looks at good teaching.

Each of these, in their own way, reflects on how technology and new tools impact what makes a good teacher. Linda’s view is very personal, something that I really appreciate. It gives me something to reflect upon as someone who is working toward building the skills of the teachers with whom I work. I like her comment that

My day has enough ‘must know, must do, must respond, must quantify’ in it that I look at my PLN to create humor in some difficult, stressful situations.

Her post is honest and forward which I appreciate. She expresses her thoughts about the use of technology from the perspective of a full-time teacher who is working at capacity. She is much like many of the teachers that I know and with whom I associate. The comments on the post reflect more of the same. It is vital that people outside the daily teaching arena listen closely to these voices. My friend Susan has expressed some similar thoughts after returning to the classroom this year. Her post looks at how she is trying to bring different aspects together and how difficult it is to do now that she is in the classroom full-time.

For now, my classroom is completely wireless, yes, no wires at all. Unplugged. Oh, I have the one computer in the corner. I try to keep up the school website and my class site but it is not what I was dreaming of last year. I’m not sure how to do it. The lab is in a state of disrepair and the six computers in the library might make stations possible but they are down the hall and around the bend so it’s a struggle to get all of us there and purposeful at the same time. I need… I need time to think it out, plan for it, find a small chunk that I think might work.

I continue to read what Susan has to say because she is someone who I know has the desire and knowledge to merge web2.0 tools and the classroom. Her posts, not all are this subject, allow me to better appreciate someone who, although not in my building, is close to home and has similar demands as do the teachers in my school. With Linda, they really highlight what many teachers are feeling. As someone who is looking to be a champion of Web2.0 tools, it is this type of insight that gives me food for thought.

Nancy’s posts are great for the original discussion on What makes a good teacher?, the comments and then the following post that stretches this a bit further. In this day and age of fast and furious change, we really need to watch what we expect of teachers and how we begin to evaluate what they do. The two big questions at the end:

  The big question now is whether – after 20 years of being told exactly what and how to teach – there are enough teachers ready to be “creatively subversive”?

Also, after years of being told in precise detail how to teach, will teachers feel ready both to devise their own way of teaching and engaging students and also constantly to evaluate and adapt their own teaching methods.

These two questions are really at the heart of what we are asking teachers to do no matter what it is we are asking them to do and without the proper amount of time for teachers to reflect – in the bathroom between classes is not adequate time by the way – the outcomes will not match what we know is possible. Now, there are some teachers that are doing great things and are great examples of what can be achieved but, unless we listen to the teachers like Linda and Susan, we will be doomed to follow the path of previous school change ideas.

Finally, Dave Sherman‘s post. Dave’s post really focuses on what is paramount in good teaching.

 Good teaching in the 21st century is not about technology. High quality teaching is not just about blogging, creating wikis, or podcasting. Yes, those are a few of the tools or options available to teachers, but there are so many more. Real teaching is about creating opportunities for students to become involved in critical thinking, questioning, problem solving, inquiring, researching, and authentic learning.

I couldn’t of said it any better. Thanks Dave! In a time of constant change and increasing responsiblilities on teachers, how do we expect them to bring about changes through refelction if we don’t somehow give them the time? To be a teacher during this time is to step forward and take the whole of the social fabric of society on your back. The public expectation of teachers has grown while the amount of time for reflection and professional growth has not. We have students with a myraid of challenges in the classroom, expect teachers to differentiate for students and now begin to use a host of new tools without giving them more time to do so.

Yes, I know that using the tools will help with time and it’s use within schools and the classroom. But time has become this invisible combatant against whom the various levels of education are all trying to battle but from different sides with no one really making any progress. Because no can agree howor what  this time opponent looks like, we end up in a match against each other without gaining any ground. What is the old adage “To go fast, first you have to go slow.” Yes there are many educators adopting the tools but there are many good teachers who are able to reach their students through other means. If one of the greatests tools for helping teachers improve their teaching is self-relflection, are we giving them the necessary tools to do this?


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  3. Dr. Sanford Aranoff


    Self reflection is very important. I have done a lot, and published a book: “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better”

  4. Reply

    Thank you for thinking my writing was worth mentioning. I was truly honored. Your staff is very lucky to have you as their leader. Your thoughts show us all how you value them.

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