Looking back, looking ahead

Last August I found out I would be teaching ninth-grade English, not serving as a full time instructional tech coordinator. Of course, I had already signed on to participate in the Powerful Learning Practice, and I was not about to stop working behind the scenes supporting teachers as best I could in their use of technology. I knew the year would be difficult (I hadn't read anything I was going to teach), time-consuming (I would be connecting and supporting teachers as a team fellow for the PLP), and exhausting (much of the work needed to be done in the evening and on weekends).

So how did it go?

Thumbs Down!

  • Using another teacher's lesson plans does not make things easier! My colleague, Susanne, had taught this course for a number of years. In her organized, inimitable fashion, she handed me (virtually) her daily plans, quizzes, projects,and tests to use. Sounds great, but we teach differently, and I can't tell you how many times I would be halfway through a lesson, wondering why I was doing it that way and then having to re-group for the next day. Susanne is one of the best, most creative teachers I know. But I should have just created the lessons myself.
  • My disorganization. Sigh, it's my critical flaw. I suppose I should give up trying to be more organized after all these years; it's just not going to happen. I tried to use two email addresses and two diigo accounts (to accommodate our private ed group) with the kids, and that often created havoc in my attempt to be paperless. (It didn't work.) And, wow, can I let myself wander when I'm online reading one article or blog after another.

Thumbs Up!

  • I loved most days with my amazing, fun students. Our ninth-grade course is writing intensive in both English and history. Though I didn't always love the grading, I so enjoyed reading their work and watching them grow intellectually and creatively.
  • Frankenstein. This powerful book led us to "the monster within us," pop culture, Mary Shelley's writing style, and the pros and cons of scientific advancements. This piece also let them begin to react emotionally on their blogs.
  • Using a wiki to organize our year. The perfect tool. What else can I say?
  • Working with the PLP and my network enriched my interaction with the students and let me try new things. The students would argue that some days we tried too much (another tool, Mrs. Carter Morgan??) However,I can't imagine teaching without our laptops or immediate access to internet resources again.

What I know for sure (as Oprah says) is that it is hard (impossible?) for me to focus on one thing. I tend to get distracted, spend far too much time online looking for the "best" tool or approach, making one more comment or tweet to someone, or trying to figure out how to change the theme on our WPMU blogging platform when I should be doing something else! Too many times I tried to say yes to people who needed help integrating technology, and frankly, that meant a less productive classroom for myself.

Those traits work well when I am a full time instructional technologist, as I can multi-task, share ideas, engage in conversations about teaching and learning, and spend hours looking for resources. But they do not work well for teachers working full time in the classroom. As I look forward to next year, I need to keep this in mind.

And I do like this list from an editorial in The Boston Globe. I will continue to let these principles guide me as I create a plan for my 8th grade students:

THINK strategically. Use technology wisely. Work collaboratively.
Communicate effectively. Recognize how the world around you connects to
everything you do.