This past weekend I attended #edcampdetroit at Wayne State University in Midtown, Detroit. What a fun and inspiring experience! It was awesome to see all of the knowledge, deep conversations and ideas sparking from such an experience that edcamps bring to the table.
In one of the sessions I attended, I was really put-off, though, of a gentleman who was quite rude towards a new teacher. I was so upset at the entire situation, and couldn't believe this "seasoned" teacher was speaking so rudely towards the new teacher. We were discussing classroom culture, and this young teacher started to talk about her struggle in her building of the "testing culture". Where her entire life revolved around testing quarterly. It was her first teaching gig, it was no fun, and she was struggling to find her own identity and create her own classroom culture that reflected her beliefs as a teacher AND sufficed her admin. And then a teacher totally tore her down. I'm paraphrasing... "Well, if you wanted to promote classroom culture as your first and foremost initiative, you *could*. You *could* focus on the culture instead of focusing on the testing.. [giving NO suggestions, no support, no gentle words of encouragement.. ]
As this young teacher tried to start a real conversation with this more seasoned veteran, he looked down at Twitter and started to reply, "yea, nah, etc." nonchalantly like what she said offered no bearing on the conversation and the conversation was, in effect, over.
<Take heed, friends. A very cool, inspiring person jumped in right about now to try to diffuse the situation and succeeded.>
What the heck, dude? I thought this was a place to INSPIRE, talk, discuss, initiate great reflection, and dive into forward, deep thinking. Not a place to make people feel miniscule and like they were unworthy. It's easy to forget what it was like to be a first year teacher, to feel like you're navigating the world with goggles on and to feel overwhelmed. It's easy to forget you're talking to someone about their livelihood and it's even easier to break people down instead of trying to build them up.
It is my challenge to you today, to remember what it was like to be a new teacher. To feel like a minion - like you were just dipping your toes in the water. Remember those that you could turn to and rely on the first year. If you consider yourself to be an inspiring teacher (I consider you to be, why don't you?) why AREN'T you taking the new teacher under your wing? Why can't s/he turn to you? If there's something really cool you're doing in your classroom, invite that teacher in! I bet that, in 5 minutes, s/he learns more about classroom management than 60 hours of college classes taught them. The EASY way out is to assume that the n00bs don't have anything positive to add to a situation, when, in reality, they are fresh! They are new! They are still so positive about their profession. Do what you can do help build them up, rather than knocking them down.
On that note, check out the amazing things still coming out of #edcampdetroit on Twitter - you won't regret it!
I've been in my current position for just about two years. I've been involved in a lot of projects, conversations, meetings, politics, classrooms, teachers, conferences, twitter chats, workshops, PD opportunities, video-conferencing, and teaching. There's a lot that goes on in the "back end" of this job... in school districts, ISDs, tech services, etc, that keeps a school district running smoothly. It has most definitely been very eye-opening to me and I've really grown to very much appreciate the countless individuals that make up this community of "smooth running-ness".
While I'm aware of all of these things, one thing sticks out to me at the very heart of a school district: At the end of the day, a teacher is there to teach and a student is there to learn. At the most fundamental level of every single classroom in this great mitten state, every single student is in school to learn and every teacher is there to help them achieve this outcome.
As a tech integrationist, it is my practice to support that single fundamental goal. Of course, there are COUNTLESS other goals I need to have when stepping into a classroom. When the dust settles, though, it all comes down to one thing: Student learning. How can I, as a tech integrationist, support this particular teacher, who supports all of these students (some up to 180+ students in a day!) Which tools, best practices, models, etc, do I need to pull out of my box... Or, do I even have a box to pull out of? Is it something so wildly unfamiliar that we'll be navigating new waters together to achieve a new level of student learning?
Before I even start this process, one thing is for sure: It starts with respect. The teachers that I work with deserve to be respected for their craft. They are the content experts. They are pedagogical geniuses. They know their STUFF. How can I show them that I respect and appreciate them and all that they do for their students, parents, fellow teachers, district, community and world? However I manage to do it, it is of the utmost importance that they know from me and from my actions that they have my respect when we meet for the first, second, twentieth, or hundredth time. I've found, in these last few years, that this respect is the one thing that breaks down the barriers of tech integration vs. teachers, and it has opened so many more doors than I could ever imagine. It has built up great relationships at every level of my work environment. Because of this, I am able to really be involved at a whole new level and help create a new culture of technological pedagogy in this district.
It has been a great and rewarding experience. The best has yet to come!