Monthly Archives: April 2015

What I Learned About Leading a Technology PD

In the Wayside School series by Louis Sachar, Mrs. Jewels says that if you learn three things each day, you’ll eventually know everything there is to know. I am well on my way.

I recently had the opportunity to lead my first big technology professional development at our school, where I discussed various technology tools teachers can use to increase engagement with the students. I led three different sessions of about ten teachers each which meant that every teacher in my building came to my session.

Computer_icon

My building is a 1-1 building, but overall I would describe our staff as fairly low-tech. Most of us use technology, but not far beyond our favorite two or three sites. Therefore, when I decided to help share some new ideas, I feared the response would be lukewarm, but instead, I was surprised in ways I never expected. Here are three things I learned about leading a technology PD that you might find useful.

1. Most of the people you might call “non-techies” really wanted to learn. — This was the biggest surprise. I figured there would be a large swath of the staff (maybe half) who would be uninterested in anything I had to offer. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The majority of these people truly wanted to find ways they could easily integrate technology. They asked questions that indicated technology was something somewhat scary, but not scary enough to drive them away. Overcoming these thoughts was their goal.

2. I had to constantly resist the urge to touch the teachers’ computers. — Whenever there was a question, my instinct was to grab their mouse and say, “Let me show you that.” After all, that would be the easiest way to make the computer do what I wanted it to. Unfortunately, if I’m doing the clicking, then I’m doing the learning. As teachers, we know the best way to learn is to do, and I had to force myself to allow that to happen.

3. It was beneficial to have a “If you don’t like this, try this” option. – To begin the session, I went through three tools I personally use and enjoy. The plan was to then allow the teachers to explore these three tools on their own and decide how they might be used in their classrooms. At the last moment I said, “And if you didn’t like anything I said today, you can explore this site, and see if something there would be more useful.” (I offered classtools.net for this option) I was glad I did! I’d estimate that half of the group used their worktime to go exploring. Honestly, this makes sense. While I understand what my fourth graders need, they are the experts on what would work best in kindergarten, a music classroom, or the resource room.

Hopefully these pieces of advice will help you if you ever have the opportunity to lead a professional development session!

What Really Matters?

I found out today that the brother of one of my students died last Wednesday. She hasn’t been at school but is going to try to come tomorrow.

An absolute tragedy. Words can’t describe it.

After learning about this early in the morning, I had to continue on my day of teaching. A day filled with test-preparation practice and exercises in anticipation of next week’s standardized testing.

But suddenly…none of it seemed to matter.

Reading the questions first didn’t matter. Eliminating wrong answer choices didn’t matter. Looking back in the text didn’t matter.

The district’s social worker came to speak to my class about what to do and what not to do when she returns tomorrow, and after that, we seemed to just be going through the motions of school. I taught the strategies, and the students did what they were told. But it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right that we were answering questions about verb tenses while one of our own was watching her world crumble around her. The problems of school seemed insignificant.

I want to end this by telling what I have discovered I should do tomorrow or what I have discovered about life and death. But I can’t…because it’s all so hard. I hope I do the right thing. I hope I can help.

“Must Be Nice to Have a Spring Break”

If your a teacher, you’ve heard this passive-aggressive line before.

“Must be nice having a spring break every year.”

While I’m sure a few non-teachers have said this innocently, this comment is almost always a verbal punch-in-the-face. It’s usually a thinly-veiled insult suggesting that teaching is a fluff job while the speaker has a real job.

When I hear this, I usually smile and say something like, “Yes, it’s nice to be able to spend some time with my kids.” Now, I love teaching and wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world, but I don’t think the majority of people who say this quite understand the sacrifices our jobs require. I’m starting to think I need to assemble an army of snarky comments from which to respond. Maybe I should point out that:

– I start the day checking school email and often end it emailing parents.

– I spend Friday night grading and recording papers.

– I spend Saturday morning doing plans for the next week.

– I buy a lot of my own supplies for my classroom.

– I spent a day of this vacation working in my classroom, something I almost always do.

– I sometimes have a hard time turning off my teacher brain.

– People with other jobs have breaks too; they just call them vacation days.

The biggest problem is that it’s really hard to say any of these things without sounding like a jerk. And, as a teacher, I am always representing not just my school corporation, but the profession as a whole. None of these comments are complaints, but they would sound like one in an exchange like this:

Some Guy: Must be nice having a spring break.

Me: Oh yeah, well, it must be nice not having to do any work at home.

Some Guy: Wow, you’re a jerk.

See? I’m even aware that this blog post has somehow moved in a complainy direction. So what’s the solution? I think teachers need to just continue to communicate the amazing things that are happening in their classrooms. Showing parents classroom activities is a start, but we need to go beyond this. If the greater community sees the positive things happening in classrooms, they will be less likely to take a verbal-swipe at the profession. Blog posts, school websites, newspaper submissions, putting student publications in waiting rooms, and countless other ideas will help to increase respect for teachers among the public.