Now that I'm back in the classroom, I'm seeing how much has not really changed. The good news is that 10 year olds are still 10 year olds. Pokemon and YuGiYo is now whatever (haven't figured out yet what is the latest fad). My students are bright and happy, though a bit stressed (typical for Gifted).
Unfortunately, what also has not changed is that each day is rush-rush and now, more than ever, there is less time to build in the creative lessons that take more time than traditional "I Do-We Do-You Do-Done" lessons that can be done, from start to finish, in 40 minutes. Every day I pass the same teachers making oodles of copies of worksheets at the copiers. (They haven't even planned their lessons yet, but they've got tons of pages copied from their resource books.) Lunch is 30 minutes long and most of the talk is regarding the recent controversy in our district. I've yet to learn about my co-teachers' families or what they do for fun. They certainly know nothing about me, nor have any expressed much interest.
Additionally, I can probably count on one hand the number of teachers in my school who use their projectors, a digital or video camera, Interwrite tablets, document cameras, or can name even 5 of the online instructional resources that our district provides for teacher use. My best guess on why is that they are overwhelmed with too many resources being thrown at them and not enough training and time.
This year, our district is providing "suggested" scripted lesson plans for teachers to follow. Most teachers are using these out of concern that if they don't, they will not be preparing their students properly for state testing (at least this is what we've been told so many times we're all starting to believe it). Previously outstanding and award-winning teachers are now doubting their skills and abilities to adequately help their students learn; not to mention their fear of the scheduled teams of district-level administrators that walk through classrooms unannounced to be sure we are teaching the same benchmarks as everyone else in the district at the same time and have the same word-walls up and all the other mandated strategies in place. It's all quite distracting.
I'm feeling very discouraged with not only what I can NOT accomplish with my own students but also because I'm not seeing much potential for a PLN in my school building. I've often thought about how great it would be if my online PLN created it's own district and/or school.
A SCHOOL FULL OF PEOPLE WHO "GET IT."
It would not have to be geographically centralized, since it could possibly be all online. Personally, I like the idea of both. That would certainly allow more of my PLN to join in. My thoughts immediately drew a picture of what the classrooms would look like. I envisioned a teaching hospital where the operating rooms have observation areas (do they really? or was that only on Seinfeld?). There would be a constant flow of visitors; pre-service teachers, teachers from other schools, parents, tutors, etc. Students would be used to that and there would even be a group of students that facilitates these visits.
As a matter of fact, students would be involved in every part of the running the school; from making budget decisions, hiring teachers, to serving the lunches. Students would even be involved with reviewing (overall) test scores and making choices on how the school improvement plans should be written.
Additionally, there would be days built into the calendar where our school would be closed. On these days, every person on staff would be required to go off campus and train others. The dates would coincide with conferences, but attending conferences would not be a requirement. Staff members could meet up with a group of teachers from a nearby school and do some hands-on staff development or provide an online workshop. (There would be laptop mini labs for traveling workshops, of course.) Students would be expected to participate in some of these trainings and staff members would be encouraged to get parents involved as well.
And we will train each other. There will be time built in for our own PLN to nurture itself.
I figured that since I'm now creating new jobs for my PLN, I should probably ask them what they'd like to do. The responses I got were very interesting. First, let me say that I got A LOT of responses which makes me think that I'm not the only one who would jump on this if it could actually happen. The names you see below are from Twitter.
One thing became immediately apparent. As @chrischampion pointed out, there would be no need for technology integration specialists because "we would all be "technology integrators" - teachers, principals, aides, janitors..."
@stevebarkley said, "in my school design there'd be no jobs. Just staff constantly using skills and interests to respond to learner needs and interest" (Note: I could be wrong, but I think he meant instead of "jobs" there would be no specific roles. I can't imagine anyone, even us, working completely for free. Either way, I think that is an interesting concept. Would that be a Jack of All Trades type of situation though?)
Most of the responses were from people who wanted to keep doing what they were currently doing with or without some modifications. They just wanted to be in the presence of great teachers. I tend to agree. I don't think I would care what my role was, as long as I could be there and participate.
A few current technology specialists seemed relieved that they might be able to focus on other things, finally. Then there were those who came up with their own job titles (at least I think they made them up). Some seem humorous, but if you think about them, you can see where each suggested role would have a place in our PLN school.
- Social Media and Communications Director (@iteachag)
- Innovation Integration Designer (@raventech)
- Facilitator of Applied Math Mathematics(@scottelias)
- Cultivator of Curiousity (@Librarybeth)
- Instigator of Inquiry (@turrean)
- Music Technology Integrationist (@cwebbtech)
- 3D Virtual Immersive Learning space facilitator (@tjmeister)
- Facilitator of Outdoor Learning, Marine Biology Department (@stardiverr)
- Early Adolescent Learning Experience Coordinator (@twilliamson15)
- Social Convener (@shareski)
- Cook (@ljohnpederson)
- Manager of the "idea shop" where students build and create the answers to the problems posed in the curriculum (@tyyost)
By the way, only one person offered to be our superintendent (@canyonsdave). Since Dave is currently filling that role where he lives and he obviously has lots of experience, Dave is hired and can start the ball rolling. Thanks, Dave. My resume is in your InBox.