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It's Not Working!
For example: I started the year asking all of my students to create a Wordle of the themselves, print it and bring it in. What occurred was that most were able to complete the task with no problems. Some however, didn't have JAVA installed, so Wordle wouldn't function on their machines. (Some parents were afraid to download JAVA for fear they were downloading a virus or something.) Some students didn't have printers. Some students attempted to try again, lost their work and grew frustrated (although I showed them how to start in Word, then copy and paste into Wordle - not all the students had Word). In the end, some students ended up drawing their Wordles on paper. We hung them all up on the walls just the same.
"You're a loser if you teach from a textbook!"
I hear echos of some members of my PLN in my head. (Not that anyone has actually said that.) I confess that I used our textbooks! In addition I provided for lots of hands-on labs as well as many online digital resources. Well, I attempted one particular lesson where the entire lesson was from a terrific Scholastic website. We spent an entire two weeks on other interactive activities as well, but when it came time to create the assessment I made sure that all of the facts came from that site and I told the students they would only have to go to my class webpage, click the link to the Scholastic site and study what we already did in class. I firmly believe they should be able to have something to study from and I shouldn't have to create a "study guide." (All my students had Internet access at home.) Well, in a perfect world the students all reviewed the vocab and facts from the site and prepared a few days in advance for the test. In reality, most kids did that just fine, but there were a few who had Internet issues or had to go to Dad's house and Dad doesn't let anyone use his computer or Flash didn't work on the computer and so on. Those students then arrive on the day of the test with a note from home explaining why they couldn't study for the test, how they need a few more days to study, and if they had a textbook things would be so much easier.
How did I handle these issues? During the test, I let the kids use the computer in the class to study and then take the test the next day. Who would benefit if I forced the kids to take the test anyway? Not a battle I was interested in.
They're not wrong!
Yes, they shouldn't have waited until the last minute (but who am I to tell them when to study with their children?) and if it were my child I would make sure everything worked, but how is a parent to know what is going to be assigned and if it will work in advance? Most parents are not very tech savvy. In fact, most are a bit fearful of the technology. Worried that as their kids are studying for my test, they are secretly chatting with an online predator. I think it's very important to respect these fears and opinions and I did not see it as my job to make everyone "see the light."
So, as I brainstormed every creative idea this year and rolled through implementation, there were always those sticking points. The sticking points of reality when you realize you're not just teaching kids you're also providing new and sometimes unusual experiences for them and their families. The sticking points that not everyone thinks using technology is so great and you're forced to defend what you're doing almost daily. The sticking points when even the teacher next door calls you the "fun teacher" with a snarky attitude. Or when you show your principal some incredibly cool videos your kids made on science lessons, and his comment says something about them doing well on the state test because of all they learned. Do they get it? Maybe. Do they get ME? No. We just live in different worlds; that's all.
It's that "different worlds" thing that keeps bothering me. I still don't feel like I fit in and not sure where I do. I do enjoy the students but the highly critical (even litigious) nature of the parental population makes if very difficult to take instructional risks and teach out of the box. Yet, there are many so beautifully supportive parents too, but unfortunately, it's the ones who cause the most problems (complaining over nonsense, questioning every classroom decision, constantly calling the principal instead of the teacher, rude emails, etc.) that ruin the experience for everyone and make you want to just "follow the textbook."
I miss the global work I did at the district level and I miss working with my teammates who lived in that world with me. Now that I've taught for a year and had this experience and know in my heart I can still touch kids lives, I think I can comfortably live in many worlds.
Just not sure where exactly...