One thing I have learned quickly in my relatively short career as an educator is that many things can change in a very short time.
Three years ago this coming August I was going about getting set to return to my classroom the next week. I shared this classroom with another teacher and sixty wonderful students. For those of you who haven’t thought about the opportunities afforded by team teaching believe me when I tell you that the collegiality, flexibility, support and collaboration makes it the only way I would want to create a learning community.
One evening I received a call from the District’s Technology Learning Specialist. He was offering a position as a Technology Mentor, where I would be supporting teachers and students in leveraging technology for learning. This was to be an acting – or temporary – position. After a day of reflection, I accepted the position. It wasn’t an easy decision. I loved my teaching partner and the students. But I felt like I was being given an opportunity to continue my advocacy work for school change.
As I write, I am wrapping up my third year in this temporary spot, having enjoyed every minute of the opportunity to learn and share with many colleagues. But I always felt like there was something left unfinished in my classroom experience.
Now comes word of budget cuts, and my lack of seniority means I am heading back to the classroom. Despite the never ending expressions of sympathy about this turn of events from colleagues, I am excited about this change. I do know some mentor-teachers who are fearful about any possible return to the classroom, but I am not one of them. I enjoy spending time exploring with students, connecting as co-learners, to each other and the world.
The biggest question was where I would choose to be placed. I was asked about a variety of interests, but it really came down to two assignments. One is in a small, K-8 rural school where I started my career. I absolutely love this place. It is everything a learning community should be; open, collaborative (grades are multi-age), innovative. The 6-8 middle school is all in one huge space with three teachers and around 65 kids. There are no limitations on schedule or space. Frankly, it’s ideal. The only drawback is that it has, like all too many school, a serious lack of connectivity.
The other choice was to return to Nashwaaksis Middle School. “Nasis” is a large, urban middle school (~800 students). The administration here, like KRS, is tremendous. However, it, like many large schools, is beholden to the beast of sheer size. While some gains have been made in terms of flexibility, scheduling and space remain constant struggles. But, and this is HUGE, it has a 1:1 program in Grades 7 and 8. From experience, I can attest to the opportunities this can create. I have been given no commitments regarding grade, subject, etc, but I do know that I want my students to have access to the global learning community. Without the tools, I would feel like I am cheating my kids.
After several days, even much agonizing that the ones I spent three years ago, I have chosen to return to Nashwaaksis Middle. I have roots in both schools, but my commitment to, and belief in, having kids connect to each other on a global basis for learning was the tipping point.
It’s not about the technology. Having laptops for all my students was not the issue. It came down to a decision where I felt like I wanted to see just how having kids connected with other learners can change the narrative.
I have learned a lot about telling a new story of learning in the past three years. I am excited to put those new ideas and knowledge into practice.
Call it unfinished business.