The only time I totally lost my cool with a class was my first year of teaching. I threatened them all with detention. I even slammed my hand down on my desk. That first year of teaching is such an eye opening experience. All theory seems to evaporate in the controlled chaos of everyday life of school. That year challenges you, makes you dig deep into your creativity, resolve, and meaning of it all. Thirteen years later I am experience that again.
Instead of standing in front of a class of new students, a clean marker board behind me, walls decorated with motivational posters and first day jitters; I sit at a desk in front of a HD camera, 50 inch TV and students who are attending schools miles away. I have taught distance-learning classes for the last nine years, but have always had a room full of my own students. It is not the system that is challenging; it is the loss of any person-to-person contact. I am purely a teacher on the TV to them. All theory seems to have disappeared with that little red light on the front of the TV.
This year has challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting. In so many ways I am again a first year teacher. My creativity is challenged in creating lessons that can bridge the technological divide between the students and me. I am challenged to work through all the bumps in the road, from technology issues, to student apathy. To be honest, some days I feel like a total failure at this and wonder if I am even doing anything worthwhile for the students and my own life.
My own personal struggles got me thinking about the other aspect of my job, working with teachers on integrating technology into their curriculum. I have had the privilege of already doing a school wide workshop, presenting at Nebraska Distance Learning Association’s conference and helping ESU 10 colleagues with their workshops. Through all these events, I realized that sometimes when we talk about getting technology into the classrooms and getting teachers to use technology more, we forget that in a small way we are asking them to go back to being a first year teacher. Obviously it isn’t as extreme as a true first day of school, but it has some of the same challenges.
We are asking them to stand in front of their class as a new teacher. That is exciting, but it is scary. Teachers take pride in their lessons, they teach to see their students grow and learn. Nothing makes a teacher smile more then when a student’s face lights up with understanding. Even though we know not to take it personally, it hurts when a student says a lesson is stupid, or walks into the class announcing they hate English (the class I teach).
Technology integration asks teachers to go back to that first year, but now they have tools and lessons that have worked for them. Lessons that have brought their students to that light bulb moment. We cannot ignore that we ask them to be a first year teacher. We need to address their fears… but also tap back into that other feeling which all teachers had that very first day as they stood in front of that class, took a deep breath and thought, “I’m ready to make difference in these students’ lives.”