I respect my colleagues. I need to make that clear. They know their content, they care about the students, and they are competent teachers.
Why, then, are so many teachers reluctant to attend professional development sessions, learn new ways of doing things, and/or take classes that relate to their teaching practice? Why are so many teachers adverse to writing (personally and professionally — both as it relates to them writing about their profession and to them assigning students to write)?
There are answers to those questions, of course: prior professional development that was dry or not relevant to their subject; they like the way they’ve been teaching their subject; anything new is threatening to some; and learning anything (or writing anything) takes precious time away from other pursuits.
And while I respect these answers, too, it’s becoming more and more frustrating trying to promote new methods of teaching when colleagues seem so disinterested; not everyone, of course — our Tech Director has taken time to sit down with me, several teachers ask me about what I’m doing in my classes, and my administrators are supportive — but I’d say a clear majority don’t seem to want to be bothered with anything “techy.” At the same time, I feel almost drawn towards technology; partly because most of my students seem interested in it and I like the challenge it offers, technology is one tool I like to use so my teaching stays progressive and practical. Technology that I can find purposeful applications for in my class helps me to feel that what I’m teaching will relate to the world my students will grow up in; we’re not combining sentences in my classes, we’re not spending time on gerunds…we’re making decisions in a group about what is appropriate to put on their wiki, we’re responding with thought to photos as they relate to books we have read, we’re constructing public service announcements on issues of importance to teens.
I would like to share these options, these opportunities with other teachers. My hesitation comes from a strong message from many of them that this stuff is only good if they get credit for doing it in one way or another (PD hours, CEUs). I can’t always guarantee that they’ll get that credit. And, frankly, they start sounding too much like the students…”Mr. K., are we getting credit for this?”
That’s probably enough for now. Too much musing can turn into a gripe session. I plan to keep trying new technologies in my classroom and then, with my powers of communication and persuasion, limited though they be, I’ll be offering what I’ve learned to anyone who wants to listen and try something new.
What is it about a snow day? And two in one week? It’s one of those things that students and teachers can agree on; we all need a break once in awhile. Is “twice in awhile” an actual phrase?
I’ve been able to get caught up on my grading, plan for the upcoming Poetry Unit (including reading a bunch of poems), read some journal articles from Voices from the Middle, respond to several parents via email, handle some Quiz Bowl issues, rearrange the tables and chairs in my classroom, and even clean my school desk a little bit (okay…verylittle). That’s not even including all the non-school things I’ve done (from bowling with my son to attending the Singing Festival at Hannah). Thank you very much, Dave Chapin.
Another fun thing I did was participate in a VoiceThread. A friend of mine from Massachusetts was asking his friends to summarize their day or week in a sentence. It’s interesting if you want to check it out.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my attitude toward work — meaning, my attitude toward teaching. I wonder if it’s similar to the way other teachers approach things or if I’m the exception. The fact that I’m teaching 7th grade English for the first time, though I’ve been teaching about 17 years, may skew these thoughts.
I get to MacDonald by around 7:15 most mornings. That’s 45 minutes before the students are allowed to go to their lockers. I like the mornings. I’m most awake and alert and I actually get a bit of correcting done, along with last minute plans for the day. By contrast, it’s fairly rare that I stay 45 minutes after school. I used to stay longer, but nowadays I am exhausted at the end of the day. I go home. Sometimes I even take a 15 minute power nap.
I do, however, end up “working” most evenings and weekends. I correct papers and other assignments, plan for the coming days and weeks (which involves reading back over whatever I had my students read that night), and make phone calls to parents. A couple nights a week, I come back to my classroom and work; I used to come back more often, since I live so close, but I’ve learned how to use my time better. I often correct papers in the car (only when someone else is driving), during long breaks at Quiz Bowl events, and anywhere else I am in a contained spot. You see, I’ve become very good at avoiding correcting. Yes, I want to correct papers. Yes, I know it will help my students improve and I’m going to have to do it eventually. But somewhere deep inside, I have this feeling that it will get done after this other thing…so I do the other thing first.
I guess I’m ready to come out…I’m a procrastinator. Feels good to get that out there.
I’m also a bit of a pack rat. I like to save stuff. So, besides putting off correcting, I tend to put off deciding which stuff I should pitch and which stuff I should save. This has been going on for those 17 years I was talking about and even before that. These last few days of winter break, though, I’ve begun digging out some of the crap in several of the boxes. It’s tough work, but somebody has to do it. Me.
It feels oddly wonderful to throw out random bits of my life from years ago. Yes, I’m saving some of it too. Saving for what, I’m not sure — I might need it again, you know — but I can’t pitch all of it yet.
And I also can’t clean it all out at once. I work on it for awhile, then go back to planning, reading, or a Bowl game for awhile. I have several things going on at once. It’s a survival technique that seems to be working, sort of.
Yesterday, we had our final Holiday Luncheon. The “we” I’m talking about is our entire staff. Each Wednesday for the last month, different groups within our staff made lunch for the whole staff. Things like that really add to the feeling of “we” around here. It’s not perfect around here, by any means, but I would say this place has a definite community-feel. People get along. People actually seem to like each other and work together well, compared to other schools I’ve taught at. And it trickles down to the students. They see that we get along and I really think it models ‘getting along.’ When there is dissension in the ranks, it’s noticeable. It puts students on edge. Kids add to it.
When teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians, and other staff work toward the same goal, it brings everyone up to that level. I hope we keep this level of collegiality going throughout the whole year. It makes everyday a bit better.
For those of you new to the word “muse,” here is the definition I’m using, from dictionary.com: to comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon. For those of you new to the word “ruminate,” it goes something like “to meditate on; ponder” (same source).
MacDonald is the school at which I teach. Now there’s a dilemma right away. I would normally say “MacDonald is the school I teach at,” but I corrected myself. I know the correct ways of writing, but as a writer I feel I have the latitude to break them. So, this blog will be a test, of sorts. We’ll see if I choose to write off the top of my head with a certain blunt honesty people often appreciate or if I censor myself as if Mrs. Mallon from 12th grade Expository Writing was looking over my shoulder. I’m talking both about the content of my writing and the way I write…dare I say ‘my style.’ It reminds me of some posts I made a few years ago on my Red Cedar site .
Basically, though, I’ll be commenting on life at MacDonald Middle School. I do realize this page is not my main page. I’m posting on my main page, too. The fact that someone (you) would have to dig a bit more to get to this page may lend itself to my being more blunt. We’ll see.