As some may know, I decided to start over this school year. Well, that’s an over statement. Last April, while I was pulling double duty as a Title I facilitator and an English 10 Honors teacher, I received an offer to return to the classroom full-time. The Title I job, a quasi-administrative position, was a great opportunity when I accepted it. I learned a ton about federal programs and gained valuable experience. I was well on my way toward reaching my goal of becoming a high school principal. At the same time, I started on a personal learning journey with the help of my PLN and began to rethink what it means to be well-educated and a networked learner in the information age. I realized that while I had been a successful teacher in my old job, I would totally reinvent myself if I ever returned to the classroom.
Over the course of last few years my perspective and my satisfaction with my job changed. The problem was that while I admired the people with whom I worked, I was totally disillusioned by the constant focus on high-stakes testing and quantitative data. I didn’t (and don’t) believe it was best for students, teachers, or schools in general. I wanted to lead a change in the way schooling was done, but if I was truly honest i had no idea how to go about teaching the way I believed it needed to be done. When the opportunity presented to pull double duty and spend the majority of my day in the classroom, I jumped at it because it allowed me to focus less on test data and test prep and see if I could actually be the teacher today’s students need.
I loved being back in the classroom. I loved the re-connection I made with students, other teachers, and my PLC. I also realized just how hard it is to truly reinvent oneself. I think I made strides, but I also fell short. I was to blame for most of the failure, but I was also limited by things beyond my control. I struggled with the lack of student access to technology, the required standardized test prep, the required number of summative assessments (and inflexible grading scale), and the mandated standards and pacing guides. It’s no wonder all the teachers are stressed.
When the opportunity presented to teach 6th grade reading at PDS, I jumped at it. PDS has an excellent reputation in town, and I had already connected with several other PDS educators through the Martin Institute and TeachMeets. They were (are) an impressive bunch. I’d also worked closely with my friends Melissa and Cindy to organize InnovatED, which PDS hosted, and I knew they’d continually push me to innovate. I love that PDS is committed to preparing boys to be critical, creative, and connected thinkers. Besides, how could I say “no” to the opportunity to teach in a 1:1 laptop setting and try to become the kind of teacher I think today’s students need.
So this August I started over. I moved to a new school, a new subject, and a new grade level. I rethought what a classroom should look like and how a classroom should be led. I stopped reading so many educational theory articles and dove head first into young adult literature. I cut back on the amount of time I spent on Twitter and spent more time considering how to teach kids to think. It’s been an adventure–one that I’m loving, and I wouldn’t change a single moment. I’ve experienced some success and some frustration, made new friends and missed some old ones, but when the alarm sounds each morning I cannot wait to get going. There’s just so much to learn.
I’m going to do my best to chronicle this journey here but I confess that finding time to blog has been problematic already. If you have any advice as I move from high school to elementary school or any tips on how best to get out of my students way, I’d appreciate the feedback. I’ll let you know how things go.