At the beginning of the school year I wrote about my grand plans for technology and my students. I wanted to blog regularly, tweet my classroom feats, and flip my classroom when I could. I dreamt of STEM challenges and hands on learning, students who were ready to be excited by new things, and the resources to do it all. Nearly 12 weeks on, reality sinks in and it’s not very pretty.
What I have learned is that teaching is far more than they teach in grad school. There are meetings, interims, report cards, and did I mention meetings? Don’t get me wrong, my grad school program totally prepared me for the pedagogical aspect of teaching. And being a parent, as well as my year-long internship prepared me for dealing with the kids. In fact, I find connecting with the kids to be the easy part.
What grad school doesn’t teach is how very long it takes to do report cards. Local screening meetings are an hour a pop, and there are at least three meetings for every kid, and that’s just if they are in the re-evaluation process. Imagine the process for every child just entering special ed eligibility.
What happened to my Twitter account for my classroom? Well, do you know what you have to go through to make that a reality? There are hoops to jump through, make sure there are no photo opt-outs, the privacy settings that have to be set. It’s pretty harrowing and nothing at all like tweeting just for yourself.
Then there was my wish to have a class blog. I wanted to use KidBlog, which is a brilliant platform for the classroom. It’s kid friendly, easy to use, and offers built in protections for kids to have user names and passwords that have nothing to do with school IDs. But if it’s not on the school system’s approved list, you can’t use it. This makes me really sad, because this is a company that took all of the appropriate steps to make a product specifically designed for the classroom and that is safe for kids to use. But I can’t.
I could still blog if I wanted to, but I would have to do it through my Blackboard site. Have you ever used the blog function on Blackboard? It’s okay…but it’s not really like a true blogging experience. If I want to give my students authentic learning experiences, including blogging, Blackboard is not the way to go. So for now, there is no classroom blog.
Finally, flipping my classroom is not really an option. My school’s population is such that there are several kids without computers. Some of them don’t even have access to the internet. I’m not saying flipping is out of the question because I know there are teachers in a true Title I environment that do it successfully, but having kids without technology sure puts a damper on the subject. I just have to figure out how to make flipped learning accessible to those kids who truly can’t do it at home.
I know I sound jaded already, and maybe I am to some degree. But make no mistake. I still love my job. I love my kids. I love my school. My administration is beyond amazing. But being in love doesn’t mean you never get frustrated.
In the 6th grade at my school, we have 25 aging, though functional, laptops for 75 students. We also have 3 decrepit desktop computers. Not a good ratio if you want to help kids learn about digital citizenship and 21st century skills. And believe me, it’s not for lack of trying that we don’t have more tech at my school. There just simply isn’t money, and I know my school system is not the only one to have this issue. So what’s a first year teacher to do?
I’ll be exploring Donor’s Choose, grant opportunities, and any other third party funding I can get my hands on. (It makes me really sad that I have to be the one to do this leg work, but that’s a whole separate blog post.) Hopefully, I will be able to bring some 21st century learning tools to my classroom. Just keep following me on Twitter, follow my hashtag (#rookieTEStiger), and let’s just see what I can do.
In the meantime, I will continue to plan lessons that engage my kids, encourage them to think in ways that they have not before, and do some STEM challenges. I’ll continue to just be there for them, drawing on the floors and the tables, helping them learn however I can. I’ll keep trying to bring them the best because…to borrow a line from L’Oreal…they are worth it.