Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I had breakfast this morning with my old 4th grade teaching partner. It is always good to reconnect with her. I feel privileged to still work in the district that hired me 20+ years ago...first as an elementary teacher, then the secondary Teacher Librarian and now in a tech role.
The transition 2 years ago from classroom to library was a little harder than I thought...I had defined myself as a teacher for so long - immersing myself in the politics, the people and the students completely. Suddenly I had four buildings in two different districts. I went from being a person who was involved and integral to places where I really didn't know the people very well...
At first I welcomed that anonymity with open arms. It was so refreshing to be rid of some of the weight ... then I started to really miss it. When something exciting or difficult happened...I didn't have 'my people' anymore, or so I thought.
Instead I was slowly making new connections.
It's been two years. And things have changed. I have learned a thing or two...
1. I can see the district as a whole now - not through the lenses of a single building.
That is REALLY important for me as I begin to work for the entire district. Our superintendent kept reminding us of the need to see the district as a whole - but I couldn't when I was entrenched in one elementary. I couldn't care about all 5 buildings - my energies were totally focused first on my classroom then on my elementary. I now 'get it.' But - I think it's an impossible and unnecessary task for classroom teachers. Their best energies need to be spent right there in their classrooms...administration is charged with seeing the big picture.
2. Every building is exactly the same and completely different at the very same moment.
I was amazed when I began to realize this. It was the moment when I stopped reminding myself of how we did things at Kalona Elementary and began embracing how things were done in different places. This is one of those DUH...understandings. But, it was rather profound for me. As a teacher who had only ever worked in one place I fooled myself into thinking that we had created the wheel, so to speak. The reality is each and every building creates their own wheel and they are incredibly proud of that brand new invention. Those of us who move from place to place need to honor that creation instead of comparing them!
3. Every person is doing the best job they can at that moment.
This is the most important thing I have come to believe. When I start to question another person's motives or commitments or energies I undermine the system. It's not up to me to hire our staff...instead I am called on to meet each person where they are today...no more and no less
4. I am beginning to learn my limits or I am not superwoman.
I used to believe I was. And in the context of one 4th grade classroom in one elementary in one small town I might have been. (I know - delusional!!!) Now I realize how far off I was.. I am one small cog and in the midst of a vast PLN I am hardly even a cog. What I teach kids or teachers today can be replaced in a heartbeat. I walked back into my classroom of 20 years a few weeks after school began and was slammed in the face with that understanding. There was not a gapping hole where Mrs. Swantz had been. There was another teacher smiling and ready to meet the students exactly where they were. No one was mourning my loss - well, I was... but that didn't count. Instead, I saw the building through new eyes - and that was the first step in understanding my limits. I try to respect those now...try!
5. I really like change and kids and books and technology and teaching. I am so lucky! I have a fantastic job that encourages me to learn and change and evolve.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I've spent the last two years subscribing to scads of RSS feeds and following more and more people on Twitter growing my PLN. As the Google Reader icon on my Chrome browser climbed showing the number of blog posts I needed to read I felt like I was part of a community. Each time I turned on tweetdeck with my computer's sound up the pinging of tweets was almost constant. That too made me feel like I was part of something big and important.
But, here is the truth.
I am not.
I am an observer. I am so busy making sure I get through the right blogs and follow the right people that I don't have time to figure out what it means for me.
I have inundated myself with information with no moments to connect it - no processing - no real learning. Instead the pursuit of the new idea is/was my goal. My Diigo bookmarks are full. My webinar schedule set. I can tell you all the people who are moving and shaking. I can tell you the most popular apps and regurgitate the jargon. But, is it changing me? Is it changing the way I approach technology??
I have used the same method of increasing my learning that I HATE in classrooms - it's almost techno drill and kill!!
I think that has been the problem in too many districts. As I have watched the conversation from outside - I see a few people in the midst of things - creating and innovating and growing. Then I see TONS of others watching and hoping that by some miracle they can replicate the same environment and the miracles will happen for them as well.
So - it's time to turn off twitter and shut down my RSS feed for a while.
It's time to stop and think about my district
It's time to focus on my students.
It's time for me to stop searching and start doing.
It's time for something new...
This all fits together because I am changing my role in the district. I am leaving behind the library and becoming the district's Technology Integration Specialist. This is a brand new position. I am it.
As I figure out exactly how this is going to work I want to chronicle my process here...I plan to use this blog to keep track of what I learn, both the successes and the failures.
And maybe along the way I will grow a real honest to goodness PLN - my own. Not one that I have been spying on, but one that I actually belong to, that I can be a member of!
Join me on this journey...from lurking to doing!