Just a Classroom Teacher?

I began my teaching career in Spring of 1992. Prior to teaching I worked jobs that required me to use computers on a regular basis, so I was considered a relative computer whiz. I was quickly pulled from the classroom to run a computer lab.

It turned out I was pretty good at helping students and teachers learn how to integrate the use of computers in meaningful ways for learning. I continued to serve education in this way for the better part of 15 years, at school sites and at the district level. Over time however, the role of technology support at the district level became more and more focused on implementing assessment systems with little time spent helping teachers and students use technology to support multi-modal learning, creativity, writing and critical thinking. I grew less excited about my work; what I believed was great about technology for students had gone missing.

When the funding for my support role dried up, I chose to remain in my district and become a classroom teacher. That same year I completed an educational doctorate with an emphasis in Educational Leadership. I am often asked why I stay in the classroom, when I could be a principal or teach at the college level. Initially, the move was most expedient for me and my family, but now I believe the classroom is the best place for me to be. In the classroom I am able to do the kind of action research that is needed to find the best ways to implement new technologies in education.

As a technology loving teacher, I am always looking for ways that learning can be enriched by new technologies. Teaching fourth grade is an excellent incubator for this kind of study. My students are engaged by things as simple as digital audio recorders, which they use to practice reading fluency. This past year I began using Edmodo, which looks like a social media site, where students can interact. As teacher, I set up folders where students could view science videos and work with interactives. I linked to Voicethread slideshows with pictures from our science field trips. After viewing and playing I had students comment in the forum, take quizzes, do polls. I counted the use of Edmodo as a success from the first day when I logged in and students had logged on to work in the class forum from home. Even now, over summer break, I am finding students have logged on to Edmodo to use the learning platform.

So, I don’t consider myself to be “just a classroom teacher” and I hope none of my colleagues in the role do either. Every teacher I know is conducting “Action Research” whether or not they call it by that name. Our goal is always to improve our teaching, make learning engaging, fun and help all our students reach their learning goals. I will continue to refine the use of technology in my practice to enhance the learning experiences of my students. My goal is to write about my experiences with the hope that others find inspiration, and to counter some of the images in society about teachers.

Thanksgiving 2012

GratitudeAt this holiday I am filled with gratitude for the many blessings my family and I have received through the past year.  We are blessed with each others loyalty, love and friendship.  We are blessed with a home, employment and food.  It is important to me to really live that gratitude every day as I share my gifts and talents with others.  My work as a classroom teacher fills me daily with blessings of student understanding and progress.  My work also gives me a chance each day to feel humbled by new challenges, and humbled by the blossoming of young minds in ways I often cannot take credit for, but am blessed to witness. Continue reading

Mind and Body Teacher Readiness

I find that in my practice as a teacher it is important for me to keep my mind and body prepared for the physical and emotional demands of each day.  There are a few practices that I am committed to on a regular basis.  The first is my yoga class twice each week.  Yoga strengthens me, and has increased my ability to balance and breathe in a mindful way on a more regular basis.  The stretching activities work out some of the stressors that would otherwise build up in a job that keeps me on my feet about 90% of my day.   The second regular, committed activity I do is a workout that combines weight lifting with low impact aerobic dance.  Regular exercise helps me build strength, have fun and manage stress in a positive way. It keeps me feeling strong so I can be a good role model for my students.

There are a few other healthy body and mind habits that I strive to do regularly, but am not currently doing as often as I would like.  First is a morning meditation routine.  I do get up early to drink coffee, occasionally jotting down notes about my teaching practice in a journal.  However, my real goal in getting up early has been to do some stretching and “real” meditation.  I guess I prefer a kind of “coffee meditation.”  And the last healthy mind and body habit I would like to get to more regularly is a brisk walk.  Right now I get in a walk once or twice a week  and I’d like to get a walk in five or six days of the week.

These habits help me be a better teacher, and adult role model. These habits also help me manage the physical and emotional stress of teaching in a healthy way.

If you have ideas about how to keep physically and mentally ready for teaching, please make a comment below!

Reading Every Day

Recent Books that have kept my attention include Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and the Biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. These books are very different, but are both intelligent, well written and entertaining.  Cutting for Stone is an epic fiction tale with a richly portrayed cast of characters and settings from India to Ethiopia to Inner City New York and back to Ethiopia, the main character is kind, loyal and extremely talented as a surgeon. Steve Jobs Biography details the amazing life of this man whose work, at Apple Computer and Pixar, has changed the world. Both books explore human virtues, vices and foibles leaving unanswered the question “why do I do the very things that I hate?”

Recommendations for inspirational and fun books for educators can be found on this Edutopia Webpage

If you live in Marin County, California and want to support your school and a local bookseller, I highly recommend Book Passage. They have a main store in Corte Madera and a smaller store at the SF Ferry Building. They even have a small coffee shop if you are missing Borders in San Rafael.  If you ever get a chance to hear Elaine Petrocelli, who opened the store in 1976, talk about the latest and greatest in books, don’t miss it. She can keep an audience on the edge of their seats for a full hour jotting down notes about all the great new reads. The store organizes regular visits from authors and you can often find signed copies of those books at no extra charge. When you make a purchase at Book Passage be sure you tell them the name of  your local school and they will make a donation to your school library.

If you want to save money and be green, you can see if your book is available at the library before you go, here’s the link to the Marin County Library Catalog.

Enjoy a healthy habit of reading!

Please share your favorite reads with us by posting titles and a brief note below.