I exited college prepared to lecture my kids, make them take oddles of notes, study for a quiz once-a-week, and a test every other week. I would show a video once a month, and have them turn in a research paper each quarter. They covered their textbook on the first day to protect it from daily abuse. They had to have a notebook broken into three sections, and I had a fresh carton of chalk ordered for me each year.
Somewhere between there and where I am right now I started to take baby steps away from the classroom that I had experienced as a student.
I had the kids make posters! They put a title on a big sheet of construction paper and wrote paragraphs that they cut out and taped to the paper. We then stuck them onto walls of the school. We were published!
We started doing class presentations. The kids would take their posters to the class next door and read them…of course they were required to include a picture above each paragraph. We were connecting!
At some point I decided to go crazy and placed some desks together. This allowed kids to talk to one another while they were working. We were collaborating!…too much. I quickly moved the desks back into rows to regain control.
Then these computer things came into the classroom. We used the word processing program to create stories. We were writing!
Soon we found out about power point. My kids made power point presentations and got up and read the words they had painstaking typed on each slide to the class. We were integrating technology!
And then…….and then….we bought bean seeds, the same type of bean seeds that Thomas Jefferson grew in his garden and we…and we…we grew them. We were…well…we were like growing stuff man! We built a green house room with like with dirt and lights! We had a constructivist classroom!
I read another couple articles this week on “How to tell that you aren’t a 21st Century Teacher.” All of these posts basically follow the same pattern. They make you feel bad if you are trying to change, but not doing enough to be liked by the blogarazzi, twitterazzi, or any of the other razzi’s who determine what is hip and in fashion. Some teachers’ first foray into twitter might be just posting homework…and that is ok. I started a twitter account years ago and that was the only thing we used it for. A year or two later our twitter account brought us into the middle east during the Arab Spring, it took us to New York City during Occupy Wall Street, and it brought people who has suffered from the Japanese Tsunami into our class…but we started with a twitter account, that only posted homework.
When Skype became available we connected with other classrooms just to say hi. That’s it, just hello, and maybe even a quick rocks-paper-scissors. I just received a letter from a kid who graduated four years ago who said that it was those hello calls that inspired her to choose a career that would allow her to travel the world. We’ve since have used skype to contact professional of all types and from all places around the globe, and to collaborate with classrooms on projects. But sometimes, we still just use it to call and say hello. Sometimes you have to say hello first.
If you decided to start a twitter account and all you do is tweet out homework, congratulations.
If you decided to try you first project and all you did was have your kids bring in the favorite food from Iceland, that sounds tasty.
If you decided to publish your kids work by hanging a string in the hallway and clipping their essays to it with clothespins, I love you.
Thank you for taking the first step…I am sure you will be taking more.
The hardest thing to do as a teacher is to put ourselves back into the position of not knowing how to do something. It is hard to remember what it was like to have taken the first step, how small it was, and long it took to take another. If you are blogger who is not a classroom teacher, a blogger who was born with a silver iSpoon in your mouth, or a blogger who has simply forgotten…back off buddy, not everyone’s first step will look like your last one.