LearningByts Blog: Higher Ed Vs. K-12
I'm Back! After reading the flurry of responses to Sarah Fine's Blog on why she was leaving teaching, I decided to look back at my own blog of when I left teaching, and then returned. I had originally left because I felt stifled in the classroom, and that I couldn't grow as a learner with my district's permission. The original blog was started when I had returned to the classroom after a 4 year stint in higher education. That particular classroom position only lasted a year due to the fact that it was a one year contract. I then went to a large district as an Educational Technology Specialist, working with 14 schools to infuse technology into the regular classrooms. That position was heavy on politics, and wound up being another one year position. The timing was good for the end of that position, as I needed to return to my home state for family reasons. After 6 months of collecting unemployment and moving across country, I worked for an online school at the coporate level, as well as teaching for them. I also taught for an additional online school part-time when I finally returned to my old district.
I'm feeling much of what Will Richardson stated in his latest post about schools that have been around for the last century (my district) and how they will make changes and move into the new millenium to meet the needs of today's students. He talks about redefining what they do and how most schools are just "tinkering on the edges" making changes to technology to meet the old curriculum. He makes the analogy of whiteboards being new wine bottles for the old wine. How apropo for my district! That's just what has happened during my 7 year hiatus.
And now that I'm back, what can I do to make a difference? At first, I thought I would just stay under the radar, and enjoy the teaching experience, not making waves, and getting through the next ten years until retirement. I had to earn my tenure back again, and adjusting to the middle school classroom, was not as challenging as adjusting to a new district had been 3 years earlier. They had changed all the acronyms (typical educators - give it a new acronym and it's a new education :-) ), and some of the positions, but the philosophy and administration was basically the same. Last year our superintendent passed away suddenly, and this year we'll have a new one. Hopefully, since he came from a district that is more tech savvy than ours, he'll be making changes that bode well for technology in the classroom.
The challenge is that with all my various experiences I also know what's out there, the potential for students, and the benefits for the district. In addition, with all my research towards that ellusive Ph.D., I continue to keep abreast of the latest and best. What do I do with the knowledge? I have so much that sometimes I feel that just my presence and sharing scares others. I've had to have my hand slapped already for "trying new things" that haven't been approved by the district (a wikkispace!) . And when I give academic reasons, and research to back up my efforts, the hand slapping stops, but the only approval is that my ideas get shared at PLC's later as their idea. Oh well, I've often thought of myself as a seed planter. Plant the seeds of change, step back and watch them grow in the minds of others until they own them, and then change happens. I just wish sometimes I'd get the credit.
So what do I think of Sarah Fine's post? I don't agree that she's self-centered as one person put it. Teaching is a VERY demanding job, and she could have quit much earlier on. However, she did stick it out for 4 years. When I left to go to higher ed, I thought that education should allow teachers sabbaticals as professors in college get. The years I spent in higher ed were validating to me as a teacher. I was reminded of the research that was behind what I instinctively was doing in the classroom. In addition, it allowed me to interface with education proffessors and keep up with the latest and best research on the educational topics. If I had not already had my masters degree, that would have been the perfect time to pursue it without burning me out. As it is, I was inspired to go for the Ph.D.
Think about this..... if we allow teachers a sabbatical every so many years, and have administrators rotating back to the classroom during those times, it will keep everyone up to date, and valued as learners. I believe I came back fresher each time to the classroom with more openness to trying new things with students. I think the biggest plus was that I felt that I have continued to grow, and now through blogs, tweets, etc. can still keep up with my field. The question becomes how can I best share my expertise in a system that hasn't quite caught on to "redefining" itself yet?