Thursday, August 31, 2006

growing pains

Yesterday was our first day of school. I have to tell you, I didn't have a good day. Why, you ask? Because I did to myself what I've been warning everyone else not to do to me: I didn't allow for growth. Let me back up and explain.

Last year, I accepted my position as Alternative Ed teacher. (It's a regular ed program that tries to catch the kids not attending school, not because they're not capable, but because home-life gets in the way. Regular truancy is a major indicator for us.) The program had run the same way for about 15 years, with 3 location changes. It was time for an update, and why not take advantage of new staff, right? So a committe of school administrators and the teaching staff (myself and 2 eddie techs) formed, met, plan, and were ready to go live this fall. All through the process I reiterated that change takes time, and we need to allow for growth and change. Exactally what I'd learned in "Dynamics of Change", a course I had to take for my Masters' degree. Perfect.

But on the first day of this new incarnation, I found myself disappointed with my plans. I wasn't tapping into any intelligences except linguistic. All the students wanted to know was "Which question is that? What do I write down?" I left school saddened and overwhelmed. How could I, one person, be responsible for 8 different classes with only 1 hour of prep time a week? I must be nuts for instigating this change.

After dinner, I tried to search online for curriculum. I'll fill you in on my woefully inadequate searching capabilites later, but suffice it to say after 45 minutes I was much worse off than when I'd started. Somehow, in something my husband said, it hit me what was really wrong: I was expecting myself to provide highly interactive and engaging courses for these kids who despise school and all it stands for. And I was expecting to do it for all 8 different classes. "Well," I thought, "Silly girl-- that's impossible!" It took some think time, and some random introspection, to land upon the problem-- and then the solution. I needed permission to just take a step towards improvement, like I'd been saying all year. This year we'll all do the same classes and add some hands on time. Next year, after another budget cycle allows us to get some resources, we'll take another big step. In 5 years, when I can finally re-teach a class, then I can be disappointed in book and lecture based teaching. Until then, go with what you got. And when you dont' got much, well, go with it anyway.

Monday, August 28, 2006

lesson 1

Ok, so it's not lesson 1. I lost count sometime back when I was learning to walk. But I digress, and I haven't even started. Today was our first district workshop day of the school year, and I got the idea to start a blog as a way to interact with my students and their parents by talking about thinking and learning outside the classroom. I put it on my mental 'to do' list, and moved on. Later in the evening, I got a little push by my bestfriend's former teaching partner. "It's easy" he said. "Email me if you want and show it off." My husband blogged last year, and my bestfriend is a technology guru, so I'm no stranger to the arena. And you know what? It was easy-- the hardest part was finding an address that wasn't already taken!

So my point? Sometimes all you need is a kind word from a collegue to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Yes, it helped that I was familiar with the concept. But honestly, his "give it a try" was what I needed. Tied to it was the follow-through. Not only did he give me the push, but he also provided a community of connectedness. All learners do better when pushed-- ever so slightly-- to expand their horizons; when supported by others, said learners are even more willing to try.

I think it's going to be a good year.