Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I've always said that teachers need to be learners.

And more specifically that teachers need to learn something hard for them at least once a year. I've been doing that this week. I'm participating in a Tech Ed Bootcamp. It's not something I have to go to. It's PD I want to go to, because I'm a teeny bit old, and I want to make sure my tech skills are as good as the younger teachers in my building. OK, actually they're not as good, but I at least want to know what they are talking about.

Yesterday didn't go so well for me. The district has replaced the platform they use for all of the online classes. I've actually been teaching a class using the new platform for a couple of weeks and it's going ok. I can log on, and view and respond to my students' work. I can show my students where things are on the page. But I keep getting lost. It feels a little like when you are in a new neighborhood, and the streets kind of loop around, and you just kind of drive in circles until you think, "Hey, I've seen that ugly purple house before." And then you set what you think is a new course, but pretty soon you are back at the ugly purple house again.

That's how the new platform is going. I just haven't quite got the hang of how it's set up or where things are. And sometimes I can't find what I need even though I have seen it before. So I was excited to take a class that was called, ** 101, because I thought it would give me the basics I felt like I was missing. And then I had scheduled three more classes on related topics throughout the day.

The day started out ok. The presenter had a two-column google doc, with a whole list of topics. There were links you could click on to get to different topics. We jumped right in, creating passwords, logging onto the website, etc. About two minutes in, someone raised their hand and asked, "But what is S** for? What is it supposed to replace?" And the answer felt a little vague. To me, the platform felt a lot like Google Classroom, and I wondered why we were replacing something our teachers had just spent two years learning to use.

I didn't have time to think about it for very long though, because the presenter was clicking madly through step after step. And I was feeling a little panicky. I felt like every time I looked at the keyboard to do one step, I missed three more steps. There were two people from the Tech Department helping people like me, but evidently there were a lot of us, because it seemed like they were keeping really busy. At first, I tried to raise my hand and get help, but by the time the helpers got there, the presenter was several steps beyond. Finally I gave up. I spent most of the morning feeling pretty lost.

At lunch time, I took a walk and gave myself a little pep talk. "You can do this," I said. "You're already using the platform. It can't be that hard. You just need a little more time, or a little more practice, or to get a friend help you a little." And I couldn't help but think about the kids I work with. How they must feel every day when they come to school. How they struggle to self-advocate. And how they don't have the benefit of a whole lot of school successes to fall back on or use as evidence in their personal pep talks.

Despite my best efforts to talk myself into doing better, the afternoon really didn't go much better than the morning. I sat through one more session about how to make your page pretty. I thought I was getting it, but then it came time to download the work you had created, and it said I had used something that cost money, and needed to pay before I could download. And I couldn't figure out, then, what I had downloaded, or what I was paying for, and I finally gave up. I left before the final hour. I had had enough.

Today, I had a hard time making myself go back. It's not a required training. I didn't learn that much yesterday. I could use the time for other things. I had to force myself to pack my bag and get in the car. I am so glad I did. I had a terrific day!

C, the person who was teaching, not only knows a lot about computers, she knows a lot about how to teach. She calls people by name. Makes her audience laugh when she talks about going to the dollar store and buying things she doesn't really need because they cost a dollar. Starts her presentations with something really easy that any teacher can do. Shows a few exemplars, then turns people loose. Each of her presentations today had six or seven different "genre" of app. Within each genre, there were at least three choices- one easy, one medium, and one medium hard. Each app had a sample, and a tutorial, and a link to sign up. We all tried things, and collaborated on documents where we shared ideas.

I went to four different sessions that C did today. In one I made a Google site. In another, I learned how to make a Civil War museum simulation. I sent an email to my social studies teacher.  I got some ideas for my math and science teachers. And I had a laughed a lot.

Because I am a teacher, I thought a lot about what the teacher did. How she built relationships. How her organization and all of her hard work building the presentations and embedding probably close to 200 links enabled all of us to have choice and to meet our needs. How encouraging and positive and hopeful she was. How much I learned and how successful I felt.

It was a terrific day. The teacher really does make the difference.


Ramona said...

Wow! I'm so glad you went back. When I read about your first day, I could identify. Your feelings mirrored my own at so many tech trainings I attended through the years. And then your second day success . . . all because you had a great teacher. Lots to think about, especially how she made the day successful for all learners.

Carol Varsalona said...

Carol, it is wonderful to hear that the 2nd day teacher made all the difference in the world. This only proves that the teacher holds the key to student success and that relationships are the foundation to great teaching. It sounds like you had a revelation and from that learning occurred on the 2nd day. Thanks for sharing.