Struggling for Authenticity & Relinquishing my Teacher Power

I’m currently facilitating a 6 week blogging challenge for a group of Pennsylvania educators who have committed to one post and one comment per week until Thanksgiving. Reading their posts has kept me invigorated, reflective, and even more strongly convinced (wasn’t sure that was possible!) that TEACHERS hold the answers to most of the problems plaguing our education system.

Last week’s prompts centered on the following theme: Teaching in the Age of Personalization and Technology. Participants focused on different aspects of teaching with technology, some challenging the value of technology in the classroom, others celebrating it with caution.

As I’ve engaged with fellow educator’s ideas, I’ve been challenged to reflect on the my core beliefs about technology in my classroom. I know teachers who are well-loved and highly respected by their students as well as highly effective and extremely relevant in their instruction. Yet, they overall eschew regular, integrated technology use in their classrooms, preferring to use it for select projects or in a minimal way to improve communication or distribute information and materials. Who am I to suggest that technology will improve an already amazing thing?

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I also know teachers who use technology merely because someone told them to. Or some slick presenter at a conference convinced them that kids love having devices and that love will automatically translate into love of learning or knowledge. I know teachers who pat themselves on the back for substituting a drill-and-kill worksheet for a kill-me-with-bullets PowerPoint. These are all very sad and ineffective uses of technology in the classroom.

Plus, people in the EdTech world love to lie.

They love to paint the world with bright screens, smiling faces, and moving multi-media presentations. So rarely do they also discuss the dark underworld of glitchy programs, lack of capacity in students, poor learning tools, and underdeveloped infrastructure in school environments.

I don’t think they lie with ill intent. They are just too excited to tell the truth. They see the possibility and can’t help but discount all the road blocks that exist.

I can be like that.

But I’m trying really hard to stop. And to listen. To stop telling someone how amazing something will be without also revealing the hours and hours I spent making it work. Stop encouraging a tech tool when I know a non-tech tool will work as well or better. Stop ignoring the fact that just because I love something doesn’t mean it is the best decision.

Sometimes the best learning takes place without a screen or wifi.

Sometimes the best learning takes place without a screen or wifi.

Yet, I still do believe every word of this post. I still strongly believe that technology MUST be a part of a student’s daily learning experience. I’m still pouring hours of my time to making my classroom a connected one.

My post’s title aptly describes my current position on technology in my classroom. This year I had a break-through in understanding the big WHY and the important HOW of connecting my classroom through social media and blogging. As I wrote in that earlier post, I’ve had some real successes that validated my choice.

As we round into the second marking period, I’m struggling to find my next step. So far, the social media in my classroom is still very teacher-directed. I do the majority of posting, retweeting, and culling of resources. When my students post a blog, I like to “market” it out to Twitter, trying to draw an audience to their awesome work. But I didn’t create these accounts to lead a duel social-media life. I created them for students to take ownership of them–running them, learning through them, and making connections with them–far beyond the ones I bring to the classroom myself.

I want to relinquish my teacher-power to enable their student-power to flourish. I want to facilitate an empowered classroom, not a compliant, passive one. Right now, I don’t feel wholly successful in that pursuit.

Part of this struggle is my lack of patience. I see the ideal place I want to be, and I compare that to my current state and bemoan the difference. That’s not fair to myself or the process. Learning isn’t a direct line, but rather a winding road with switchbacks, and hairpin turns.

So here I am, a passionate techie teacher who recognizes the lies of “easy tech.” A connected educator trying to convince my students to connect their classroom. A blog-challenge creator who’s just written her first blog for said challenge…and it’s week 3.

What I lack in perfect posts or plans, I hope I make up for with authenticity and intention. I will work hard no matter what, trying to listen more than I speak, and always respect those who hold a different perspective.

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