What is Most Important to Me as a Teacher
My reason for teaching will always begin and end with my students. When I first began teaching ten years ago, I would have said making a difference is the main reason I teach. It is still a key factor, but after several years and several groups of students, my focus has shifted more to the students themselves and their needs. The needs I seek to meet are not only academic, but also the social and emotional aspects of these students. I want to help them become good people as well as good students. I teach middle school where students are more vulnerable than ever. They are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong in the world. I want them to know they matter and to spark their curiosity about the world that exists around them. I want them to develop their own understanding of the purpose history serves and how we can learn from our past. I enjoy making connections with students and watching them grow in their understanding of the world and history. History is all about people and teaching it requires connections to the past and an understanding of human impact on our world. I feel like I have done my job well when students can come to me and share ideas or personal connections they have made to history. I would like to see the focus of what I teach shift from the memorization of facts and dates to making connections between historical events and giving students opportunities to draw conclusions about what history means to them.
Education Today: What Have We Done Right and What Needs to Change
In the past seven months I have seen education make drastic shifts in how we teach and how we connect with students. The shift to online learning due to COVID has given teachers more freedom in how we teach but has also placed a huge burden of finding resources and troubleshooting technology upon us. Some readily stepped up to the challenge and have been innovating new ways to bring learning to students while others have been overwhelmed by it all and have backed away from all this change. Overall, I think that schools and administration have been supportive and have helped teachers adapt to this new and challenging time. However, there is not enough training out there for the teachers who struggle with digital teaching. I am seeing the teachers who are lacking knowledge on how to set up and implement online or hybrid learning get increasingly discouraged and fall further behind.
My solution to the problem is to teach the teachers like we are now teaching the students. We can bring a mixture of online and in person professional development to those who need it. This would include online modules that focus on how to use technology and implement online learning along with in person workshops where teachers can apply what they have learned and build lessons with the aid of a technology coach. The more teachers become comfortable with their abilities, the more likely they will be to implement technology in their classrooms. I would also like to see time carved out for teachers who are already innovating with digital learning to collaborate and share ideas. Time is something that teachers have little of as it is, so it is vital going forward that districts make time for teachers to learn and be comfortable implementing online learning as well as collaboration for teachers to grow as innovators in digital learning.
The Impact I Hope to Make With Digital Learning
Earlier I explained that the students are the most important thing to me when it comes to teaching. There are 26 to 30 of them and 1 of me which makes personalized learning difficult. My goal with digital learning is to implement a blended learning station model into my classroom to help personalize learning for students and give them choice in how they learn in my class. I plan to carve out time with these stations for small groups where I can give students feedback that is personalized and will help them to know where they are in the learning process. My vision for blended learning stations also includes discussion boards and small group discussions where students can share ideas with one another and have a voice in the classroom.
I have learned about the COVA model and want to incorporate this into my classroom. With the implementation of blended learning I want to bring the students choice in what they do in class, ownership of their learning through specific projects that are self-guided, voice within classroom discussions in online and small groups, and authentic learning that they can apply to their own lives and futures. These goals will begin within my own classroom and as we grow and learn together, my long-term plan will involve reaching out across my campus to bring this learning the rest of my colleagues to implement in their own classrooms.
What Lies Ahead
Setting up a blended digital learning environment is not an endeavor that will be without setbacks or problems. Issues that we face as teachers with digital learning include preventing the misuse of technology and digital learning platforms by students and dealing with insufficient and outdated technology. Students must be taught responsible digital citizenship when it comes to using technology in the classroom. The expectations and guidelines must be clear and as technology changes, must be updated to reflect the most current issues. Teachers must be updated and informed as we move forward in digital learning. We cannot account for all issues that may arise, but we can be well prepared and proactive about our approach to addressing how our students interact with technology and each other within the digital learning environment.
Addressing outdated and insufficient technology is another issue we already face as teachers. We must investigate grants for technology as well as budgeting for technology within schools. Teachers and students can be taught to troubleshoot common technology problems, however if the technology being used is more reliable, we can spend less time troubleshooting and more time learning.
It is an exciting time of change for education and as a teacher I am excited to bring what I am learning about technology and digital learning to my students. The Growth Mindset and COVA have influenced me as a learner, and I am eager to incorporate these into my classroom to move my students from where they are to a learning experience where they are not afraid to try and fail and will take ownership of their learning.