Monday, February 25

My return to the world of professional associations!

This past weekend I attended a South Dakota Council of Teachers of English conference-- a regional branch of the NCTE-- in Chamberlain. It was pretty fun to be on the attendee side of a conference instead of the staff side. Instead of answering a million (seemingly) stupid questions, I got to ask them! I also go to go to a whole bunch of very interesting sessions and talk with lots of great English teachers. English teachers, by the way, are a kind of goofy/crazy bunch mostly obsessed with Shakespeare, MLA formatting, and topic sentences. That said, these people are doing cool cool things. A lot of schools in South Dakota are participating in a one-t0-one laptop initiative (partially funded by the governor's plan for SD education) in which all of their students get a Gateway tablet laptop for use at school and at home. This allows for some really neat projects, blogs, chat groups, wikis, and tons of other learning and teaching ideas that open up the classroom beyond four walls. Many teachers presented on the things they were doing online with students. I only have four computers in my classroom, but I am bound and determined to do a book blog this spring when we read Sherman Alexie's "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian".

Of course, it's hard to make getting a blog going a priority when I can't seem to catch up on entering grades or planning lessons and units beyond the end of the week.... First year teaching is so hard and frustrating! I want to be doing so many cool things in my classroom, but I'm mired in issues of classroom management, organization, and other teaching basics. It's like trying to teach kids how to infuse their writing with a unique voice when they still don't know how to punctuate. I totally know how they feel.

The conference made me think about myself as a teacher beyond these two years. I could get so much better. I could create such great curriculum and my students would learn more and more... but then I came back to school today, scrambled to get lessons together this morning and during prep period, shushed and yelled at kids all day, then stayed four hours after school and STILL didn't get my grading done and entered, and now I am exhausted and can't imagine ever being a teacher with any leftover energy to plan the cool fun things I want to be doing- not to mention having the energy for a weekday life outside of teaching!

They say it doesn't get any easier, but I hope at some point it gets more interesting and less tedious. Because it's hard not to get bogged down by the tedious things right now.

side note- perhaps my feelings of being mired and bogged have something to do with the growing mud pit as the weather warms up outside our trailer?

side side note-- upon searching for one-to-one initiative links I ended up browsing the OLPC project site, and I wonder again and again, if we have the technology to do this for children around the world, why aren't we doing it for children here?


Scott said...

Hi Anne,
Did anyone have any research showing that giving kids laptops improves their learning? I remember an early trial where kids in an inner city school were given laptops, but they had so many problems that it detracted from learning. The key is often having a good home environment where learning is encouraged. Old-fashioned books and pens and paper seem to work fine for a lot of learning.

You know I teach MIS at the college level, and I sure haven't seen any improvement in writing, critical thinking, or problem-solving as students supposedly become more tech-savvy. Sure they can use the internet, but they don't know basic math and how to solve problems that aren't exactly like some they've seen before. I think some students are becoming more isolated and disrespectful of teachers, partially due to technology. Sounds like a good dissertation topic!

Anne said...

Hi Mom, why does it say you are Scott? No, I don't think that laptops instantly increase learning, i think it depends entirely on the work and open mindedness of the teacher to create new classroom procedures, rules, and curriculum to effectively integrate the technology. Laptops alone can't teach.

I do think that technology can increase student engagement and potentially teach more real world skills. Especially living here where they are soooo isolated. Having greater access to the internet for research and projects could help counteract that, IF used properly.

The teacher I met had all dealt with a lot of issues at first with laptops in their schools, kids not paying attention being on sites they weren't supposed to etc. But they are overcoming those things with codes of conduct and by designing projects that are engaging so kids want to be doing them.

Pen and paper are just fine too. But I think students might be interested in learning more if it seemed more relevant.

Katey said...

Hi Anne, I fell upon your blog and loved this entry. I too wondered if teaching was going to be as exhausting as it was my first year. I just wanted to say that the second time around is sooo different! I actually feel like I can have a life outside of school. You just have to make time for yourself - even if it means giving up a few things in the classroom. I always tell myself that I have my whole life to become a good teacher - not just these two years. I hope that you're thinking about going beyond the two years too! Don't get burned out too early!

Katey Lee