Heading into a new term is exhausting. But … all I seem to hear is:
‘How is it possible for you to be exhausted?’
‘You’ve had six weeks holidays – and you were paid for it!’
‘Yeah, I bet you’re so tired. What have you got, ten weeks until your next holiday?’
We’ve all heard it before, well, us teacher folk anyway. So how can I be so exhausted? Why does my head swim at the thought of tomorrow morning and the one after that and the one after that? Why do I feel that I need to lie down everytime I look at my timetable, at my classlists (full of names I don’t recognise – argh – and names I do – double argh!) , at the assessment schedules or think about the ways the tables are set up in my room or the spelling lists and grammar/punctuation activities I’ve yet to plan? Yes, I think I need a lie down!
Yet, I don’t lie down – I sit down in front of my laptop and start making a list of the things I’ve done over the last 6 weeks in preparation for the 100 or so young people whose learning I will be responsible for over the course of the next 12 -24 months. Oh, and if my Extension English class from 2009 is anything to go by, I might just be responsible for their learning for even longer than that!
Right now, as I sit and write this post (procrastinating as only a geeky teacher can), I know I should be preparing for tomorrow’s Staff Development Day. Last year I was given a new position within my school (I don’t think it came with a title, as new things created spontaneously often don’t – unless created by a marketing genius, lol). I am responsible for the teaching and learning component of the ‘Digitial Education Revolution’ at our school. Gasp, shock, horror – argh! What does it all mean? Well, basically it means that I find cool stuff that excites me which is ‘tech’ and then I share it with the staff at my school. Not much of a job description, I know, but that was overlooked along with my ‘title’. In revolutions things sometimes do happen swiftly and without a specific direction in sight, only a goal. So what’s the goal? For me it’s learning. Not just ‘stuff it in your head, hold it there, yep, hold it, hold it – here comes the paper, here it comes … yes, there it is aaannnd … spew!’. No. Not that kind of learning. The kind of learning that stays with a person, that inspires a person to show someone else what they’ve done and how they too can do it. Yep. That’s a bloody big job description, isn’t it?
As you can see, without a clear direction – a path laid out in front of me – I’m sort of groping a little blindly and hoping I stumble across something amazing. It is hard, and it makes me a little nervous – particularly since I have be given an hour to fill tomorrow morning in which ‘DER’ is the focus. Makes me question whether I should have been given a ‘position’ at all.
Of course, there are many, many, many brilliant and amazing people working in the education sector trying to help me (and others like me) lay down some kind of path to help those travellers who are risking the trek behind me/us. And that’s awesome, it really is. I could make a list, but I won’t as that will throw another hour out of the window. What I will say is that there is so much happening that it can threaten to swallow an eager teacher whole. Tidal waves of words and ideas gather on the horizon: moodle, edmodo, web 2.0, blogs, wikis, RSS, twitter, podcast, vodcast, ning, youtube, flickr, OneNote, Audacity, Smart NoteBook, IWB, Adobe … it’s enough to make one want to jump ship and watch the pretty flashes of letters float over as you swallow your last breath. OK – I know I’m being dramatic, and I don’t intend to frighten or exaggerate, merely to express how overwhelmed I’m feeling right now, on the eve of Day 1, Term 1 2010.
At this point, I’d like to remind you (or maybe just me, depending on whether I’ve forced a quick click on the little ‘x’ at the top of the tab) that I’m not a computer teacher. I’m a teacher. An English teacher. I teach language, literature and literacy (or at least that’s what the National Curriculum writing team think I teach). So I have to ensure I’ve got that content covered – English stuff. Over the last 6 weeks I’ve spent a good deal of time getting my head around the ‘Revolution’ by creating blogs, edmodo groups, wikis etc, teaching myself to use various programs etc that will be used in my classroom and communicating with others via twitter and email about how best to integrate technology into the classroom. I have also prepared myself for teaching a number of texts and concepts that I’ve never taught before, by reading and annotating the texts, creating worksheets and assessment tasks and creating/adapting/sourcing teaching programs. Hmmm … why am I feeling like a nap again?
I guess when you add to that reading journal articles on how best to facilitate a love of learning and encourage active learning rather than passive learning, those 6 weeks don’t seem so relaxing anymore, do they?
Being a teacher is the most exciting and rewarding job a person who loves to learn and help others to learn can have. It’s also really, really hard. This year there is much to do for those in my field of work. There are big things that must be considered, especially the issue of national assessment, the national curriculum and the continued implementation of DER. These three things are so significant that they will alter what every teacher is doing now and will be doing in the future in their classrooms. They are also, unfortunately, three things for many teachers that won’t create more than a small blip on the radar. Why? Two reasons. The first reason: Being a teacher includes many incidental responsibilities on top of ‘teaching’: playground duty, report writing, exam supervision, ‘whole-school responsibility’, parent/teacher nights and the list goes one. The second reason: The dominance of the traditional teaching approach that involves a closed door and a failure to listen and act on what is heard out in the ‘real’ world.
Teachers have a massive, massive responsibility to the students in their classrooms but this involves much more than just handing out worksheets and textbooks. I guess those who aren’t teachers (or who aren’t involved intimately with one!) just don’t understand that.
Now that I have aired most of my concerns about tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I guess I should do some ‘real’ work.