The title of this blog post is inspired by a reflection piece that I wrote for a university assessment after my first teaching prac. (Aside: I did a DipEd after reaslising, like many that my BA with a major in Philosophy wasn’t a ticket to a career. As part of my DipEd I was required to do two 4 week practicums – the first was 1/2 observation, whilst the second was teaching 1/2 of my supervisor’s load.) I stumbled across this reflection piece whilst tidying my desk, and fell to reading it – almost immediately being captivated by my own spark and vivacity. Not really, lol. What struck me was my honesty and the overall tone of confession – I had found teaching very, very difficult. I had been forced to teach a topic I did not know well and that, surprisingly I did not like in high school or uni – poetry. I also had to teach a senior class how to write essays, a skill that I had not ever been explicitly taught and which I felt I had barely (if at all) managed to master myself. The conclusion of my reflection was that it is impossible to ever ‘be’ an English teacher, that one is always learning and therefore one is always in a constant state of development, never actually being a teacher – just becoming one. I know this idea was pinched from someone else, as back then I was good at referencing and I acknowledged my source. Today I am still becoming an English teacher and this means I have no idea where that reflection piece is, and that I’m too exhausted to find it anyway.
Whilst I can’t name my source, I will acknowledge that he/she was correct in their assessment of teaching. I really believe the title of ‘teacher’ is flawed. I only feel that title fits me when I am finally broken by a student and I yell – voice raising, blood pressure too. This is a very, very rare occurrence – maybe once a term, so it should give you an indication of how rarely I feel like I truly am a ‘teacher’. The title ‘teacher’ conjures up images of cruel masters and matrons wielding long rulers and pointing long fingers at small children. It makes me think of someone who always has an answer, who is always right, who is organised and carries a red pen – armed and ready to deliver a fat ‘F’ or ‘A’. It just doesn’t conjure images of me fiddling with a OneNote notebook in front of a room of thirty laughing teens, handing over my whiteboard marker to a 13 year old to lead the class, chatting to Yr 12 students via email, blogs or edmodo about the purpose of literature, letting Year 10 students shoot scenes for a short film inside my aging Kombi or singing along to Aussie hip-hop to demonstrate the everyday usage of poetic devices. Is that your image of ‘teacher’?
Since day one of this term I have struggled to garner the enthusiasm necessary to engage and inspire my classes. I didn’t resort to textbook lessons like last year when the netbooks didn’t magically turn my ratty Year 9s into tech-savy engaged learners. I have plowed through the negativity that surrounds me daily – from my internal monologue and the external ones of others. I’m tired and downcast following an edmodo debacle that involved students registering as teachers to create ‘chat’ groups, resulting in cruel cyber-bullying. I am maintaining my stance that education institutions must change their response to poor student behaviour – it is no longer good enough to cancel an activity or block something that has lead to problems. I am trying to defend my choice to introduce edmodo as a teaching platform and aim to show staff and the executive that students must be shown how to use technology effectively to enhance their learning. These kids need to be ‘taught’ how to be responsible digital citizens. If we respond by blocking their path, they will dig around us and find a new way – they are kids of the 21st century, we should not underestimate them.
However, I have a feeling it is not just the students that need to be educated. It is the ‘teachers’. Professional development must focus on the changing nature of teaching. The old method just simply isn’t good enough anymore. It was fine when access to information was limited, but now it’s not. I am hoping to organise some after-school workshops that show how technology can be embedded into the pre-existing teacher-centred method, but emphasise the fact that these little netbooks (and really all technology) enables and requires a student-centred method.
I find the netbooks frustrating at times and fall prey to thoughts of ditching them and returning to pens and paper. I never had issues with that method, so why should I change now? But then I remember that teaching is not about me – it’s about the kids. I don’t want students expecting that I have the answers – I don’t, and it’s arrogant to think I could. One thing I do advocate when it comes to DER is that we don’t give up, that we work together and that we embrace/advocate a culture of sharing and learning – it’ll be better for us, as teachers and learners in the long run. I was told by a teacher today that the worst thing that could happen would be for me to become cynical – people look to me as a source of motivation, thinking ‘Well, if Bianca thinks it’ll work, then I’ll just keep trying’. It was a flattering comment, and something I’ll keep in mind when I’m frustrated next time.
There is a world of ideas out there, and a world of unmade things waiting to be created. I just have to figure out how I’m going to get the kids (and my colleagues) to want to go out there and explore it.