in my day, we had pay phones
Image by drwhimsy via Flickr
I swear as I get older, I find that I have less and less patience for stuff.Little things like being told to shut our laptops, but allowing people to continue to use pens and pencils on paper (correcting papers, entering stuff in grade books or lesson plans is okay – as long as it is not done electronically) at meetings or trainings, just to ensure that you are paying attention to the speaker (no not at ACTEM), bother me much more in relation to their actual importance, in the scheme of things.

What it does do in my opinion, is not showing me respect or treating me as a fellow adult. It shows that “they” don’t believe that I will pay attention to what is being said. I believe that the audience having laptops up is intimidating to many presenters and brings out their insecurity that they do not believe they are interesting enough to compete with my laptop?

In today’s world I don’t carry around a pen & paper very often and if I take notes that way, I usually loose or toss the paper notes I take within a couple of days anyway. Instead I take notes of what is being said on my laptop am able to “search” for the information if/when I need it or can add it to my Evernote Task Management system or iCalendar immediately, so I don’t forget about it. Presenters need to stop worrying about people having their laptops open and make their presentations interesting enough to listen to, then they wouldn’t have to worry about whether I am listening or not.

I am also getting sick and tired of seeing kids overwhelmed and beaten down by the amount of testing that is required in schools today. Many of these tests measure knowledge or skills that too many students do not possess and may never possess (yes the response is teach that information-yet how many times and different ways have we taught it and the student still hasn’t gotten it).

Yet nameless, faceless bureaucrats, education “experts” and corporate shills have determined that all students will meet certain standards by certain points in their lives and to provide them their need for administrivia (thank you Jim for that word) to manipulate for their purposes.

To teachers, these children in our classes are not just another name, numbers or a test score, they are real kids (not small adults) who have hopes, interests and dreams that go beyond those artificial numbers used to describe them. These students have other factors outside of the classroom that affect them daily and we wonder why school is not the most important thing in their lives.

But woe be the one that does poorly on a standardized test, they have been told and may believe that they are to blame for their school being identified publicly as a failing school, are placed in RTI programs, are provided extra test prep and other sanctions from adults that make their schooling even less enjoyable than it already is for many of them – then we wonder why so many want to leave school as soon as they can.

I keep asking the question “when is too much testing, to much?” and so far haven’t heard much more than “that is the way it is” and other similarly useless comments.

In Maine for grades 6-8 we are a 1:1 MacBook State (that’s right the entire State) and have been for almost 10 years, and in many of our high schools, they are working hard to keep computers in students hands. Yet when I talk with other teachers or look around at how schools do things, so much of what is done on the MacBooks could still be done with Pencil and Paper (there is the beginnings of more, but…not enough). In many schools what are our leadership, teachers and especially our students doing all that differently than what I did way back in 1971 when I graduated 8th grade from Newport Junior High School (go Hornets) – actually not all that much?

You could take a student, do a little time travel put them in the same classroom almost 40 years later and they would not be lost – and to me that is sad, it means that pedagogically and practically we have not changed all that much even though we have the tools to have done so. A student from the 1970’s should have more than a little difficulty adapting to today’s classroom and for the most part, I don’t think it would take much more than a week for a majority of the students from then to blend in and not be noticeably different from today’s students in most classrooms. Is that the way we should be?

Much of the school leadership and many teachers do not incorporate or utilize this opportunity to teach effectively or differently with this technology using social media skills. Instead in many most schools they choose to not teach or let students use these tools our students will need in their future out fear. Fear of law suits, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of making a mistake, or fear of whatever. Due to these fears we let our students learn these skills ON THEIR OWN, when we should be teaching students (and parents) how to use these tools appropriately and safely, versus the current mentality of blocking everything that many Schools take based on potential legal “risk”.

We have MLTI laptops yet we: still pass out Paper Assignment Books – why? Teachers are still issued paper lesson plan books – why? Teachers still use paper worksheets (admittedly I do too at times), why? We still buy Textbooks, even though they are out-dated so quickly – why?. Is it time to fish or cut bait? Our State has had the opportunity to do things that is unheard of almost anywhere in the world…yet what have we done educationally with this opportunity – not enough. It costs millions of dollars for this program (which I believe is money well invested in our student’s future), but if we don’t start maximizing the use of this tool…I can see the program going away in this time of austere budgets.

It seems to my limited exposure that many teachers, administrators and parents still don’t expect or want schools to use MLTI Laptops as much more than glorified typewriters or movie projectors. This is so sad.

At the ACTEM conference, while listening to others in my PLN and when I attend some of the online webinars/unconferences/conferences, I get to read, watch and hear about different possibilities in education. Yet I am intimidated to try many of these things, not because I couldn’t do them, but more because “how does it fit into the curriculum” and how will I be viewed by leadership or even other teachers if I do something very different from the “norm”.

We are often so limited by the words “is it in the curriculum?” If it isn’t in it can we do it?

As a Special Education Teacher in some ways I have more freedom to try different ways to learn, but at the same time I have to use scientifically based instruction by law. So do I attempt to try something that is new, novel and might allow my students to learn in a new way, but does not have a scientific basis to it? A conundrum for the curmudgeon.

The reality is – who to hell knows? I just know that is very frustrating to be a teacher right now.

I apologize for meandering and ranting over a variety of subjects that could each be an individual blog post, but I needed to vent and rant for a moment, on some of the frustrations I am having. I don’t believe that I am alone in my feelings of frustration, but it did feel good to write them down and put them into words.

It sucks and is liberating all at the same time to become an old curmudgeon.

“Do the right things for the right reason and make a difference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.