In the last two weeks, I have spent a great deal of time learning. I have ventured into Operator 11 a few times, joined 110+ teachers in Elluminate with David Warlick for his Fireside Chat, played with Vicki Davis and friends skipping from channel to channel in UStream (planning to broadcast Teacher Talk with this tool) and continued to Skype and Twitter with friends about new, exciting happenings in the ed. tech world.
And through all this learning, among all the people I have connected, there seems to be an underlying theme. There is a separation among the technology people and those of us that are "just teachers." In fact, I have heard this term quite a few times in the last few weeks. I have had conversations with techies asking why more teachers aren't participating in all the learning. I have heard teachers explain their shortcomings with the "just a teacher" line. And I am beginning to find the whole thing rather offensive.
My whole life, I have had to justify being a teacher. I was raised in a family where education was the means to achieving higher goals: doctoring, lawyering, journalism, politics, etc. Teaching ws regarded as the thing anyone could do. You know that old saying, "Those who can - do, those who can't - teach." That was drilled into me. But I was always drawn to children and teaching. I was the neighborhood babysitter, the peer tutor, the sibling who did homework for the other sib. It was then, and is still, in my blood. I was destined to become "just a teacher."
Now, 23 years into my teaching career, I am still just a teacher. But let me tell you what that means in this newly developing ed. tech world. I now seem to work two full time jobs.
One is the "just a teacher" job. I plan for lessons and units, work to integrate test prep so I don't torture my students, strive to keep up with new curriculum requirements, new NCLB laws, new state expectations, and new district demands. I stay connected with parents, calling and e-mailing on demand, meet with other teachers to plan field trips, in-school programs, and budgetary issues. I sit on committees for staff development, science, health, technology integration, site-based, social events, policy board, foreign policy...whew. I attend monthly faculty meetings (sometimes running them) and monthly grade level meetings (which I run as grade level chair). I write report cards and meet with parents three times a year, although I usually have at least one parent a week stopping in to check up on their child. And that's just my first job.
My second job is the technology portion. I strive to keep up with all the learning. I check e-mail before I leave for work, answering student, parent, and administrative mail. I also check Twitter in the morning, feeling lost over the learning that took place since I turned off the night before. Then I head to work, listening to podcasts along the way, trying to keep audio records of sites I need to check out when I have the chance. Once I arrive at work, I have an hour before kids come in to check e-mail, Twitter, and Skype chats again, help teachers whose equipment is not working, and give advice to colleagues who need new app. ideas. (Remember, all of this is happening while I am trying to set things up for the children.
During the day, I log on once during prep and once during lunch, always feeling like I am falling further and further behind. After work, I arrive home to participate in the Webcast Academy classes, Robin Ellis and Darryl Draper's PD class, online conferences, impromptu learning opportunities (these always seem to be happening), and chatting with friends. I am also spending this time trying to master applications I wish to use in class, and planning for my own teacher technology classes. And, of course, I have a husband and daughter who would like to spend time with me.
So the next time someone says to me that I am "just a teacher", the next time someone insinuates that a teacher isn't as qualified, the next time someone tells me I MUST be able to use a particular application in order to be a good educator, I'm going to tell them to spend one day...one day...as "just a teacher." Try it and let me know how you manage to keep up.