A New Horizon?

Dave and Will and others have recently posted about sensing a new attitude towards education. They experience that change while mainly talking to large groups attending conferences – conferences that are going to draw folks that probably already share their outlook. I’m seeing that resurgence too, but from a different population. I mentioned my feelings about that just last night.

What is important here is that I am experiencing that change at the local and even building level. Teachers in my school – the ones least likely to embrace new ways of thinking about learning are the ones giving me the most encouragement. Admittedly, some, if not a lot of that change has come about because we have acquired digital whiteboards, laptops, cameras and more just this school year. And some of these reluctant integrators have had a new digital whiteboard screwed into the wall literally covering-up their old whiteboard forcing them to at least try using technology. Our principal also built into our budget about $175 per teacher for field trips this year – it helped pay for our fourth grade trip up the mountain at Squaw Valley this fall.

So, yes, an influx of actual tech at your site can help – although we’ve had 30 wireless laptops available here for 7 years – and cameras and scanners and more, and they have rarely been used – most have never used them even though we have had trainings and encouragement from administration that it was OK to use it even when the heat from NCLB was the hottest.

So what has changed? Maybe the few of us pounding away has helped. Certainly more teachers have their own home computers and high-speed access. More teachers at my school have young children now (we’ve experienced a baby-boom of our own the last few years), are they seeing the light based on seeing their own kids’ futures? My principal has been pushing integrating tech (even though she is a novice – she is trying hard to learn) and experiential teaching and making connections hard. Maybe … probably it is all these things.

But I am also seeing it from teachers that have attended classes and workshops I’ve taught recently from other schools – even from schools where they tell me that their day is TOTALLY pre-scheduled by their principal. That when their principal walks through their room if it is not VERY obvious that they are employing one of several “programs of learning” they have in place, they are questioned and even reprimanded. Some of these teachers have started to work tech-as-a-tool for learning into these lessons to avoid suspicion. Others work it into their mandated half hour or 45 minute once a week computer lab time.

I also am hearing from some that they miss the creativeness of planning and implementing lessons totally designed by them. I feel this might actually be one of the biggest motivators for some. Learning and teaching as creative processes (what a concept!).

The point is that I’m seeing a change – and it has infused me with vigor and encouragement. Maybe we are seeing a new horizon – a new visual to pilot towards!

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2 thoughts on “A New Horizon?

  1. I graduated from Lassen High a mere 80 miles north of Sparks, and I used to play basketball against a Sparks High School. Small World! I left the U.S. 30 years ago, after graduation from Cal Poly in California. I have been teaching in Australia ever since. When I first arrived in Australia, I was confronted with the lack of departmentally assigned educational programs and resources. It was up to the teachers to provide both. As I read your comments about school administration, I feel sad and glad I left. Whatever happened to those ideals generated in the 60’s and early 70’s? I always viewed schools as promoting learning, as places where learning was encouraged and appreciated by the entire staff and students. How else can you teach? Without demonstrating a love for continual intellectual curiosity and or development? Did the current situation evolve from teachers(or should you be called deployment workers) who didn’t value lifelong learning? How can schools develop an appreciation for learning and respect for individuals when the environment is so controlling? What is the message? Personal growth and personal power seem to be confused because of the reward system imposed in your educational system of work and promotion. I think it is time that the learners unite and “Take Back what is rightfully yours”. The rights to working conditions that promote and appreciate learning and the rewarding of those who continue to educate themselves. From a constant review of myself as student do I better understand my role as educational personage.

  2. Craig – NCLB happened. Not enough students were learning reading and math at grade level – instead of noting that there are multiple reasons for this (polverty, uneducated parents, etc…) schools and teachers were blamed by politicians and the cure was to have high standards that are tested with tests that are not usually appropriate for what the tests are supposed to be used for. At risk students were predominately put in reading and math curriculum programs with little or no art, science, social studies, pe, etc. (this is the short version of course there is more to it than that) But as mentioned above the pendulum does seem to … maybe be inching back in the other direction.

    On another note – my school feeds into Sparks High School – I visit Lassen National Park every few years – indeed a small world.