This post is by my colleague, Christian Goodrich, a former high school math teacher turned Technology Integration Specialist who is responsible for creating the tool which powers the Film Festival that we do in the district. I hope you enjoy his insight.
Face it, I’m a math guy. I don’t write on a regular basis and I personally don’t think I have an eloquent bone in my body. This being said, I don’t get the urge to jot my thoughts down all that often. Hell, taking notes is even a chore; however, in this instance there is a certain voice in my head that screams ‘write this down dumbass.’
My job as a Technology Integration Specialist has taken me into some wonderful classrooms, blessed by provocative and dedicated teachers. It pains me to say this is a rare occurrence. Going into classrooms, no, but encountering a truly innovative teacher, far less often then I would like to speak of. No names are required, but to preach and praise these amazing teachers does not happen nearly enough. This is the only positive spin I can put on the solemn reality that many ‘teachers’ either don’t understand what it is to teach or are blind to the fact that I am talking about them. Think… think hard, about the last time you felt good about what happened in your classroom. If the first thought that comes to mind is that finals week has started, there is a very seriously problem.
How do we change this mindset? I am not an expert by any means. I can only call upon personal experience. I felt that, while I was in the classroom, I did a fairly good job of reaching out to my students in an attempt to keep mathematics as engaging as possible. I have learned now, this probably wasn’t the case. What changes would I make? What support would I want? How could I grow as a teacher in an effort to better my students and not just myself? If you have the answer, be prepared to make millions. I don’t think I am unique in having these thoughts, but I fear there are far too many who don’t. Finding a reflective teacher can sometimes be a chore, but ask the great ones what makes them great. Again, I have no basis to claim this other than personal observation and discussion. It all begins with reflection.
Understanding that you probably can’t do it all alone is another key. Who out there really compliments you, both personally and professionally? Too many times we find ourselves on an island, whether it be as a teacher, or department, or school. I promise things are much easier, much more rewarding, and ultimately much more effective when built through collaboration. I am lucky enough to be part of a department that embodies this characteristic. Am I the strongest member of my team? The answer is yes, and no. Speaking with elementary students or elementary teachers, for that matter, is like Greek, not understandable and increasingly tedious. Am I capable? Absolutely because I am equipped with four or five people who can brilliantly weave their way through every facet of the elementary setting. This is only one example, but if given the time I could recite example after example of how I have benefited by working in a team setting, and where the team has benefited from what I have to offer. You are not alone in this.
As teachers, a byproduct of our message is accountably. The word may never be uttered, but if you have ever asked your students to return homework or a permission slip, than you are ultimately teaching accountability. We ask for/require it nearly everyday, and yet we as practitioners do not live by the same rules. The benefit to living on the proverbial island is that we are only accountable to ourselves. It is understandable that people would enjoy living this lifestyle; hard to screw up, especially with the warm blanket of tenure. Even if it is not required, become accountable to someone, only your students will benefit.
If you take nothing from this, please just note I think we can all be great. We can all learn to be reflective, collaborative and accountable, but as someone much smarter than I once said. ‘You can be anything you want; nine times out of ten you just have to work stupid hard to get there.’ Look to your neighbor, they may be already.
– Christian Goodrich