In my role as a Tech Integrator I get to work with a number of teachers in various content areas and grade levels. While I truly enjoy working with students and sharing ideas and information with them about how to use technology to improve instruction and engage in learning, I also get to observe great teaching. For the past four years I have worked with some amazing elementary teachers. We have engaged in some amazing conversations, sharing ideas and learning together. I have witnessed their passion for learning, but more importantly their passion and love for their students. I was a high school teacher, and I absolutely cared about my students, seeing the relationships elementary teachers have with their students was inspiring. They have a depth of knowledge of their students and their lives that is unmatched. They also create expectations and opportunities for their students that will set them up for success in the rest of their lives.
I am able to witness the compassion and care that teachers have for their students. I observe their tireless hours spent establishing routines and expectations in the beginning of the year that establish a culture of learning and a caring community. These efforts pay off ten fold as the year goes on. When I enter the rooms where teachers have invested this time early in the year on establishing relationships and expectations, I see students who can work independently, while the teacher works with small groups, and work collaboratively to solve problems. I see a classroom of elementary students who can work on a variety of activities without the teacher having to direct them or redirect their attention. Some are working on recording themselves reading, while others are working on AVMR or other activities with the teacher in the corner of the room, and others at their desks finishing up their green screen video.
One of my favorite classrooms is a 3rd grade bilingual classroom. The teacher and I have worked together since I took on my new role. She is someone who is willing to take a risk and try new things. She is compassionate with her students and builds relationships with her students that is evident as students continue to come back to her and give her hugs even after they are out of her class. Her willingness to try new things has allowed me to explore new ways to integrate technology. We have partnered to create a number of speaking activities for her students. Together we have created video projects including GoAnimate, Green Screen, Chatterpix and others that allow students to demonstrate what they know in both Spanish and English. These examples have led to conversations with other teachers and opportunity for other their students to create their own products of learning.
Another great example of teaching that I had the opportunity to witness was in a middle school science class. I was working with the teacher to use Recap to have the students explain the phases of the moon. I was there to help students set up the app and record their videos. During one class the teacher was reviewing information prior to my presenting about the app and activity. I was in the back of the room and observed a student making noises. I was working to finalize my presentation, so didn't immediately react. The student continued, and I looked up and was preparing to move over to the student and deal with his behavior. Before I could react, I saw a couple students turn around and confront the student. He didn't stop. A couple more spoke up and asked him to stop. As they were attempting to redirect him the teacher came to the back of the room and the students shared the behavior of the student and she quickly addressed the student.
When it was my time to address the class I shared with them how proud and impressed I was with them for standing up to someone who was being a distraction. I shared that I was impressed with their behavior because it took courage to speak up and confront a peer. I was impressed that they cared enough about their education that they refused to allow someone's behavior derail their ability to learn. The teacher shared that she had encouraged students to speak up, to be advocates for their learning and they had the freedom to call their peers out in a respectful manner. I thought this was a powerful life lesson where students are empowered to stand up for themselves and are encouraged to speak up. The next time I was in that class, the teacher did something that I hadn't seen before. The class started out with the students standing around the room and being asked to share something that they would want that would never run out. The conversation moved around the circle with students sharing, money, pizza, music, food, friendship, love, etc. I was impressed with this activity as it demonstrated the commitment the teacher has for building a positive community in her classroom. She shared with me that she does a similar activity each Monday and when she forgets, students call her on it. It has become part of the culture for students to start their week with a community circle activity.
Spending time in classrooms continues to provide me insights about both the challenges faced by teachers and the tremendous examples of passion and compassion they have for their students. Being able to spend time in so many classrooms has allowed me to see the variety of approaches teachers use in their classrooms, and each provides me an opportunity to learn. Teaching is one of the most difficult professions. My experiences with the teachers that I work with reassures me everyday that we have phenomenal people working to do what is best for kids daily.