Over the course of the past two days I had the sincerely humbled opportunity to present and attend Reading for the Love of It for the first time. Being married to a high school English teacher, I’ve only experienced the conference through her warm reflections. As she has shared in the past, Reading for the Love of It is incredibly rich in scope. From the inclusion of digital tools to approaches to infusing student voice in creative writing, the conference is grounded in the classroom teacher/student experience.
As a classroom teacher myself, I have a deep respect for those who do their best to ensure that student learning is the focus. This warm admiration for the classroom teacher, grounds and humbles me in my work as a curriculum writer, tech-ed consultant, instructor and presenter. To talk change is very different than attempting to implement it. To be in a classroom, filled with diverse personalities, abilities and personal stories, is not like any other role. I say this with diverse experience and guilt, as in the past I was prophetic; assert to teachers their need to change but not being an agent of change myself.
When it comes to tech integration and my presentation “The Resume is Dead: Create, Curate, Publish” at Reading for the Love of It 2016, that was about the decay of the paper resume and the need for students to show what they know & make connections through multi-modal production and digital portfolios / profiles , it become strikingly and consistently apparent over two days that an approach to tech enriched / 21st century learning needs a re-imagining. I know this may sound cynical but from the critical needs of the classroom teachers I engaged with, more and less is needed.
Teachers are overwhelmed by potential system and/or school based demands. There needs to be a systematic pause and less push down. The classroom teacher cannot focus on all initiatives at once or be expected to. This demand or expectation is not viable for educator or student. As a parent of a school age child, I’d rather see my child’s teacher attempt to implement one meaningful initiative masterfully (with potential system support) rather than be a pseudo-expert of all. Nothing good comes from this. Teachers need time for a respective craft / pedagogical approach to evolve. They deserve this respect as do the students they serve . Slowing down is okay. In fact, the following writing titled “Teachers: How Slowing Down can Lead to Great Change,” attests to this thinking. A great read for classroom teacher, school administrator and system leader.
When it comes to tech , teachers are looking less at equipment (even though infrastructure is essential) and more at time to build transferable skills. These are the multi-modal skills that allow teachers to support students in “showing what they know.” It’s ignorant and passive to say that students “know how to use the tech.” I use to say this in a consulting role. As a classroom teacher, I can assert that students still require scaffolding (perhaps some more than others) and teachers need not, the expertise, but the comfort to provide novice support and/or the courage to redirect and find the resources. Even knowing where to look is essential and needs viable support. With this, administrators wanting tech integration must be ready to be a true active & instructional leader. This means, actually doing along with those in the classroom. Many teachers I met over the course of the conference shared that there was an expectation by administration that technology be used. From classroom blogs to pedagogical documentation there is a demand – often without the “tangible” support. There are amazing opportunities for partnership between all invested stakeholders. The consensus, time and meaningful purpose is needed.
In the end all of the teachers I met at Reading for the Love of It, have a sincere vocation to improve the learning experiences of their students. My hope is that they are given the platform to reflect and share their needs – slow down – and make one meaningful initiative work to their very best. From there , they can take their next step and build their toolkit of diverse pedagogical approaches.