Time to Reflect

When I first began teaching, I had this idea that I would keep a journal of my experiences, recording all those first-year experiences that all teachers go through one way or another.  But of course, when you are a first-year teacher (or a second- or third-year teacher for that matter), you’re so busy keeping your head above water, managing all the day to day matters and then some, that it’s a rare teacher that can commit to sitting down on a regular basis and reflecting on teaching in any great depth.  When teachers do manage to find the time to reflect on what they are doing, it’s too often reflection on a very superficial level.  We simply look at a completed lesson and decide it worked well enough and keep it in our files for next year.  Or we decide it bombed for some reason, and we chuck it altogether.  Unfortunately, this kind of reflection doesn’t tell us much.  It doesn’t tell us WHY something worked or not, and how we can apply that information to other lessons in the future.  To work well, the reflective teacher needs to be an intentional teacher, and all too often, there’s simply not enough time to do this well.  A teacher in their first few years of teaching is even less likely to be able to do this than a veteran.

So here it is, several years on, and I’m just now wrapping up my fourth year of teaching and getting ready for the (relative) rest of summer vacation.  It finally seems like I have the time to write about what it’s like to be a teacher.  I’m comfortable with my teaching load as well as all the extra duties that have come my way, and I finally feel like I have enough experience of my own to have something useful to say to others about this profession, this craft of teaching.

There’s another reason I decided now was the time to write about teaching.  The school I teach at is rolling out a 1:1 laptop program next year.  Actually, the school began rolling it out this year.  All 7th and 9th grade students received laptops this year, but since I don’t teach either of those grades, it didn’t particularly affect me.  This coming year will be a very different story, however.  All three of my classes – AP European history, AP U.S. history, and government – will now be 1:1 classrooms.  While I’m incredibly excited about all the opportunities that are coming our way, integrating technology like this poses its own sets of challenges.  Journaling about how I manage this new environment is one way of meeting those challenges.  I figure the more reflective and intentional I am in integrating the technology the more effective I will be for my students.

I know I’m not the first to chronicle the experience of being a teacher or even the first to chronicle the experience of teaching in a 1:1 environment.  Many others have done this, and many more will do so in the future.  Yet there’s a uniqueness to everyone’s experience, and I do hope to contribute something worthwhile to the ongoing dialogue about the role of technology in education.  Whether I can pose new questions or perhaps provide some tentative answers to the problems already known, I think the more teachers we have that share their experiences, the richer our understanding becomes.

So there it is.  The deceptively simple goal of this whole journaling experiment: to be effective in the classroom for my students by intentionally reflecting on teaching, particularly in a 1:1 environment.

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