Well, Connected Educator Month has come and gone already! There have been so many things keeping me busy. Every time I talk to someone in the halls, in my classroom, in a meeting, after school, I hear the same thing…”I’m so busy and I feel overwhelmed!” I remember my first year of teaching some 20 years ago when I was told that the first 3 years were the hardest and then it would get so much easier. At that point I would have my curriculum down and I would have lessons planned. I’ve been waiting for things to “get easier” ever since. In some ways teaching has gotten easier. I am more skilled at flexing and changing my lesson plans to accommodate emergency drills or current events. I have a wide variety of activities in my arsenal to choose from when planning my units. I feel confident in my subject knowledge and expertise as an educator. But in other ways, teaching has become more and more difficult.
I’ve been thinking about the reasons for the increased difficulty and overwhelmed feeling and I’ve been trying to determine what is happening and how to change it. I think it is partially to do with the number of different things I have to do in a day, both at work and as a mom to a teen and a preschooler. Teachers are pulled in so many different directions and we are often given tasks that distract us from our job of teaching, which is very frustrating. I’ve also realized that teaching 21st century skills is much more intensive than teaching the old fashioned way. When I was in school and when I began my teaching career, school was about sitting quietly listening to the teacher tell you the content that would be on the test. This was easy for the teacher and also easy for those students who could listen, take notes, and regurgitate. Now I am immersed in technology integration, project based learning, design thinking, and hands on inquiry based science. Not only does teaching today require expert subject knowledge, but also deep understanding of brain development, motivation strategies, and learning styles. I am constantly in search of innovative and creative ways to engage my students and encourage them to be involved in their learning.
Designing and implementing active lessons is exhausting. I can no longer relax while I give a 50 minute lecture on photosynthesis. Instead, my students are gathered around lab stations watching leaf chads rise and fall as they investigate the factors that affect the rate of photosynthesis. As I let their curiosity lead them, I must circulate around the lab space, asking questions that will lead them to deeper understanding. This takes not only constant physical movement, but a bit of mental gymnastics as I never know what curious questions my students will have. Finding new ways to engage my students takes constant research and planning. Each group is different and so I find myself frequently tweaking lessons, sometimes even in the middle of a class period. This flexibility benefits the students as they can follow their interest and develop the 4Cs, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication, which are so vital to success.
Even the invaluable support I get from my PLN takes time, but I’ve got to spend time being connected through Twitter, Voxer and G+. Each connection bring opportunities for learning and improves my ability to make a difference for my students. I rely on my connectedness to provideme with much needed inspiration, encouragement, insight, and feedback. I have found ways to ignite my own passion for learning and teaching.