It’s finally mine. I spent four years sitting in the back of various classrooms with my constant list of mental notes running in the background. By the end of student teaching, I felt like my head would explode if I didn’t get to start making the decisions soon.
I graduated and was lucky to find a principal who was willing to take a risk on an inexperienced, right out of college, high school English teacher. I stepped into the classroom, amazed by the reality of it all. Thirty desks, two whiteboards, two bulletin boards, four windows, a projector, a teacher computer, four student computers, a sound system with a microphone, and a Smartboard on a metal track. It’s funny how quickly it became “my room.” I moved the desks, certain I wouldn’t be a row teacher. I rearranged my desk space to free up a corner (because what else would I do with that fridge from college?) Sound system? Smartboard? Ehhh… I’d get to that later.
I think people forget what their first year of teaching is like. It’s no one’s fault; it’s how time works, and for some, it’s probably better that way. But one thing that is a very real factor in any first year teacher’s experience is pressure. I had all of these expectations for myself. I wanted to be liked and respected, creative and engaging. I wanted to make learning fun. I wanted my kids to walk out of the classroom with a true awareness of the impact words can have in the world. I wanted to walk the talk of my list of positive traits of a teacher. One of those traits is tech savvy.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve experienced any outside pressure to use technology. My administrators are phenomenal and have been great about supporting me without placing heavy expectations on me. More than anything, I’d say I’ve experienced internal pressure. It’s clear that technology is becoming integrated into our classrooms. Even the items in my classroom suggest that technology use is the expectation. The “Technology in the Classroom” course I took in college didn’t really cut it for all the things I would experience.
If technology is really to be used as a tool, then I have to have a purpose for using it. The problem is as a second year teacher I’m still trying to figure out what the purpose for each of my lessons really is. Thus, I hope effective integration of technology comes with time.
This is where I feel like veteran teachers have the upper hand. You’re still changing things – I hope that you forever are – but you have a firm foundation and a general understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Now you have the opportunity to determine what technology best lends itself to your lesson.
There’s often a tangible divide between new and veteran teachers, and technology has increased the gap. No one wants to admit their weaknesses. But there’s so much possibility. There’s so much potential benefit to both teachers when a new and veteran teacher link up. You’ve got the content; I’ve got fresh eyes and idealism.
We can make a great pair, but veteran teacher, please take the first step. In the same way that we have our students come alongside a new student, welcome your new teachers in. One of the most frustrating things is knowing that there’s a problem in your classroom but not knowing how to vocalize it, or even to identify what the problem really is. Having a relationship with a coworker where you know that you are not going to be belittled or merely directed to a tangential story of their own successes or failures makes a great difference. Especially in the Twittersphere, there’s all kinds of talk of being a “connected educator,” but I think technology holds the potential to connect teachers even within their own buildings. People must be willing to leave their egos at the door.
It’s still absolutely unreal to me that I’m the teacher now. I continue to feel that at some point the real teacher is going to walk in and tell me to stop messing around and sit back down in my seat, but it hasn’t happened. In the meantime, I’m doing everything I can to make sure that the mental list notes that an observer would take in my class are positive ones.
Britt DeWitt is in her second year of teaching high school English. She loves her job and is excited about getting more involved in the Education world down the road. She can be found on Twitter at @bwitty20.