Thursday, June 28, 2012

In response to "What is a 21st Century Teacher?"

    After reading Josh Stumpenhorst's article, "What is a 21st Century Teacher?" I was relieved to hear him echo many of the thoughts I've had bumping around in my mind. My favorite point is that we need to be advocates for our profession.  During my eleven years of teaching (in three different states), I've noticed an alarming trend of declining professional behavior among my peers.  One of my education professors once discussed the importance of professional dress if one wanted to be taken seriously.  I am the first to proclaim a profound love of dress down days on football Fridays, but I strive to dress the part of a professional on a regular basis.  Additionally, when someone cracks, "Oh, must be nice to have summers off," I am the first to outline the various professional opportunities that I take advantage of over the summer break.
     This summer I'll be completing my second year of technology training in a county based program called Pinnacle Technology Leaders.  It is a program one must apply for, be accepted and complete several days of summer training as well as additional web and site based meetings throughout the school year.  Later this summer I'll be teaching a course at our county's Teaching and Learning Conference about online research tools for teachers and students.  Of course, like any other dedicated teacher, I'll have ideas running through my head on how to change activities around, how to incorporate technology and centers better, and how to find additional resources for my students.  
     When I look back on my teaching practice during my first few years of teaching, I cringe.  I wish I could take those dear students into my arms and offer my sincere apologies.  I was a newbie, I was overwhelmed, and I'm sure I didn't do much justice to my subject matter.  I am constantly reflecting on what I've done, how I can change it, and where to go from there.  As I sit in a workshop or conference, I'm contacting peers or former students to bounce ideas off of them about what I'm learning.  When I was taught about using Twitter last summer as a professional development tool, a light bulb went off.  I'm still a fledgling in the world of tweeting, but as I spend more time exploring the worlds of education and technology, I am figuring out how to be a contributor as well as a consumer of information.  
      As I connect to teachers outside of my county, state, and even my country, my craft improves.  I think the moment I received my National Board certification was the moment I gained enough confidence to put myself out there.  Given I had bounced from state to state for the first few years of my teaching career, I was a little unsure of myself.  I would start to develop friendships and connections, only to move hundreds of miles away and start over.  In the past year the number of connections I've made has blossomed.  I have talked with educators from all over my county through a teacher leadership team working on Common Core curriculum guides, discussed technology integration with my peers in Pinnacle, discussed my AP class with someone from England with International Baccalaureate, and discussed college admissions requirements with the Dean of Admissions from M.I.T. 
      It has been a whirlwind year, but it has reinvigorated my passion for what I do in my classroom.  Am I a perfect teacher?  No, but am I constantly improving and reflecting and connecting?  Yes!