I remember a certain teacher in high school whose reputation was built upon years of making students work extremely hard in order to achieve good grades in his course. He was tough. His course was tough. You had to be tough to make it through… or at least it felt that way. In retrospect, I’m fairly sure that his reputation intimidated his students more than he did. There was one year, though, that seemed different. His entire character seemed to change, and even he admitted that he could identify a bit more with his students. What happened? He took a course. The teacher who was known to push his classes to their limits suddenly had an awakening and learned what it was like to be a student.
One year ago, I began blogging. It was my first attempt to try something new in quite a while; to share some ideas with the world and to learn for the sake of the students who learn from me. Here are my thoughts from that first post:
The worst thing that anyone can do is to get stuck in a rut. This is especially true ifyou are a teacher! This blog is the beginning of a challenge that I have made for myself (and for any other teachers): try something new!
We are forever telling our students to experiment and take chances, but many timeswe don’t follow our own advice. What is the result? Fuddy-Duddy Teachers. Don’t tell me you don’t know what I mean. You remember them from your own days in high school… the teachers that relied on the same old assignments like they relied on their same old wardrobe. Change is necessary. Clean out your binders and see your classroom with a new set of eyes. Who knows what we’ve been missing.
What seemed like such a huge step soon became a stepping-stone as I cautiously explored different ways to connect with teachers online. Thanks to my principal, I was introduced to Twitter and managed to begin following many other educators who were more than willing to share wonderful resources.
There was no way to anticipate the extent to which blogging and tweeting would change my understanding of education, but these simple steps allowed me to enhance my practice and provide a richer learning environment for my students. Reaching beyond our classroom walls has meant so much for our school, and we’ve been rewarded with learning experiences worth remembering.
Exploration and risk-taking have become the norm for teachers who want to invite the world into the classroom – these new experiences don’t have instruction manuals that explain the steps to success. Students become co-learners on many projects that haven’t been tried before, and have often taken a teaching role as they have shared resources and knowledge.
We now have a class blog where projects and pictures are shared, and a class hash tag on Twitter that we use to share notes, questions and links. Often, students will send me a tweet while they’re working on an assignment just to make sure they’re on the right track. Who knew social media could be used to provide useful feedback?
Our experimentation with student blogging has also added a different dimension to learning activities, as each post automatically becomes globally accessible. Projects that used to be shared on our class bulletin board are now available online to anyone, anywhere. Our audience has changed, making it that much more important to become responsible for what we share. I say ‘we’, because my students and I are exposing our words and our thinking. This transparency urges us to be accountable to our school, our district, and anyone else who might happen upon our work.
As I celebrate the anniversary of my first blog post, I’m happy to be able to reflect on the changes that have occurred in my classroom. My students have found more relevance in their learning endeavors, and their teacher is excited to share new possibilities with them. Who knows what this next year will bring?