If I Were to Start Teaching Again….

It’s been three years since I left the classroom.  Three years since I joined the ‘dark side’ and became an Assistant Principal in a junior high.  Sometimes I love administration, and some days I don’t.  Those are the days when I think about going back in the classroom.

But so much has changed in those three years!  Education has changed, teaching has changed, and society’s expectations have also changed.  And, yes, so have I.

My mantra used to be that all teachers should be parents, and that all parents should be teachers.  Then my view widened.  Now all teachers should be administrators, too.  After having gone through the proverbial foot-wetting in the administration of public education, there are three main changes I would make to my teaching.

1.  Keep the big picture in mind.  Too often, lesson plans, classroom management, and incessant interactions with students tunneled my view as a teacher.  While I was the first in my building to use lit circles, and the first to experiment with inquiry-based learning and backward design, the drive to persevere past the initial excitement dwindled in the daily minutae.  Understanding where education has come from and the current forces acting upon it, forcing change is vital to surviving.  One cannot teach effectively with blinders on and their classroom door closed.

2.  Infuse technology into my classroom Use technology as my teaching platform.  Three years ago, I was one of the first in the building to experiment with a mobile SMART board, and 10 years ago, I can remember having to pirate a copy of an electronic gradebook…  Now we’re on our third student management software program, and SMART boards are in almost every classroom.  I mainly used an overhead projector and collected worksheets printed on paper.  In short, I taught the way I had been taught back in the 70s.   Now, my class would be ‘flipped’ to have the lecture delivered electronically at home, allowing me to double the amount of one-on-one writing conferencing in English, and tripling the amount of lab time in science.  Students would submit assignments electronically, there would be quick, electronic formative assessments, collected quickly and often, creating a large database on which I could make real, effective decisions.  The Common Core would be easy to implement because I already teach reading and writing in my science classes.  Students would progress on their own, finding aspects of our topics they find fascinating.  They could blog about it, commenting on their peers’ education as well, creating an academic comaraderie as well as a social network.  They would learn through Open Source and Crowd-Sourced information/websites.  Technology wouldn’t be something to try and introduce – it’s an all-or-nothing deal.

3.  Create a PLN (Professional Learning Network).  I admit it.  I was guilty of the biggest sin most teachers commit:  stagnation.  But now there is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and blogging (just to name a few!) which allow an individucal to reach out other like-minded people and make connections.  I can (and do!) give my staff professional development articles to read, and I solicit comments and feedback on an individual level, usually in the form of real, live conversations.  But in the few months since joining a network of other administrators and exciting teachers through technology and social media, my world has exponentially expanded.  I have read more educational books, and have surfed more educational websites since school started four months ago than I did in my entire ten years as a teacher.

One of the main reasons I left the classroom and joined administration was so that I could have a more far-reaching impact on a larger number of students.  While I truly believe that I could return to the classroom as a much better teacher, I am staying in administration.  But I will always have an eye on the bigger picture, technology is now a way of life, and giving up my PLN would give me the shakes and make me break into a cold sweat.  As we segue into 2012, I hope you’ll join my PLN, and we can continue to learn and grow together.

~Matt