Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nervous Excitement

I'm nervous.  And excited.  And nervous.

Tomorrow I teach 8th graders, and like every time I "perform" in front of an audience, I have a healthy dose of nerves.  But I'm more nervous because I am teaching these kids that I've never met - and that I don't know.  I don't know whether they will be able to read the articles I've selected.  I don't know how much support they will need to decode and comprehend them.  I don't know their interests or how to connect the texts to their prior knowledge.

I'm running blind.

I'm also planning to introduce Citelighter, the tool that I will be using with the class throughout the year, and I've discovered a major glitch in the program, a glitch that caused me to rethink my entire plan today.

Backup planning has always been a big part of my lesson design.  Because I've used technology regularly since I started teaching in 1998, I always needed to think in terms of backup.  Something inevitably went wrong, and I had to anticipate what could happen and account for it in my planning.

But in the "old" days, the backup plan usually involved printed materials.  We could always revert to the textbook and paper/pencil if need be.  But the whole goal of tomorrow's plan is to learn to use the technology.  If the technology fails, the plan is shot.

And this is new territory for me as a teacher of adolescents.  I know that digital literacy is important.  I argue that teachers need to overcome the fears associated with bringing technology into the classroom in deep and meaningful ways - and I empathize with them.  Because I'm nervous.  I'm nervous that technology will fail me in a very important moment.

All of these nerves, however, remind me that teaching is really about learning.  It's about learning with and alongside our students.  So no matter whether I've picked the wrong article - or whether technology fails - the students.... my students.... and I will learn together tomorrow.

And that excites me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Twinlife on Sabbatical

I've been watching my Facebook feed for the last few weeks, noting when each of my colleagues and friends around the country shift from summer mode to school mode.  Most of the parent posts include snapshots of their children on the first day of school - and wonder at where the time has gone.  Most of the teacher posts lament the start of school - some with more angst than others.

I know both perspectives.  Tomorrow I will post pictures of my second graders, and I am saddened that they are headed back to school.  It's been a good summer that we've spent together, our first without a regular babysitter.  I've juggled work and mom life, and I've taken more time for the latter than I ever have before.  I will miss them when they are at school for 6.5 hours per day - and I will need to squeeze in quality time in the 3 hour block between school and bedtime.  It will be hard.

So I get the tinge of sadness that laces the parent posts together.  I also get the angst of my teacher-friends.  This September would have been my 17th start as a teacher.  Each year, as the end of August looms nearer, my heart races a little faster, my stomach starts to roll, and my stress meter rises higher.  Labor Day is usually full of labor as I prepare for my classes.  Excitement of a new start is usually tempered by the understanding that the intense workload - the responsibility for guiding my students to deep learning - will exhaust me.

But not this year.  This year I have ignored the barrage of back to school email.  I have left my textbooks on the shelf and my syllabi untouched in their folders.  My stomach hasn't rolled, and my stress level has been pretty stable.  I am not headed into the city for the opening meeting today and for the first day of classes.

I am on sabbatical.

Many professors take sabbaticals to travel the world.  I chose to stay close to home, where I can indulge in twinlife and grow as an educator.  I will be spending the semester as a visiting teacher in an 8th grade writing class in a local school.  My heart races a little faster - with excitement - at the possibilities in front of me.  I will work with middle schoolers (a first!), enjoy time for writing with colleagues, and be home in time to meet my kids at the bus stop.  Though I will be busy with work, it's a different kind of work, and I'm enjoying the break from normal back-to-school stress.

And today, rather than sitting in meetings, I will enjoy the sunshine with my kids one last time before the start of school.