2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Change Is. . .

This week I was part of a team of teachers who led a professional development day at Beaver Local School District.  Even though I have presented at three conferences, a board meeting, and a podcast, I was nervous as hell.  A dark secret we all know is that teachers can be the worst audience.  They can be critical, disinterested, or downright rude.  There are many reasons for this, but I attribute the main reason to the fact that professional development offered to us usually sucks.  There, I said it.


Kent Polen, Superintendent of Beaver Local SD, invited us to present for his waiver day.  He gave us very open-ended instructions, but one thing he told us really interested me:  Beaver Local is building a completely new school district.  Their teachers and students are highly involved in the whole process, from working with the architects to researching programs and technology for future use.  Kent told us, "We can't create a completely new building on the outside and do the same thing we've always done on the inside.  We need to change with the times."  There is nothing more fearful and at the same time exciting to me (and many other teachers) than those words.

Change is good.  It is exciting, stimulating.  Change is bad.  It is stressful, worrisome.  Oh boy, I know this.

Three years ago, I started a wrestling match with Change called Blended Learning.  My principal asked me to be a part of our Blended Learning Pioneer Team, and I said yes.  I didn't even know what Blended Learning was, and so I started a year of research.  The whole time I was convinced that I was learning to develop technology in the classroom that would eventually replace me.  What changed my mind was good professional development:  Blackboard World, OETC, Learn 21, Twitter, and the fascinating blogs and articles written by my colleagues.  I learned that there is a time and place for technology, and I learned that sometimes I can relinquish control of my students' path to learning.  I am learning to be a guide who participates in the journey rather than a travel agent who delivers a completely planned itinerary.  Three years later, I am still here, and I am still teaching and learning right along with my students.

Back to the professional development session.  I taught three sessions about using Web 2.o tools (see our Google site with links here) and one session on Google docs.  The Beaver Local teachers were outstanding: kind, eager, energetic, and FUN!  I gained some experts in my Twitterverse (@Kentpolen, @AmyWolski, @mrjcongo), and I learned to expand my thinking about instruction to other subjects and grade levels.

I would like to thank my colleagues at Beaver Local School District for reminding me how scary and exciting change can be.  I would like to thank Kent Polen for being on the cutting edge of change for his school district.  Finally, I would like to thank my Medina colleagues for encouraging change.  When Christina (Technology Integration Coach, formerly The Math Teacher on this blog) told us about this opportunity, I said, "I don't know what I can offer."  She and Shannon (The Social Studies Teacher on this blog) looked at me like I was insane (shhhhh. .  .Let this one go.) and reminded me of things I had learned that, instead of taking for granted, I should be sharing with my colleagues.  Thank you for reminding me that I do contribute.

Change is. . .Necessary.


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