Recently, a first-year teacher came into our school’s media center to collaborate on the design of an integrated social studies unit for her fourth grade students. As our planning session progressed, this bright young educator began to share some of the challenges and the subsequent problem-solving skills she was putting to work to keep her teaching on target. As she related her areas of challenge, she began to self-assess: “I need to learn more about lesson planning. I need to find more efficient strategies for grade sharing,” and so forth. At one point in her dialogue, she paused and soberly observed, “You know, this is a very complicated job.”
Every teacher out there, whether beginning or experienced, can identify with that epiphany. The uncharted waters that go part and parcel with the first year of teaching place unique demands on educators. But the need to reflect, reassess, and often remediate our pedagogy flows through the very fabric of teaching for the entirety of our classroom careers. No matter how competent we become, how much we are loved or lauded, or how much we contribute to our profession, that reality never diminishes.
We understand that growth and education work hand in hand. They are part and parcel of the symbiosis between learning and real life. But the truth is, we teachers are busy people. Prioritizing becomes the name of the game. It seems that each new school year brings a new wave of mandates, standards, and legislated additions to our already overcrowded daily schedules. In addition, the ways—and the channels—that students prefer for learning and communication have evolved dramatically over the past couple of decades. It’s become imperative that today’s educators find ways to “work smarter.” That means planning creatively, integrating our disciplines, infusing higher-thinking skills, powering up our delivery, and pulling it all together in ways that keep everyone engaged in the learning process. That’s a full boat. With so much to consider, it’s no wonder that most teachers direct their energy and attention to new skills on a “need to know” basis.
Got Time for a New Paradigm?
That need-to-know moment for technology infusion has arrived with bells on, in the form of mandated technology testing. NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) has already released a trial run, with a target date of 2012 for implementation in selected (but yet unannounced) school districts. The testing process will require relevant use of technology in a context that envelops academic knowledge, creative thinking, and problem solving. The NAEP directive is clear: infusion rather than inclusion. It sounds great. It’s where we are all trying to go. Most of the teachers I know are ready and willing to put that powerful amalgam of learning and skill into action in their classrooms … just as soon as they figure how to do it themselves.
And that’s the problem.
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