I left the classroom this past April. It hasn't even been a full six months. I still don't feel disconnected from the classroom. I don't feel like I've lost touch with my roots; at least not yet. A lot of what I do in my new district is to share what I used to do six months ago. Considering that nearly three months of that was Summer Vacation, I don't feel too out-of-the-loop.
Apparently that's not what everyone thinks. Apparently since I joined the ranks of "the district", or as we call it "downtown", I have lost my connection to the classroom. Regardless of the fact that I am still just a TOSA, not an administrator, I am now labeled as disconnected.
This was made apparent about a week ago. I was working with a group of teachers from a few of our pilot schools (8 of 27 schools are going 1:1 to some degree) on some tools and strategies that they could feel comfortable using Day 1 with students. As most PD sessions go, the secondary folks flocked towards the secondary folks and the elementary folks congregated close to other elementary folks. A discussion arose among the secondary teachers. They were (some, but not all) concerned about students being distracted by devices during lectures and wondered if there was a way to "lock" students into the lecture (read slides) somehow.
I have a bad habit of grinding my teeth when someone says "lock" or "lock down" in the context of learning and their classroom. I kept to myself and listened for a bit. The conversation continued and they brought up a few apps that they could use to keep kids in an app or on a particular slide during a lecture, thus "keep them from being distracted". As if isolating the delivery has ever kept anyone from getting bored during a lecture. Again, I held back. There were some voices of reason however. One individual reminded them that at any point anyone could walk into a classroom and see students distracted by devices (our schools have, to an extent, an open BYOD policy); that it wasn't going to matter whether it was a district provided device or whether it was brought from home.
That was my opening to speak up, right? Someone else broke the ice and now I could swoop in with my voice of reason and bring the focus back to learning and not on the tools. (Insert loud Family Feud "X" sound effect). Not quite.
"Can I share a few thoughts? And please hear me out. My intent is not to offend." -- (probably not the best way to start)
"Sure. Do you know of another app or does the district already have a monitoring tool?"
"Well. I think we're missing the point here if our goal is to 'lock' a student into an app or a particular part of your lecture. Because if that is our goal, I think we should be talking about ways to deliver content that doesn't require 'locking down' and distracted students, instead."
"Sure. That's easy when you work in a world of theory. You can say those things and talk about all the "neat" ways we should be teaching, but I live in a world of practice and have to deal with this everyday."
No. Seriously. That's what it felt like. A slap to the face. It completely caught me off guard.
I didn't think I was so out of touch with the world of "practice". Again. I was in the classroom up until April. Of this year. 2013.
I didn't even have a reply.
It had started. I was now an outsider. And I didn't, and still don't, like it. I don't even know who's right in this case. I know that traditionally districts put a lot of pressure on teachers to perform and achieve high (read high test scores), and because of that, some of the "neat" ways I was talking about don't seem practical, realistic, or even necessary in the classroom. And because of that, my ideas come of as mere theory (untested and unproven) and not as practice.
This is a tough place to be in, between what is perceived as theory and what is upheld as practice. But it's my job. How do I ensure a positive and meaningful experience for teachers during our professional development time without crossing those streams? If we keep doing what we're doing, there is no need for our 1:1 pilots. If we keep doing what we're doing, I'm out of a job. Fortunately there is a need to NOT keep doing what we're doing. There is a need to unlearn and rethink.
Education often (mis)functions in this dichotomy; us & them -or- theory & practice. I struggle with this. Change comes by way of discomfort and confusion, not routine and complacency. How does one go about making "theory" seem practical? I don't know.