Reflection #3: On Integrating Technology

The school I just finished the year at is not that technology advanced. They do have some technology (some that I didn't know about until the last day) but it is not that great. The computers that I hunted down for my room were eMacs 700MHz, running Mac OSX 10.2. They were very slow and many times did not work how they were supposed to. I did have a SMARTboard in my room, but I never had time to learn how to use it, so I didn't use it. I did try a couple times, but it was more difficult than I wanted. As I have mentioned before, my 9th grade honors class did individual blogs each week. That was a neat experience, but I have a different plan for next year. I want to have a blog for each class, and then each class will have one day to go down to the lab and do their blog. It will be very important for me to teach them that this is not just some other assignment. I need to incorporate research, good writing skills, correct grammar usage, and internet safety. If I don't include these things, it will be virtually worthless because they will just be doing an assignment, and not effectively using technology to better their experience. I have decided to use a class blog because it was very difficult for grading and tracking to see who did their assignment when every one of them had its own url. At my new school they have opaque projectors which are basically overhead projectors that you don't need transparencies for. They are really slick. You can put the student's paper in there, right after they wrote it and then critique it and give them immediate feedback. There are video projectors on the same site since opaque projectors are discontinued but we had those at BYU-Idaho. I didn't think they were that great.

Changes I need to make regarding technology next year:
  • Use technology effectively to enhance education, not just to use it for the sake of using it.
  • Use technology to make my job easier, not harder.
As part of my requirements as a first-year teacher, I have to fill out these forms that are a total joke. There is about a half a page to write about what I have accomplished this year as a teacher. They want me to reflect on my year, but only give me limited space to write it down. I have issues with forced reflection: I hate it. I see the immense value in reflection and goal setting, but struggle when it is forced upon me. I hope that in the next week, I can finish all the reflections I have on my mind, but I will just take it one day at a time. I have really learned a lot in my first year of teaching, and hope that I can take those lessons with me next year to my new school.

The ninth graders went to Lagoon today. I went with them since I have mostly ninth graders. It was a pretty fun day, and the new ride there, Wicked is just that, wicked. Not the best roller coaster I have been on, but it is pretty cool. While at Lagoon I didn't do much supervising of the kids (since that would be impossible). I just hung out with 7 other teachers who went also. A couple days ago I thought that maybe I would rather not go, and just stay at school for the day with no students. I would be able to get a lot done. I was entertaining that thought because I don't really have a very good relationship with most of the teachers at my school. There are a few that I do feel some rapport with, but not that many. I have thought a lot about why this is so.

First, I spent most lunches in my room. At the beginning of the year, it was because I had so much to do, and I never felt like I had enough time to prepare for everything. Once I got things under control better, I stayed in my room for lunch just for some peace and quiet. It was nice to be able to read the news and each lunch without the noise of my students. Not that I don't like the teachers I work with, but the faculty room was sometimes not that quiet either. Towards the end of the year, I stayed in my room still because I had not been in the lunch room all year, and the other teachers had established cliques, and the couple times I was in there, I felt left out. That is certainly not their fault, but rather mine. In addition, one excuse I made for why I didn't eat lunch with others was that the few times I was it seemed like there was a lot of complaining about students, administration, our jobs overall, etc. going on. I used that as an excuse to keep me away. Even though I love teaching more than anything else I have ever done, I still complain. I guess that is just part of the dark side that is always creeping to the surface for me.

The second reason that I didn't establish many relationships with teachers is because I was too shy to go out of my way to make more friends. This is not in my character at all. Since I got married, my wife has become my best friend and the one that I turn to for everything. She is wonderful, and is probably the greatest person ever invented, but thinking that she was the only person I needed as a friend was an incorrect assumption on my part. I have learned some amazing things from those teachers I have built a relationship with (teaching techniques, curriculum suggestions, project ideas, classroom management hints, and much more). I need friends at work, people that can help me and that I can help when needed. An excellent example of this is that there have been two field trips in the last couple weeks where I and other teachers needed someone to take the students that would not be able to go. When teachers emailed asking for help, I was reluctant to volunteer to help someone that I had not built a relationship with already. When I needed help, the only ones who volunteered were teachers that I had built a relationship with. If I had done better earlier, I would have been more willing to help others, and I think they would have been more willing to help me.

The third reason is that I haven't really felt like part of the faculty. I know that part of it is because I am new, and part of it is my own insecurities. I always feel like I have to be the center of attention or else people don't like me much. That is silly. It has taken me a long time to realize this, but there is nothing wrong with being in the background for a while. I don't have to be the most important one in a group to still be important to that group. And why do I even need to be important? I can just be there!

Changes to make regarding relationships:
  • Each lunch with the other faculty members. I need some time with grownups. (And sometimes, it is okay to vent!)
  • Go out of my way to make sure other teachers feel that I appreciate them and notice the good things they do
  • Make sure that I volunteer to help others when they need it (within reason, without overextending myself) so that I have a way to build a better relationship with them
If I can build better relationships with faculty next year, I think that I will see some great changes in my own teaching ability, my happiness at the school, and networking for the future. Making friends is always a good idea. Making friends with teachers who care about what they are doing is even better. I am a social person. Sitting in my room during lunch when I knew I could be out making friends was totally foreign to me. I still don't completely understand WHY I chose to be lonely.


This is a sad post. I have a student that we will call Liza. She started out the year with a little bit of rockiness--trying to find herself, dealing with moving to a new area, and deciding what groups she would identify with. We had authority struggles while she was still a loner, and then I saw that she befriended a semi-goth but very bright girl and I thought she would do just fine. A couple months into the year, a girl named Rachelle moved into our school and was clearly not a good girl. She constantly skipped class, didn't do her work, and had an awful mouth. Then, with about two months left in the year, Liza started hanging out with Rachelle. It was amazing to see how fast her grades dropped in all her classes. Her attitude was a complete 180 degree change. She swore constantly. She stopped wearing her pajamas to class and started wearing the same style as Rachelle. It was really interesting to see how she went from being relatively good to sliding down this slippery slope to be like Rachelle. It is so tragic that Rachelle had SO much influence on Liza. I knew Rachelle was bad news as soon as I met her. I wish I knew how to teach my students to choose friends that will help them grow into better people, not denigrate them into followers of filth.

Reflection #1: On Planning

As I finish my first year teaching, I have opportunity to look back on how the year has gone and see where I have been and what I have learned.

#1. I did not do a very good job at planning. That is a real struggle for me. One thing that I am really good at is "winging it" and the problem with that is that I don't plan ahead as well as I should. For instance, I would plan my days by saying, "What do I need to do tomorrow?" There was no over-arching plan for the whole, or even for the whole quarter. One thing that I liked about college was that each teacher gave a syllabus for the whole semester. That made it really easy to budget my time as a student and plan for big assignments. It is a little easier in college to use/create a syllabus, because there is less new information, and more depth. In middle school, at least here, it felt like there was a lot of new information for my students. I don't think it is impossible, but just more difficult.

Contributors to #1: Grad school made it very difficult to have enough time to prepare really well each day. Homework, research, class time, and driving to and from school during the week takes a lot of time. My own laziness makes it hard to plan as well.

Changes I should make regarding #1:
  • I should create an overarching theme for next year.
  • I should give a syllabus for at least each quarter.
  • If I know where I am going, it will be easier to get there.
If I can do these things, I think that I will have a better year. Knowing when and what I need to do for my students for the whole year will make the day-to-day planning a little easier. That way I can have an idea in my mind of what we need to do.