While recognizing the importance of knowledge, concepts and skills, these alone do not make an internationally minded person. It is vital that there is also focus on the development of personal attitudes towards people, towards the environment and towards learning, attitudes that contribute to the well-being of the individual and of the group. (Making the PYP Happen)
It has been two weeks now since I’ve officially been “on holiday”. Two weeks to unwind after the last school year, to consider what I have done, what I have not done, where I am and where I want to be. The past two years have seen me more dissatisfied with my performance than at any time in the 23 years I’ve been in international education. I’ve been asking myself why this is and what I can do about it. I am facing another year in my current school and I want to get through it with a more positive attitude. Friends, colleagues have told me the way to do this is to lower my expectations, that I am aiming too high for my current school, that I should focus just on the things I can do with the teachers I work with and the students I teach and not worry too much about the big picture, the direction the school is heading and the things I cannot influence. Basically this amounted to telling me I should be aiming lower and that I would feel a sense of achievement when I reached those lower goals. I’ve been trying to take that advice and to do that for the past 6 months, but it doesn’t sit well with me – there’s no challenge in that, no satisfaction in it for me. At the end of the year I don’t feel like celebrating the small achievements - I hate being mediocre when I know I can be good! I hate moving backwards or even standing still, when I know that we need to be moving forwards. And although I know my colleagues support me, although I know they think their students are learning new things and developing the skills they will need for the future, I look at what I have been able to do in the past and compare it with what I’m able to do now and all I see is a great big gap. I once said I was able to turn the IT around in any school, now I see it is not possible, not here, not now, and because of that I know that for my own sense of self-worth I need to move on – and I have tried, but at the end of the year I am still here. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I’ve heard.
Buying –v- Training: Discussions at the end of the year focused on what new technology we were going to buy. I’ve never been one for these sorts of meetings since I believe discussions about student learning have to come first: What do the students need? How can technology support those needs? How can we train the teachers so that they can empower students to use this technology? Having technology in the classrooms doesn’t mean it’s being used effectively – instead of buying more perhaps we should concentrate on using what we have really well? Rather than talking about what “stuff” to buy perhaps we could have discussed employing an extra person whose entire focus could be on integration and empowering the teachers and students to go further, to use the technology to transform teaching and learning rather than just to enhance it, to see technology as a goal, not just as a tool.
Control –v- Education: Too many of the discussions we had in the latter part of the year were about control. Of course students need to be safe. I believe the best way to keep them safe is through education not through control. This education needs to be about the technology they have in the classroom, the technology they have at home and the technology they are carrying around in their pockets – and therefore this education involves parents as well as the students themselves. Every inappropriate incident we dealt with last year happened out of school. Blocking or controlling at school doesn’t deal with these issues at all.
Network –v- Cloud: Our biggest successes last year were introducing Web 2.0 tools such as Google Apps for Education and Skype to our students – these allowed real-world collaboration in and outside of school and made the learning more authentic. Very little was saved over the school network on the school servers. Again, the issue of monitoring/control was raised at the end of the year. Again I feel this is a matter of education. The future is mobile, the future is in the cloud, we need to educate our children about being responsible digital citizens, about what is appropriate for the future.
The Present –v- The Future: This is really what it all comes down to on both a personal and a professional level. I need to focus more on the future instead of getting bogged down with the present. I need a vision of where I want to be and a plan of how to get there. I need commitment and perseverance as I work towards this vision, I need confidence in my abilities and courage to make the right decisions, I need to teach with attitude.
Photo Credit: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Mount Baldy by Drewski Mac