Wednesday, August 31, 2011
What I've learned about teaching IT by climbing Swiss mountains
Think big and start small: for the past couple of years I've been looking up to the top of the mountain in teaching - specifically where technology can take student learning. I've been comparing where I am now to where I've been in previous schools. I've been thinking about what a long, hard slog it will be to climb this mountain, to get the teaching and learning with technology to the point I want it to get to. As I was climbing up this peak at the weekend I realised that in order to get up it I had to slow down and take smaller steps. Sometimes the fastest way to do something is to go slowly. With the IT programme I'm often impatient - I want to do things quickly to get the students here to the same level the students are at in other schools. I'm thinking big, but without the proper support, I know need to start small. On this hike many people passed me, but for me that didn't matter. They could maybe climb this mountain in 2 hours, for me it might take a lot longer. The important thing was that I did it, that I was moving forward, that I was enjoying the journey.
Realise that others are also carrying a heavy load: the photo shows part of my weekend hike - I had to get up to the top of that peak in order to get onto the ridge between the mountains. Right up on the top there's a cross and as I was hiking up I could see someone standing right next to the cross - and I could hear him playing the bagpipes! It was a great encouragement to me to know that someone else had made it up the mountain before me - and that person was also carrying a heavier load - if you click on the photo you'll see a bigger version and will be able to see him better. For myself I think I often fall into the trap of comparing my teaching load with that of others. This year I've started the year with 627 students as one of my colleagues is off sick and I'm supporting his classes as well as my own. Last week I was asked to do 3 sessions of after school training on top of this. For me it was too much. The load was too heavy. I started to think to myself "How is it that I have to teach 627 kids across 7 grade levels and 2 campuses, when some of the other teachers are just supporting one grade level with maybe 20 students who need their help?" I know this is extremely negative, it's not a productive way to think. Rather I need to think that there is no shame in saying no, it's too much, I just can't do it, I don't have time. The shame would be in saying "sure I'll do that" and then not being able to do a good job of it because of being too busy doing everything else.
Don't lower your goals - increase your support: One of the biggest things I have to deal with on a daily basis is the feeling that my knowledge and experience is not valued. In a situation like this it would be easy to lower my goals. In the hard parts of this hike there were steel chains hanging down to grab onto to help pull myself up. In some places rough steps had been cut into the sides of the slopes. At a couple of points there were flat rocks where I could rest or sometimes even sit on a bench. I needed those supports to get me through my hike. My supports in my job are the many wonderful colleagues I work with, and the amazing members of my PLN. When I'm feeling low, their encouragement helps me to carry on.