If you had told me fifteen years ago that I was soon going to become a middle school teacher, I would probably have spit in your eye. I graduated from college later in life than most with a degree in English literature and journalism and maintained pie-eyed dreams of becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for a couple of years after graduation. A succession of weird jobs including Human Resource Manager at a sixteen-screen multiplex and Research Assistant to an author writing a dictionary of business terms led me to believe that I was far from any kind of calling that meshed with my dreams. But then, few of us choose our callings in life; we are called, and we come. So it was that about fourteen years ago, while working a terrible telemarketing job, a colleague gave me the nudge that led to my first teaching job.
And I was home.
I taught English and reading for all three grade levels during the first six years of my career at Edison Middle School in Port Arthur. Then, I moved to Marshall Middle School in Beaumont ISD where I have been ever since. I have taught 7th grade writing, 8th grade English language arts, 7th grade reading, and an unusual course we call Reading Improvement. That last one is probably where my heart really rests.
You see, about four years ago or so, my principal offered me a position she called “7th grade RtI Coordinator”. After agreeing to the position, I asked a lot of very knowledgeable people exactly what it was that I was supposed to be doing as the 7th grade RtI Coordinator. No one could really say. So I did some research and realized I needed to be trained. After a few trainings at the Region 5 Education Service Center with Dr. Andrea Ogonosky, I realized that Response to Intervention was my passion. I am now our campus’s RtI Coordinator, Reading Department Chair, and a member of the CEIC. I am also our campus liaison to the District Education Improvement Committee, a curriculum team member, and a member of the district’s Gifted & Talented Committee.
Between classroom teaching and my role in our campus’s RtI structure, technology became an obvious avenue I needed to pursue. I probably first caught the tech bug when the district purchased NEO2 classroom keyboards for all of our middle schools. I dove right in when those boxes arrived and saw my kids invigorated about writing, excited to take AR quizzes at their desks, and no longer bored during test review with a robust classroom responder at their fingertips. A couple of years ago, my interactive white board arrived, and then our instructional technologist and I began filling the room with as many desktop workstations as we could piece together from spare parts. My little corner of campus is now one part computer lab, one part classroom, and one part library.
On any given day, one might find a group of my reading improvement students on the computer practicing vocabulary on Moby Max while another group uses Istation or Achieve 3000 all in their little bubbles comprised of headphones, keyboards, and displays. Meanwhile, throughout the rest of the room, students are reading audio books on cassette and mp3 players, another is using Learning Ally to access an audio recording of the book he’s reading, and another small group sits before the white board with their NEOs engaged in a lesson.
And that’s all just instruction. I won’t even get started on the robust data that drives a course where every child has an individualized education plan tailored to his or her own strengths and deficits. Or the data we glean from Universal Screen to measure every child on campus three times each year.
I honestly don’t know what teachers did before all this technology was available, but I do know that now is my time and that my children are the ones who win this day.
My Favorite Tech Tools:
• Edmodo and the apps like Moby Max that are available through it
• Google Docs, especially Google Forms
• NEO2 Classroom Keyboard
• Learning Ally
• My interactive white board
• And for Professional Development, nothing beats Twitter
You can find me:
• On Twitter @FarleyJeffrey
• via email firstname.lastname@example.org
• On Blogger at http://farleythroes.blogspot.com/
• Or at my website https://sites.google.com/site/mrjeffreyfarley/
• I will return as moderator to #reg5chat on Twitter on a Thursday night in the not-too-distant future
• As the Professional Development Task Force Chair for the Beaumont Teachers Association, I’ve begun a discussion aimed at starting a #BTAchat on Twitter
• Continuing to share my experience with every teacher and student who wants to learn all they can during their time on this earth