Moving out of the Comfort Zone
-One Teacher’s Journey from Blah to A-Ha
For seven years I did the same thing, the same boring thing. But I didn’t know any better. When I walked into my elementary school on the first day of work I was scared to death. Seriously. I just did not think I could do this. I felt a huge weight sitting on my shoulders. I held the future of other people’s children in my hands. I wanted to be a good teacher. I truly wanted to make a difference, but when it all came down to it I did not know how. I was lucky enough to have a mentor teacher with me the majority of the first week of school. She walked me through, held my hand, and basically fed me a routine, a classroom management system and a curriculum. I thought, “Ok, I can do this!” And I did. I did the exact same thing every day for a year. When May rolled around and our “TEST” scores came in I was shocked. I made 100 percent. Did you catch that? “I” made 100 percent. At that point in my career all emphasis was placed on the test and scores and myself as a teacher. After all, if scores are low it reflects on poor teaching, right? No other factors. I digress. You can imagine how proud I was. It felt amazing. I taught my students in straight rows that whole first year. We did worksheet, after worksheet, after worksheet. We wrote with the same framework on every story. There was no room for creativity. Results don’t lie (100%), so I continued to do this the next year. And the next. And the next. I did this for 7 years. For seven years I did not change at all. I did the same exact worksheets. I did the same writing prompts, and I did the same project. Just one project a year. Yep. That was my class. I was not excited walking in the building for work most mornings. I knew we were going to do our worksheets, we were going to write passable papers and we were going to score well on our state mandated test. My students could pass a test. They could knock the socks off the test, but what were they really learning? What in the world was I teaching? Blah. I hated it. When I was in 2nd grade I knew God wanted me to be a teacher, but after seven years I started to doubt myself big time. Something had to give. Something had to change. And thank goodness, it did.
In March of 2013 we found out that our school was embarking on a new adventure. We were about to launch a 1:1 iPad initiative. It was crazy to believe that our tiny school was going to do this. We are a rural, low socioeconomic school and things like this just don’t happen to us. Fear and excitement dominated the many emotions that were running rampant through our district. I personally was excited because I was going to get my very own iPad, and I could bring it home and play games on it. Truly, that is what I was excited about. I never in a million years would have thought that this 1:1 initiative would change my classroom or me like it did. Did it happen overnight? For me, kind of. For others, no. That’s ok, though. Just like learners in our classroom, we all go at different paces. It just took me seeing the “power” that technology can create amongst students in a classroom to jumpstart my journey. Don’t get me wrong. I seriously did not use my iPad in class for an entire month. Like I said, I took it home to play Angry Birds and Subway Surfer. My mindset and classroom changed in April. It was midnight, and I could not sleep. I had already read my Proverbs 31 ministry for the day, scrolled through my Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, so I decided to look at the Twitter account that I did not even want in the first place. I started scrolling through when something that Erin Klein posted caught my eye. It was called augmented reality. I had no idea what it meant or what it could do, but I wanted to learn. I was amazed. I could not believe what you could do with this iPad. I could not believe that teachers were doing things like this in their classroom. It wasn’t a worksheet, it wasn’t boring; yet, kids were learning. This is what I needed. So I dove right in. And yes, that night with just an iPad, a Twitter feed and a little inspiration my classroom changed. From that point on, I was on a mission. I soaked up everything people were doing on Twitter. I tried new things in my class. I started with Aurasma and Haiku Deck. Both of these apps were incremental in changing my classroom and me as a teacher. Then I added in Popplet and Prezi. At this point, I was the only one with an iPad in the room, but the things I could do with that one iPad were revolutionary to me. After I tried one activity I documented how it went, how students responded, and if I wantd to do it the following year. Then I would go back to my Twitter feed and research and dig some more. I found out whom to follow for different things. I was not scared to ask questions. My class was exciting for the first time in a long time. That single iPad along with Twitter seriously changed my class. I learned more in one month than I did in seven years of teaching. Bringing technology into my classroom gave me the confidence to try new things. To shake things up. I learned that it was ok to make mistakes. My lessons did not have to be perfect, and we did not have to score 100% percent on a state test to measure our worth. It made me start thinking and planning harder. I was no longer complacent, and I knew I did not want to do worksheet packets everyday like I did in the past. This year I can honestly say there has not been one day (not even Mondays) that I am not excited to go to work.
We have an obligation to our students to work as hard as we can EVERY day to make their learning experience as beneficial as possible to them. We need to meet them where they are. We need to speak their language, and their language is technology. We need to create life-long learners. That’s our job. If that takes bringing technology into your class then what are you waiting for? Technology has empowered my students. It has empowered me. My students are engaged this year, and I guarantee you that I am not turning back. My state test is next week. April 1st to be exact…really? Thanks to whoever planned that. How are my students going to do? I don’t know. They are nine. In my mind one day and one test cannot determine the progress that they have made this year. I used to teach to the test. Now I teach life. Technology changed my classroom, and it can change yours as well. You just have to be confident enough to step out of your comfort zone.