teaching responsibly

I came across this quote on Cool Cat Teacher Blog this morning:

“We teach what we know; we reproduce who we are.”
Robert Schmidgall

As I read this quote I am overcome with a sense of responsibility towards my students and my profession.

I am also reminded that so much of what I teach is not content but modeling. As the main teacher for my students (I am with the same group of students 24 periods out of 36) I can not forget my influence on them.

The other day I lost it with them. We came in after lunch, the agenda was on the board, and I reminded students as they walked in to read the board and follow the instructions. They were to cool down after lunch with silent reading. One boy was acting beyond silly – to the point where he was going into the hallway and ignoring my instructions. I figured something had happened at lunch and he needed more than quiet reading to settle down. So I quickly tried to fill out paperwork to get him to a silent room in the school with his work. While I did this others were out of their seats, talking (and many of my students lack executive functioning that monitors self-control, voice levels…).

I slammed the door. I said (loudly, very loudly) WHAT are you supposed to be doing? I am DISAPPOINTED! BLAH BLAH BLAH.

They settled down, one student got the giggles (he does that when he is uncomfortable and unsure of what to do) and I had to move him to the back of the class to settle down but eventually they were all quiet.

10 minutes later I began to speak in a quiet voice and issued an apology. I told them that I thought one of the worst things a teacher could do was to yell at her students because I was teaching them that it was ok to be loud and to yell to solve a problem. I told them I thought it was aggressive for me to make a loud noise like slamming the door and that I was embarrassed of my actions. Then we brainstormed a little bit about what we could do when the class got loud and silly.

That moment of yelling, though it may have felt cathartic at the time, is going to take a long time to fix, to erase the idea that yelling is an ok way to talk to people because I am their teacher!

What I DO more than what I teach is what I model.

What do I want to model? And in turn reproduce?

In order to teach responsibly, I turn to another quote that is important to me:

I must be the change I want to see in the world. (Gandhi)

I must be patient, caring, and kind if I want to teach those attributes to my students, if I want to teach responsibly.

“Put technology where it can be best used… In the classroom!”

[cross ranted as a comment at Stephen Ransom’s EdTechTrek] [and slightly elaborated]

I am starting to think that because many teachers and administrators
still do not know exactly what we can do with technology there is a
reluctance to put it in the classroom.

Example – today the Internet had, for some reason, stopped working
in the west wing of our school. I was at the computer lab with one
other teacher. She packed her kids up and went back because she only
books the computer lab for the last period of the day so that her kids
can ‘play on the internet’.

For her, technology has nothing to do with learning, it is a form of
entertainment. I stayed with my kids and used the time to work on our
Science vocabulary while teaching them how to hyperlink in
presentations. They were linking their vocabulary words to comments and images made by their peers, creating a collaborative learning network around the new terminology they are learning in Science. (Not bad for a wing it activity, eh ;)

For some reason, this teacher has not caught on yet that technology
can be much more than a way to waste time. I can understand the frustration of the new teachers that Stephen mentions in his post, but
until the more experienced teachers and administrators at schools begin
to use technology as a learning tool, really use it, and demand that
good forms of it be available in the schools, it isn’t going to happen.

I can also understand the frustration of the more experienced teachers who are
expected to use technology but who aren’t really given the time to grow
less afraid of it and to experiment with what can be done. There is a huge divide between our students who live and breathe with technology as part of their daily lives and the teachers who don’t. Huge. and while
there are still administrators who don’t use technology in their daily lives and who don’t champion for its appropriate use and availability in the school, let alone the classroom…well…that divide can only be expected to widen.

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