On Monday, thirty eager and possibly anxious students will file into the classroom, look for their assigned seat and sit down. Their faces will look up at me in anticipation and I will start another year of their education. In the primary school setting, it will be my face, voice and body language that will dominate their week. My teaching buddy next door will take them for their twice weekly dose of German, and on Wednesdays, another to-be-determined teacher will release me for my day in my ICT Coordinator role. So it's my decisions and choices that will determine what unfolds in 2007 for these ten and eleven year olds. I have my SACSA curriculum to guide me, there are quite a number of MYLU team planning of inquiry based learning units in the pipeline and I have my twenty years of teaching experience up my sleeve.
In a conversation with CEGSA president, Trudy Sweeney, last year I expressed to her my frustrations regarding the atrophy of my classroom teaching skills. The demands of being a part time classroom practitioner became secondary to grappling with my then new role on the first rung of primary school leadership. Thankfully, Trudy said that I could have been describing her professional life in her first year of ICT leadership. I ended up relying on tried-but-true programs and ideas from my past repertoire, knowing that at a new school they would appear fresh and competent. But I wasn't moving forward, just treading water. Sure, I was introducing new ideas in the computing room and last year I worked across four classes using wikis and digital stories. So that part of my work life was developing and having some influence on my colleagues and their classroom practices. In mid 2005, I began my foray into blogging and the world of networked learning opened up for me. 2006 became a year of unprecedented personal professional growth, with the vast majority of that documented right here.
My online learning has led me to a number of classroom teachers connecting their students to the online world, using their curricular content as the vehicle. I've read about Mark Ahlness' assertion that blogging is the most motivational tool he's ever used with elementary school students. I've read Doug Noon's online student writing portal at Tell The Raven. I've seen Darren Kuropatwa and, more recently, Chris Harbeck use Web 2.0 tools to cement mathematical concepts in place. Locally, Al Upton and his Mini-Legends have led the way and he quite rightly chides me for not connecting my own classroom to the shared learning.
So, I know want things to be different but how? Firstly, an up front approach that acknowledges that I am not the font of all knowledge, but I can be the powerful role model that seeks answers from a variety of sources and explicitly explain how I determine the validity and then the use of that information. And then connect them to be able to use the online world as part of their learning.
This morning our staff had a short presentation from Deb Daniel who works in our district here in Restorative Practice and Behaviour Management. Her talk was titled, "Getting the year off to a great start! Top Ten Tips." The tips were covered in brief detail as she spoke but came through to be was a big reminder that teaching in the primary school setting is built on the solid base of positive relationships. Her position was that a clear focus on classroom behaviour management is crucial to getting the year to a good start. Sounds obvious, I know, but sometimes teachers are so busy trying to hit the ground running that the important business of setting the groundwork so that a diverse group of students can feel secure in that classroom and be clear about the expectations and opportunities of the year ahead is forgotten. And I really liked Deb's final question to the staff, "What would we see in your classroom in four week's time?"
Maybe that's a great question to pose to the thirty anticipating faces in front of me on Monday.