Friday, April 9, 2010

Job Desciption

You chose it. You wanted it. It is your profession, and you didn't have to become one. Now do it, and do it with a good attitude.

So what is it that you are really supposed to do? For one, you promised to teach the facts. You know, and are most likely stressed over it, that there are a ka-zillion different things that you have to share with others who don't know yet that numbers represent amounts, that your country was built with laws that have to be understood, that letters form words that must be constructed together in a way that others can read and understand the idea that you are trying to get across, and the many other facts that must be collected and seeded in a brain so that when the brain grows into an adult - those facts and understandings can help you in life.

But what about the other thing that you promised to teach? The love of learning, the need and desire to want to continue to learn and how to learn. That is our other job, the bigger (more important) job of the educator.

So with that task being given to you, that you already accepted when you chose to become a teacher, how are you going to achieve it? You achieve that goal in a way that was never given before in education. You can now, easily, achieve that goal or task through the ability of making learning fun, exciting.
Humans go towards what makes them happy. I feel that with this age of technology and all the tools that are at our disposal (online games, online information, blogs, wikis, Glogs, backchannel, collaborative word documents, movie making software, music making programs that make us be able to produce tunes that accompany our poetry, comic software, colorful and picture rich mind maps, nonlinear presentation software, virtual world building programs, maps that are created with real footage, etc) we are able to finally make learning an addiction, a good addiction.

I remember, as a kid learning, the activities that were fun (like getting to color the worksheet when I was done with the problems, or illustrating the story that I wrote, or making dough shaped people to represent people in history that I studied, or dressing up like the person I researched when I shared my facts with my friends in class). The memorable learning activities, from when I was being the student, are the ones that were engaging, got me participating, made my friends and I laugh, made connections to things that were meaningful to me, built on things that hooked me into wanting to do them.

So why is the integration of technology such a hard thing for teachers to want to embrace? Technology, online games, chat rooms, making movies, creating online interactive billboards, creating tours in Google Earth with embedded images and voice recordings give students the "want to learn" urge that makes them want to participate, want to wake up and join in the discussions, and want to own their learning. So what if it is fun? So what if there is a goofy, noisy, chaotic kid view to how the classroom is being transformed? It is hooking the kids into wanting to learn. It is adding a dimension to education that did not exist. Teachers have been trying to create this dynamic dimension through the use of SRA reading kits, file folder games, thematic units, variety of book report styles, etc. Our job is to sell students on the fact that learning is something that one should do because one wants to do it. And that to truly learn something one has be actively engaged in the ownership of learning. We educators can master teaching this to kids by embracing and using what the kids (young and old) are doing after school, applying tools in our lessons and classroom that they use naturally when they relax and unwind, use what they experiment with, understand, and like on their own.

Then why is it that so many of us are still wanting to lecture to a room of quiet bodies that are to be respectfully listening and soaking up our words. Lecturing and deploying fact after fact is painful for the student and teacher, and is not a natural state of being. Why is it that so many classrooms are still being run this way? The scary reality of that old style classroom/teaching format is now the need for this straight lecture/skill and drill teacher is becoming, not obsolete but, not so direly needed because students can look up the information you are trying so hard to get them to memorize online, any time, any where. Education reform is not the shoveling of information down throats in the 7 to 8 hour school day to regurgitate correctly one day on a three hour state test. Education reform is connecting with kids how to learn and work in groups, how to create content that captures others' attention to want to read, watch, listen, or share it with others. And this reform is fun! If we are truly educators at heart then we too are having the time of our life learning new tools (like how mobile devices connect us to worlds we have never seen, know nothing about us, nor is one that we would probably ever step foot in). Teaching via movie making, compiling photos to tell stories, designing new animations or programs that others want to learn from is making teaching for us fun, energetic.

I can not tell you how much more exhausting I felt after the week of giving the yearly state tests because it was forcing myself to stay alert when I was completely bored. And now I teach and design lessons that cause me to work at neck-breaking speeds, juggling so many tasks that I (the teacher) am frequently overwhelmed. But the great thing is at night I get to rest and go to sleep. Why would I want a job where I stand and lecture the same fact year after year, using the same lesson plan I designed when I first got the job? I don't and I bet most humans don't. That is dull. Humans don't like being bored and disengaged. It is natural to want to be involved, active, happy, laughing and having fun. So let's get on board, change the old way of teaching, and embrace the new classroom's opportunities by embracing technology and all the aspects that we can achieve through it! Let's have some fun at our job and finally fulfill our true job description: to teach the facts and to teach that learning is something that we want to do and need to do for the rest of our life.

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