I've caught myself in a state of self-reflection again, this time in regard to my presence out here on the web.
I've read the newest issue of Artful Blogging. For months now I've been enjoying my morning ritual of parking myself and my coffee in front of the computer to scroll through NetNewsWire. I've noticed the monthly blogging/commenting challenges that have popped up all over Blogsville this past week, and have wondered if I should join in or just keep my blogging activities to myself and my readers. I'm still confused as to why some of my subscriptions load reliably almost every day, while others get stockpiled in blog limbo and then flood my feed in one fell swoop after a month or so. It reminds me of my cell phone service here in the Bordertown. I miss calls, and messages get held for days, weeks sometimes, before hitting voicemail. Message after message, the callers' tones seem to get testy, because they* JUST KNOW* I'm ignoring them and not returning their calls.
There goes that blind trust and over-reliance on technology again. Don't trust the phone company or advances in voicemail technology, trust ME.
From what I could gather during my job interview over the phone with my new employer (I'll be back in Oz, this time at District #2), I'll be working with a staff that is a bit different from the last three with whom I've taught. This is completely understandable to me because I've witnessed first-hand the diversity that exists in the United States each time Uncle Sam has relocated us, however it might still come as a surprise to those who assume school districts across our nation are actually nearing some state of standardization with one another.
During my interview I was asked about PLC's and technology in particular, a question I've never been asked before. It's a question I myself have asked prospective employers at each of my interviews here in the Bordertown, a question I received very awkward answers to, responses indicating that I was more familiar with current technology usage in education than the interviewing principals were. I was told by District #2 that my classroom would have at least three wireless laptops for my students to use, so no, I wouldn't have to bring my outdated iMacs with me when I moved. For the first time, I was able to say "I have a blog" without worrying that the interviewer's mental alarm bells were going off, imagining a site full of inappropriate photos and text of a wanna-be-web-celeb instead of a teacher/crafter/mother/military wife who was sharing recipes, craft ideas, family updates, and links to kindergarten-related themes. I'm guessing someone at District #2 has already Googled me...probably did it before ever dialing my number for the interview. I would if I were in his or her position.
I know that time has continued to march on as my family and I relocate from state to state. When I left Alaska, my teaching experience was built over a decade's worth of observations and paradigm shifts, most notably in regard to technological advances and their impact on school and society. I had to learn how to be responsible for an entire new iMac lab (not so new now!), and had to exercise caution because of what my students might encounter or see "out there," *NOT* what they themselves might PUT out there. Teachers with their own web pages were testing the water for all of us, and must have felt the pressure of it. My usage of White Out decreased significantly when a computerized report card replaced the traditional hand-written one.
In New Mexico, the kindergarten curriculum included goals for computer technology, but my classroom was given rarely operational PC's for the job because really, why would five year olds need computers? They'd just "play on them." Many of my colleagues had never heard of or seen Living
Books before (another no-longer-"new" resource). Teachers emailed, or instant messaged one another, but other than professional communication and entering data for attendance records, computers were to be used for student assessment only via Accelerated Reader. During chats in the staff lounge, no one complained about their own childrens' MySpace pages, and no one understood why I would want a dry erase, mobile magnetic white board in my room instead of the singular chalkboard I had. My son's and daughter's teachers didn't assign web projects. My own students were taught how to use the overhead projector, c.d. player, computers, and scanner instead of just being parked in front of them during lessons. Report cards still had to be filled out by hand. DIBELS too, though the number crunching of scores took place at Central Office somewhere.
In Oz, District #1 seemed to focus on using technology primarily again for student assessment. Improved reading and math scores were the be-all-end-all goal, with lists of acceptable web resources and sites xeroxed off and distributed ad nauseum during most professional development seminars, while statewide assessment test "practice" took precedence over any other web activities or lessons that students might have normally been assigned. My old iMacs came in handy, as my students were never a priority for computer lab time when the assessment crunch was in full swing unless my colleague and I were prepping them for future first grade AR assessments. I'm guessing the proposal I helped to author for an additional portable/cart computer lab wouldn't have created increased computer access for my kindergartners...it would have provided more test prep for additional (older) students. District email was handy, as were the attendance and report card programs though the kindergarten report card wasn't aligned with state standards and didn't provide enough narrative space for additional and essential info/documentation.
A younger group of teachers have MySpace pages, but several still don't quite know that their just-out-of-college-weekend-partying photos that they regularly post on their public sites are still viewable by students, parents, and colleagues. Some post photos on their personal pages of not only themselves but their students as well, something as a parent and teacher I find highly inappropriate. Some colleagues have their own personal blogs, where they reflect on their teaching practices and philosophies, their frustrations and their goals. Many of their identities are kept private for good reasons, as professional retribution and/or public misunderstandings by parents and colleagues who might search the web for them would be unbearable and possibly even job-threatening.
District #2 sounds incredibly promising, pro-teacher and therefore pro-student.
I'll reflect more on why I blog at some later time, but I have to tell you, it's because of blogging, reading, commenting, participating in discussions, and contributing to the sea of teaching perspectives out there that I've been able to continue my own professional development during my Stay-at-Home-Mom year. My professional learning community stretches around the world, crossing borders, philosophies, cultures and ages, and in many cases it includes my own personal tastes and interests apart from public education. A wiki on cross stitching, a MySpace group devoted to scrapbooking techniques, a subscription to a photographer's blog overseas, my weekly download of the latest Oprah podcast for A New Earth, and my own contributions to blogs like In Practice aren't threatening to me or my employer- they've been essential to expanding my connections with others, and with myself.
My next goal? Podcasting- reading my students' favorite stories for them to access at school or at home. My voice, and the memory of face-to-face storytime can increase the personal connection with my students that promotes literacy better than any digital/cartoon character ever could.
Thanks for reading. Don't forget to comment here for a chance to win the blue wreath tomorrow~