The district's internet was down for three days this week.
Here are some paraphrased thoughts we received from administration via email:
How wonderful to re-introduce our students to creativity.
What a great opportunity to write across the curriculum!
Awesome that students can read a good book.
So grateful for the increased opportunities to read, write, sharpen pencils, and talk with kids.
All good things.
At first glance this seemed super strange to me.
"Re-introduce" our students to creativity?
Writing across the curriculum?
Reading a good book?
More opportunities for reading?
More opportunities for writing?
More opportunities for talking?
All good things, indeed!
So good, in fact, that we are already doing those things. It appeared from those statements that the perception is we are not reading, writing, creating, sharpening, and talking as much because of technology. When in reality the potential to doing MORE of those things with technology is exponential.
I had a huge aha develop over those three days: It's not the technology that is holding me back.
These are the things that are holding me back. These are things that have been "thrust" upon me.
And to some extent that is true. But true does not equal truth. My truth. I've adapted so well, that you can't recognize me from another lion in the jungle. I've been praised for my efforts. I have praised myself. But these three days without internet was an eye opener.
Even though I scoffed at the comments sent to us via email, there rang a sad truth to what the writer said.
Our district's "scores" are growing and we are getting "better". "You are all awesome, look what you've done!
It must be because we are doing the right thing!"
I'm here to say: Not true. In so many cases we are NOT doing the right thing. What we may be doing is making good little test takers.
We are expecting students to sit for long lessons.
We are pushing a constant flow of "complex" texts.
We are expecting things that are not developmentally appropriate. And we are afraid.
What will happen if we are not teaching the given standard on a given day?
What will happen if we give children choices and can't grade the end results equitably?
What if we don't have an objective posted?
It is the straight-jacket approach that holds us back. I have talked to so many teachers who have said that they don't feel like they are good teachers anymore, that they can't follow their passion and knowledge of kids, that they are stressed and depressed and worn the hell out. It makes me so sad.
This week I saw the old me and I liked her.
I have a colleague that challenged me to give my students more choices to follow their passions. The new old me is taking up the challenge. I am doing that by giving them the choice of four (student generated) topics for next week. I assigned Flocabulary songs and activities and assigned collections in EPIC. I let them wander around in Wonderopolis and choose articles that intrigued them. They will share their learnings with the rest of us. I loosened the reins. It will be a mess to grade and keep track-of in a traditional manner. No matter. I will figure that out.
We must help one another loosen the straight jacket so we can breathe. We must loosen the straight jackets of our students. And play. And follow our hearts. And find joy in our teaching again.