1. I spend way more time communicating with students, parents, and community members outside of the school allotted conference time than within it. Those communications happen when the students really need them, too, instead of when the school has deemed communication appropriate. They are more constructive, build more relationships, and are a better way for me to get to know my students and their families than the artificial 10 minute presentation I give on Back to School Night or the rushed 10 minute one-on-one meetings on Parent Conference Day each December. The natural communication that happens through nearly weekly grade updates, emails, and phone calls are more relevant, more timely, and more personal. They show that I'm in touch because I want to be, not because I have to be. Nearly every teacher I know communicates with families in this way as well. Forced Parent Conference Days seem unnatural, impersonal, and kind of pointless when it comes to really helping kids and getting to know families.
2. The PD I choose is way more valuable than the PD chosen and scheduled for me at faculty and department meetings. My Twitter PLN (professional learning network) is chock full of positive motivated teachers who share what they are doing with their students and inspire me to try new approaches. Just yesterday I was part of this conversation:
@KerryHawk02 @MsBuell I love @Storify. I've even used in class to have students tweet readings & add images, videos, etc.
— Angela M. Hamblen (@kyteacher) December 5, 2013
@KerryHawk02 @MsBuell To save time, I moved the Tweets onto @Storify while students looked for other sources. 1 hour: http://t.co/Tnul4BeG6zAs a result, one of my self-assigned projects this weekend is to check out Storify. To be honest, and hopefully not offensive, few of the directives and trainings handed down in faculty and department meetings have much of an impact on my day-to-day teaching. They're often based on state or federal standards and tests that are coming down the pike. Policies and procedures could be more efficiently communicated on web-based training or via email. On the other hand, the networking that happens in my graduate level classes; like those that I've taken through the TAH program, Primary Source, and Expanding the Boundaries; help shape my teaching philosophy and alter my thinking as I plan and deliver lessons to help students learn and create in new and better ways every day. Those conversations, that type of PD, is based on teacher experience of what is best for kids.
— Angela M. Hamblen (@kyteacher) December 5, 2013
3. This one is the hardest for me to confess. I spend way way way more time working outside of school than I care to admit to my colleagues. I guess the cat will be out of the proverbial bag after this. On a typical weeknight, I leave my classroom around 3:45, pick up my young children. I cook for, play with, bathe, and read to them until they snuggle down for the night. My husband usually arrives home from work just in time for dinner. Then, from 7:30 to 10pm on average, I'm toggling between my laptop and my iPad while my husband sits beside me on the couch watching something on TV (although I have no idea what). I read essays, research and plan lessons, email and iMessage with students who need extra help, and do PD by participating in scheduled Twitter chats. I usually spend quite a few hours working on the weekends too. I'll definitely blush once my colleagues read this. I hate to admit to all the time I put in. Does it show that I'm not as smart or efficient as they are? None of us really talk about how much work we put in after hours to make our classrooms function smoothly. Do they put in just as much time and keep it quiet like I do because they're afraid to admit it? Or am I going to be seen as a workaholic?
4. I'm on call 24/7 to my students. This was mentioned a bit in #3. They can contact me via Twitter, iMessage, or email. I usually answer them within a few minutes, unless I'm spending time with my own children. In that case it might take an hour or so. My husband works at a job that requires him to be on call one week out of six on average. When he gets a call he has to go to meet his client. I don't have to physically leave, but I have been known to duck out for a minute to answer emails or chat online with a student who needs clarification. Is that offering too much assistance where adolescents should do their own problem solving, or is that the nature of our ever-connected lives in the 21st century? I don't feel comfortable telling my students that I'm unavailable to them, so I'll keep doing what I do. Am I going to face criticism for this, though?
Phew! Weight off my shoulders. I promise my next post will be more positive, but these are questions and thoughts that swirl around in my head quite often. I suppose if we never ask ourselves whether we are doing things the best way we can, we will never improve. So pardon my public self reflection.