Have you heard the one about the teacher who decides to create a blended learning classroom with 22 kids and 6 Chromebooks? She ended up in the funny farm! Yep, that teacher would be me and the Chromebooks started out as a promise of a class set, then were reduced to 15, then 8 were delivered later than expected, and now 2 are off being repaired. What was I thinking????
I cannot blame our IT people. Those poor souls are straight out trying to service way too many people and machines. They are miracle workers as far as I am concerned. Between the shirt tugs in the hallway from desperate teachers with tech problems and the school committee breathing down their necks for estimates of how much money they will need next year, you couldn’t pay me enough money to do that job!
I really blame myself for opening my big mouth and saying I would pilot a blended learning classroom in a district that has not defined what they believe blended learning is yet. That is a detail they really need to spend some time on! On the other hand, my administration was nice enough to be flexible and let me think outside the box and supported my initiative. They didn’t have to, but they did. I do appreciate their good intentions. The execution………….well, not so much.
All of these factors have conspired to create a situation where I am sometimes planning for one reality – Plan A, but come into school and realize my reality that day will be much different which means I have to pull out Plan B. Teachers learn early on to have a backup plan because a school can be an unpredictable place. Interruptions like fire drills, sick kids, office announcements, impromptu assemblies, etc. can make it impossible to complete the lesson you had planned on for the day. This year and my new attempt at a blended classroom have added more potential interruptions to the mix. The problem is Plan A is taking so long to create, Plan B is often nonexistent!
Let me explain. Every lesson this year is new for me. No, I am not a new teacher, just a teacher using new tools. Really exciting and interesting tools but new nonetheless. I am taking what I have taught in previous years and trying to turn it into digital content, at least in part. I love doing this, and I think it is really worthwhile, but it takes a tremendous amount of time.
Each night I look at what we are learning and try to create lessons that are interactive, engaging, have choice built in and allow students to work at their own pace. I can’t always include all of that, but I am trying. This means I spend hours at night trying to find just the right mix of apps and tools for my content and for the kids to use. By the time I have it ready, creating a Plan B ain’t happening! Of course I could just fall back on what I did last year, but the pacing is different and it doesn’t always work well to do that.
My school day starts with me hoping the technology will work and the resources I am counting on will run correctly. Many days, it all goes very well. Unfortunately, there have been far too many days lately where a major problem has occurred and we can’t get online or I have no working equipment for the kids to use. Honestly, there have been days where I have considered just giving up on this whole thing and waiting until we, as a district, are more ready.
My kids have been so great about all of this. They have stepped up and learned to use technology to learn and it has not always been easy for them. They have also had to regroup when they have started an assignment online and then found out that they cannot finish in school. They have had to put up with me changing things on the fly when our internet is down. They have endured some not so engaging lessons because Plan B was needed and I didn’t have time to create any bells and whistles after having created the Plan A we had to scrap. They are real troopers!
We are in the middle of the year now and have come so far together in using this technology to learn. A big part of me is really questioning why I am putting myself through this. It is all made worthwhile however when one of my kids creates something they didn’t know they could a few months ago. They are growing and learning and that makes it all worthwhile. Plan A or Plan B – we are a team and will keep moving forward!