Monday, February 1, 2010

Dream Job?!

My school is currently in the market for a new "head of school" for next year and beyond. Today, the second of three candidate finalists came to visit and tour the school. Teachers were given the opportunity to sign up for a 10 minute meeting with him on Tuesday, which I did.
Then I got a few minutes to meet with him today. I shared with him some thoughts about my job, the school in general and my hopes and challenges for the future. He gave me a "homework assignment" for our meeting tomorrow, which was to imagine my "dream job" at the school. If I could shape my role to be whatever I wanted it to be, what would that look like?

Ok, first of all, how much do I already like the guy for giving me this homework assignment?
You might think I have an easy answer to this question of a dream job, but I do not. So, I thought I would use my blog to explore my ideas. And then, if I haven't alienated all my readers by neglecting the blog for so long, maybe I could get some helpful feedback, too.

Currently, in my "technology coordinator" role I do the following:
•teach weekly resource or "specials" technology lab classes K-5
•teach a STEM pull-out, enrichment class for first graders, twice a week (and about to start a similar, once a week group for 5th graders)
•provide support for teachers in the area of tech integration
•with a LOT of help from a wonderful assistant, I oversee the network, troubleshoot problems, install software, order supplies, fix anything tech related, help teachers with technical problems, act as administrator for edline (our school's web portal)
•with Silvia Tolisano, our 21st century learning specialist, host monthly "parent coffee talks" to educate parents on relevant issues
•meet weekly with Silvia to collaboratively plan and strategize. Work on various projects or parts of projects with her.
•teach 8th grade weekly Jewish Lens class and technology resource classes in the middle school
•maintain my own Personal Learning Network and devote regular time to my own professional development through reading articles, blogs, exploring multimedia, commenting and otherwise engaging in the network, writing, reflecting, planning and exploring online resources, taking
classes and attending conferences. This takes time, but I believe it is a necessary and vitally important part of my work as an educator. The vast majority of this time is after school hours.
•maintain a classroom blog to share student work

In previous years I have run an after school tech club and keyboarding classes for students and an after school tech club for teachers. Before the addition of Silvia Tolisano to our faculty, I provided more professional development for teachers and tried to get into classrooms to work with teachers and students on unique, tech-infused projects. This year, Silvia has taken on more of the role of professional developer and tech integrationist.

So, that's the past and present. What about the future?
What does our school need and how can I use my time, energy and talents to best help?
There's a bit of a tug of war going on in my mind...
First of all, there are the weekly computer lab classes. A big part of me feels that it is time for those to change or to disappear altogether. As much as I enjoy my time with the students and my freedom to explore without many boundaries (no grades, no set curriculum, etc), I feel that the model of once-a-week computer resource classes conveys a message that computers are a "class" instead of a tool. We all know that kids don't really need to learn computers, right?

Well.....I think that's basically the case. But I still believe there are skills that the kids get from my class that they might not get without my class. File management, troubleshooting, that type of thing. Ok, I admit, they probably could get those skills without my class.
So then what about the things I do in my class that I know are valuable for students but that don't fit into a typical lesson plan? The creative, playful, open-ended explorations; the "educational free choice" time, the public sharing and presentations? Some of these can (and probably should) be brought into the classroom, but my fear is that some of the activities that don't have an easy to recognize curricular goal (but are still incredibly important) will get lost. Think Scratch, for example.

Then there is the issue of how teachers see me. Most teachers see me first and foremost as tech support (weird because I am an educator NOT a techie, I just learned the tech stuff because there was no one else in the building to keep the network running). And though they are often, but not always, too polite to admit it, the K-5 teachers view me as relief so that they can have a break from the students. While I think every teacher deserves prep time, bathroom time, make a phone call time, whatever....I am not a babysitter. And I really resent the implied notion that whatever happens in my class is not REAL learning.

So why do these things matter? It's because my dream job as a teacher is to be a true collaborator with my colleagues. I do have the tech skills, but I have much more than that. I envision a coaching type of job- going into classrooms and working together with teachers and students. Embedded professional development. But for it to work I think that teachers would have to view me differently than I think they do now. Because it's not about me demonstrating a SMARTboard lesson. I would want to be a team teacher and if I went into classrooms and the teacher just "tuned out" and started checking email, grading papers, etc. which happens all the time at this school then I would rather keep my lab classes the way they are.

So, potential new head of school, as you can see I need some help with this decision. I thank you for asking me about my dream job. But my dream job might not exist. I guess if I was the right person for the job I would figure out the way to make it work, but I think I would need your help.

image credit


IMC Guy said...

The dream job you write about is very similar to one I'd like. I hope the meeting goes well tomorrow. Keep us posted.

Lisa Mireles said...

I love your dream job and it is not only possible but necessary. I have no doubt that with the combination of you and Silvia that you can inspire teachers to want to collaborate. One thing we do at Kaua'i Pacific School (ask Silvia who came in September to work with us) is schedule regular collaboration meetings with the homeroom teacher and tech teacher. The tech teacher asks - what upcoming units/projects are you doing? How can I help? How about if I do this part in tech class.....slowly but surely, teachers are getting excited and I have walked into several "tech" classes to see the homeroom and tech teacher working side by side. One key was ditching the computer lab concept. We have mobile laptop carts to the tech teacher goes to the students (and the homeroom teacher). So maybe you can add some of these items. Good luck!

Chris Hyde said...

I think your description is spot on! The idea of being a co-teacher in the classroom and not a babysitter is immensely important. We are currently going through this in our district at the elementary level. We eliminated computer class as a "special" and it has been a big shift for teachers and their mindset, but I agree with Lisa that it IS possible and necessary.
Best of luck!

Oh_the_Places said...

I pretty much have your job with a few exceptions. I am the only person on site to teach students, provide professional development, and maintain anything electrical or with a battery (including sound, intercom, fire alarms, stuff that no one would even think is tech related). Like many have stated, get rid of the lab concept. I lost my lab two years ago to a tornado - not only destroyed the space but also the equipment. For me, it was beautiful timing. Instead of being a "special" class where teachers dropped students off for plan time, I became integral to the core curriculum. I replaced the desktops with laptops and CHOSE to be mobile and teach in the classroom. Teachers are there with me, learning alongside students, jumping in to help (some don't feel comfortable yet), but most importantly, they OBSERVE what I do and get the connection that tech is a tool, not a curriculum. As we rewrite our core curriculums (social studies was first), I was a ad hoc committee member and now assist in implementing the curriculum - providing links and resources, integrating tech projects, etc. You have LOTS of great things already in place... you are on the right track to your dream job.

John Dorner said...

What about changing your title to "Technology Evangelist". I have a similar job (just a slightly different audience) and have thought that in the last few years, teaching 'how' to do stuff is taking much less of my time and teaching 'why' or 'ways to appropriately use the technology' to do what they want or need to do is much more important. The "how" is usually very easy once they understand the "why".

Just some food for thought.

Anonymous said...

My job is very similar to yours. IN the last two years we have slowly moved from lab classes to co-teaching, co-planning and at times co-learning. I still teach kindergarten through second in the lab but I work with teachers in 3-8 on an as needed basis. This has had varying degrees of success. In middle school I have more time to really collaborate and, I think, since they never had the "tech classes" there is less of a propensity to stand back while I lead. (mostly.) In lower school there are times when I truly collaborate and others where they just want their forty five minutes back. Some teachers work as extra hands and some sit and do what you said, grade papers, etc.
I really believe that the lab is the way of the past and we need to start to realize that what we are teaching is not point and click but really a skill set to lead us into a different world - sorry about the cliche. We need to teach students how to analyze, critically evaluate and create, and then revise and create again. This is, I believe, the new job of the "computer teacher" to lead the way for faculty, families and students to a greater understanding of the power, potential of the tools as well as the responsibility. The only way to do this is through true collaboration. What is it we want the students to understand or be able to do? How do we get them from point A to point B? What are the materials (including computers, digital cameras, software, ipods, phones, etc.) that support that goal? So, I guess the answer, for me, is to say that my dream job allows me to work with teachers using all of our skills, knowledge and potential to create the best learning environment and experience for the students. We don't start or stop at point and click.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your quest. I was fortunate enough to start in my "dream job" just 6 months ago as a full time eLearning Director in a k-12 school(a very strategic role, with no teaching load as I only have a Dip in Adult Education as I come from a corporate and university background.) What I'd suggest is you find someone who is knowledgeable about technology, who is willing to invest in technology, and most of all someone who can drive your ideas, policies and is willing to make it happen. Without the support form the people at the top I've found in the past it's very hard to achieve anything.

Andrea said...

Thank you ALL so very much for your thoughtful insights. I appreciate it so much.
It does seem clear that the computer lab class is an outdated model, and it is time to move on in one way or another.

One decision I have made (since writing this post) and have yet to communicate to my "in the building" colleagues is that I will no longer be doing tech support. Yay! My assistant really enjoys doing all the IT stuff, and she has agreed to be the go-to person for everything IT. Funny thing is that IT was never supposed to be much of my job.
I am hoping that this shift will help me to feel less frustrated and more on-track, as well as help people to look at me differently.

I think the next change that has to happen is the move away from the computer lab. As I expressed in my post, I am nervous about making that change. But I do believe it long overdue. See, I have a hard time with change, too.

I will keep you all in the loop and let you know how it goes.