Ask any teacher why they come to school sick and you will usually get this answer, "It is harder for me to have a sub, than to just come in." Personally, I rarely ever take a sick day when I am sick unless I can't stand up. One time I couldn't talk, so I typed to my students on the overhead when I needed to tell them something. Most students are really understanding when the teacher doesn't feel well.
The amount of work is usually double for any teacher who has to be out. First there is the detailed sub plan. Here the teacher has two choices, create something that goes along with the current unit plans so you don't fall too far behind or pull out the plans you hopefully made at the beginning of the year that have nothing to do with what you are currently teaching which throws you at least a day behind (then if you use this now you won't have it later when something else has happened or your even sicker so you will have to come up with an additional plan in the middle of your normal work).
Whichever option the teacher chooses, all that work has to be graded be cause if you don't grade it then the next time your out the students won't take the sub assignments seriously which lead to a bad day for the sub and a long note for the teacher to read the next day.
If students have have their own devices, the narrative changes. The activities for the day can be posted to the teacher's online learning management system. Videos can replace lectures, reading can be assigned and discussed through collaborative documents or blogs, and assignments can be turned in and ready to grade without having to be picked up from the school or can even be graded automatically if it is set up in the right way. This method would seem more meaningful than review worksheets or silent reading and writing assignments. These tasks can review skills, but the social aspect of the learning is lost.
As a technology coach, my favorite part of my job is getting to work in the classrooms of the teachers I serve. I was given the opportunity to coteach a US history lesson with one of our social studies teachers. She had seen Thinglink on a newsletter I sent out and wanted to use it in a vocabulary lesson. She explained that she wanted the students to use pictures and summaries to teach each other different words from their upcoming unit. So she broke students into groups of two or three and they started researching. Because they had so much to share with each other and me, we had chosen to save time by having the kids use a Padlet as a catch all for their ideas and materials. I have used Padlet many times before, but I forgot that on day two students would not be able to edit what they had done on day one because they did not have accounts. Oops, I'm used to one time only uses of the application or when I used it multiple days with people we all had accounts and could go back to it when we needed to. We worked around this problem by making copies of the original text boxes and editing those, then as the owner of the Padlet, I could delete the boxes that were no longer needed. Even with this stumbling block, the product turned out well in all three classes.
After this coteaching experience I took some time to reflect on the things that went well and the things that I needed to change. What I came to better understand from this experience was the importance of being able to have coteachers working together. This is an experience that I wish I had the opportunity to have as a classroom teacher. I remember trying new things on my own, only to have a malfunction of some sort that would require my attention when what I really needed to focus on was my students. With the two of us in the room the teacher was able to keep students on track and focus on helping them build historically accurate summaries while I delt with the technical problems, collection of finalized items, and sharing of the final product. Because we were able to divide the labor, the students benefited. They were able to have their teacher's full focus on them when she was discussing their work and they could still turn in their materials or get technical help without interupting the individuals working with the teacher.
The process was far from perfect, but it was a great deal easier and more managable with the two of us in the room. I feel that coaches are a neccessary piece of a strong school. I am not saying this because I am a coach and I would like to keep my job. I am saying this because I remember the lonely feeling I had when I would try a new technology or method of instruction. I remember the frustration when something did not go right and I had to make the hard choice to either focus on fixing the problem with 30 or more students waiting on me or having to scrap the whole experiment in the interest of not losing too much classtime. Having coaches in a school, wether they are math, literacy, instructional, or tech coaches, is one way to help teachers take the risks they should be taking to make learning better for students.
Since becoming a teacher and especially after becoming a mother, I have had a hard time with meals. Time to shop, cook, eat, and clean up just seems to get harder and harder to find. Many days of the week ended with me eating something like macaroni and cheese, frozen nuggets, a bowl of cereal, or nothing at all. As this school year began the problem became increasingly worse and I found myself in a serious food rut. My husband voiced his concern on a night that I did not eat and after some thought I realized that I needed something to help me take care of myself.
So after some research I decided to sign up for one of those services that ships you all the ingredients for three meals already portioned out for two people with little easy to follow recipe cards. It has taken a load off of my mind because at least 3 nights a week I know what I'm having for dinner before 5:00 and no one has to go shopping for it.
Now, I am not saying every teacher should sign up for one of these services. What I am saying is that teachers spend all day giving and then come home to a family that also has needs. Every teacher should have something, anything, that will ensure they are getting what they need. For me it was food, others might need a monthly spa treatment, some silent reading time, or just some small treat to keep them going. Whatever it is, every teacher should have a way to make sure they are having their needs met before they can meet the needs of others.
I remember when I was working on my undergraduate degree we were required to create portfolios of our work. Each of the education courses that I took required that I perfect at least one major assignment and organize it in a binder. I bought a ton of page protectors, a label maker, and a 3 inch binder. By the end of my last semester the binder was filled from cover to cover. My philosophy of education, resume, projects, evaluations, research papers, and any other artifacts that I had created filled the binder cover to cover. I was very proud of my creation, but as I started to interview for jobs I realized that there was no time to allow the interviewer to look through the materials I worked so hard to perfect. In the end I slimmed the binder way down to just the essentials.
With the ability to create websites for free, I can now put all of my work on a digital portfolio and put the URL on my resume, application, or send it to the interviewer prior to the interview. This gives the interviewer time to look through my work before the actual meeting. He or she can formulate questions about my materials or just get a general sense of what kind of work I have produced in the past.
Schools should be preparing their students to utilize these tools too. This should start in middle or high school where students can create a site that will house a few projects from each class he or she takes through the years. This process does a few things for the student:
Parent, Educator, Technology Lover