Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Friday, March 8, 2013

Going 1:1? Don’t Forget to Include Support

           Today’s teachers are overwhelmed more than ever.  In the last week, I have met with teachers at four different schools.  They are all under very high stress situations.  This week happens to be our ISTEP or standardized test week in Indiana.  This is the high pressure, have to pass, have to show growth, and have to do well on test.  The reason is, if your students do not do well on this test, then you must be a bad teacher and your contract may not be renewed, right?  At least that is what the teachers are led to believe.

            Teachers all year long are forever giving tests of measurement/progress like writing prompts, Acuity A, Acuity B, and PARCC.  These tests are given multiple times before the ISTEP to provide data that is supposed to show where all of your students stand.  Teachers are expected to “Dive Into the Data” and see which standards need to be covered most in order for students to become more proficient in those standards. 

In elementary schools we are talking about classes of 25 to 30 covering multiple subjects.  So that could turn out to be 90 sets of data that has to be studied.  For middle school teachers, that could mean four classes of 30 students.  That is 120 sets of data that has to be inspected.  We are still not done.  Each of these tests, like I said, is given multiple times a year.  So take that 90 and the 120 and multiply them by at least 3.  That means about the time you finish with one data set, it is time to test again and start over.  On top of that, teachers must prepare lessons that cover all of the standards, take attendance and lunch count, handle discipline problems, contact parents, differentiate their instruction, grade papers, attend staff meetings, plan field trips, and be in charge of many extra curricular activities.  And I am certain that I left out some things that teachers do each and every day.  None of this includes their own children or personal lives.

            Ok, where am I going with all of this?  What does what I have discussed so far have to do with the title of my article?  Well, in my school district, which has gone to 1:1 in the middle and high schools has put together a team of people that is called ICATS/eLearning coaches.  They are the support staff that goes out to the schools and provides professional development for the teachers.  They show and help teachers with everything from turning on the device to webtools they can utilize with their students to digital citizenship to trouble shooting problems.  We cover a wide area of assistance for the building administrators, teachers, parents and students. 

            Teachers tell me each week, “I am so glad you come in to show us this stuff, otherwise we would not be able to do it.”  I asked them why and they said, that with everything else, “There simply is not enough time to try and figure this stuff out on our own.”  They tell me that what I can tell them in a 30 to 40 minute training session would have taken them hours and hours to figure out and they still would not be able to do it as well as what I taught or modeled for them. 

Mr. Adam Bellow
            So the bottom line is, if your district is planning on going 1:1, make sure you have a staff such as our ICATS/eLearning Coaches to support your teachers.  Otherwise the technology will be out there, but it will not get utilized and under some circumstances, it won’t even get used at all for lack of knowledge of how to use it.  I went to an FETC presentation that was led by Adam Bellow a year or two ago.  He preached that continuous professional development must be provided for teachers.  New tools come out every week.  Technology changes everyday.  There is not a way that any teacher is going to “Know it all.”   He said that if we do not provide this PD, then the technology will get put on the back burner and this is what it will become.  He then showed a picture that he swears was not doctored, of an overhead projector being projected on a Promethean Board. 

I honestly believe if the support staff is not in place to bring new ideas and how-to, to the teachers, then for most of them, it will NOT happen.  With the stress and pressure teachers are under to test, look at data, differentiate instruction, and start over again, they simply do not have the time and energy to do it all.  Plus, like Mr. Bellow said, technology constantly changes.  Teachers will never “know it all.”  Once a football team wins a Super Bowl, they don’t get rid of their coach, stop practicing and inventing new plays because they cannot get any better.  They have to come back the next year and continue learning and being coached to keep that edge.  We as educators want to keep our edge as well.  We want to be on top of our game to help keep students motivated, engaged, and excited about learning.  Lets make learning something that is irresistible.

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