Tuesday, 22 February 2011

This is your class

CC image via flickr by Jonathan Pobre

I have a late start class beginning tomorrow. The course is English 101: College Composition.  I decided to revise my syllabus introduction along with the class structure and attempt to practice what I preach. I welcome feedback and encourage you to follow along with our classroom wikispace. 
This course will be a collaborative effort that includes those sitting in this room, those that reside in the world of social media, and myself. We will focus on reading critically, thinking critically, evaluating information, and producing purposeful, grammatically sound writing. The goal of this course is to take our message beyond the classroom and engage with the connected world. We will be using the written word as our medium and covering a variety of domestic and world issues. The focus of this course is not the grade, but to become effective communicators in a world driven by connectivity. 

During this course you will not only be constructing essays for a grade, but engaging with a larger community. This community resides in the world of social media and will not only serve as an outlet for information and feedback, but allow for more than one deciding voice on submitted work.
This Wikispace will serve as the central meeting place for this course and allow us to analyze and critique each other's work while constantly learning and adding to this site. Further, this site will be constantly evolving. Like Wikipedia, you will be reading, analyzing, and evaluating information and presenting your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in order to build a better place to exchange information.

This course is not my course; it is yours. I will not lecture at you and I will not give you a grade. Your voice will be the wheels of the course and I will try and serve as your GPS. Don’t think of me as the sage on the stage or the guy with the giant, glaring forehead full of knowledge, but see me as a collaborator. Challenge my points and always feel comfortable when presenting your opinion and constrictive feedback.

Finally, I would like you all to occasionally fail during this course. This is not to say I don’t want to see you succeed, but I want to see you take intelligent risks and think beyond the grade. Don’t settle for average or what you have always done, but go beyond your comfort zone. At the end of this course I hope you continue to think, read, and evaluate critically. I hope this course provokes your thinking in a new way, you continue learning beyond the grade you receive in this course, and thrive as an effective communicator.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Resume and References Available Upon Request

Originally published in August 2010

I arrive at school for a meeting with our CEO. I assume it is a meeting about the upcoming conference that I am holding at his school, ntcamp. I sit down and he begins telling me that our budget is in disarray and that my instructional technology position that I created and began implementing into the school needs to be cut out of the budget. This is sad news, however, I assumed I could still work as an instructional technology coordinator throughout the school while teaching my classes. I had basically assumed the role as ITC for the past year; helping teachers integrate technology with their curriculum. So, I figured I would be teaching the AP English Language and Composition and returning to my regular teaching duties (NOTE: I just returned back from the AP conference in DC. The School paid for the ticket). I created the syllabus and was in the process of submitting it to the College Board for approval and had also set up a summer reading network via a wikispace and blogger. Students were reading, responding to prompts, and then blogging about them. All of the blogs were linked to the wikispace and it was a well-oiled machine.

I ask what classes I will be teaching next year along with the AP courses. He responds with, “We are getting someone else to teach AP.” Wait....WHAT!? Why? This makes no sense. I have the most teaching experience in the English Department and now you are telling me that I can’t teach the course I created? Plus, I can’t teach at all?

In short, the school's budget did not include the contract I had signed. I leave the office confused, upset, and bewildered. In a few short minutes I went from having two dream teaching positions to having nothing. I could not make sense of this. I told several colleagues that were in school that day teaching and their facial expressions said it all. No one could make sense of it. A few hours later another colleague of mine encountered the same shock and awe conversation. She was the History Department Chair and in my opinion, and most of the students’ opinion, one of the most well-respected and well-liked teachers in our building.

In the span of an hour my school said good-bye to seventeen years of teaching experience. They preferred to have brand new Teach for America teachers replace us. In the sports world this makes sense. You go with youth over experience (Jamie Moyer being the exception), but not in education.

Moving on...

I have started moving on from my former school and am in the process of seeking out the next path. This journey began on Saturday when I hosted and organized my first unconference at the same school that had just let me go. Not only did I speak positively about the school throughout the entire day, but I promoted their efforts and accomplishments. I have nothing bad to say about my school. They provided so many opportunities for me to grow as an educator and I feel I made a valuable contribution to advancing their curriculum and highlighting ways in which students and teachers can integrate technology more efficiently. I did not want to bring this news with me to ntcamp because I wanted ntcamp to shine like no other. I put every ounce of my energy into making ntcamp the best conference for all in attendance and I am already working towards the next version. ntcamp became my only focus and a welcomed distraction from reality.

If you are going to lose your job it helps to have a Personal Learning Network behind you to pick you up and get you back on track. I recognize the fact that many people are struggling with joblessness in our country and this can happen to anyone. The value and support of a PLN will only make this occurrence easier and reinforce that we are never in this business of teaching alone. It also helps to have a conference waiting for you that weekend where the majority of your PLN will be in attendance. I made a lot of great connections at ntcamp and learned a lot throughout the day. I sit back and smile at all the great comments that have been circulating about ntcamp and am truly excited for more unconferences throughout the year. Thank you to everyone who made ntcamp a shining example of how professional development and personal learning networks can create valuable learning for teachers and in turn benefit all of our students.

Oh, one more thing, if you know of any open positions get in touch with me .