Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Passion for Teaching and Learning (and Coaching?)

The building in which I teach.
I have many passions.  Let's be clear, I am not a romantic person by nature, but my sense of excitement for my work rules the many decisions I make for my personal life as well as where I am going in my practice as an educator and as a student. I am passionate about teaching and learning!

I am passionate about my school. I love the school where I work. I feel so fortunate to work among colleagues who are innovative and as excited about teaching and learning as I am. It is a great environment that encourages forward thinking and fosters originality. Our administrative team supports our efforts by recognizing our creativity and allowing us to pursue ideas and initiatives that benefit students in areas of academic achievement and personal growth.

I am passionate about using technology as a tool for teaching. My district is going through a technology revolution. There is a huge cultural change happening among the leaders in our schools and at the main office. There are many teachers who have taken informal leadership roles in this paradigm shift. Last year's inception of the district committee for Technology For Instruction was a huge step on the march toward increasing the use of technology as a vehicle on the pathway to learning all kinds of content. I volunteered to be on this committee because I believe it is one that has an impact on how teachers prepare for the way students are now learning.

Using different applications to teach content.
I am passionate about learning. There is new equipment coming to our classrooms. I get to learn new skills with some new tools. Since I have some experience with incorporating the use of teach tools into my curriculum, I have committed to make my room a demonstration classroom to help teachers at my school to decide which version of the learning apparatus we will choose for our departments. Teachers will need help integrating the new technology into their lessons. Recently, a new position became available in our district for an instructional coach with expertise in technology. The job would integrate professional development and the use of technology to help train teachers.

Seeing the "aha" moment during a lab activity.
So here is my conundrum. I love the challenge of using tools that can enhance the content that I teach. I love working with students every day to help them understand the life science around them.  My incredible school and students are such an important part of my world. However, the opportunity to assist so many teachers and help them feel comfortable with the new devices in their hands is a powerful lure. My long term professional goals include working with other teachers to improve instruction. I feel like I am being drawn down two separate pathways.

How can I have my cake and eat it, too? People I trust have advised me to apply for the tech coach job. I am pretty sure I have the skills I need to do a good job, though I also know I still have so much to learn. Here's the thing, I really love what I am doing in my classroom right now. The problem is that I am really afraid of jumping in and never being able to return to my students. There is also this real fear that this opportunity to meet my career goals will pass me by and leave me behind. So how do I do both things at the same time?

Can I be effective as a teacher and as a technology teacher leader? Perhaps I can propose a combination position to the powers that be. My schedule would be that of a part time teacher and a part time instructional coach.  If I stay in the newly equipped classroom, I will be learning new skills for the lessons I present to my students. I can help show other teachers how the content could be enhanced by the technology. Since I would continue as a classroom teacher, I would be immersed in the day to day practical aspects of the implementation of the coming transitions.

This chance could be the occasion in my career to be a passionate teacher, an avid learner as well as a technology coach.

Many of you have recently had a similar experience. What model for professional development and tech training does your district use? Have you made the transition to being a technology teacher on special assignment in your district? What are the best things about the job? What are the challenges? What are your ideas?


  1. Hi -
    Since I have done both jobs -- I thought I would weigh in here with a few thoughts.
    Quick back story - I have been a tech coordinator since 2002 and just returned to the "classroom/computer lab" this year.

    So, in answer to your question:
    Can I be effective as a teacher and as a technology teacher leader?
    Yes, but but it is hard to do both at the same time.

    I am unsure of what your situation on your campus is -- but I have more leverage now, as the tech teacher introducing students to opportunities that they then take back into their classroom and then onto future classrooms....than I did as the "tech coordinator." Teachers can dismiss your ideas, give many excuses, feign interest but not change --- where students (for the most part) are eager to learn, to try new ideas, and to explore.
    Your voice will change if you take this new position -- and that is NOT a bad thing -- but it is something to be aware of. You will again need to earn the right to be heard and if your district/school does not support your position with an expectation that teachers will take your ideas to use....then you will be working very hard for few rewards.
    I need to admit, I do miss working with teachers.....but the influence, learning, and opportunities that I have with students --- that ripple out far more than I ever could is something I could never replace.
    There are pros and cons to both -- and I am sure you will look hard at your own school campus to see where YOU best will fit in.
    But I will tell you, you will miss the if you do take this position, you still must make time to be involved with students.
    Just my thoughts

  2. Hi, I recently made a similar change from a social studies teacher to a technology coach. I struggled with many of the same thoughts that you are having now when making the change. I am only three months into this so I still have a lot to learn, however I can guarantee that you will miss students if you take on the tech coaching job full time. I know that I do. Your thoughts on staying in the classroom part time and being a tech coach the other time seems like an intriguing idea. This would allow you to keep your teacher voice and open up your classroom to promote successes and failures. That will also give you credibility with others in your district as a tech coach. Good luck with your decision!

  3. Thanks Jen and Tim for your comments. The position was flown as a full time Instructional Coach. There are 2 jobs available in the district. This is an entirely newly created position, so being a ground floor opportunity has the advantage of flexibility and possibility rather than being set in stone or tradition. I have to come up with a proposal that is irresistible to the admin who control the schedule and pursestrings. Then I have to NEGOTIATE like heck to get my way. I was hoping that some of my PLN people would weigh in and help me figure out a schedule.

    I am reluctant to accept a full time exit from the classroom (assuming I even get an interview). I really love what I do when working with students.There are workable models for what I want to do as a classroom teacher/tech coach. Most of the people who I respect who have recently left the classroom full time say they really MISS the students. I am not ready to miss the kids in that way yet.

  4. I agree with Tim - you will miss the students if you leave...but you have to realize that you are helping them in a different way. I have a different opinion on the part time teacher/part time tech coach though - I don't think if you split your time you will do your best at either position. Being a tech coach will take up all of your time - believe will take up your time! If you add teaching 2-3 classes to that I don't think you will have the time or energy to really give your students your best.

    I think in this case you can't have your cake and eat it too - you have to pick the cake you want the most and go with it 100%.