Shift into overdrive

Sean Nash said on Twitter:

But only when my professional life hit a point where I was empowered to really innovate and create new experiences for students did I shift into overdrive in many ways.

When I was in primary school, I always hated tracing. Tracing meant laboriously following someone else’s lines, and it was was boring. Even following my own lines that I had previously drawn was boring. Soul destroying.  I feel the same about prescriptive teaching – handing out worksheets, using someone else’s lessons in parrot fashion, repeating my own lessons – boring. That’s not to say I don’t do the same lesson, I just don’t do it the same way each time.

Susan Carter Morgan said something I can relate to in her blog post:

Using another teacher’s lesson plans does not make things easier! My colleague, Susanne, had taught this course for a number of years. In her organized, inimitable fashion, she handed me (virtually) her daily plans, quizzes, projects,and tests to use. Sounds great, but we teach differently, and I can’t tell you how many times I would be halfway through a lesson, wondering why I was doing it that way and then having to re-group for the next day. Susanne is one of the best, most creative teachers I know. But I should have just created the lessons myself.

Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken”.

You may not know that my husband is a Russian Orthodox priest. When we were both 26 years old, he was ordained a priest, and I was left trying on masks in order to take up my new position as ‘matushka’ (as the Russians call a priest’s wife). I felt that I was in no way suitable for this new calling , so I started to emulate some of the other matushki. Of course, I don’t have to tell you, this plan failed miserably, and I was forced to return to myself. Only then could I function sincerely and convincingly, warts and all.

The same goes for teaching. When I recently changed careers in a minor way by moving from teacher of English and LOTE to teacher librarianship, being new to the job, I lacked the confidence that years of experience bring, and considered putting on borrowed hats in order to survive job interviews. I’m talking about  manner or terminology more than anything else. That definitely didn’t work, because more than anything else, I didn’t even convince myself. Over a fairly short space of time, letting to of preconceived ideas of what a teacher librarian might be like, I’ve connected with what I see as most important for this exciting role.

Today at lunch, chatting with teachers at my school, I explained my switch in roles to teachers who didn’t know me very well. We were joking about the teacher librarians not having to mark work or write reports (me, anyway), and I wondered what they thought I did, up in the library, without the regular face-to-face with classes. I didn’t want to bore them, but I’m often left wondering how I would adequately describe the teacher librarian’s role description, because it actually is quite broad, and depending on the school, it can be open to interpretation. That’s what I love about my job. It allows me to define my own role, to some extent. Unrestrained by adherence to one or two subject areas, a teacher librarian is, in a sense, a purer educator, looking after the learning of students across the curriculum. A teacher librarian inspires connection with ideas and  people through literature, teaches information skills (so important all through school and life), and supports best pedagogy.

So, back to my opening quote from Sean. To be empowered to innovate and create new experiences for students means, for me,  connecting with my authentic self, my way of doing things, my passion, taking the relevant curriculum and running with it. To make it absorbing for me and therefore the students, it should be a new experience each time. Teachers will know that this happens automatically because the dynamics are different for each class, but it’s good to build on the experience each time and present it in a slightly different way.

Web 2.0 technologies have opened up new ways of opening up and creating new experiences for teachers. Let’s take English teaching, for example. There are many ways to ‘renew’ your lessons by looking at what others have shared online.

I’d like to share some of my favourite networks which are a constant source of inspiration to me.

Ning

OZ/NZ Educators

Classroom 2.0

Educators’ guide to innovation

English Companion

Art Education 2.0

Independent School Educators’ Network

Mexico English Teachers’ Alliance

Voicethread for Educators

iConnect iLearn in the 21st century

TeacherLibrarianNetwork

Images 4 Education

Flat Classrooms

Discussing Current Events

Wikis

Classroom 2.0

School 2.0

Voicethread 4 Education

educational origami

21st century collaborative

Cool tools for schools

Visual Blooms

Web tools 4 U 2 use

Blogs

Geography blog Mr Robbo, the PE geek

2008 Edublogs winners (best education blogs)

Darren Kuropatwa’s Maths blog

Langwitches (Silvia Tolisano)

Art teaching blog : The  teaching palette

Global Teacher Blog directory and Web 3.0 community

School Library of Victoria blog: Bright Ideas (by Judith Way)

Angela Maiers: Educational Services

Susanne Nobles’ blog (English) Virginia, US

Susan Carter Morgan

Hey Jude (Judy O’Connell, Sydney)

Jenny Luca

On an e-journey with generation Y – Anne Mirtschin

Andrew Douch

Allanah King

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Will Richardson

Rhonda Powling (Web 2.0 resources)

Have a look at my Twitter network here.

Here I am on Delicious and you can see my network here.

Here I am on Diigo.

Flickr (great way to share, discover and use images)

Although long, this is only a selection.

Nobody wants to regurgitate the same lesson again and again. That’s soul-destroying. If you’re inspired by what you’re teaching, then it’s likely to be an inspiring learning experience for students. Regularly connecting with networks of people who are teaching the same subjects is like securing your roots  into fertile ground. Combine that with the excitement you feel with all these ideas and resources at your fingertips, you can’t help going into overdrive.  You don’t mind (or can’t stop yourself) working after hours, into the night, during your breaks, because there is no longer just you and your subject material, there is you connected to a limitless number of people, ideas and resources, able to discuss and question, ask for help, co-create resources – you name it. Shifting into overdrive occurs naturally. Watch yourself take off.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Shift into overdrive

  1. “Soul destroying” Wow. Thanks for the great list. In some ways, I can’t wait for the next school year to start. Things are going to be different…and I’m ready to go.

  2. Yes, soul-destroying does sound a tad dramatic. That list is so pared down. I’ve missed good people and communities so as not to overwhelm.

    I know what you mean about not being able to wait for the next school year to start. At the end of last year, I was pumped and didn’t stop reading and collecting for a couple of weeks. There was obviously more time to do what I wanted to do during the school year but didn’t have enough time for. After a while I fizzled out, which was normal, but a pity, because I had a clear idea of what I was going to change and how. How are things going to be different for you, Susan?

  3. Tania, you’ve captured so many important things about our work in your reflection here. I am inspired by your words “A teacher librarian inspires connection with ideas and people through literature, teaches information skills (so important all through school and life), and supports best pedagogy?”. I am so glad that you have joined our ranks 🙂 Keep up the fab work!

  4. Thankyou for your encouragement and kind words, Judy. It’s a great job (potentially), isn’t it?

  5. Tania, you say ‘the excitement you feel with all these ideas and resources at your fingertips, you can’t help going into overdrive. You don’t mind (or can’t stop yourself) working after hours, into the night, during your breaks, because there is no longer just you and your subject material, there is you connected to a limitless number of people, ideas and resources, able to discuss and question, ask for help, co-create resources’. That’s exactly how I feel and I am beginning to wonder how many other teacher librarians are feeling this way! Is it a big shift in our philosophy about work hours and tasks isn’t it?

    Great post and thanks for the inclusion on your list…

  6. Not sure how this one slipped by me! 😉

    I have been wayyyyy too busy as of late (all good things, but far too many of them for sure). Summer shouldn’t be this crazy, right?

    Nice job of taking a sliver of an idea and blowing it up in your own world. This post is fantastic. I learned a lot about an electronic pal from half a world away. You know, without this kind of powerful context, you really don’t get the complete picture of who you are reading. You don’t get to really properly define the “filter” they have for the world they live in a write about.

    For folks who “get” the idea of trading factoids, links and resources online… but for whom the “social” aspect is just too much… well, they will really never connect in the rich ways that so many of use are starting to. For me, the web is a brilliant branch off of “real” life. What I mean to say is that… I don’t see “online” as opposed to “real” life. I see it as one aspect of it.

    I am thankful for new connections… and I’m quite certain I learned even more in this post.

    Sean

  7. Sean, great to hear from you as always. I feel the same way about the social aspect of online connections. Instead of just reading peer-reviewed articles, we have the opportunity to know the authors of ideas and knowledge in a deeper, more personal way. How much better is this!

  8. Pingback: 4 Rs meme: favourite posts « Brave new world

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