As this school year winds down, I am more mindful than ever that I’ve neglected this blog. Reflecting on the year, I can say that after a strong, exceptionally positive start to the school year, somewhere in the middle I felt I was practically drowning in a sea of political negativity. I felt bombarded by innumerable negative messages about public education from the media, from the federal and state departments of education, and from other educators who also felt attacked. I was mired in that negativity so fully that I sometimes felt physically ill. I felt nearly paralyzed.
I’m glad that now I can think about that unfortunate emotional and spiritual state in the past tense. I’m not sure when I experienced the turning point, but there was definitely a day when I felt I was emerging from a long walk through purgatory. I remember the slow and gradual sensation of shedding layer upon layer of burden, much of it confounded by my own internal struggle with the issues at the heart of the political melee about education.
But when? How? Maybe it came with my renewed enthusiasm for teaching as I began to see the rewards of my hard work and the hard work of my students as we near the end of the year. I woke up to the realization that my classroom is fun AND productive. Maybe it was listening to my students in American Literature not only read aloud in their reading circles, but also question, clarify and help one another make meaning from the text of a novel on their own as I circulated among them, observing with absolute pride. It could have been watching all three of my publications classes doing work far and above my expectations, conducting workshops for middle schoolers and publishing their work, making yearbook deadlines, and producing amazing broadcast news segments. Maybe it happened as I was reading the acknowledgements my seniors were writing for their exit project portfolios that included all the people who were instrumental in their success, not only me and my partner teacher, but their professional mentors, their friends and their parents, which renewed my awareness that we do have a village here, not a splintered, fractured, disheartened community of naysayers and critics.
I began the year committed to incorporating more technology into my lessons. I introduced my students to Prezi, Google Docs, Webspiration, Yudu, Blogger, Edmodo, and Creative Commons among others. One of my students told me yesterday that she uses Google Docs for everything now. Another mentioned a few days ago that Google Docs is great because he doesn’t have word processing software at home. As I circulate the computer lab while my students work on Google Docs, I notice the number of files they have there that are not related to my class, and it makes me smile. One of my seniors published her photography portfolio on Yudu for her senior project. We are still using Edmodo as a communication tool pretty regularly. My students often remind me to post assignments or reminders there so they will get text message alerts. In retrospect, my tech integration was wildly successful for the first year.
Whatever the reason, I feel I’ve turned a corner, perhaps even when the outlook for public education seems to be at its darkest. I know that what matters most, of course, are the relationships, the challenge, the engagement, and the academic and social growth of my students. I feel confident that the way I combine my knowledge and talents, my students’ knowledge and talents, the standards, technology, and the support of parents, community and my PLN, public education is alive and well in my classroom, and at the end of the day, that is what matters most to my students and their families.
I am committed, therefore, to posting only about the victories and struggles that my students and I experience in my classroom. I will not further amplify the power of negative media or politics by commenting on it here. I learned that there is nothing to gain from spiraling into the depths of negativity. Insulate yourself against those forces, continue to learn how to improve your practice, believe in yourself and your students, and celebrate their achievements–and yours.
Resist. Learn. Believe. Achieve.