Decision RE: Teachers vs. Technology

This linked article deals directly with some of the issues with which I’m struggling. It’s a great read, very thought provoking. I wish it was “Teachers AND Technology,” instead of the rightly titled: Teachers vs. Technology by Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher)

As those who read my occasional posts know, I am facing a huge career change choice right now. Here’s a little back story, for those who don’t hang on my every word. Last summer, I tried to take a position outside the classroom, as a teacher leader and technology coach. Due to staffing constraints (my principal couldn’t find another ELA teacher, after already replacing 4 out of 9), I started the year in my current role as a high school English teacher instead.

I love my students this year. Even though they are the lowest level of sophomore English, they are (mostly) enthusiastic, supportive, and fun to be around. And due to new regulations, there is a strong chance that I could teach the advanced juniors next year for college credit.

So what’s my decision? Well, I’ve reapplied for the technology position, for much the same reason as Doug says: I have the ability to make teachers feel heard and not talked down to when it comes to technology. But the district is facing huge budget shortfalls in the near future, and our superintendent has left us for greener pastures. There’s a good chance we’re facing RIFs after this next school year.

What should I do? Follow my passion and leave the safety of a sure thing? Or have a brand new prep, and teach college writing to the best of our students?

The Elephant in the Room

This year, for the first time in my 15 years of teaching, I am a mentor for a first year teacher. I remember my first year. Some days, I’m sure that everything went swimmingly, with students all doing exactly what I had planned for them. But those are not the days I remember. I remember collapsing in her room, head in hand, and sobbing my frustration into her sympathetic ears. There are many reasons to become a mentor, but Kathy is my reason. I felt the need to give back.

We had planned for her to come watch my worst class, which has students who are motivated to learn mixed with those who resent teacher authority and work to derail the others. She and I share the sophomore class, and some of my problem children cause her trouble as well.  But the week we had planned, she got the stomach flu. Then we had an inservice day, and everyone scrambled to grade their “pre-assessment” tests that no one thought we were really going to use. Then we had nine weeks grades due. So the deadline stretched out into the future.

This past Friday, she suggests Monday as a possible day that I could come see her class. Great, I think, except that it’s the second to the last period of the day, and there is no way I can find someone to cover my class  on Monday in that small amount of time. So I email my principal and vice principal, asking them if they can come watch my class.

And here’s the dilemma: my students are reading a novel, The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey.  In this novel, the narrator swears. Since I’ve asked my administrators to hit play on the audio file, they’re going to hear my voice, reading the swear words.  The students are chatting their textual analysis into an online chatroom, something that we’ve practiced twice before.  We ask our students to keep the profanity out of the classroom, with the idea that private speech and public speech are separate.

So now I wonder: how will my principal react to hearing profanity? Let’s hope it goes well.