Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Just a Teacher"

In the last two weeks, I have spent a great deal of time learning. I have ventured into Operator 11 a few times, joined 110+ teachers in Elluminate with David Warlick for his Fireside Chat, played with Vicki Davis and friends skipping from channel to channel in UStream (planning to broadcast Teacher Talk with this tool) and continued to Skype and Twitter with friends about new, exciting happenings in the ed. tech world.

And through all this learning, among all the people I have connected, there seems to be an underlying theme. There is a separation among the technology people and those of us that are "just teachers." In fact, I have heard this term quite a few times in the last few weeks. I have had conversations with techies asking why more teachers aren't participating in all the learning. I have heard teachers explain their shortcomings with the "just a teacher" line. And I am beginning to find the whole thing rather offensive.

My whole life, I have had to justify being a teacher. I was raised in a family where education was the means to achieving higher goals: doctoring, lawyering, journalism, politics, etc. Teaching ws regarded as the thing anyone could do. You know that old saying, "Those who can - do, those who can't - teach." That was drilled into me. But I was always drawn to children and teaching. I was the neighborhood babysitter, the peer tutor, the sibling who did homework for the other sib. It was then, and is still, in my blood. I was destined to become "just a teacher."

Now, 23 years into my teaching career, I am still just a teacher. But let me tell you what that means in this newly developing ed. tech world. I now seem to work two full time jobs.

One is the "just a teacher" job. I plan for lessons and units, work to integrate test prep so I don't torture my students, strive to keep up with new curriculum requirements, new NCLB laws, new state expectations, and new district demands. I stay connected with parents, calling and e-mailing on demand, meet with other teachers to plan field trips, in-school programs, and budgetary issues. I sit on committees for staff development, science, health, technology integration, site-based, social events, policy board, foreign policy...whew. I attend monthly faculty meetings (sometimes running them) and monthly grade level meetings (which I run as grade level chair). I write report cards and meet with parents three times a year, although I usually have at least one parent a week stopping in to check up on their child. And that's just my first job.

My second job is the technology portion. I strive to keep up with all the learning. I check e-mail before I leave for work, answering student, parent, and administrative mail. I also check Twitter in the morning, feeling lost over the learning that took place since I turned off the night before. Then I head to work, listening to podcasts along the way, trying to keep audio records of sites I need to check out when I have the chance. Once I arrive at work, I have an hour before kids come in to check e-mail, Twitter, and Skype chats again, help teachers whose equipment is not working, and give advice to colleagues who need new app. ideas. (Remember, all of this is happening while I am trying to set things up for the children.

During the day, I log on once during prep and once during lunch, always feeling like I am falling further and further behind. After work, I arrive home to participate in the Webcast Academy classes, Robin Ellis and Darryl Draper's PD class, online conferences, impromptu learning opportunities (these always seem to be happening), and chatting with friends. I am also spending this time trying to master applications I wish to use in class, and planning for my own teacher technology classes. And, of course, I have a husband and daughter who would like to spend time with me.

So the next time someone says to me that I am "just a teacher", the next time someone insinuates that a teacher isn't as qualified, the next time someone tells me I MUST be able to use a particular application in order to be a good educator, I'm going to tell them to spend one "just a teacher." Try it and let me know how you manage to keep up.


Martha said...

Amen!!! This "just a teacher" totally agrees.

SusanT said...

Hi Lisa, sounds to me like you're more of a SuperTeacher than JustATeacher, and I think that JustATeachers have more than a full time job anyway. I'm just coming down from the web20 rush, having finally realized that I can't possibly keep up with everything that's going on - and even if I do, I won't have time or opportunity to use it all in school, suffice if I learn a new tool each week or so and if and when I need a particular tool, I will have the ability to find and learn it

Cokie said...
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Diane said...

Lisa, so well said. Over the years I have learned not even to engage in those conversations with ignorant people who think we fall into that "Just a Teacher: category. I used to argue that they wouldn’t be where they are without the teachers of the world. It fell on deaf ears. The sad fact of the matter is, there are many out there that fall into that category. I have seen some exceptional teachers rapidly decline into that category. I choose to be like those of us that continue to learn and want to break the "Just a Teacher" mold. I can go to sleep every night with the satisfaction, that I try to make a difference every day of my teaching career and THAT is what it is all about. Thank you for your well written response to “Just a Teacher”. We need to start responding to those that say that with a rather large, “Thank you.”

Cathy Nelson said...

Hey--you know I feel your joy and your pain too. We need to presenting at the academic conferences instead of the tech conferences to win more over. I will say this--my large family generally turns to me for how to's and fix-its when it comes to tech issues on the home front, so they do have a certain level of respect for me --I love tell them as a teacher I am a life long learner.

Mrs.A said...

Lisa - you do so much more than any teacher I have worked with. I no longer have my own clas. I work with teachers trying to facilitate use of the tools available. I wish the teachers I worked with had just a little of your energy, passion and willingness to take a risk and see what resources and tools can be used to create a fabulous learning environment for their students.

. said...

I'm just a learner....

Colleen said...

Teachers were once highly respected in our society but I think that was when they taught every grade level in a one room schoolhouse. I don't know when or why that changed. It makes even less sense now given all of the amazing collaborative projects teachers do with students and the many responsibilities that come with teaching in a rapidly changing world. In other countries, teaching is one of the most respected professions. Here in the states, our priorities are skewed. Keep doing what you're doing. The kids will remember and that's really all that matters.

Steve said...

Lisa, I'm so with you. Since I joined Discovery, I've gotten to travel the country and meet thousands of teachers. Each of them were doing incredibly innovative things in their own ways, but the vast majority of them didn't believe that they were. And whenever I tried to tell people how impressive what they were doing was, they'd try to blow off the compliment, as if they didn't really believe it.

I have yet to meet anyone who was 'just a teacher'. Every one that I've met is a researcher, an explorer, a magician, a psychologist, a philosopher, a doctor, and of course, a learner. And that's the short list.

glad you shared that one Lisa, I couldn't agree more.

NJTechTeacher said...

I saw in Twitter that you said it might bother some people to see this post. I'm just a technology teacher and I feel like there's way more than I can keep up with myself.

I've learned so much over the last few months mostly lurking, sometimes participating, but I can't keep up in the way I see many doing.

I try to remember that if I add one new thing a semester "well" for each class (K-8 plus sixth grade math) then I'm doing great.

From afar, I don't see you as JustATeacher at all.

Lisa Parisi said...

To All My Friends,
Thank you for your support. I am going to stop calling myself "just a teacher" and expect all you teachers out there to do the same. Susan's idea of one tool a week is a great one. I doubt I can contain myself enough to do it but it's worth a shot. And, hopefully, as Colleen noted, America will start revering teachers as much as athletes or television personalities. Don't we deserve it?

Thanks again for all your support.

susie(ed205) said...

Hello Lisa,
WOW! YOu are a super teacher! I'm a college student that is two years away from becoming a teacher and I can't tell you how excited I am!!! Reading your post amazes me, I know what a teacher does but I don't know how much a teacher does. I give you so much credit and other teachers as well for all the things you do. I have heard that teachers just teach and go home but what a lot of people don't know is how much teachers really do outside of the classroom. Like you for example your day doesn't end when the students go home, your still working and that's what outsiders don't understand. But I want to tell you Keep Up the Good WOrk!!!!!! I'm sure there are days when you wonder why you are a teacher but know that there is someone in your class looking up to you and wanting to be a teacher just like you when they grow up.. I know I always looked up to my teachers and look at me now, I'm in school to be one! Thanks for all you do...And know that you aren't "just a teacher."