Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Year Later... as Digital Learning Coach

So just over a year ago I began my new position as a K-12 digital learning coach for our small, rural school district.  We had been one to one for one year and noticed the need to have a support person to help teachers integrate technology and blend their instruction.

I've learned a lot over the past year and want to take a second to share the top 5 things I have learned.

1. The world is at your fingertips; go use it!
If your students haven't "hung out" with another classroom around the country or world, then they are missing out.  Beyond students covering content (our 6th graders presented about varied ecosystems with a class in Brazil), and engaging with an instantly-created authentic audience, they can help students learn about other cultures, areas, beliefs, and people.  And, that is something I think our world needs a little bit more of: empathy and understanding of those different than us.

2. Change is hard, but worth it.
With all the expectations placed upon teachers, sometimes technology can seem like "something else." I get that, but at the same time I see the unbelievable things that are happening in our school and around the world, and I want that for all of our students, including my own.  It is tough to put yourself out their and try something new that could fail when what you had before worked "just fine."  But that new thing might work even better.  I love the quote that if you've never failed, then you've never tried something new.  So true, and it is so worth it.

3. Get in the classrooms!
My favorite days are the days that I am in classrooms from the moment I get to school until the moment I leave.  I love supporting teachers trying something new, co-teaching a lesson, or teaching a lesson myself. Seeing ideas you developed with teachers in action will reignite your passion and keep you remembering what is is all about.  Plus then you can reflect and grow yourself.

4. Don't lose sight of what it is like to be a classroom teacher. 
It's easy to no longer be seen as a teacher as a coach, and as much as I don't want that, I think it naturally happens.  Being in the classrooms help, but remember the pressures you had in the classroom.  State test scores, evaluations, behavior problems, and so much more constantly affect teachers and their instruction. Remember what it is like to stand in front of 30 students and something fail. That is a true reason why some might be hesitant, so be there to support and help.

5. Don't take it personally.  
I'll be the first to admit that I need to work on this.  Just because someone doesn't try your idea, respond to your tech update email, or follow through on a project you on which you collaborated with them, you can't take it personally.  Remember #4, there's a lot of other stuff going on.  It's easy to think that it's you or your idea, but most of the time, that's not the case.  It's #4.

Overall, being a tech coach can be a really fun job.  I got to watch the face of a second grader the first time he programmed Dash as a reward for behavior.  I got to watch a group of high schoolers interact with people in Colombia about their cultural differences in Spanish.  I get to see a lot of the happy in rooms.

Being a tech coach can also be a tough job. Sometimes you feel like an island; fight that.  Sometimes you feel like nothing will work; fight that.  Sometimes you get overwhelmed that broken devices will rule your life instead of the instruction and curriculum you thought you signed up for.

It's okay. Remember the happy in the rooms, the smiles on faces, and the true learning you get to help create and support inside classrooms.  That's why you are there.

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