See my dilemma? I don't even know what moniker to attach to myself and to my un-novice colleagues. The word veteran also bothers me because it, too, can imply that such a person no longer belongs in the classroom. Consider that we refer to retired military and those no longer on active duty as veterans.
Writing in The Huffington Post, Nancy Barile addresses a common lie purported about teachers with longevity: We lack energy and enthusiasm for our work. Barile quotes a guest presenter at her school as saying, "the faculty is young and vibrant. It's such a breath of fresh air." In my own school, it's often veteran teachers who volunteer to work sporting meets, for example. We're the ones who typically understand how to find unique professional development opportunities and who seek out national conferences. Schools also need experienced teachers to help the newbies navigate the schools culture and traditions.
I'm the oldest and most experienced in my department, and a veteran colleague and I are the ones who actively seek opportunities to present at conferences. Additionally, I had already taught more than 20 years when I decided to navigate the rigorous NBCT certification process. Another colleague, with over 15 years experience, and I are plotting a major project that we see as a way to challenge ourselves and energize our practice while contributing to the professional conversation among ELA teachers navigating the changes and challenges we all face.
|Me w/ Story, a veteran English teacher and expert on teaching Native American |
students. Story teaches at Shoban High School on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.
Youth does not guarantee technological prowess because often young people use technology more as a social medium than as one for learning. Rarely do I see students in my classroom who understand technology as well as I do. I teach them how to use Google docs, how to create Pecha Kucha presentations, how to blog and include links and embedding in their posts, how to annotate YouTube videos, how to research using databases, how to annotate online, how to use Evernote, etc.
I follow the Free Technology for Teachers Blog and learn about new tech tools from both experienced teachers who have vetted the tools in their classrooms. That said, I also look to tech savvy young teachers for lesson ideas, such as the infographic lesson I found via Chris Kervina's blog.
However, the most savvy tech folks I know are teachers with more than ten years teaching experience. Often I share my knowledge with veteran and novice teachers. At a conference earlier this summer, I was one of the few attendees who used Twitter and tweeted during the conference; yet I was one of the oldest teachers attending the conference. This past school year, I shared my knowledge of Diigo in a session of my district's technology integration classes.
I just finished my 33 year teaching and began using technology very early in my career. The first big tech project I taught was how to create a filmstrip, a lesson I found in an issue of Notes Plus, a NCTE publication. My favorite uses of technology in the classroom marry close reading with artistic expression. Many platforms, including screencasts, Prezi, YouTube, Toon Doo, Animoto, etc. offer me a way to teach students how to create artistic analysis of texts.
Being around young teachers and teachers new to my building energizes me and motivates me to continue honing my craft. Drue, my superb student teacher this past year, taught me "find someone and ask" and how to make my delivery of instructions more visually appealing. Her eagerness to learn infused me with hope. She offered me collegiality, and we soon developed a fabulous synergy to our relationship. We experienced a valuable mentoring relationship. I nicknamed her mini-me after she told a colleague (and students) that we finish one another's thoughts and that we are really in sync with one another. We decided that we're interchangeable. So in sync were we that it's hard to explain the exact nature of our mutual mentoring of one another.
|Drue: She's in the back seat during a lunch |
break to Sonic because she's young!
|All in the Family: Kadee, E.J. mom and colleague Angie, and Steeli. |
I taught all three kids, two in more than one class.
Celebrating Steeli's graduation from college.
Those who privilege youth and inexperience over age and experience seek to create a schism among teachers. It's incumbent upon us to protect our profession from efforts to divide and conqueror. Novice teachers need to recognize and acknowledge that a lack of experience necessitates they open themselves to learning from those who have amassed a repertoire of expertise. We who have taught for many years can learn from the newbies, but I won't go so far as to say they bring more to the table than do the veterans. Nor will I concede that they are equal in terms of their contribution to a school's culture. Our respective contributions are different and valuable.
|Celebrating Gina's hooding. She'll be working on a PhD. in speech pathology at the |
University of California in Merced this fall. I taught her brother Billy this past year.
The teacher as artisan may be old, but we're not dead. We are masters who have created classrooms that serve students in unique and inspiring ways as they craft their futures.