Prospecting For Treasure

Always prospecting for the next treasure of an idea.

An Iowa Geode

The Iowa state rock is the geode.  You probably didn’t know that, and I don’t know if all states have state rocks, but I love the geode.  I believe most people are like geodes, ordinary on the outside, with undisclosed  multi-faceted brilliance and beauty within.  When we allow ourselves to be open to experiences, that beauty is revealed to ourselves and to others.

Each geode is like a little treasure chest, and you never know what unique jewel you will discover inside.  As a teacher, it is my job to help each student explore and appreciate their own inner treasure, and in my attempts to achieve that, I continually receive the gift of discovering more about myself and the world.

I became a teacher later in life.  My undergraduate degree is in business and economics, but it was really never a good fit.  In my thirties I decided to do what I had always really wanted to do in the first place.  I became a teacher.  Because of my previous work history, I have always known that it is a great privilege to be able to do work you love, and I have loved teaching.

I have loved the opportunities for autonomy and creativity, but in the past few years, much of that freedom has been eroded.  The pressure has increased to be on the same page in the textbook as the classroom next door.  The focus is on test scores in reading and math, and towards that end, many of the creative hands-on, fun projects that kids enjoy, have been abandoned.  I believe this is one of the reasons that I have fourth graders who don’t know how to cut or solve a simple jigsaw puzzle, and who are reluctant to be creative.  In our school district and building, teachers have even been encouraged to collaborate with other grade level teachers in the writing of our state required Individual Career Plans.   Many of my friends have retired.  I knew I wasn’t ready for retirement, but I was struggling.  I was becoming increasingly unhappy.

Last spring, my school district was asking teachers to sign up for  summer professional development classes in literacy, which were presented by our district literacy leaders. I wanted to do something that was of special interest to me!  Basically, I am a rebel at heart, so instead, I signed up for an on-line technology course through our area education association.  I also wrote my own Individual Career Plan, that reflected my goals of implementing more technology in my classroom.  I had a vague idea about setting up a classroom website, but I had no clue of how to do it.  Unexpectantly, signing up for this class has turned out to be one of those pivotal moments that has changed my life.

As part of that class, I learned how to build my own classroom website, create webquests, and explore social networking.  Because of that class I began following other educators on Twitter.  I learned so much from the class, and I continue to learn every day from the people in my PLN (Professional Learning Network) on Twitter.  I am  impressed with the knowledge that these people have about technology and ways to use it in the classroom, but more than that,  I have been amazed by their generosity.

One day, I asked how people handled the time that students are working independently at the computer center.  Within minutes, teachers had sent me links to their own wikis, and invitations to utilize whatever information I was interested in.  I learned how to use a website called Wallwisher from other teachers on Twitter.  Now my class is collaborating with classrooms in Nebraska, Michigan, Virginia, Montana and Canada on a Thanksgiving project.  Kids and teachers, from grades kindergarten through five, and who have never met each other face to face, are teaching and learning from each other, as they write and add to this wiki.  It is the most amazing thing I have done in the classroom in a long time, and I am so honored to be a part of this project.  Six months ago, I could not even have imagined this.  Six months ago, I did not even know what a wiki was.

My students are excited about the things we are doing, but I am even more excited.  A lot of times, things don’t work the way I planned, but I am learning every day, and the kids are learning with me.  Sometimes I wonder why I got myself into whatever the latest project is, and I question why I am working so hard, but the truth is, I am loving it.  I am re-energized and I feel that I am doing some of the best teaching that I have done in years or ever. More than that, I am a happier teacher and a happier person.  I am learning and I am growing, and that is everything.

November 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments