Farewell B-108! My Students and I Thank You

In August, 2010 I wrote about my brand new classroom, B-108, at the new Bluffton Middle School. In that post I speculated on what would take place in that room when the students came in. I can say after four years of teaching in B-108 everything I predicted did happen, especially students learning about how to use computer technology in their other classes and learn they did. After four years, a South Carolina Technology Innovative Program award (my second but who's counting), and hundreds of students crossing into the threshold (not all on time either) it is time to say goodbye to the room. The computer technology program is being replaced by another STEM program and my Computer Technology position is being eliminated. 

While my position has been eliminated don't start shedding tears for me just yet. I will be moving down the hall next year as I move back to teaching social studies. This is something I have been patiently waiting for for at least two years. My certification has always been in social studies and my love of history, government, and economics led me to choosing teaching as my vocation. However, I have been in technology so long there are few people who knew I was a social studies teacher in a prior life. I wish I had a dollar for everytime I had to explain to people that I have a BA degree in history, my M.Ed. focused on social studies, and I taught the subject for 14 years at the high school level. I might actually retire. 

While I am happy to moving a few doors down the hall, I realize I have some challenges awaiting me. First, it has been awhile since I taught world history and I have stocked my reading list with books to refresh me on the content and classroom practices. Second, I will be teaching world history to seventh graders which will be a new experience. I do have experience teaching seventh graders computer technology and there are some great social studies teachers who I can seek out whenever I need advice. Third, I went to social studies content meetings every chance I got so I am familiar with what is going on with social studies today. Finally, I have spent the last few years reinventing myself as Teacher 2.0 with what I have learned from technology integration and my doctoral studies. I am eager to put some theories to the test and see what happens. 

No matter what happens in the future, I am sure it will be an even better adventure than teaching computer technology. I hope whoever takes over B-108 will have the great experience I had over the last four years. 

Politics and Teaching

When I was teaching social studies at Hilton Head Island High school a few years ago we had two teachers in the department who constantly argued politics. One of these teachers was about as Republican as you can get. He constantly attacked Bill Clinton and then praised George W. Bush constantly. Another teacher who we will call Bob, would constantly counter and talk about what "those Republicans are doing." We all thought Bob was a poster boy for the Democratic Party. During the 2002 election I was tasked with lining up speakers for our school's election debate. The lady at the Democratic Campaign Headquarters I talked with floored me when she asked me how "that Republican" Bob was doing? My reply was, "you're kidding right?" The Democrat told me she knew Bob for many years and he was always a big Republican supporter. When I relayed the story to Bob he admitted the woman was correct. He then added, "but my personal politics does not belong in the classroom."

A blog post by Marc Lampkin reminded me of the above story. Bob further explained his job was to teach students to investigate the issues for themselves and play devil's advocate to get those students to back up their opinions with facts. Mr. Lampkin reminded me of a story of a New York teachers' union who sued to be allowed to wear campaign buttons after the school district forbid them. The blog post goes on a anti-teachers' union rant but the fact teachers wanted to campaign for one candidate or another disturbed me.

Parents send us their children to be educated not indoctrinated. They should be taught to find facts and determine what they believe is best for themselves. I have my personal political beliefs and I support one presidential candidate over another because after reviewing what both candidates' stances on issues important to me I have made my decision. I even wear campaign items, outside of school. However, once I step on school grounds, the stuff comes off and I am more non-partisan than reporters pretend to be. Last week I assisted with our school's mock election and was thrilled to do it. Once the students started voting, I was having as much fun watching the results come in as I will on November 4th. We even had Bulldog Barks video updates periodically posted on YouTube and a local newspaper's blog. It was all non-partisan and neutral. Hopefully, the kids had fun exploring the issues, debating who was better, and voting for the candidates of their choice. All under the watchful eyes of teachers who remain politically neutral.

For those of you who support Barack Obama or John McCain and believe the country will crash and burn if the other candidate wins, go ahead and knock yourself out showing your support. Show your support until you come to school, then teach the impressionable young minds to make their own informed decisions after looking at ALL of the issues from both sides equally.

Award Winning

Last week I was notified by the South Carolina Association For Educational Technology (SCAET) that my experimental class, Web Media Productions, won a Technology Innovative Program Award in the Middle School Category. I will have the honor of accepting this award for H.E. McCracken Middle School at the awards luncheon at SC EdTech on November 7th.

Although I applied for the award, I am still surprised when I got the notification we won because the impact was on the total student body was small. However, the lesson was not just for students. One course goal was to prove two things to teachers . First, web applications can be used in any subject. Students created projects using a variety of applications in Math, Reading, English, and Social Studies. These projects were shared with students' respective teachers. The second goal was for teachers to see these projects could be achieved in a timely manner without the use of a computer lab. Students worked on computers in other teachers' rooms. I wanted to prove technology-based projects could be done with some planning, recoginzing resources, and teamwork.

At first I thought my ideas did not take. Adminstration opted to create a much bigger web media class. However, a few teachers approached me about using web applications such as blogging and podcasting. Computer lab time will again be at a premium this year but hopefully teachers will be creative in using "out-of-the-box" ideas in doing technology-based projects. Maybe this award is deserved after all. Yeah Me!