As an adjunct professor at a local private college, I have the privilege each semester to teach one of several methods courses required for our secondary English education students. In addition, I supervise a group of student teachers in their assignments which requires me to observe each student in each of their teaching assignments, one a middle school and the other a High school placement. Within my methods course I engage my students in many of the educational topics relevant to educators today. I have them use Social Media to create Personal Learning Networks, and I require these future English teachers to blog and post comments on blogs of others. They do not take tests, but rather are assessed on lessons, projects and Unit plans that they are required to create and develop.
To many of the educators with whom I am in daily digital contact this probably sounds like it should be the way all methods courses should be taught. Anyone familiar with what I have written over the past year on this blog would know that I believe in integrating technology into education. That is an emphasis I use in my class. This too might be praised by the choir of tweeting educators with whom I have come to belong. With all of this support, one would think that I would be convinced and resolute in a mission to put my stamp of relevance on all of my students. Not so fast!
I have a very strong belief in teaching the right thing as I have come to understand it. I also have an obligation to prepare my students to be the best possible candidates for a teaching position. This is the tightrope part. My biggest dilemma is that I can prepare them with what they need, but I can’t hire them. I know that many of the methods I am using and teaching strategies that I promote, may not be the same as those ascribed to by their perspective employers. There are many times when I will give my opinion and tell my students that they may not want to mention that in a job interview.
The other force that pulls my students is that of experience. Most have experienced teachers who demand memorization followed by a test, followed by more memorization and another test. This was their elementary and secondary experience and for many it continues in some classes in their college experience. Professors tell them that there is no need for technology in education and Social Media is trouble to be avoided by educators. I find it difficult to tell them that this is completely wrong, although I believe it. The truth is that this is an attitude of many educators today. These are the very people who will be in a position to hire and work with my students.
It is one thing to know the right thing to do, but it is another to tell someone else that, what they are doing is wrong. How do we teach relevant methods for teaching without selling it as something that must be hidden until it can be determined where the administration or even future colleagues stand on such issues? Of course this is changing, but it has been changing for 30 years and we are still discussing it. I see the reluctance to change with every school that I enter to do observations. Yes, it is getting better, but if education was really moving forward, the word “reform” would only apply to politicians and business people and not the other way around.
I know that my experience in this is not unique. We need to teach our future teachers relevant methods, techniques and tools, but that is not the only path to reform. We need to continue to engage our colleagues, administrators and Leaders in accepting change. We should not have to qualify or make excuses for being relevant and using technology as a tool for learning. Social Media, like any tool, may be misused, but it has a greater potential to be used as a positive force for change. We need to promote reform within the system for it will be too slow in coming if we wait for the colleges. We need to be the change. I want my students to clearly understand the expectations, so they can focus on their goal. I want to come down from the tightrope.