Monday, February 7, 2011

Who has time?

Whenever I ask teachers what they need most, they all tell me the same thing. Resoundingly, they echo each other in saying that what they really need most is time.

I haven't been out of the classroom too long to remember that I scarcely had time to breathe. It seems like there are new things to try, new initiatives, new tests, new somethings every year, but nothing ever goes away. Things are added but they are never (are hardly ever) taken away. It is easy to understand the sentiment, then, of the teacher who throws their hands up whenever they have to invest more time to learn something new. They don't know if their time will be worth it. The initiative may not last, the idea may not produce results, or there may not be enough support to fully implement whatever it is they are doing in the first place. When it comes to technology, it is inherent that whatever it is will change. This is one of the frustrations of those who try to stay current with technology trends; they are always going to have to learn, unlearn, and relearn the latest tech tools.

When I was teaching, if there was something to learn that was important, I would have to take the time, or often make the time, to learn it. It is our job, our duty, as educators to always be on the top of our games collectively and individually. We owe that to the students we serve. No matter where I've been, there has always been the attitude that we do whatever it takes to do the best job we possibly can for our students.

Lately I've been frustrated with what appears to be an unwillingness on the part of teachers to do this. Let me explain.

I know that time is the number one factor that teachers say they need in order to learn about new technologies. They need time to learn about it, time to try it, time to make mistakes with it, and time to be able to ask questions about it and how it can be utilized in their classrooms. What I am finding, however, is a growing number of teachers who won't put in the time necessary to learn these new tools. This is in spite of the fact that they are the same people who say that they believe they NEED to learn, and WANT to learn how to utilize 21st Century tools in their classrooms. Something doesn't fit.

As an example, I did a survey at the beginning of this school year asking what the most pressing needs were for teachers. Also in the survey, I asked about their preferences for when and how this learning should take place. The two biggest answers in these two categories were learning about Promethean software after school. Yet, when I have open sessions to learn more about Promethean software after school, hardly anyone comes. I spread the meeting locations around so that it is convenient for participants to attend, and there are usually only one or two people who come besides the person whose room we are using.

Am I wrong to assume that teachers aren't willing to put in the time they said they wanted to spend?

Another survey, taken by all but two teachers district-wide, found that the number one priority as seen by teachers in my district is 21st Century Teaching and Learning. This just adds more to my confusion. Here is evidence to support the idea that learning about technology is rather high on the list of many teachers' priorities, yet when time is provided for this to take place, they aren't taking advantage.

Do they not mean what they say? Is it just an excuse, saying that time is needed when really they have no intention of learning new things? Is it a resistance to learning new things in general, or just technology? Is it me?

I tend to think that what they really mean is that they need more time in the day to do everything they are being asked to do-a 25th, 26th, and 27th hour added to the day. The amount of things on a teacher's workload is quite frankly ridiculous. I think that, for whatever reason, technology is just not important enough (in their minds) to bother with it when there are so many other things that HAVE to get done daily. There just isn't time left at the end of the day for anything else.

Teachers-I really need you to weigh in on this one. What prevents you from spending time learning new technologies for use in your classroom?

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