We just finished parent/student/teacher conferences and the school is now quiet. Everyone else has gone home to rest and get ready for more conferences tomorrow morning. We then have the afternoon “off” – I’ll be here getting ready for early dismissal on Monday and doing other things while the students are away. In the quiet solitude of the school, I have a few moments to do some real reflecting and thinking. It’s here where I do some of my best work as I don’t have my own children to break my concentration and I feel more “in tune” with how I”m thinking and feeling about what is going on around and what and where my focus and priorities need to be for the school.

So why am I still here?

Monday after school the teachers, myself included, gathered to discuss the morale of the building. It was a productive meeting and gave me much insight into what, why, where, when and how people are thinking about what is going on and my role in the whole thing. Now, my last post was a general discussion/question about school morale and thanks for the feedback. I appreciate all that was said and it gave me much food for thought. The one that really resonated with me was from Glenn. Now Glenn is a first year vice-principal and his comment:

Kelly – the responsibility sits right in the chair that I’m writing this from and if you’re at work the chair you’re reading this from. I’m failing miserably at it. Hope your rocking the house.

Why did this grab me? Because it is filled with the frustration and the angst of someone I know is working his butt off to do good things and, for whatever reason, is banging his head and feeling overwhelmed. I often read Glenn’s blog just to keep up with what he’s doing and how things are going. Every now and then, I catch a tweet from him and exchange a few words. Lately, that’s about all that I have time to do. I can almost see him sitting in his chair typing that post. Short, to the point but, to me, very powerful.

So What? 

So exactly what does that have to do with the “tech edge” feeling? For me, it sums up how I’m beginning to see this whole educational technology thing. As Iwork towards finding some type of balance in what is going on around me, I’m feeling less compelled to say that technology is really important. Not that it doesn’t have it’s place and shouldn’t be something that is used within the classrooms as a tool but I’m not sure that the energy expended will bring the dividends that are forecast. As I work with the teachers in my building, looking for ways to involve students, I’m wondering if the time being put into technology wouldn’t be better used working WITH THE STUDENTS.

Never mind that the students are texting each other and that they like the technology. Even with all that, there is still a piece that is missing – the human contact. Someone who will listen to them, right next to them. Someone who is in the building that they know really cares whether they are successful or stumbling and helps to provide the means necessary for the them to pick themselves up. Yeah, I know all about embedding technology in the learning and capturing the students but it just seems to be missing something. Once the “Wow” factor is over, what do you have? Really, for the most part besides the minority of tech savvy teachers who are doing some pretty incredible projects, what do we have?

I’ve heard that we need to teach them how to leverage the technologies for their own learning. That they can use these technologies but we need to be helping them develop literacies so they are more internet savvy, can protect themselves and be prepared for what is going on in the world around them. Great goals, I agree. But as I delve into what these kids are feeling and wanting, it has nothing to do with reaching out to the world or getting to know students from all over or working with students in other places. It has to do with them and another caring human. Someone who will guide them and set limits for them and demonstrate that they are interested. It has less to do with “the tools” and more to do with the relationships.

And you know what? I can appreciate that so very much. Being an administrator in a small rural community with no other administrators around, I thought technology would be a way for me to be in touch with other administrator type people. I started a Ning, Ed Adminstrators2.0, as a place for people in this same position to gather and discuss and talk and share ideas. I worked to develop a network within twitter and pownce, looking to connect with others to share and talk. Now, don’t get me wrong, it has been an incredible learning experience but, and this is the kicker, the people I notice on twitter who have the greatest connection are those who have met f2f. Those who haven’t are so looking forward to a time when they will meet f2f at a conference or someplace else. It’s those meetings that really bring people together and then their conversations and interactions via things like twitter really take off. For me, I have some good contacts and like exchanging 140 character bites but the nuances that a f2f meeting give to a conversation are missing.

This year has seen many stress storms for people in our building which, ultimately, touches me as the administrator. Our meeting was the beginning of our rebuilding the joy and wonder and excitement that comes with learning. By acknowledging that, indeed, we need to work on this and grow it and nurture it, we’ve eliminated the elephant in the room. It was just a first step but what an incredible first step it was. We have much work to do and it won’t be easy. In fact, it may be difficult as there is a need to have some conversations that will be hard. Some will require people to rethink what and how they are doing things, some will require me to address concerns that my staff identified and some will require us, as a staff, to really focus and decide what standards we want and how we will achieve them.

So Glenn, I’m not rockin’ the house. More like I’ve been rocked but, I’ve learned a great deal about myself, staff and students. I come to see that, although technology is great and wonderful and allows us to do so much more and ….. the number one thing we do in schools is human relations, building students to become the best learners they can be, guiding them in making decisions and helping them to see things from a variety of perspectives and, yes, setting limits and boundaries and sticking to them. It isn’t how much curriculum we get through or what we cover or the tools we use. Yes, they have an impact, some more profound than others. It’s the human factor, the angst that I feel in what Glenn says, that isn’t part of the discussions I hear about technology.

In the technology discussions, I don’t hear about the students who are hungry or the students who are messed up because of substance abuse or those who live in terrible conditions. I don’t hear discussions about building relationships with the student who feels like no one cares or or or or……

Yes, I’m losing that “tech edge” feeling realizing that I need to be out with the students and staff, listening and cheering them on; drawing lines for them and helping them to overcome barriers. I cannot do that if I’m spending time working on the technology, finding new technology, learning how to use the technology. I know that technology has a place and will need to be addressed but it’s like all the other tools, just a tool. With the way things are changing and the manner in which the “tech junkies” jump from wagon to wagon trying out new tools, it’s impossible to really keep up because people in my face are filling my hours. I haven’t found that “place” in the net world that I was hoping I’d find. I’ve discoverd many great places like the Fireside Learning Ning and other such places but, like the people in our school, the f2f contact becomes so very important.

This doesn’t mean I’ll quit trying to bring technology into our school or help teachers with technology use or quit looking and trying out new technology. It will mean that much of what I blog about might just change as I reflect on what I’m reading, doing, learning and seeing going on around me. It will mean less time with twitter – it’s good to see what’s going on but it just hasn’t done for me what it does for those who can spend hours on it or who are conversing with others they’ve met f2f. In fact, my writing might just increase as I scrape away the “tools” and get back to what is really necessary, what really works and get rid of what is, like so many of these things, a passing fad that someone on top has happened to mention on their blog.

So Glenn, as I sit in this chair listening to whirr of the server fan, the flush of the automatic toilets and the sound of the empty hallway know that you are not alone. I, like many others, are with you and I, for one, am realizing that there is more that I must do and less of it has to do with technology. Keep strong, Glenn, keep strong!

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