Monday, June 28, 2010

Responding to that first discussion in a new IM course

I have just started the Digital Story-telling course -- which means that all that stands between me and my degree after this one is over is Globalisation. I went back and looked at the first post of the first course I took here. What did I think I was getting into when I started? A program that would pack a lot of new tools into my teacher's tool chest. What has happened is way more than that. I have decided to include the text of this course's first discussion to show you what I mean.

It seems like teaching and school have always been a part of my life. I started in what was called 'nursery school' when I was 4 or 5 and, even though I retired from classroom teaching in March, I'm still in school here at Wilkes. Instead of giving you all the details of what I used to teach, I'm going to talk about a time in my life when I could not.

The year I had breast cancer (I am a 10 year survivor) was one of the most difficult of my life, but that wasn't just because of the treatments and the way I felt physically. What was most unsettling for me was being away from school. I don't have children of my own, and what I did that gave my life value and shape was teach. Who was I if I wasn't the tough-minded, but caring teacher in Room C014?

I really withdrew from the world during my illness, but when I needed a break from being a cancer patient, I'd stop in at my old school on the way home from a chemo treatment. I knew I had about 4 hours before the 'tsunami' of after effects would hit, so I'd find a spot in the library and wait for the news that I was there to go around. Students and colleagues would stop by to chat and look at my head which was not completely bald but closely resembled a thinly bristled hedgehog. In about 90 minutes I could soak up all the reassurance from them that I needed. I knew that the cancer was just an unexpected blip on the timeline of my life because my my real world -- my school and the people in it -- was waiting to welcome me back whenever I was ready.

About a year later I left that school and went to work in a small alternative program that operated 4 days a week. That place was not a happy one. The kids were an interesting and challenging lot, and when the old magic worked I knew I'd had a hand in helping people whose lives were in danger of completely unraveling find their way back from whatever dark place they'd gone. So the work with the kids was rewarding. Unfortunately the staff was completely dysfunctional, and I always felt like I had to prove myself to them. Still I have to thank them for making the decision to leave school easier. If it had been a better place to work, I probably wouldn't have finished this degree or retired early. I certainly would have found it much more difficult to let go.

And now here I am -- no longer at the head of my own class and very close completing this program as well. I still have some things I want to do and say in the profession, but to do that I'm having to become shamelessly self promoting -- which is totally foreign to me after so long in the formal school system. I've spent the past 7 weeks doing a course about Second Life. Had anyone predicted 30 months ago when I first discovered PowerPoint and began this journey into the field of ed tech that I'd be looking for ways to use web 2.0 tools to teach in a virtual environment, I'd have just walked away shaking my head, but there I was learning to teleport and deciding whether it was worth it to go to an in-world red light district to buy a Canadian flag for my display. Crazy!!!.

Being in this program has done more than added more tools to my repertoire and upgraded my professional knowledge about things like learning targets and rubrics. It has given me an opportunity to reinvent myself as an educator. How I'm going to use this knowledge, I'm not sure. My dream is to be teaching at the university level, and I'm trying to use my blogging and course assignments to figure out what I'll say there if and when I have that chance.

I hope this will give you a glimpse of who I am rather than what I do - or rather used to do.
The IM program came into my life at a time of professional turmoil, and it seems to have been one element in the perfect storm that has pushed me out of the teaching life I knew and did so well towards something very new and completely unexpected.

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