How do you even begin to choose the best stories of a career in education spanning decades? My mentor and friend Cheryl does it here with her JRNEY through literature and technology. Cheryl and I had many adventures together, and I hope this is the first of many stories she will share...
What sums up best practice in education? Putting it succinctly, always putting students first and reading every single day to and with them.
Curriculum and mandates change, but children remain the same. They want to feel safe, respected, and they want time with you. Letʻs take a peek back through my career and see how this looked.
In the mid-70ʻs, it was tough to get teaching positions. After student teaching, I substituted for two years. I got my break (literally) when one of the older teachers slipped, fell and broke her hip. Took over from her and inherited a room full of xerox copies and a group of first graders. I was lucky to be in the building where I student taught meaning that I had lots of mentors and support. It was a hard year, but a good one. Sometimes, I think that group of kids should have gotten a rebate. There were so many stories in that first year, but the most important was that I learned to trust myself and kids. I also began my collection of books.
My love for Margaret Wise Brownʻs, The Important Book, began there and continued to be a lesson throughout my career. Ed Emberlyʻs books taught me to draw for my children with less fear. He even replied to one of my students who hated school but loved to draw. The books provided me with meaningful transitions at times as well.
This first year and the next two were also where I began to learn about other styles of teaching and classrooms, positive and negative. From my early years, I knew that there were some people who should not be in education and some that were just right! What I didnʻt realize is how much I would grow and learn through those 40 years.
Itʻs always worth a chuckle or two to talk with the younger folks about technology in education. This generation that canʻt imagine life without their phone and immediate connections to just about anything. What part did technology play throughout my career? From my first years, it was always a part of my classroom and also the one thing I got marked down on in evaluations. NOT, because I didnʻt use it but because it was easy for a principal to see. Interestingly, in 2008, I still had a principal marking me down on it with the usual comment: “everyone has something to work on!” Tried to explain that technology is a tool and sometimes it is in the lesson and sometimes not. One does not use a hammer when a saw might work better for the job.
Have you seen or used a 16mm film projector? It was not always easy. And then there were the times that someone didnʻt rewind….BUT oh, the films we saw...Paddle to the Sea and The Red Balloon remain two of my favorites. Thank goodness for YouTube.
In addition to group films, we also had the Dukane!
Hook up those headsets, and there you have it, a center! There was also the inevitable cassette player with the multiple plugs. From that center, one could often hear, “hey, thatʻs too loud, you touched mine,” and sometimes nothing to hear, just smiles enjoying the story. It was always a favorite of the children.
And that was just what the children got to use! Let me share some of the highlights of teaching in the late 70ʻs early 80ʻs (and yes, I know around the world some still have nothing or these tools, I am just highlighting my own career).
Ditto... Can you just smell the spirits of the purple ink machine? Crank it.. oh wait, itʻs been motorized!
Mimeograph.. Make sure to type the stencil clearly, and when putting it on the machine get it on straight, no wrinkles or your letters wonʻt be legible on that test!!! Black ink on my hands, clothes inevitably and not something you could use without a bit of planning.
Typewriter... Talk about efficiency! I had one in the teacherʻs work area to push out those papers.
Ah.. the encyclopedia! It was all we had but trust me; Google is a much better tool!
Out of all of the above, I definitely would not return to the encyclopedia without much protest. This technology all took time and planning which we had much more of in the 70ʻs. The Xerox machine and its easy use, in some ways, have allowed educators to become a bit too much relaxed and to ready to drop a worksheet on their students in my opinion.
As I moved through the years, I got my first computer ever in Japan. One of my student's parents was the Apple rep. Good thing for me because my learning curve was high back then on computers and he was there often to help. Sure made writing the schoolʻs first WASC report much easier! From sharing a computer with other teachers in the lounge to having my own laptop at my final school, I would not change the current technology at all. Having access to so much information has made preparing lessons and helping students so much easier. Easier, but still important to remember itʻs just a tool to be used as one always.
By Cheryl Burghardt