It’s been a tough few weeks and it feels like the semester will not end soon enough. Taking three grad classes, teaching two teacher prep courses, deciding on comp questions, serving on a couple of committees, and conducting independent research is starting to take its toll. There are times when I begin to wonder if all the work is meaningful, especially when the voters of one state decided their children’s education is not worth a little extra money. Will working towards an understanding of the best uses of technology matter in the long run? When it seems public sentiment is against practically everything public education? Why am I spending my time trying to find and implement methods that I hope will help all children succeed in the educational setting that is considered irrelevant?
Then a student turns in an assignment about creating a unit that contains technology implementation. The story is heartbreaking. A 5th grade class that no teacher wants, that everyone seems to have given up on as “bad kids”. Kids who are discussed with horror in the teacher’s lounge. Their teacher was leaving this Title 1 school and the principal needed a volunteer to take the class. No one raised their hand, no one that is except a first year teacher who was willing to take a chance.
The description of the classroom she encountered was as heartbreaking as the description of the students by the teachers. Nothing on the walls. Rows of desks and few learning materials. The kids see something in this first year teacher, though, and a few run up to her and give her a hug, saying that “she will save them”. Of course. Kids can tell when someone has given up on them. This teacher knows she must save them and immediately starts by enlisting their help. She asks where their interests lie and the theme of traveling and knowing the world prevail.
She decides that a research project is just what these students need, and assigns groups based on the area of the world each student has picked. Quickly desks are moved to allow for collaboration. This teacher also understand the power of technology. As she puts it, “it is enjoyable, interesting, interactive, patient, and non-judgmental”. Based on what those children have had to endure from the powers that be, those last two characteristics speak volumes. As she further goes on to relate, the project allowed the students to work to their own ability level, with the special needs students using the same tools as the rest. They were able to work on what interested them, yet with the understanding that they were contributing to the big picture for the class as well.
At the end of her story she includes pictures of the students standing in front of their presentations. You can see the pride they have in themselves and in their work by the big smiles on their faces. Yes. It IS worth is!