I still vividly remember the day I came home and announced to my wife that “I quit!” I was done with teaching.
Maybe it was because my wife was a middle school principal at the time and had dealt with teacher meltdowns before or maybe it was because my wife was my wife and knew my limitations, she just looked up and said, “oh really?” I think she knew that I just needed to blow off some steam and re-group.
It wasn’t just one particular thing that set me off, it was the culmination of many things that caused me to become disenfranchised with teaching. I remember thinking to myself in many different teaching situations that this “wasn’t what I signed up for.” I was turning into another cynical teacher — who realized that perhaps the mountain to education reform was just too big and too steep to conquer.
My wife gave me some time to cool down before discussing my options. She started by asking me to explain what was so wrong with my job. I thought about her question for a moment and then explained that I had thought that technology would make my classroom so much better, and that teaching would be better with technology as well. I was a tech teacher for crying out loud — this should be my dream job. After many different conversations on the matter over the period of a couple of weeks, I decided not to quit my job. I decided instead to change my job.
The problem, as I soon figured out, was not the technology itself, but it was instead what we did with the technology that matters. Teachers who take their infamous worksheet that they had since the 70’s and then just make a Google form out of it, aren’t exactly embracing the capabilities of technology. The status quo does not get better with technology, in fact I would argue, it gets worse. So the hard reality is that teaching does not get better with technology per-se, we as teachers must use the technology to make things better.
My second problem was that I thought technology would make better students. But it doesn’t. Students who are not challenged will turn in junky tech projects. Students who are not challenged will be bored and cause trouble. Don’t believe me? Tell your students you will now be reviewing how to make bullet points in Word – step-by-step for 60 minutes. And then watch as your class falls apart. I came to realize that to our students technology can be really boring because we are now challenging them with it.
When I came to these two realizations, it was summer and I had some time to fix the issues that I was facing. I decided to revamp my entire curriculum, every lesson was going to be great, even if it was something like bullet-points. I studied online courses from Atomic Learning on every program I had on my computer to make sure that I knew every facet of them so that I could push my students to use their technology to the most.
By the time summer was over, I had a new tech curriculum and three new tech-clubs that I was going to start at my school. What I got back was the dream job I had always wanted. As it turned out, technology wasn’t the problem, I was. That was over six years ago, and thankfully I haven’t looked back since.
Brad Flickinger is a technology integration specialist who teaches technology at Bethke Elementary in Timnath, Colorado and is the founder of SchoolTechnology.org