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A Failing Teacher





I haven't posted on my blog for quite a while. I could say its due to stress or that I have been just so busy, but the truth is much more important. For the past few weeks, I have felt like a failing teacher.





For those of you who know me, or those who have read my book, you know that I am a fairly confident, and sometimes an arrogant person. More importantly, I have always been uber confident in my own classroom. I have no fear as I step into my domain, and I know my content and my instructional methods like the back of my hand. And then...




My district rolled out the laptops for all students in grades 5-12. They are beautiful 2 lb. Apple Airs and they are absolutely amazing. A bit too amazing, actually. The students have become overwhelmed with the new opportunities they have in the classroom.


What are those new opportunities? Well, for me, a technology strong teacher, I thought this would open the door for incredible research, real-time current events investigations, and websites and software that would enhance my teaching in every way possible. While these opportunities are there, there are greater ones that my students have found.

By the end of the first day after the laptop roll out, most of my students had activated their skype, facebook, and twitter accounts. After the first weekend, they had downloaded thousands of songs and "shared" them through the bluetooth with all of their friends. By the end of the first week, they had downloaded their favorite games, movies, and music videos. My nightmare began.


My enthusiasm and excitement for the new laptops waned quickly. They became a classroom management concern instead of an incredible tool for learning. The students who were already falling through the cracks took a nose-dive into their escapes and even the "focused" students became focused on all the new tools and games they could play with from the Facetime (where the girls could check their hair and make-up with a click) to the access to the world at their fingertips that had previously been limited during school hours.


What had happened to my classroom? Despite my innovative lessons which utilized the new tool, my students stopped completing assignments and their attention span in class reduced to nil. Grades started to drop, and students became unconcerned about the objectives of my class. They had all they thought they could ever want. And to make matters worse, students fully understood that teachers were NOT allowed to take their laptops for disciplinary action. We were to consider the laptops as textbooks, and the students were to have them at all times. They had a free ride. Even in attempting to control the management disaster through the calling of parents, I was often told that "they couldn't get them to do anything at home anymore either" now that the students had the laptops. At that point, I just wanted to scream... "Just PARENT!"


So, here I am. After teaching for 13 years... After being a "favorite" teacher for many students due to my innovative and "out-of the box" teaching, I am now a nuisance in my own classroom. After years of super success for my students, I am only in the way of my students being able to entertain themselves 24/7.


What do I do?

I do what I do. I teach. And, I teach. And, I teach. I continue to do what I know is best for my students, and I know that eventually, this year will end as they all have in my teaching career. My students will be better students, better citizens, and better humans before I let them disappear into their summer vacations. They will know something about history, and they will know a lot about meeting the high expectations of a teacher who truly cares about their success. I will not give up, and I will keep pushing them until they see the light. Not the one shining from their laptop screen, but the one that shines from the futures ahead of them that I will show them during the rest of this year.


Now, I don't expect this to be an easy task. I am redoing all of my lesson plans. I am incorporating MORE technology into my classes. And most importantly, I am putting MORE responsibility on my students. While this may be a very scary life lesson for many of them, it will be one that impacts the rest of their lives. These laptops will not be a tool for apathy and laziness; instead I will make it the tool through which they will learn responsibility and accountability, one way or another.