Through all my years of teaching I never stopped writing about what teaching was like. My reflections on what was going on in my classroom were very helpful to me as I thought out problems, analyzed choices I had made, and built upon the foundations of learning that I had forged as a teacher. Every year I would start my journals the day before the school year began. I would focus on expectations, fears and goals for the upcoming year. For the most part, I never looked back on my writing in any particular year, until after the last day of teaching, whereupon I would re-read the entire journal and then summarize what the year was all about and project some thoughts about the summer and possibly the following year. My first dozen years of teaching were pre-computer, so I hand wrote in notebooks. Once I started word processing, the journals became all typed. I even took a few summers to transcribe all of my handwritten journals to the computer so that now I have all but one of my journals saved digitally. The number of pages in each journal ranged from the low teens to as high as mid-forties.
The term used for what I did is called reflective practitioning. You can read more about what I did in my Blog entry: Time to Reflect
The one journal that was not digitized was one that was done by someone else doing the typing; at a time where word processors were not the prevalent way of typing. In 1987, our district embarked on a project called the Computer Infused Classroom (CIC). One class in each of the 5 buildings in our district were to pilot this program, whereby we were given 1 computer for every 2 students in our class. Until that time the most computers in a classroom was 3. I was selected as the pilot teacher for the 5th grade in my building, Miller Avenue. Each school got to pick their own manufacturers of computers. Briarcliff and Miller Avenue (both elementary schools) choose Apple computers (I picked the Apple //e and Briarcliff the Apple //gs (which had just come out). Wading River (the other elementary school) chose Apple Macintoshes (also new). The middle school chose IBM PCs and the high school chose Atari computers. As part of the project each of the teachers involved had to keep journals of the experience. Our district superintendent, gave each of us micro-cassette recorders which were supposed to be used as frequently as possible, recording our thoughts. Each week or so we would send the tapes to the district office where a secretary transcribed our recordings using a typewriter. We received these typed journals to keep.
Being that I was already used to reflective practitioning, making daily recordings was easy to do. By the end of the year I had a journal of over 250 pages, which I bound and kept. This is the only copy of this journal as it was not saved digitally. I also kept my own written journal for that year. Not everything that I wished to reflect upon had to do with the CIC and there were aspects of my teaching and class that I didn’t feel needed to be shared publicly, which my CIC journal was.
I’ve often wanted to re-read all of my journals. I’m sure there is enough information in them to write a book. The year after I retired I began to read them again. For some reason I never finished, fascinating as they were. I periodically read pieces of them, as an ex-student friends me on Facebook, or I’m writing a piece and want to recall an event, but in general the printed copies remain on my bookshelf and the digital ones remain on my laptop and iPad.
I did recently re-read the entire CIC journal. I was elected as the chairperson of our district’s Technology Committee. In a week I get to give a presentation to the Board of Education to ask for new technology to upgrade our infrastructure to meet today’s needs (77% of our computers are 5-11 years old). In preparing to speak before the Board I thought it would be interesting to read the journal that I wrote when our district was just exploring increasing computers in education. I was fascinated by what I read. As I described the daily attempts at using technology and support needed there was a direct correlation to what is happening now. Granted that the technology has drastically changed in the last 25 years, but the issues have not: technology not performing as expected, administrivia that slows down the progress and excitement for both students and teachers, the lack of knowledge of not only what’s out there, but fear of not having the skills or equipment necessary to utilize what we have, and the big one – Time to learn.
Reflective practitioning allowed me to come up with innovative workarounds to accomplish non-linear, creative thinking in my students. It allowed me to adapt to the new technology culture and build upon my own strengths. I’m hoping that what I learned over time gives me enough solid arguments to convince the Board to invest in the technology and support necessary to bring our district into the present and prepare for the future. If not, I guess I’ll have to reflect some more.