The Last Days of School – Summer at Least
Today was my last day at Portland Public’s DART program. Usually I try to post resources and other things for teachers but this summer was a bit rough and I find myself feeling extremely reflective. Normally I would avoid a reflective post so I apologize to all those who dislike overly meta-cognitive educator thoughts.
This summer provided a huge challenge. Portland’s DART program serves students who for one reason or another do not live with their family and instead reside within a residential program of some form or other. Basically this means I spent time working with kids who’s behaviors do not fit within the norm that a teacher might expect at a regular school.
Other educators I spoke with felt that teaching during summer “vacation” was crazy enough but that to teach students with such a high level of need would burn me out of teaching. Instead this experience revitalized and recalibrated my enthusiasm for teaching. When I first began working with students after finishing my undergraduate degree I worked with students experiencing these same types of struggles in New York. Having a chance to work with students like this again re-motivated me and helped me examine my role during the school year.
This last year I worked for a virtual school. I worked hard to connect with students at this school and developed some really positive relationships where I was able to guide students to some extraordinary outcomes. At Portland’s DART program I made those same connections but they happened so much quicker and something about the face to face environment fed my excitement for teaching so much more than the online environment. Due to this I decided to leave my position with the online school.
Right now I am not sure whether I committed career suicide or not. Schools are facing continued budgeting issues, few are hiring and applicant numbers seem huge! Also I seem to have a reputation as a great online teacher. This is true of course – with no modesty whatsoever I can say that I bring personality and draw a strong sense of community among my online students. I also bring these same qualities to the brick and mortar classroom and refuse to allow myself to develop the reputation as “that online teacher” when I can do both.
Today, at the end of the school day, I distributed letters to each of my students where I identified what I felt was their strongest talents or skills. As part of that process I realized that I was able to delve more deeply and learn more about my students than I was able to with online learning. That personalization really makes a huge difference in my ability to assess student growth – not the academic growth which is important for planning curriculum – their actual development as a person with individual needs and cares. This makes a huge difference to me as the teacher and whether I feel positive about my teaching experience or not.
Both learning environments offer a lot for teaching and learning. I think some of the blended and flipped classroom models take advantage of the positives from both and I hope to have the opportunity to practice them as I did during my student teaching and community college teaching years.