Teacher Man: Year One
The New Teacher Chronicle: A timeline of the very candid thoughts of a first-year teacher.
"There is a small part of me that makes me wonder if my confidence will melt into bravado when that first bell rings, the first bags hit my floor, and I choose whether or not to smile. For now, I will keep grinning and planning for this sure-to-be exciting and challenging year."
I wrote those words the day before my first class came through the door. The act of writing them in a public space helped in the making of my attitude and the chartering of my course for the next day. I allowed my blog to not only be a public space for sharing my thoughts and questions, but also as a mechanism to socially process and store my emotions.
A lot of people use Google Docs or something similar to store their presentations, spreadsheets, and papers in the cloud, but what if we thought about social networks as locations where we store our emotions and feelings?
My Year One blog series New Teacher Chronicle was a place I uploaded my hopes and fears about my new profession. I wrote this way for the same reason I drank coffee in the morning: it woke me up and aroused my senses. Because I wrote digitally and socially, I was keen to my place in a larger world of educators and designers. Because I shared, asked questions, and engaged others proactively I was able to build an audience. My digital cohort was more powerful than anything at my university or in my school district. How could they compete?
The effect on my university and my school district was very different than I expected. They hardly noticed. It's not that I didn't announce what I was doing publicly, not that I didn't clammor for attention, not that I didn't seek permission or advice about my digital undertaking, it was just that no body really cared.
There were many teachers in my building who thought I was a nice young man who enjoyed tinkering on the Internet (Oh, how cute. He's writing about teaching instead of playing Call of Duty), or maybe even that there could be some small benefit in the future to the school (but we'd probably never be able to do that here).
I don't want to leave out the select few teachers with whom I worked very closely who really believed in what I was doing as a powerful professional act; they know who they are.
What this year looked like on the surface to those other teachers, to my principals, and to my students I can't say I know for sure. I think they saw an enthusiastic teacher in his class trying to improve every day. I think they say someone who was a reflective practitioner. I think they saw a teacher who was honest and candid about learning and assessment, be it his own or that of others.
I think those things, but I can't be certain.
If you want to real deal, the inside scoop, on the guts of my first year, then you'll just have to read my posts. The people who really know me from Year One were mostly folks I'd never met in person; there are many I still haven't met. The educators who really know a lot about my first year of teaching didn't write my evaluations or walk into my classroom with clipboards--they were all on social media.
Paul Bogush is a history teacher I met on Twitter and Plurk. He was one of my first sustained influences. He spent a lot of time in lunchroom-like banter with me online. It was social, it was casual, but there were always undertones about improving as teachers: that's why we were online in the first place.
Year One for any teacher, or any person in their new career, is a time to form your identity as a professional in your field. For me, spending that year in public reflection on Twitter and blogs was the best professional decision I could have made.
[See the interactive timeline here.]