Since I began teaching in the fall of 2008, the credentials analyst for my school district has reminded me multiple times that according to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act of 2001 I need to have a certain number of college credits to be considered "Highly Qualified" so that I can teach in a specific subject matter. Apparently, having earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, and currently working on my master's degree in education (with a 3.85 gpa no less) does not make me a "highly qualified" teacher for English. No, all the essays I've written do not count toward this goal, I still need three (yes THREE) college credits to make me a "highly qualified" teacher. I have to either take an English course at the local community college (wha?), pass an exam (which will cost me $300), or take a 36 hour course through the county office of education which costs $550 (including catered breakfast, lunch, and random snacks throughout the day). Of course the only one my district will reimburse me for is the most expensive class... the one sponsored by the county office of education.
Obviously, I chose the
By our first break on day one, I had decided to leave at lunch... and not return. Surely a test must be better than this torture. But, one of my classmates reminded me of the money I had spent (which wouldn't be reimbursed if I didn't complete the course), and the money it would cost me to take the exam. Let's not even mention how much more it would cost if I didn't pass the exam. Yes, somehow she managed to convince me to stick it out.
So, I sat near an outlet, pulled out my laptop, and managed to entertain myself. On occasion I would look something up on Google and contribute to the class... mostly so it looked like I was using my computer for something more than Facebook, Twitter, and chatting with Glen.
Today was the final day. The teacher had some small rewards for some of the students for their hard work, and brought a general assortment of candy for the group. She thanked a few people for their contributions, and said a few nice words, but when she finished with that she pulled out a solid chocolate flower on a stick and said she had a special reward for her "valedictorian." Keep in mind there are no grades for this class... it is really just a matter of showing up. Yet, as she is holding this thing and walking toward the back of the room, I honestly kept expecting her to hand it to ... well, any number of people. I did not expect her to make the long trip to the very back of the room to the one person who has spent the last week goofing around on the internet.
Honestly, I had to wait an "appropriate" amount of time (about three minutes) before walking out into the hallway to have a good laugh. I mean really, my bringing a computer to class, and using it to access the vast amount of information we all have at our fingertips somehow gives me an edge over anyone else in the class? How is it possible that in this day and age, we don't all bring computers to a class, and use the universe of information available to us to come up with the answer to any question posed? I realize we can't afford to provide computers to all our students, but why be impressed when someone brings their own, and effectively uses available resources to find the answers to the questions posed in class? Isn't this something we should be teaching our students to do? And, once our students are all able to successfully find the answers to their questions on the internet, doesn't this significantly impact the way we teach?
After 36 hours of learning about things I have been teaching for the last nine months, I found that what I really should be learning about is teaching in the age of the internet. Even our low-income students seem to be more technologically advanced than many teachers, and certainly more advanced than our schools can afford to keep up with. Schools are insanely behind when it comes to the technology portion of education, and this is doing a great disservice to our kids.
I don't believe I was the "smartest" student in the class, and I was certainly one of the least experienced people there, but I was one of the few that was able to use a great resource to my benefit. Why is it that a room full of people with cell phones (many of them obviously "smart phones") spent an hour discussing the difference between a cliche and an idiom? My answer: because they weren't using their resources wisely.
One of the best pieces of advice I've been given as a teacher was, "don't reinvent the wheel, this has all been done before, you just have to figure out what works best for you." All the instructions for how to build "the wheel" are out there... we just have to find them... then decide how to best provide that information to those who need to know.