Today’s post was written by Alex Inman who is currently the Director of Technology at Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C. (Some of you may recognize the school as the school of President Obama’s children). Alex launched one of the earliest laptop programs in the country at University Lake School in Hartland, WI and he has helped many schools design and refine their own laptop and tablet programs as a founder of the Educational Collaborators. Enjoy his post!
The beginning of the school year is always an interesting time for the tech staff at a school. Summer is a tremendous opportunity for school tech people to get stuff done! We do infrastructure work, upgrade servers, re-image computers, update inventory and more. My staff goes through a case of that cool canned air, although a little too much is used by our student workers playing pranks on each other. Summer is a very busy and productive time. By the end of it, we’re tired!
Just about the time we’re wrapping up and breathing a collective sigh of relief, throngs of rested and energized teachers come flooding in the door! “I have so many new project ideas!” “Did you see the cool new software they released at ISTE?” “How can I print to the network on the iPad I bought this summer?” “I know we just spent the last year building up our Moodle pages but have you heard about Canvas?”
The ideas, the concepts, the sheer number of words…it is all a little overwhelming! I guess this is how the teachers feel when we come up with days of tech training in June, beginning 15 minutes after they turn in final grades. I am chuckling as I write this, thinking of some of the new concepts my colleagues at Educational Collaborators have been sharing with some of your teachers! Sorry about that.
Well, take a big breath, put on a smile and jump in with both feet, my friends! I know it’s hard. Trust me, I know! Here are a few tips to the tired tech staff to get through the opening days:
- Drink a lot of coffee.
- Listen to teachers and write stuff down. They are going to ask for things that you inevitably can’t implement in the first few days. Write it down and make it a calendar item for sometime in early October when both you and the teacher can talk about it.
- Remind yourself that even though you are tired, this is the sweet spot. Ride that new enthusiasm and use it to establish a foundation that will make the year easier for everyone.
- Drink more coffee.
- Remind teachers of your program goals. Some of the cool tools introduced over the summer are just that, cool. However several ultimately may not be a better fit for your program once you really focus on the desired outcomes you have set as a community. (If you haven’t established those outcomes, talk to me.) Doing this not only helps you keep your eye on the prize, it also helps you take a few things off your plate and helps keep teachers focused on student outcomes.
- Think of the kids. That’s why we do this. Picture those eyes lighting up when they really get it now because a teacher approaches a concept differently with new tools that really speak to that child. That’s a wellspring of energy right there.
For you teachers reading, be gentle with your tech staff. They likely worked long hours in the days leading up to the school year. They are really annoyed at themselves about the bugs they fought to remove all summer that you found in the first 15 minutes with the new laptop. They are tired of telling you that the network was not designed to accommodate over 100 teachers all on wireless downloading videos in a single big room. However, here’s a little secret…deep down, they are really glad you are back. It’s quiet when you are gone and though they get a lot done, they know you and the kids give meaning to their work. Tell them “thanks” and you’ll see what I mean.