Sunday, 3 July 2016

Perception is Reality, except when it isn't

When I'm packing up the computer lab at the end of the school year I usually do it imagining that I won't be back.  For an introvert like me, teaching is an exhausting business.  I don't get recharged by people the way others seem to; people drain me.  The thought of disappearing out the door and not returning is a happy one.

As the year wound down I came to realize that information technology has become like plumbing or electricity: no one thinks or cares about it unless it doesn't work.  Fortunately I'm good at IT and get a a lot of satisfaction out of solving problems in it (not to mention my staying sharp in technology allows me to teach it better), so even though it is nothing I'm contracted to do I still beaver away in the background trying to create a more accessible, current and consistent educational technology platform for our teachers to use.

I find the year end back slapping tedious at the best of times.  Everyone gets well paid to do their job and no one I know in the building stops there, but what some people do above and beyond is considered more important.  While some were having meetings and planning presentations, I was hand bombing over a ton of ewaste out the back door of the school to a local charity.  They have DD adults dismantle electronics and then make enough recycling it to pay for their charity work.  It isn't attention grabbing, but it matters.

The energy other people are willing to spend in order to shine a light on themselves obviously pays off, I'm just not interested in it.  Fixing things that are actually broken holds much greater interest for me.  Changing people's minds is exactly what I don't like doing.  People should be able to make up their own minds based on the facts, not on how convincing I am.

This year has offered me some wonderful moments.  By far the most positive experience was our run at Skills Canada this time around.  Seeing my student's surprise at winning provincials and then our experience at Nationals was awesome.

Another powerful moment was seeing software engineering actually produce viable projects this time around.  That class offers students a chance to experience team based software development and then publish code while still in high school, and it has improved dramatically year on year thanks to a lot of curriculum building.

The least professionally rewarding part of my year was participating in the school leadership team.  The work done seemed pointless and time consuming, and seemed to follow a predetermined process rather than actually being creative and meaningful in any way.  A colleague dropped out of leadership a few years ago and she claims it frees you up to spend your energy on more productive things.  I think I'm following her approach when my headship ends this year.

The summer is for finding my mojo again, and then refocusing on what works best for my students in the fall.  A list is already forming:

  • Continue developing curriculum that still challenges and differentiates even when I'm regularly expected to teach five sections of class each semester.  Skills Canada plays a big part in that, allowing exceptional students a chance to see just how good they actually are.  Skills preparation also directs all students towards higher standards.
  • Getting equipment in that allows students to learn hands-on, even when I have classes of 31 students in a room.  Have you ever tried to set up a classroom with 31 computers and then arrange additional space for students to safely solder, build electronics and dismantle additional machines with hand tools?  It requires fore-thought (and perhaps some kind of time and relative dimension in space device)
  • While all that is going on I'll continue to apply my senior computer engineering courses to school IT support.  This year we repaired 26 chromebooks that would otherwise have been chucked (repair costs were $1250, replacement cost would have been $9100),  Having a genuine engineering challenge in front of students is invaluable to them, saves the school board thousands and keeps the teachers they are supporting in working tech, even if it is thankless work.
  • Windows 10 free upgrades end before August, so I have to get into school at some point before July 26th and update all the student PCs in my lab.  Having a DIY lab is a lot of work, but it offers students unique access to software in a building otherwise tied down to out of date board software.  It's $135 a PC otherwise, so I'll go in during the summer and save the board another four grand.
But first, some summer...
Note:  I usually write a draft, edit it once and then publish it on Dusty World.  This got heavily re-written three times with an eye to repairing problems rather than just complaining about them.  The end of the school year often gets me into a rather negative state of mind.