Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lessons learned

As the year is wrapping up, we've all been reflecting on how much growth we've experienced and all the lessons we've learned... not just the students, but us, the staff. Really, when you boil it down, teaching isn't really about the subject matter. Most big schools focus on getting the kids to memorize math terms and sentence structures so they can pass state and national tests. That's what education has become - test centered. (That's a whole other subject that I won't tackle now.) But educators that really know what's up - my instructors at Concordia, luckily, had this sense too - focus on character development. They're student-centered. What do you remember most about high school - economics lectures or the choices you made? Do you remember what the teacher taught, or what kind of person teacher was? We want these kids to learn how to be good people who love to learn. But like most things done right, it takes more effort than to do it wrong.

I haven't talked a lot about what MACA is about. Part of me wants to rave and rave about what a phenomenal experience we're giving these kids, but I don't want to seem like bragging. But you know what? 10 people in one hallway of an 80 year old building have managed to create something extraordinary. We've been given the spotlight at small schools organizations, national newspapers have written stories about us, our students are winning awards (most recent were two students that produced a video PSA for the Suicide Prevention Coalition), and the Employers for Educational Excellence (an organization that works with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) say our school is ahead of other small schools that have been open for years. In short, it's starting to work.

This means that NONE of us in the building have ever worked harder before. The teachers that have worked for 10+ years say this is their hardest year. Not only do we have to do our normal teaching duties, but we've had to incorporate professional media into our whole school's plan. We do projects together - all 150 of us - in Adobe Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Flash, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, and PhotoShop. Each of us 7 teachers have had to become experts in at least one of these programs - I'm the house expert, for instance, in Photoshop and Illustrator. These kids are working with the industry-standard versions and producing professional quality work.

In teaching these kids, I've of course learned SO much myself. I've been working on my photography skills, my graphic design skills, and of course, my bowhunting skills. In trying to keep ahead of the tech-savvy and sneaky students trying to get around our tech restrictions, I've had to become a pretty good troubleshooter. Teaching a year of math and science have increased my knowledge of both. My mind has never been stretched as much before. This is hard.

This post has turned into nothing like I intended. I only wish to express how excited I am to finish the year, how I can't believe I'm going to make it out alive, and how thankful I am to have had this experience. I wonder how different my experience would have been if it weren't my first year teaching, because sometimes my struggles with that have clouded some of the more extraordinary moments. In the end, I'm a different person (and I hope a better one).

1 comment:

geode cacher said...

It was an honor to water your classroom plants. Great job, Aud! I knew you would have a wonderful year.