By Courtney Warlick, a third grade classroom teacher at Hawthorne Elementary school and veteran teacher of 11 years in Baltimore County
A Lighthouse School! Wow! What an exciting opportunity.
I felt as though I closed my eyes and was immediately able to see highly engaged students, fingers feverishly pecking away at their keys as they were researching their self-selected topics.
I could envision face to face conversations with the professionals via Skype, students blogging with other students from all over the globe, parents engaged in minute to minute teacher instruction through a digital portal. The ideas were flooding in, the possibilities were endless.
And then, my eyes opened and the reality of being a teacher, graduate student, mother, and wife set in. Questions began to blur my vision. Questions that were shared by many other educators in my building and around the county:
“What type of professional development will come with these devices? How will I become familiar and comfortable with the new technology so I can successfully deliver the information to my students? What exactly will be expected of me as a teacher and now a technology liaison in my own classroom?”
The questions went on. It was very clear that this was a magnificent journey and with journeys, we find that there are times of struggle from which we will learn.
It is also clear that journeys continue with the dedication and support from the members of an elite team. Those members are found in my school, Lighthouse community, our in house S.T.A.T. teacher and all throughout TEAM BCPS.
Devices landed in our hands late last year and at that time, those same initial visions started to come through a little clearer.
An energy came over me and I felt my teaching career begin to ignite.
Power was literally in my hands, I felt a new passion to learn, plan, and be ready to deliver to the most amazing audience, my class.
Fully energized and a little scared, like a new teacher on the first day of school, I attended The Lighthouse Academy with an open mind and heart knowing that these devices were not going to replace my best practices as an educator, and they were not going to replace what I knew was best for my students.
They were going to make teaching possible in a way I had never known before. What I realized was that now the journey was endless. I was no longer going to be a teacher of students, I was going to learn for and with my students.
With that being said, here we stand at the end of the first quarter and these beautiful dreams are becoming my reality.
Truth be told, there have been many challenges and obstacles along the way.
Becoming trained and familiar with the digital curriculum, devices, and BCPSOne have included extra hours of professional development, teacher planning time, and patience (including the parade of hundreds of people, cameras, and video cameras waltzing through while I’m telling the kids “just act normal”).
But, just imagine. Yes, you will see, small groups of students crowded around to collaborate and share their newest findings, a student listening and viewing a whole group lesson that just needed to be seen again.
Look a little closer into a learner-centered environment where digital journals are living and accessible to other students, teachers, and parents. Students are recording, listening, and critiquing their fluency and setting goals to become more fluent, expressive, and accurate readers.
Another student tucked away in a cozy spot is inserting his “selfie” as he takes pride in his first published narrative.
I’m sure you could see all of the students, their locations in the classroom, the devices being utilized in effective ways.
However, I must caution you, there is one thing that you cannot see or hear.
There is one thing that that runs so thick through the classrooms. It is something you feel. Something that gives you goose bumps and brings tears to your eyes.
This one thing is the joy of learning.
I’ve never felt more connected…to my colleagues, to my parents, and most importantly to my students.
Truly, from the bottom of my heart and the hearts of those 8 year olds that teach me something new every single day, thank you. This journey has rejuvenated my career. You are truly helping us, teachers, parents, and students access tomorrow! The possibilities are endless. Thank you.