After over 30 years as a teacher, I became a tech leader to help my fellow educators.
by Sheryl Place
As a new school year began, I found myself buried in OneNote notebooks, tablet user manuals and new apps rather than mountains of ungraded student work, pacing guides and looming lesson plans. Transitioning to a new position brought two unique challenges: Working in a district position and understanding the culture of numerous schools rather than one culture of one school.
“This first year has been challenging, exhilarating and, at times, overwhelming.”
I was excited and anxious to start my 35th year in education as a Digital Convergence Facilitator. I would be supporting classrooms and teachers with in-class modeling and lessons focused on digital convergence in addition to building capacity through district wide professional development.
This first year has been challenging, exhilarating and, at times, overwhelming.
My first challenge was the large amount of travelling involved with supporting teachers in the fourth-largest district in the United States. I had been walking or biking to school for the past 21 years and the challenges of rush hour traffic–extending the work day due to travel and navigating unknown territory in Miami–were tough. I learned how to remain calm, breathe deeply and find the Zen in the expressway while cars weaved in and out of traffic ahead of me.I soon understood that making wrong turns was part of my new learning curve. Once I wrapped my head around the concept of rush hour traffic and on-board navigation I seemed to handle the busy morning much more efficiently.
I often found myself overwhelmed with my personal digital connectedness: Extra email correspondence, text messages, and after-hours phone calls all cut into my private time. I had to plan a way to meet others’ needs while keeping my after-work hours and family time free from disruptions. I used my phone’s Do Not Disturb settings and several smart apps on my phone and in my connected home to manage my workload. This change in work habit allowed me to recharge for the next workday and keep perspective.
“I often found myself overwhelmed with my personal digital connectedness.”
Entering a school or a teacher’s classroom for the first time was a major test of my interpersonal skills. I needed to understand how teachers felt pressure from students, state assessments, disciplinary issues and general educational issues. When I entered their space, I needed to take time to allow the teacher to set the tone for our collaboration. I always reminded myself to approach with kindness and care with support the forefront of my collaboration in the classroom. While August and September boomed with teachers too busy or not interested, by remaining supportive and approaching with a collaborative hand, May and June ended the school year with many teachers sad to see our work together ending. I am happy to say that I my August calendar is quickly filling up. Many of the best days in this new DCF position were in teachers’ classrooms helping them navigate the technology provided to them. More than once the “AHHHH!” or “OH MY!” that I heard was the best part of my job.
The digital superhighway is beckoning me to be my absolute best.
I found my joy in school-based and district-wide professional development sessions. In the past, supporting teachers at my school was satisfying, but the ability to impact teachers in numerous classrooms and schools across the district was impactful beyond measure. I quickly learned to adjust to the participants’ needs.An agenda is a necessity, but not the only roadmap to success. I quickly understood I needed to seize the moment and meet participants where they were in order to be successful. Additionally, I followed up with participants after the session to let them know that there was always someone in our district that they could reach out to for support.
I feel extremely lucky to have been given this awesome opportunity and responsibility to work with teachers in my district, and I can’t wait to see what the next school year will bring. The digital superhighway is beckoning me to be my absolute best.