Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sharing is caring

I was fortunate enough to land my dream job last year; I moved up and on from middle school science and found myself elbow deep in biology curricula and anatomy. I was like a hog in mud (and still am, actually). I feel so lucky to be teaching the content that I am so incredibly passionate about. I am also working with some phenomenal teachers. Individuals who love what they do and are about taking risks and trying new things and being open to new ideas.

When I knew I wasn't going to be teaching middle school science this year, I packed up my belongings and made the move over into my new digs the last day of school, when it was just a teacher work day. Then, over the summer, I organized my files and lesson plans and activities that I had saved on my external hard drive. It was kind of nostalgic, opening old activities and lessons I had done in the first 5 years of my teaching career. It was like witnessing evolution first hand. There were definitely some activities that I cringed when I opened them (because I thought to myself, "Those poor children!") and there were others that I had kept and stowed away, to maybe use again some day when I was ready.

Since I adhere to becoming the facilitator and not the disseminator of information in the classroom, I would venture to guess that almost 90% of the things saved on my hard drive are my own creations. They are not completely organic as they were seeded from activities I had seen/found online, but they were adapted, edited, toiled over, hour after multiple hour, until they asked the kids just the right questions and they assessed their understanding in just the right format. Don't get me wrong, they were living documents because I would always find some way to refine the activity.

So you could only imagine my conundrum when asked by a former colleague if they could have a huge project that I created. The structure or skeletal frame of this project came from the reality show, Survivor, but the premise was to get students to work on teams to review content for their upcoming state test. I remembered the original idea from a teacher article in NSTA and then I saw a version online (http://sciencespot.net). I created my own directions, my own activities, my own assessments, my own "rules" and my own time frame to get it all done. The end result was AMAZING. My kids were focused and excited because I incorporated competition and I chose their groups using Kagan strategies so that one group was not overly superior to any other. I had literally no discipline problems because the kids were interested in what we were doing (not to mention, my kids did fairly well on those sections of the state standardized test).

Now, it's not that I am a stingy toddler who doesn't know how to share or play nice, I completely understand why it's so difficult for teachers to simply hand over a project that took quite a bit of time and dedication to create. Some people might suggest that the person who asks for the activity actually is lazy or just doesn't want to put in the effort themselves.

And those nay-sayers MIGHT be right. That teacher asking for your lessons is just looking for an easy way out. They aren't creative. They do not have the desire to create such a thing.

Yet, I choose to take a different stance. My job is about children. Plain and simple. And if this activity benefits kids, then I feel obligated to share.

And here's the reality: the teacher who takes my "stuff" may not even use the activity to its fullest capacity and may butcher the crap out of it (which could be a reason for some to not even bother sharing).

But what if they don't butcher it?

What if they are concerned about their student's success and this teacher is reaching out to someone that they feel might help them? Haven't you ever had to ask someone for help? Sometimes asking for help is hard for people to do.

I try to take this perspective: every teacher truly cares about their profession and their student's success. And if there is a young and inexperienced teacher out there who is looking for some solid activities to use with their students, then it is my obligation to help be a supportive colleague. It's my job to help that teacher so they they continue to improve in their craft. It's my job to ensure that they never become comfortable in teaching the same lessons year after year.

I don't care what it looks like. I don't care that it might appear that I am weak and am willing to be taken advantage of. I am fully aware that I have nothing to gain, besides pride, if I do not share.

And in the end, it's the kids that have everything to lose if I don't.

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