Tomorrow is the first day of August and guess what…I am already back at school! Actually, I have been back for a little over a week and while the summer was short it was a perfect time to reflect and connect with other educators at events like CUE Rockstar Lake Tahoe and ISTE.
Overall, 2013-2014 was a great year. My team and I pretty much met every goal we set out to conquer and California’s Smarter Balanced Field Test went much more smoothly than we expected. On a personal level, I completed by Tier 2 Admin Credential and joined the CEPTA CTO Program. However, looking back on last year the thing I am most proud of…or at least made me feel the most accomplished was the amount of time I spent in classrooms getting to know our students.
When you’re in the Technology Director/CTO role finding time to connect with kids is not always easy to do. The day-to-day demands of supporting technology infrastructure, managing a staff and budgets, as well as just putting out “fires” and meeting the professional learning needs of teachers and administrators can quickly erode opportunities to connect with kids. Before you say to yourself, “I just don’t have time” consider these five sure-fire ways to connect with kids and classrooms. They worked for me last year and I am looking forward to continuing them again this year.
- Find a Great Book – On Thursdays I spend the afternoon on our elementary campus meeting with the principal and providing professional development to the staff. Early last year I realized I had this odd 30 minute window in my calendar between meetings and workshops, so instead of spending the time cleaning out email (the never-ending project) I scheduled myself as a guest reader in elementary classrooms. I read the BFG and James & the Giant Peach to 3rd grade classes and The Year of Billy Miller to 2nd grade. The reading didn’t stop on our elementary campus. When teachers heard I was reading to 2nd and 3rd grade I was suddenly signed up to read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library to a 6th grade class, and Wonder to a 7th grade class. This year I’m looking forward to sharing these books, along with Flora & Ulysses and The Twits with new groups of students. The books are spread throughout the year, so reading to classes usually takes less than 30 minutes per week, but helps me connect to students beyond just being the “tech guy.”
- Start a Minecraft Club – Last year I wanted to learn about Minecraft and so did my teachers. Who on our campus knows the most about Minecraft? The middle school students of course! So, we put them to work developing a three-part hands-on workshop for teachers. The biggest problem with this project was that I had way more students interested in participating than we have teachers on campus. This year we’re continuing the club and expanding into elementary school. I’m hoping to grow our group into into a Minecraft summer camp for students and teacher next summer. Truthfully, I am not as interested in Minecraft as I am just connecting with an amazing group of kids and helping them grow their leadership skills.
- Launch Google Apps – Need an excuse to constantly be on campus and working with kids? Launch Google Apps. Seriously! Last year we launched Google Apps with our 1st-3rd graders. It was a perfect opportunity to be on campus and co-teach lessons and I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with a new group of 5th graders, along with a few new technology teachers.
- Co-Teach – The co-teaching doesn’t have to stop with Google Apps. Find any technology kids and teachers need help with and it is a perfect opportunity to be in the classroom – Coding, iBooks Author, iMovie, digital citizenship lessons. Actually, check out the Hour of Code. It’s the perfect reason to be in the classroom this year.
- Chaperone Field Trips – Aside from maybe a trip to Washington DC or Europe teachers never have enough chaperones. Volunteer to chaperone a field trip at one of your schools. It is a perfect way to get to know the kids and teachers, along with an excellent excuse for someone else to put out the technology fires for the day.
As your school year kicks off take a moment and find at least one way you can connect with a group of students. Every single one of us entered this profession because we loved kids and we must ensure we never lose that connection. Knowing our students has helped ground my work and frankly take the edge off of the crazier moments. Find a class, find a great book or tech tool, and hop on in. You’ll be glad you did.