This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Bennett McKinley
Since my last blog post, I have entered my student teaching semester. I am now, to the best of my ability, utilizing the amazing innovative teaching techniques that I’ve learned from the FLUENCY Project (not a project).
However, I have come to a harsh and inescapable realization; it is incredibly difficult to both meet standards and experiment with beneficial, but time consuming, teaching strategies. Despite that harsh realization, finding my passion and career path in life is still so very rewarding. The students in which I’ve had the benefit to work with, are all amazing kids and they further cement my decision to follow this path. I would be remiss to leave out my cooperating teacher, she has been both an outstanding mentor but also shares much of my beliefs in the world of education. My classroom utilizes technology in some unique ways, as well as the traditional formats. I would love to integrate more; my aspirations will always include utilizing 360 panoramas and virtual tours. I have found so much value to those tools and will be trying to use at least one in my upcoming Teacher’s Performance Assessment.
I was so very fortunate to travel with my mentor teacher and several other teachers from my school to visit North Elementary in Morgantown, WV. Similar to any and all of the FLUENCY meetings, I left feeling invigorated and energized in all things educational. Now, how to channel that to my current students and future classroom? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to that one yet. However, allow me to fill you in…
To call North Elementary unique does not give the school justice. For lack of a better term though, it is incredibly unique! As a part of our visit, we got to sit in on several classes that have been utilizing innovative strategies to teach. Which meant no standardized testing, and no assessments really in general besides benchmarking. Emphasis was placed more on a constructivist learning style; students shaped their own learning and lessons were distributed across standards and across curriculums. To be honest, it kind of all just made sense. It made me reconsider how I have been taught to view our current system. Now, that said, obviously there were hang-ups and nothing in this world is perfect. There were several times throughout the day where I wondered just how effective certain aspects of their strategies were in comparison to more traditional ones.
The biggest takeaway from my trip, and those that don’t enjoy hyper-positivity may want to stop reading now, was that I am so very fortunate to be entering this field with so many amazing human beings. The teachers at North all seemed to be phenomenal people utilizing their school system to create an awesome classroom environment. My classmates, of whom I’ve been with for the last few years, are all unique, talented, and anxious to enter the educational field. I absolutely cannot wait to see what kind of teachers they become. The soon to be colleagues, mentors, and cooperating teachers in which I’ve worked with are all exceptional. Each teacher that I’ve had the fortune to work with have bestowed some amazing tidbits of advice and opinions. I have taken each to heart. Finally, the administrators that I’ve worked under have helped shape my understanding of what it means to be a teacher in an educational system. I am so lucky. We are so lucky to be in this field. There are downsides, I’m not blind, there are days where I am exhausted in literally all sense of the word. There are absolutely days in which I don’t know if I’m good enough, or if I can meet expectations. However, I’m willing to overlook many of those negatives for the overwhelmingly positive amounts of moments where I have been thankful to pursue this career. From this bit of positivity, I have one bit of advice that I, myself, will try and follow:
Go and be the best you that you can be today. Better yet, teach your kids that lesson.
Bennett McKinley, a member of the Data and Technology Fluency Project, Cohort 3, is currently serving in his teaching placement in Second Grade at Steenrod Elementary School with a very supportive co-teacher. He is passionate about his future as a teaching professional and has already demonstrated exciting and innovative strategies to introduce and reinforce student voice using appropriate technologies. Bennett will graduate from West Liberty University with a Bachelor of Arts in Education during the Spring Term of 2020.