“So, Mister, have you taught this class before?”

(This post originally appeared in my former blog, “Thatothereduguy.blogspot.com” in September, 2015. Since I now post only to this site, I am moving and republishing some of my more popular posts.)

Yup. This is the beta version of me. 

Yesterday, I was explaining to my students — as an aside while teaching about the need for systmeem and software updates on their laptops — about what a “beta” version was, and why software developers are so dependent upon them. Then it hit me.

As an educator, I am in beta version.

It has been almost 13 years since I taught high school and I have never taught Honors Computer Information Applications — or anything like it — before. I have taught 7th and 8th grade language arts or related courses for the past 13 years.

Two days ago, one of my 9th grade students asked me, “So have you taught this class before?” When I admitted that I had not (wondering secretly what I was doing that might have tipped her off), she smiled and advised, “Well, I guess we’re both going to learn a lot this year.”

I smiled back and agreed with her wisdom.

So when I explained that a “beta” version of a software application or game was an early version still in development and released for the primary purpose of finding the bugs and to get feedback from end users, it dawned on me that I was also talking about me. (One of my students helpfully reminded me that beta versions of video games are often cheap and sometimes free.)

As a junior high English teacher, I was teacher of year on my campus, and last year I was our district’s Junior High School Teacher of the Year and a nominee for state teacher of the year in Texas. I was — I am — a good teacher.

Now, I am starting over. New campus, new grade level, new content area, and a boatload of high expectations from my peers and my administrators.

Here’s the problem: I also have a boatload of bugs to work out, and a profound need for feedback. This became clear last week when I had two administrative walkthroughs on two successive days and both administrators wrote to me about a need for more student engagement. Part of me was devastated. I have always prided myself on my ability to engage and my success with technology integration.

Now, I teach in a 1:1 laptop campus and my classroom has 24 brand new desktop computers. I have a beautiful presentation station, projector and sound system. Plenty of tech. In fact, tech is what I teach. I have a question, though? How do I integrate technology into a technology class? I am struggling to make Microsoft Office sound exciting and engaging.

I will get it figured out because I am a good teacher. I will learn how to approach this new content with the passion that I brought to my English classes. I will “teach like a pirate” again and be able to look Dave Burgess in the eye again. I am already better this week than last.

Still, it’s hard to be a “beta” version of me.

Fortunately, I know it. My students know it. My administrators know it. I work with an unbelievable faculty. I also have my Twitter PLN. There are so many valuable professional relationships there, but @JenWilliamsEdu@RoweRikW@jcolley8, @BedleyBros and @hiphughes and @DonWettrick especially keep me challenged, motivated and laughing.

The bugs will go away, but right now they make me a little crazy.


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