I started teaching in the dark ages. When I began, there was no internet, email, social media, or cell phones. We had just gotten computers in classrooms for teacher use for things like attendance and marks entry. Our PD focused on how to use technology like PowerPoint and Word. I started teaching way back in 1992. My first computer, purchased in the mid-80′s, looked like this:
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Dan Meyer. He was younger than I expected, and I got thinking about how different the start to his teaching career was than the start to mine. He never taught in a world that didn’t include the internet. He probably can’t even remember a world that didn’t have internet. He has been connected in ways I only dreamed of in 1992.
When I started teaching, I was in a small rural school. I was the only high school math teacher. My two resources were a curriculum guide and a textbook. When I got stuck, there was no other high school math teacher within a half hour drive that I could talk to. I couldn’t email anyone, because email didn’t exist. We had to use long distance calls sparingly, because the cost was high. Essentially, I spent the first 8 years of my career alone in my planning, preparation and reflection. It seriously hindered my growth.
I hope you young teachers know how good you have it these days. Young teachers like Sam Shah, Kate Nowak, Jason Buell, Sarcasymptote (Greg), Dan Meyer, Shawn Cornally, and Dan Anderson are connected in ways I couldn’t have imagined in 1992. Many of them have probably never met each other in person, and yet they remain in close contact through their blogs and Twitter. When Dan and I talked about some of them, it seemed strange to me that he had never met them. In my mind, they exist in the same world and should know each other.
These virtual networks of math teachers are powerful, and lead to rich discussion and professional learning. We are in an exciting time in education. We are all getting better because of the willingness of these young teachers to explore and share. What strikes us older folks (and probably puts fear into the hearts of textbook publishers) is that these people are not sharing their stuff for profit. They are sharing for the good of their profession. I commend them for that. I would be a better teacher today if such opportunities had been available to me in 1992.
Thank you for sharing.