I've always felt that one of the hardest things about being an elementary teacher (sorry I can't speak for my secondary friends) is saying goodbye to "my" kids at the end of the year. Even with all of the switching throughout the day for various subjects, I become very close with my students and always pass them on with a bit of trepidation. Did I prepare them well? Are they confident enough to be successful? Will they be the good people I know they can be? These are the questions I ponder at the end of every year.
Today I had my mid-year conference with my principal. I got to show him all of the wonderful things I have learned through my participation with the PLP IU13 cohort like our class blog, our private class wiki, and some of the different things I have accomplished as I have been building my PLN on Twitter. He was very enthusiastic and excited about all that I was sharing, and he asked several great questions about how we can get more people to use these different tools. But then he asked me one question that stopped me in my tracks. I can't remember the exact wording, but he asked me something along the lines of, "So how do you feel about teaching your kids like this and then knowing they might not get to learn like this next year?"
This is a question that has popped into my head on several occasions, and I have very quickly shoved it right out. I am focusing on the opportunities I have right now to work with my kids and trying not to think about "what ifs" for the future. The future? I do not know if my current class will have these same learning opportunities as they move on to future grades. Nor do I know if I will have the technology resources available next year to teach my own class the same way I'm teaching this year. It's a scary prospect because I am seeing kids who are starting to love reading and writing, kids who are enjoying connecting with the world around them, kids who have some choices in their learning opportunities, and kids who are seeing the value of learning beyond filling in bubbles on a test.
Please understand, I am not commenting on the abilities of the teachers in the grades following mine. They are all amazing teachers, and they take wonderful care of the kids. But I'm starting to really look at my role and my students' educations very differently. Am I doing them a disservice setting up my classroom in a way that may not be replicated again for 1, 2, 7 or even 11 years? My gut tells me that kids are resilient, and many will adjust to a traditional classroom setting, but should they have to?
I throw this out to those of you who are and have been doing things differently in your classrooms. Whether it's a different behavior management system, different grading or instruction, the incorporation of self-directed or project based learning, or utilizing other types of web 2.0 tools. Do your students go back to traditional classrooms after they leave you, and if so how do they do?