#eNoobs in the classroom


I was lucky enough to go to the 2015 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia and, along with 20,000 others, experience the overwhelming size and breadth of professional learning and networking that entails. Dozens of concurrent workshops, scores of meetups and poster sessions, hundreds of presenters.

Dip your toe into #iste2015 or #tmISTE15 for a river of ideas flowing in the backchannel.

During the final keynote, the speaker (a classroom teacher Josh Stumpenhorst) asked all the classroom teachers in the audience to stand up for a round of applause. Hesitantly, embarrassed, about half the room stood up.

Only half.

Now, many people had left for early planes or to continue conversations elsewhere, but there were still several thousand people in the hall listening to Josh. However, only half of them identified themselves as classroom teachers. This included people who had a presence of any kind (integrators with a teaching load).

This fired a few memories of conversations with people at the conference who identified as ‘administrators’ or ‘working for the district’ or ‘no longer in the classroom’. As we stood there, it flashed in front of me in huge mental neon letters: HALF… only half of us are still in the classroom.

I’d like to think that in Australia the rate of teaching integrators is much higher than half. That the vast majority of #eNoobs have some kind of teaching load – even one or two classes – to keep their hand in the game and remain connected to the impact of our decisions such as a new school admin system (writing reports, marking rolls etc), a new learning management system (insert name of vendor here), a new professional learning structure or device management plan.

Does it even matter though? If you’ve had several years (does it need to be several?) in the classroom and then make a sideways shift out of it in order to join the ranks of #eNoobs who coach and mentor their colleagues through current and future tech changes, does it matter that you don’t have a class yourself?

The positives of course include flexibility (you can be available at any time, for anyone), space (to prepare and deliberate and think and problem solve). The negatives include the perception (“you don’t teach, so you don’t get it”) and the concrete (that we literally do now know what it’s like right now). The same arguments can be levelled at all middle and upper management positions: the more responsibility you gain at a school, the further away from the classroom you step.

Should #eNoobs be in the classroom? I’d say yes, at least for some of their time. Perhaps just one or two classes, or for part of their stint at a school. Despite the time this takes to be a great teacher for those classes, it means we don’t lose touch with the impact of our decisions. It doesn’t make us necessarily a better #eNoob or indeed a better teacher, but it gives us more than half a chance at one of them.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/camtraveller/16911779416


3 thoughts on “#eNoobs in the classroom

  1. I’d also say yes Matt … and no … and maybe.

    Although I have a single timetabled lesson each week, I can’t claim to be in the classroom; not really. I’m torn as to whether I should be. I find it frustrating that when exciting new possibilities emerge, I’m unable to quickly explore test their potential because I don’t have any classes I regularly see. I’m employed as a member of the support staff and for ‘support’ read non-teaching. A colleague in a sister school fulfilling a similar role to me was employed on a 50/50 contract, so spent half her time teaching and half as eNoob. She was frustrated too, but her issues arose because her time was rarely split as equally as hoped. During times of higher pressure, it’s the eNoob part that quite naturally gets squeezed because any teacher will always prioritise the students and their needs.

    The negative dispositions towards non-teaching ‘experts’ who advise and support, arise from a credibility gap I’d suggest. I get that; I felt exactly the same when I was in the classroom. I wonder though to what extent that’s justified and from where that negativity arises? Is it an issue of trust maybe? Or is there something deeper?
    (Have pondered on this at slightly greater length .)

  2. I have to admit that Ian stole my thunder somewhat in his post: https://ianinsheffield.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/out-of-the-classroom-into-the/ but after much deliberation on both this and the original post by Matt, there are issues I would like to discuss here.

    First of all, I think the answer to many of Matt’s question are that it depends on the school in question. Schools work differently with different structures/approaches/personalities/leadership styles/staff cohorts etc etc. This means that they, inevitably, will have a different view on whether the role of the #eNoob has a teaching load or not. The truth is, for many schools, there is also the question of whether an #eNoob is needed at all (but that is a debate for another post). So, the contexts, the subjective connotations, are important issues to discuss. Questions come to mind are:
    • Where is the #eNoob intended to sit in the leadership structure of the school?
    • What is the culture in respect of, for example: Team teaching? Classroom observation? Professional development?
    • What are the expectations of the #eNoob? Are they focused on pedagogy or do they include such things as network management/overseeing?

    Secondly, I would like to support Ian’s views and perhaps expectedly, I love his example from sport. This supports beliefs I have had for a long time that culture in education often needs readjustment, realignment to be more representative of highly developed working organisations. Although some areas and typical occurrences in sport are not good examples to use (quick turnover of managers comes to mind), the systems in place in leading businesses need to be adopted to improve education performance. Valuing high performing, experienced staff could be a fantastic conduit to professional mentoring particularly if the high performance is not a subject specific. Too often this is where such recognition occurs. With more recognition of innovative and contemporary organisational practices that could have a major impact on the standards of teacher/whole school performance, perhaps the question Matt raises would not be such a contestable point of view.

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