Teachers aren’t Taffy

I have been a TOSA for about a year and a half now and there have been some valuable lesson learned and some great Ah-ha moments along the way. First one was that even though teacher is the first word of the TOSA acronym, many of our colleagues will no longer see us as such now that we are in this position. That was a hard and fast lesson that came about a week into our jobs.

The one that I have learned more recently, and that I am really still learning, is Teachers aren’t taffy. What do I mean by this? Simple. Take my district for example. Right now, as I speak, here is the list of programs and initiatives going on:

  1. Common Core Adoption and Standards Alignment
  2. NGSS Adoption*
  3. ELA/ELD book adoption 2016-2017
  4. Math Adoption 2015-2016
  5. District Wide PBL*
  6. PBIS Implementation*
  7. Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS)*
  8. Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT)*
  9. Touchscreens and teacher laptops in each room*
  10. Office365 Integration

*Denotes year 1 or 2 of adoption

At the same time as all of this, I am tasked with the job of introducing, training and providing ongoing support, and pushing the Office365 system out to the teachers AND students. There is a lot going on, as I am sure that most districts have the same amount of things going on at one time. It is that one more thing, that final straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. In my district, that seems to be technology.

The change from analog to digital has seemed to be the biggest gap to fill. The rest of the items on the list above are analog, and that is a world that most teachers currently teaching are familiar with and fits squarely in the wheelhouse of even the least veteran teachers. The above list turned digital would increase efficiency, but that would take a few extra step and that magical and finite resource: time. On top of all of their planning and teaching, this one new extra thing is the one that gets lost most frequently.

Technology has a tough, steep learning curve, even for early adopters. We spend lots of time learning about and testing new technology for use on the classroom, or by our teachers, or for our students and teachers.  A little bit of investment of time can yield huge and game changing results, but many teachers are not willing nor able to invest. There are just too many other projects, initiatives, directives and programs pulling at the most valuable resource we have, time.

Towards the end of year one as a TOSA, attendance at trainings started falling off. That lead to questioning ourselves, topics and job futility. Were we too broad in our scope? Were we too general with our topics? Were we boring and making an already tough subject harder? We needed to figure this out, and quickly, so we turned to google forms for the answers and specificity we needed to improve our offerings and make them timely and relevant to the classroom. We carefully crafted our offerings based on the feedback we received and planned for a year jam-packed with what the teachers wanted. We had digital sign-ups and pushed out our menu-style offering to the sites to promote the new and exciting trainings available. It was going to be great.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,  and that seems to have happened. While attendance has picked up a bit, it is not the sardine packed results we were hoping for. The reason? Teacher’s Aren’t Taffy. With taffy, you can put a hook in it and pull it in several directions, stretching it out and pulling it apart, folding it over itself and even breaking it apart. Teachers, on the other hand, are highly resistant to pulling in more than one or two directions at once, as they should be. After-school trainings happen after a full day of teaching and planning. No one is at his or her best after putting in a fill day at work.  And with so many other programs and initiatives pulling for attention it is only a matter of time before we get pulled apart.

So what does this mean for technology TOSAs? For those of us mandated with the training of teachers?  Patience is key, and like a good taffy, teachers need some rest and recuperation before being able to start yet another something new. When teachers have time to start exploring they will, and it is our job to be ready to take advantage of it. Are you ready?

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