I had a dream of running the steeplechase on my college track team. I asked our coach, and he was agreeable to it, provided I figured it out myself. You see, our college was so small we rented a high school track for practices. We really were a rag-tag group of non-runners trying to get into shape before summer break with only one coach. The same man was my cross country coach and I'm sure he figured I couldn't do anything goofier than he saw in the fall.
So... I set out to teach myself how to steeplechase. The first goal, learn how to hurdle. I called my high school coach, who agreed to help. My roommate and I drove spent a Saturday morning at my high school where we learned the fundamentals of hurdling.
What happened is that I never once ran steeplechase. My winter blubber never dissolved during the track season so that I felt comfortable running roughly two miles while jumping over obstacles.
I did however reach ROCK STAR status on my track team. I was a hurdler! I ran in the 110 high hurdles and the 400 intermediate hurdles. And I was bad. Not only did I never win, but I'm not so sure that I beat anybody in any race I ran. I was an out of shape distance runner trying to run sprint events...but my teammates thought I was a big thing.
I took a chance. I learned a new skill. I did something the other people around me were too intimidated to try. To the others, it didn't matter that I was good or bad but that I took that risk.
Looking back at my technology journey the past couple decades, I see some similarities. You see, when I started teaching, I hand-wrote my own tests. Over the years, computers began to creep into my classroom, till I realized I had technology and had no idea how to use it. That led to my Masters' thesis on the topic of technology integration (published in 2002). From then on, I've been something of a tech integrator, but things really changed when I started teaching at a different school that had just rolled out iPads. I responded to an email asking how we were using our iPads in class. My list -- verbatim -- made it into a Head of School email sent to the whole school, and I instantly became known as the iPad specialist.
You can look at a hurdle and decide to either jump over it or not. Same thing with an iPad or a computer. Use it or don't use it. Those who do choose to jump over the hurdle are revered by those who don't (and frankly, are probably looked at as a bit nutty). Those who chose to learn how to use the iPad and integrate it into lessons are looked as something special. Why? Because we took the time to learn how to do something the other people didn't want to learn.
There are days I don't feel like I'm doing anything special. I can still be a lazy teacher at times, but a lazy teacher who uses a cool tool with the kids. There are days when teachers ask me for a special lesson idea. I'm more than happy to help out. I do a Google search, skim off the top 5 results, email it off, and look like I did something great.
What makes a great teacher is not the tools they use but how they use them.
I was a hurdler at one point in my life, but I was slow, out of shape, and really bad. Wouldn't it have been cool if I went into my hurdling career at my best performance weight and really tried to learn the craft well? Then again, it would be really cool if I attacked every day of teaching with the same intensity that an Olympic hurdler attacks the first hurdle of the gold medal race. THAT'S what makes a teacher worth remembering!
Maybe one day I'll tell you about my triple jump experience!