In Defense of Good Old-Fashioned Teaching


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I want to start off by saying that I am not afraid of change. Okay, that isn’t entirely truthful. I think all humans are afraid of change, but I am also willing to try new things. I hope that is a quality my peers admire in me. I love trying out new ideas and learning from new people, whether it is teachers who are just starting out or librarians I follow on Twitter. I am humble enough to know I need to improve my craft, and I cringe sometimes when I think about the mistakes I have made in my career. But I feel as though in the Blogosphere and the Twitterverse there is a disdain for all things old-fashioned. I may be imagining it, and I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

Something that will never go out of style is human connection. To me, that is the most important thing in education, and well, life. I don’t care if your classroom is Pinterest Ready. I don’t care how many Twitter followers you have. I don’t care how many digital badges you’ve earned. I get concerned sometimes that educators are so busy promoting themselves and saying, “Look at me,” that we are forgetting that our students want us to look at them.

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By the way, my email signature has gotten downright obnoxious, and I am a complete hypocrite because I have two digital badges there and all my social media links. I think I am going to delete them all and keep my achievements to myself. After all, what is the purpose of a Google Certified Educator badge? Yes, I passed a three hour test and if you have a question about Google Suite for Education, I can help you. I also make silly mistakes with technology ALL THE TIME. Whether you have a digital badge or not, I can learn as much from you about being a good educator as you can learn from me.

I am appalled every week when my iPhone reports my screen usage time. How are we teaching our students and our children balance and digital wellness when we are always glued to our phones? I read something once that I can’t locate now (please send it to me if you can find it) about the danger of spending too much time tweeting in the classroom. The gist was that we are teaching our students to memorialize every aspect of their lives instead of just being present and living in the moment. I had never thought of that, but there’s a point.

Should we be teaching our students to blog or to have a face-to-face conversation? I am planning a Skype with a teacher in Italy, but maybe I should be planning a lesson to help our students interact better with the person right next to them. Should we teach our students to make a website, or should we encourage them to read more and have insight? Should we be teaching students to use an app or their imagination? I know these ideas are not mutually exclusive, and I love digital learning as much as the next person. I think these are valid questions, though.

Should I be writing a blog about a great book talk I gave, or should I just be reading a book that I can then recommend to a student? Should I be spending hours researching potential lesson ideas or should I be spending time with my family or taking care of myself so I am recharged and refreshed in the classroom? Should I respond to a parent’s email or should I pick up the phone and have a good old-fashioned conversation? I’m not exactly a teacher. I’m a librarian. But I still feel close enough to the world of teaching that I can say teaching has gotten much, much harder since I started out 19 years ago. There are literally endless possibilities for how you can use technology to improve your lesson. It can be paralyzing. I just have this vague feeling all of the time that I could be doing something more or doing something better.

Maybe I’m just tired after a long week of standardized testing. It’s the end of the year, and the to-do list is long. It’s the last lap, and it’s a race against the clock. Or maybe I’m on to something. Technology is a powerful tool, not something I aim to criticize or relinquish. But it’s just a tool. It’s not our purpose. And if it ever seems like I’ve forgotten that, please remind me.

Jennifer Kleinknecht has been the media specialist at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School since 2007. She writes about life as a school librarian on her blog, “The ‘Yes’ Librarian”. (Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash)

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