On Beginning My 18th Year Teaching

This week, yes, mid-November, marks the beginning of my 18th year as a teacher. While I had no “official” plans to go into this noble profession, G-d had other plans for me; and that thrills me! After a long series of (what seemed!) disjointed events, I was thrust into a classroom on November 11, 1999, a date that is so easy to remember (11-11-99).

I recall my first opening remarks to that class and my feelings of “What am I supposed to do with them all morning?” permeate that first day. It seems like a million years ago, that I first walked into a classroom.

But, so much has changed along the way…including myself. I am certainly not the teacher I was back on that cold, November day; and neither are the students!

Back then, there were no smartphones, no Whatsapp, no Facebook and video games were still in their (relative) infancy. Teachers were not competing with the phones and games to get the childrens’ attention. No, it was not a “simpler” time; just a different time. I watched as the technology went from Sony Walkman to carrying around CD wallets to the first iPods to, well, you know….where we are today.

While this meteoric growth of technology is wonderful on the one hand, as it provides amazing resources at the students’ fingertips, on the other hand it has become an incredibly difficult hurdle to overcome when vying for a kid’s attention in a classroom or in other situations. No, most schools do not permit the cell phones to be used in class, but….

And that, I would say, is one of the teachers’ greatest challenges today and one of the teachers’ greatest assets: Technology. Some kids seem to have their smartphones surgically attached to their palms. Others seem to have had their gaming consoles or joysticks sutured to their fingers! Yet, that same “tool” can be a lifesaver, as they search the web for answers to questions, problems, etc. Like so many other things in life, technology can be used for positive and for negative purposes. (No, I am not saying gaming, etc is “negative.” As with so many other things, it is an issue of moderation.)

Based on the old adage, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” perhaps as parents, it would be helpful to become familiar with tools that are out there that can help your child succeed in school, using the very tool that they constantly have with them: their smartphone.

Even a cursory check of the bazillion apps out there to help students renders the following information. These can be used (along with SO many others) to help students of ALL ages!

While these are merely a drop in the bucket of all that is “out there,” the purpose of this post if to enable/empower you, as the parent, to help turn the technology in the hands of your children into a powerful educational tool. Search for more! There are homework apps galore, for example. If you are not sure what may help your child best, ask the child. He or she may say that they like Class X but have no clue about (fill in the blank). Perhaps a simple app–a platform that they are already using!–will be of use to help them in excelling in that subject.

Bottom line: Use the technology to your advantage and to the advantage of the student. And you don’t need to “sell” them on the idea!

The tool is in their own hands…literally and figuratively!

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