Bewitched, Bothered & Bedazzled

Okay, that’s not exactly the name of the song but that’s how I’m feeling on this Tuesday morning as I sit surrounded by the latest and greatest in technology, teaching and twitter. I have learned more in the first three days here than I have learned in my five years of teaching and the MS degree that preceded it.

The problem is that its all coming at me so fast and from so many directions that I’m having trouble digesting it, thinking about it and trying to determine what of what I am learning I need to retain and what I can safely discard or file deep in the recesses of my brain; a brain that is beginning to feel as crowded as that New Delhi slum shown in the beginning of Slumdog Millionaire. Doing the meta-cognition involved in making those decisions is almost painful given the paucity of my coffee ingestion this morning. And there are two more days to go!

I was going to write about some of the incredible people I’ve met, the learning sessions I’ve attended, the skills I have gained, the hardware I’ve played with, the software I’ve seen demonstrated and the websites I’ve been turned onto, but somewhere in the paragraph above I got insight into what my students experience in their classes and to why writing this blog is so valuable to me that I will continue to do it whether or not anyone else ever reads it.

My students are easily distracted. So am I as I wander the exhibit hall and my eyes are drawn left, right, up, down, right again, wait – what was that I just walked by on the left?

My students have trouble processing multi-step instructions and I am, too, as I try to keep up with the highly enthusiastic instructor teaching two dozen of my colleagues and I how to use Audacity, iMovie, VoiceThread, GarageBand, Windows Movie Maker, Vigo (no, wait, those two were a different session) to create a podcast and make it accessible to the world. I have again learned that I can either listen or use my hands to take notes or click links, but I can’t do both at the same time.

My students have vocabulary deficiencies that often prevent them from communicating what they know and what they don’t. Same here. I talk to exhibitors and my mind goes blank trying to remember the name of a program or technique, and the new, unfamiliar words I am hearing are coming to me so quickly that by they time I realize I need to ask what one word means six more have passed by without comprehension.

My students have deficiencies in short-term and working memory, or in transferring those memories into long-term retention. Not usually a problem for me, but it is here.

Auditory processing problems? Visual processing problems? Verbal expression problems? Sensory processing disorders? Guilty of all that and more.

To paraphrase Pogo, I have met the enemy and it is I; I have become on of the students my professors taught me about. My name on Twitter is spedteacher, but this week it should be spedlearner.

I will come back from this wonderful convention a better teacher, not because I’ve learned all this new stuff about technology, but because I’ve learned so much about my students and myself.

One of the big themes in the speeches and discussions here is to give students the opportunity to fail without penalty and the time to try again and again. Boy do I need that now.

That’s why I write this blog. I don’t write to communicate with an audience. I write this to communicate with myself, to do the reflection and self-assessment inherent in learning from experience. You’re welcome to listen in, especially if it stimulates that same cognitive activity in you.

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Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

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8 Responses to Bewitched, Bothered & Bedazzled

  1. Chris says:

    Insightful and well-said. Your students are lucky. Thank you for allowing us to “listen in.”

  2. It’s teachers like you who make a real difference in the lives of special ed children. Us parents never forget teachers like you, and we never know how to truly express our gratitude. I really look forward to reading what you share!

  3. Gee, I thought I was the only one who felt like this when I get overwhelmed. It really gives me an appreciation for what my students go through. Thanks for the post. When this happens in class, I let the students know what is going on in my brain.

    See, I have ADHD and do medicate, but sometimes the stimuli and info gets overwhelming (especially as everyone’s meds begin to wear off in the afternoon.) I am honest with my students and let them understand what I am going through. This helps me to connect on a level playing field. They know we are all in this together. I will tell them that I need a moment to mentally process what is going on. I also allow them the time to process.

    • Deven Black says:

      This ADHD-like experience was new to me and somewhat scary, but the insight gained from it should make a big difference in my teaching come September. That alone makes my attendance at NECC worthwhile.

  4. Great blog entry! I stumbled onto your blog through a comment you left on Dean Shareski’s blog. Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.

    I’ve always said that what you’ve explained above is a large part of the reason that every teacher should go to a conference every year. It reminds us what it is like to be the learner all day long again.

    Teacher Institute Days are another time when I start to contemplate being a student again but in a more negative way. I think, “Ugh this is boring and I’ll never use it. This chair is uncomfortable and why did they have to put them so close together.” And then it hits me! THIS is what that squirming boy in 3rd grade is thinking in music class! And so I resolve once again to be more interesting, to guide the kids to seeing why music is valuable and to never ask them to sit in the same spot for more than 15 minutes!

    • Deven Black says:

      Thanks for the compliments. I don’t know that each teacher needs to go to a conference annually, but whenever a teacher is bored at a lecture or overwhelmed by stimuli he or she should think of students and their reactions in the classroom.

  5. Hadass Eviatar says:

    Thanks for sharing this experience – it is indeed sobering, isn’t it? And I love your blog!

  6. Imagine how hard it must be for teachers that haven’t been somewhat prepared by a PLN. It is no wonder the teachers in my building that don’t have my resources run from technology.

    Wm Chamberlain

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