Looking Back, Looking Forward

This will be my last week teaching before I begin maternity leave. I’m definitely looking forward to my new adventure as a mum but know there will be a lot I will miss about being in the classroom.

In packing up my classroom to make way for the new teacher, it has been interesting to think about what is worth storing for my future teaching career, and what is obsolete.

I have been at the same school for almost a decade. The world has certainly changed, education has changed and I have changed as a teacher.

At this stage, I don’t know whether I’ll be back teaching in a short while or a long while. What teaching resources will be important or useful in the future? I do not know. What I do know is that many items I previously valued now have no use in the classroom.

I’m not a hoarder. I find it liberating to get rid of things I no longer need and I subscribe to the notion that a cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind.

I’m trying to be ruthless in condensing 9.5 years of resources into two or three plastic storage tubs.

One of the main things I’m disposing of is worksheets.

There was a time when I relished the challenge of making a “good” worksheet. I used to take pride in my folders, carefully organised into curriculum areas and topics.

It seems so obvious now but it took me years to realise that worksheets don’t feature heavily in an effective, modern classroom.

While there is always a place for recording of information etc. on paper, the “busy work” that I used to love to set now makes me cringe!

It is clear to me that hands-on, authentic, collaborative, open-ended tasks have a much bigger impact on students than a prescribed worksheet.

I wonder if this viewpoint will be more widespread when I return to the classroom. At the moment I still see photocopiers in high demand by many teachers.

Similarly, I have been asked countless times for “sheets” when a student is absent or going on holidays. Many parents seem to value worksheets as the key to education and see classroom education as easily replaced by paper work.

Other reflections on what is important now and in the future:

  • Ideas and resources are always available:  I can use Twitter, blogs and other online tools to brainstorm or source the ideas and resources I need in the future. I know my international professional learning network (PLN) will always be there. I don’t need to keep an artefact of an idea I had five years ago “just in case”.
  • Digital resources don’t take up space: A lot of what I’ve created for my classroom is housed on my computer or in the cloud.  My work programs used to take up a lot of shelf space. Now I work on them collaboratively with my team via Google Docs. This is just one example of saving physical space and working more effectively.
  • I don’t need to provide it all: The modern classroom is a lot less teacher-led than it was when I began teaching. I don’t need to create all the work, resources or projects. This is something students can do authentically and collaboratively.
  • Prioritising is powerful: I’ve always enjoyed creating a bright and attractive learning environment in my classroom. However, I have come to realise that spending hours on beautiful bulletin board displays isn’t a good use of my time. I’ve had to simplify things over the years to devote more time to avenues that can offer my students amazing outcomes, such as blogging and global projects. I no longer have as many “decorative items” to store and students can play a bigger role in working on their physical learning environment.

I’m excited about what lays ahead both personally and professionally. As for the future of my blog, I’m not signing off completely just yet. While I’m slowing down, I’m going to see what challenges my new life presents before determining whether I still have the inspiration and time to write about education.

But what of now? Tech no logic CC BY-NC-SA http://www.flickr.com/photos/50614315@N05/4970644551

What has become obsolete from your teaching career?

What resources do you think will be most valuable for teachers in the future?

 

49 thoughts on “Looking Back, Looking Forward

  1. Kathleen,
    In so many ways you are leaving behind a different world to the one you arrived in 10 years ago. One of the biggest is probably the sharing nature of teachers. Other teachers are often the most valuable resource. Your example here has been profound, your willingness to ask questions as well as share your journey has had an impact on countless teachers . Well done and congratulations and all the best with the next exciting stage in your life . As a mother of two teenagers I can guarantee it will just as steep a learning curve with just as many if not more rewards as the teaching career you are leaving.

    All the best

    • Hi Celia,

      You’re right about the sharing nature of teachers. It really has changed things and opens up so many possibilities!

      Thank you so much for your kind wishes. I’m sure it will be a very steep learning curve. One that comes with no manual! I’m looking forward to it.

      Kathleen

    • I agree with you on the change in teachers sharing. We are given time twice a week to get together and create assessments, lesson plans, and other useful activities to use with our students. It is expected that we leave the comfort of our classroom and seek help from coworkers, as well, as accept help from them. Technology has also made it ideal to share ideas and lesson plans across the world. I am excited for the changes I see taking place.

  2. Loved this blog! I’ve had 3 babies and packed up a classroom 3 times…my boxes are stored under my house…in 9 years I could count on one hand the amount of times I have been into those boxes…def time for me to throw them out I feel!
    Such a wonderful and rewarding time of your life coming back. Rake time to enjoy motherhood…such a special time x

    • Hi Adele,

      Thanks for your thoughtful wishes! I’m certainly looking forward to motherhood.

      Haha, I’m sure you’re not the only teacher with boxes of stuff in storage. It’s so easy to keep things “in case”. Especially when we don’t know exactly what or where we’ll be teaching in the future. I’m sure when you do go through your boxes you’ll feel liberated!

      Thanks again!
      Kathleen

  3. Hi Kath

    I remember the day you joined Twitter and I followed you!

    Since then I’ve admired the way you have modelled, shared, encouraged, challenged and inspired so many teachers and students on your journey through your teaching, blogging and social media presence. Thank you!

    Thinking of you and Nate as you begin the next chapter in your story…enjoy every moment!

    Kim :D

    • Hi Kim,

      You have a good memory! I have certainly enjoyed learning from and with you over the years.

      Thank you for your kind words and good wishes! I look forward to keeping you posted.

      Kath

  4. Kathleen
    Just a quick note to say thanks for being so generous with your knowledge. I’ve stolen plenty of ideas from you in the last 18 months.

    Congrats on impending motherhood. Like teaching the days can sometimes be long but the years are most definitely short!

    Stephanie

    • Hi Stef,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I think you’re right about long days and short years. Teaching does feel like that sometimes and I am certain motherhood will too!

      Cheers,
      Kath

  5. Great post and sums up my teaching career too. I’ve still got boxes of sheets and bits and pieces sitting in the garage from a few years ago, waiting to be sorted but that will now end up being thrown. It is great to think about how reflective and flexible we are – moving with the times and identifying that priorities in teaching change and so must we.

    Good luck with the next adventure – I’m sure you’re going to love throwing your boundless energy into motherhood the same way you’ve always given your all to teaching. Enjoy!

    • Hi Gill,

      It’s very interesting to hear from other teachers who are in the same boat. It definitely is great to think about how reflective and flexible we can be at teachers. Sometimes it’s not easy to keep changing but it’s so important.

      I certainly hope motherhood brings me boundless energy! :)

      Cheers,
      Kath

  6. Hi Kathleen

    I have always admired your generosity and sharing nature. I have learnt much from you over the years. I know you will be greatly missed in the profession, although I have a feeling that you will be keeping a close eye on everything!

    Enjoy every moment with your beautiful baby – before you know it they are grown up and off out into the big wide world! Congratulations to you!

    Marie

    • Hi Marie,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I think I will be keeping a close eye on everything. Hopefully Twitter will be great for that.

      I do hope my baby doesn’t grow up too quick but I suspect she will! I hope to enjoy every moment.

      Thanks,
      Kathleen

  7. Kathleen,
    You have been an inspiration to me since I found your blogs and tech tips on the internet. I have used many of your suggestions to engage students and fellow teachers in technology in the classroom.
    I am in my ‘twilight’ years of teaching and had no idea when I graduated 38 years ago that I would be teaching the way I am now, ‘in the cloud’ surrounded by technology. Over the years I have moved around several countries so have learned not to hoard worksheets and always remember that there are many more ideas waiting for me on the web than I could store in a filing cabinet.
    I wish you and your husband well with the birth of your first child and hope motherhood fills you with the same joy and enthusiasm that you obviously had in your teaching.

    • Hi Marion,

      You sound like a wonderful teacher to continue evolving over such a lengthy teaching career. I’m sure you’re a role model to many other experienced teachers. Hoarding can feel like a bit of a natural instinct and sometimes it’s something that needs to be unlearned.

      Thank you for your kind wishes. My husband and I are very excited about welcoming our first child into the world!

      Kathleen

  8. Hi Kathleen,

    There is nothing more rewarding than being a mum. Congratulations to you!

    I kept my chapter books and one box of math manipulative I bought and my children read/use them at home. Other than that, I didn’t keep anything from the classroom. If I returned to the class, I would want to start fresh, and like you said everything else is in the cloud.

    Teaching these days is not about the knowledge as much as it is the skills, therefore the need to hold onto worksheets etc is unnecessary.

    Again, congratulations!

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

    • Hi Tracy,

      Thanks so much for your congratulations and thoughtful comment.

      I’m glad to hear you had a big cull when you left the classroom too. It’s reassuring that I have done the right thing! I think you hit the nail on the head when you said teaching is not about the knowledge anymore. This is very true!

      Keep enjoying your summer vacation,

      Kathleen

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  12. Mrs. Morris,
    Congrats on becoming a mom! I love your blog. You have so many enlightening things to share with future teachers like me!

    Right now I am a student at The University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL, USA. I commented on your blog a couple of weeks ago for my EDM 310 class and am back again!

    I think it is great to be able to read a post from a teacher who has been teaching over ten years and to see how much things have changed. It is really an inspiration to see all the ways you have adapted your classroom for 21st century learning. I hope, especially after taking EDM 310(a microcomputing systems class for teachers), to make my classroom very 21st century and not rely on things like busy work to entertain my students.

    Thank you for your words of wisdom it is greatly appreciated. If you would like to check out My Blog you can! Thank you for you time!

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for your congrats! I’m loving motherhood even though it’s not leaving me any time to write at the moment. I hope to get back to it later in the year.

      Good luck with your studies. You’re lucky to be part if such a terrific course.

      Best wishes,
      Kathleen

  13. Hello again Mrs. Morris!

    My name is Katlyn and I am also a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL, USA. I commented on one of your other posts a few weeks ago for my EDM 310 class and I’m so glad I was guided to your blog. I admire you Mrs. Morris. You’re such a great model of the kind of teacher I hope to be some day. I love reading your blog posts because after I read them I’m left inspired, hopeful, and encouraged. I’m encouraged to want to be the kind of teacher that’s always looking for ways to help her students learn. Not taking the easy route, but teaching in ways that are efficient and engaging. Trying new ideas and learning from them.

    Your posts leave me pondering the way I see myself as a teacher. It’s so helpful reading your posts because you have been teaching for so long and its great insight. I’ve always pictured using lots of worksheets, and it wasn’t until I took this EDM 310 class and read some of your posts that I realized technology can be much more useful and time efficient than I once believed it to be. So thank you for the inspiration to have a much more open mind when it comes to teaching.

    I will be making a post summarizing what I have read and learned from visiting and reading your blog posts this week. So if you are interested, you can reach my blog at My Class Blog. Thank you for your time!

    Also congratulations on being a mother!

    -Katlyn

  14. Hello Mrs.Morris,

    My name is Jacquelyne Mckiernan I commented on another one of your posts for my EDM310 class about a week ago. Congrats on motherhood! I hope it is suiting you well. I loved reading your post about all of the changes you have seen over your 10 years of teaching. It is inspiring to see a teacher who has been teaching for so long actually updating their teaching style to the 21st century. I am excited to continue learning how to become a great teacher, and I hope that I will have a teaching record as long as yours someday!

    Sincerely, Jacquelyne

  15. Mrs. Morris,

    Congratulation on your new addition to your family. I have been thinking on how to give my student a respectable learning environment. Pondering on the idea of adding technology but it has been a very slow process. The lack of equipment and with the heavy load on standardized testing, the idea keeps hitting the wall. I’m learning how to blog and this is my first blog. I like the idea to create a blog for students to respond to a book would eliminate the paper trail and the stack on your desk. I’m just wondering how much a second grader can handle but also worrying about all the inappropriate things on the internet. With the fast pace of digital media, what will become of this blog of yours? It would be a pity to see it end. But….I am happy for your family.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Mrs Vu.

      Thanks for commenting. I certainly understand that lack of equipment and standardised testing etc are obstacles to spending time on blogging. Good luck with your blogging journey. Just take it slowly!

      As for this blog, I hope I can begin writing again in a few months when I have a bit more time on my hands. My little on is certainly keeping me busy!

      Cheers,
      Kathleen

  16. My name is Kynyetta and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Al. First, I wanted to say congratulations on you new addition to your family. Second, I love your blog post. It has encouraged me to be the kind of teacher that’s always looking for ways to help students learn. I understand why you dispose of the worksheets but i also understand why parents wanted a copy of the worksheets to. I like reading your post because you have been teaching for 9+ years. It’s great to see how other teacher are doing in their classroom. Thanks for your inspiration and ideas about teaching. Again, enjoy your motherhood and congrats.

  17. Hi Ms. Morris. Im Cameron Hall a student in USA’s EDM 310 class. I love your modernizing and getting rid of worksheets. I know that when I was in school, I saw worksheets just as busy work that I could get done with quickly, and would be bored with. I think that hands on tasks would grasp your students attention much more efficiently than worksheets. I look forward to see how this works out!

  18. I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I loved this post. As a future educator, everything you mentioned was important for me to read. It is great more teachers are seeing worksheets as bust work. Good luck on your new chapter!

  19. Mrs. Morris,

    I so greatly appreciate and can relate to your post. Although I am not on maternity leave or starting/growing a family as my new chapter, I am starting out teaching. I am currently a substitute teacher and often find myself wondering about “busy work.” Sometimes I wish teachers would leave “busy work” because they leave nothing at all, leaving me to guess as to what to do to keep these children occupied. Sometimes the teacher will leave sub plans that has nothing to do with what they are learning or sub plans that include a note saying to do certain things first then hand out the “busy work” as fill ins. I agree that worksheets are a thing of the past, or at least should be. However, from a substitute teacher stand point sometimes I find myself wishing I had at least one worksheet to offer at any given time.

    While completing my bachelors degree, doing fieldwork and completing my student teaching a “good worksheet” was acceptable. Now, since I have graduated in 2012 and started my substituting job I find it is not so much acceptable anymore. I have also noticed that not a lot of time has passed. this is mind blowing to me that so much changes in the education world in so little time. I can imagine you are busy and overwhelmed with 9.5 years worth of teaching materials.

    Thank you for sharing your blog. Good luck to you with your new chapter and I look forward to reading more posts from you!

  20. Mrs. Morris,
    I am yet another student from South Alabama’s EDM310 class and I really enjoyed this post! From what I have seen, for some reason, it is very difficult for teachers to let go of “old” teaching ways and I admire that you have chosen to embrace change. I think that learning and growing as an educator is really important in the profession as a whole. As a student who grew up with “busy work” I agree with you at how frivolous it can be in the 21st century classroom. Thank you for posting your ideas and I look forward to future posts!

  21. Hello EDM310 students,

    Thank you for your reflective comments and good wishes. I am enjoying maternity leave! Unfortunately it doesn’t leave me with any time to blog at the moment.

    Good luck with your studies,
    Kathleen

  22. Hello Mrs. Morris,
    I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I commented on another blog post of yours. I like the idea of getting rid of worksheets. I remember in school; I always got worksheets. After I finished, I would be bored and forget about the topic. As a future educator, I want to use technology than using worksheets with my students.

  23. Hello again, Mrs. Morris.
    I really appreciate your perspective on work sheets and busy work. Looking back on my time as a student, I relish in the discussions I was able to have with my teachers that encouraged me to think critically–to be honest, I cannot recall a single worksheet I’ve ever had to complete. They’re simply a waste of time for both the teacher and the student.
    Thank you for sharing your insight!
    Laura

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  27. I started teaching 6 years ago and since then textbooks have become obsolete in our county. I have since thrown out many worksheets left to me by retiring teachers and workbooks that no longer engage my students.

    I’ve noticed that we are doing more online magazines and e-books. We also find a lot of our sources in the classroom online as we research. This generation of learners are technology savvy. I find that if I want to engage them I need to meet them on their playing field and set aside my own fears of the changing world.

  28. My name is Tywondra and I attend the University of South Alabama, located in Mobile, Al. I am currently enrolled in EDM310 and was directed to your blog by our professor, Dr. Strange. This post is a wonderful example of a teacher changing with the times. I am 26 years old and unfortunately many of my memories from elementary school involve worksheets. I’m glad to know that teachers are beginning to phase out this type of instruction. I also like that you provided information about things that can be done in place of worksheets!

  29. I am seeing a move towards textbooks being digital and downloadable onto tablets for students but when do you think worksheets will be that way and we will have a totally paperless classroom?

    • Hi Andrew,
      I think sometimes worksheets are the same, whether they are digital or paper. So in that way, I’m not a fan of replacing paper worksheets with the digital equivalent. Here in the Australian primary classroom, children don’t really work from textbooks either.
      Kathleen

  30. Hi again Kathleen,
    This was such a great post to read. It was interesting to read how you were preparing for maternity leave and your last post I read was about how well your little girl was doing! I liked the part about worksheets. When they used to be so important but now there is not much room for them in a modern classroom. Online could be a lot more engaging for a student.

  31. Hi Kathleen. I just found your blog on a university’s website and I’ve been reading for more than an hour now. Each post takes me on a different journey, and I’m loving it. So many great ideas, thoughts, information….thank you so much for sharing it all.
    At my school in the Bahamas, we have to pack up each year once school closes for the summer break. I’ve found that over the years my boxes have decreased tremendously. This is due to the fact that the more I use and integrate technology into the classroom, the less materials and worksheets (etc.) I need. There are certain things I think I will keep for as long as I can though, like the charts I made while in college and on Teaching Practice.
    Congratulations, and good luck on your new and exciting adventure.

    Alicia

  32. I love how your posts connect across continents! I’m looking at digital footprint information and perspectives as I write a post for a COETAIL (http://www.coetail.com/) blog assignment and I’m struck how as a long-time US teacher currently teaching in Asia I am intrigued how aligned I am with so many of your views. Thanks for the refreshing, honest, and optimistic ideas and feelings you’ve shared. And lest I forget, my wife, daughter, and I loved our Christmas holiday in your great country last year!

  33. Hi Kathleen
    Today as melbourne sweltered to almost 40 degrees and my husband demanding some space in our shared study, I began looking through a whole bookshelf of folders of “worksheets” from my classroom teaching. It’s been 14 years since being a classroom teacher and for the past 14 years (having 2 daughters in that time) I’ve returned to part time specialist teaching and have not looked at these files since 2001. I sat with piles around me of “purge” and “keep” documents. I can’t believe I actually found original “spirit duplicator” sheets those purple backed documents I used when I began teaching 25 years ago. My husband and girls were in fits of laughter!!! I totally agree how liberating it is to recycle these no longer required papers as now with a click we educators can locate brilliant resources. I’m trying to condense them to a two drawer filing cabinet and want to also include some of my ICT documentation from the past 14 years! That’s for another day!!! I agree that classrooms are so different from when I started and how little we really need at our fingertips to teach, collaborate and inspire our students! I’m going to be a ” mobile” ICT teacher this year so will need minimal resources as I need to cover 12 classes in 2 days across 3 different (2 of them double story) buildings. Shall be an interesting journey!!
    I aim to focus on many areas you discussed, blogging, open ended tasks cybersafety, digital literacy, coding and hope to link into class inquiry units to drive my lessons. All the wonderful posts you have generously shared will be a real help to me and sincerely thank you and Kelly for such a wealth of resources! I hope you are enjoying magical moments with your special family. Sincere thanks Raff :)

    • Hi Raff,

      Great to hear from you. I hope you survived the heat okay. I’m grateful for the cool change today!

      Good on your for having a clear out! What a satisfying feeling it is. I laughed at your spirit duplicator sheets too ask I remember them well from my primary school days!

      You have an interesting challenge ahead of you this year. I’m sure you’ll continue to be an inspiration to students and teachers alike.

      Good luck!
      Kathleen

  34. As a future teacher, I value hearing how education has changed over the years, and how it continues to change. Now I have more insight as to how to prepare for my classroom when the time comes. Technology is playing a new, stronger role in the classroom and I want to incorporate it as much as possible, as well as take advantage of online storage, ie the cloud. I’m excited to begin my journey as a teacher, stsrting with my student teaching.

  35. Mrs. Morris, My name is Patricia Tremblay and I am taking EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your blog and found a lot of useful information. I like how you pointed out that worksheets are “busy work” and that hands-on, authentic, collaborative, open end tasks have a much bigger impact. I hope that in my future classroom that I will be able to use the same theory.

  36. Good evening Mrs. Morris I am a student with EDM 310. Congratulations on your newest family member. I too agree that worksheets are only busy work. Technology is a great way to keep your students busy and involved. I also feel that its a great way to get them ready for the real world. Technology is everywhere and our students will need to be ready. Feel free to check out my blog with the University of South Alabama EDM 310 class. http://thomleymercediedm310.blogspot.com/

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