Greetings from Wichita, Kansas! My name is Micah Brown. I graduated from Wichita State University (Go Shocks!) with a B.S.E. in Elementary Education and I earned my Master's degree from Emporia State University. I am a lifelong learner, Skype Master Teacher, and am currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for USD #385 in Andover, Kansas.
Like you, I wear many hats. Mine include resources provider, curriculum and instructional specialist, classroom supporter, professional learning facilitator, teacher leader; all instrumental to my status as a lifelong learner.
It’s my privilege to currently serve 300+ teachers and 5,000+ students. I absolutely love that during any given day one could find me amongst kindergarteners helping them research, brainstorming with a 3rd grade teacher during their planning time, conducting green screen projects with 5th graders, involved with 6th graders who are hosting a Mystery Skype, and/or leading a professional development course for teachers via Google Classroom. This kind of variety is what I thrive on; I love learning and helping others learn!
Though I have an official job description, my personal mission rolls all of my responsibilities into one mantra: Be a teacher leader who encourages and infuses people with courage. Let’s face it, educators face a complex set of challenges, but let’s also remember that we are in the most amazing profession in the world!
If you are in a supporting role like mine, I believe there are five things that you must remember:
1. Building relationships is the single most important part of your job.
We must be encouragers that infuse teachers and students with courage. We must recognize the fact that teachers and students are valuable and that everyone can contribute in a meaningful way no matter who they are or what they know. We must be able to identify with their concerns and struggles as well as applaud their efforts and success, which in turn will relay a message of hope and support. Once that happens, truly remarkable learning and growing is nurtured and sustainable.
2. Be a lifelong learner
Never stop learning. While I love to read professional development books (currently Ditch That Textbook is my favorite), nothing can replace human interaction. Be like me….smart enough to know that there are people out there who are smarter than I am! With social media at our fingertips, learning from others has never been easier. With instant access to online training and social media, teachers can easily build, customize, and update their professional learning network for professional learning needs to fit the interests of themselves and their students.
Don’t forget to tap into your colleagues as well. I am blessed beyond measure to work with Dyane Smokorowski (2013 Kansas Teacher of the Year). She is the other Technology Integration Specialist in our district, and I don’t know what I would do without her. Not only is she brilliant, but she is truly passionate about education. She inspires me on a daily basis. Who inspires you?
3. Think outside of the box to personalize and differentiate Professional Development
When I accepted my new position as a Technology Integration Specialist, I knew it was important that the professional development I offered others was to be unlike anything the teachers had experienced previously. I wanted them to focus on “learning by doing” while I facilitated by providing guidance and additional resources. Just like I believe there is no “one size fits all” approach to students, I feel the same way when it comes to teacher professional development. I believe in personalized, relevant, and ongoing PD rather than simply offering educators an exhaustive list of digital tools.
One of my favorite professional development initiatives was started last year in my district. Dyane and I were able to mentor 18 teachers as they implemented 1:1 Chromebooks into their classrooms. We designed it so the professional development was offered in a combination of blended environments (some face to face and some online) based on the needs of the individual teachers. The model consisted of three major components: Five, seven hour workshops, online weekly professional development skilled challenges, and on-demand, individualized support from us.
This teacher experience provided valuable insights as to how the 1:1 device program changes instruction and learning for students. We also saw an increase in the teachers’ abilities to design and provide 21st century learning opportunities for their classrooms. Participants were excited about the format, and it showed in their weekly performances. We also noticed that if teachers were struggling with the new instructional practices that were being presented, we would arrange a one-on-one personal visit to help ease anxiety and help them feel confident about moving forward in their journey. Without a doubt, it was inspiring to see them grow as classroom facilitators and teacher leaders.
4. It’s truly not about tech.
Alice Keeler is an amazing educator who seems to know more about Google than Google does. She says, “You do not teach a tech lesson. You teach a content lesson and part of the directions are what tech they use.” Technology should be seen as a tool, not a learning outcome. Technology should be a part of the learning, not the only learning. Though it is important for teachers to know about tech and be comfortable using it, I believe that understanding pedagogical practices for using technology is even more important than being a technology “expert”.
5. You are a teacher leader
Even though I don’t have my own classroom of students, I am still a teacher who must lead by example. Great leaders inspire. You don’t have to look far to see negative things about education. Educators must change the narrative. Don’t be afraid to share the good news of our profession! Be proud! Share classroom stories via Twitter, newspapers, blogs, Facebook, or wherever you have access. Celebrate student creativity, showcase classroom learning, and highlight student success.
In closing, don’t be afraid to share YOUR goodness. After all, what may be obvious to you just might become an amazing stepping stone towards the future for someone else.
About the author
Born and raised in Wichita, KS, Micah Brown graduated from Wichita State University in Elementary Education and also holds a Master's degree from Emporia State University. She is a lifelong learner, Skype Master Teacher, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for USD #385 in Andover, Kansas. She has also taught 1st and 2nd grade. She is passionate about engaging and inspiring students through global collaboration and hands on opportunities. Follow her on Twitter @MBrownEdTech and find USD #385 on Facebook.
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