Alicia Ray | Media Specialist, Surry County Schools
This is my tenth year in education. I was a 5th grade teacher for 7 ½ years, and I now serve as media coordinator for a high-poverty rural school full of amazing students who want to change the world. My vision is that “21st Century Classroom” is more than just a buzzword; a “21st Century Classroom” should just be a classroom, the cultural norm in schools. The world is changing quickly; teachers are no longer the sole source of knowledge for students. Coming into the role of media coordinator two years ago, I was excited about the chance to work with students throughout the whole school, but honestly I had not given a lot of thought to how I would work with teachers.
After beginning my role as media coordinator, I quickly learned that I was equipped to teach the students, but I was not as prepared to work with teachers. I felt like I had a good handle on being “digital”, but needed development to be a leader and a coach to my colleagues. I was also fairly new to the school, so building trust and genuine relationships takes time. Coaching a teacher to change up the way they have taught for the past 15-20 years requires a solid relationship. I wanted to be able to coach teachers in a more authentic way, building relationships and trust. I wanted to go beyond collaboration to co-teaching and diving into lessons with teachers at my school. I wanted to join the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network (NCDLCN) for the ability to network and collaborate with other like-minded educators from across the state.
The NCDLCN has molded me into a coach in my school, working with administration and teachers to create and implement technology-rich lessons which are appropriate to age and content using the SAMR Model. I have a partially flexible schedule, which means I teach media classes on a block schedule half of the time, and spend the other half of my time completely available to teachers, serving alongside them as a coach. But as I would learn, finding the time in both the classroom teacher’s schedule and in my schedule that overlapped started as near impossible. To overcome the obstacle of time, both in planning and implementing, I created a Google doc that is shared between all teachers and administration. It highlights the times I am available for collaboration and co-teaching, while blocking off the times I am teaching media classes.
I am currently in classrooms co-teaching lessons that classroom teachers and I have collaboratively planned every quarter. This plan for quarterly collaborative lessons has been written into our School Improvement Plan, and I believe the implementation has been a positive experience throughout the school. I am pleased to share some examples of projects so far this year. I’ve collaborated with teachers and completed lessons on sound using Green Screen and iMovie in which 2nd grade students rewrote a script about how sound works, created a regional map of North Carolina using MinecraftEdu, and completed a GooseChase scavenger hunt while on a field trip to the public library. Kindergarten teachers and I created makerspaces to teach measurement, while 4th grade and I are working on makerspaces for electricity, magnetism, and circuitry. Many teachers are now coming to me with ideas and want help implementing their new ideas in the classroom. I am beginning to see the shift in the culture of our school, and the media center is becoming a hub of resources and collaboration. Teachers are trusting me more as a colleague and a coach.
NCDLCN has given me confidence in being a leader. This group has helped me realize that I don’t have to be an administrator to make a difference in my school. NCDLCN has been instrumental in my growth as an educator over the past two years. My experience as a participant in the inaugural cohort was nothing short of amazing. I have a strong network of peers from across the state that are willing and have knowledge to help in any situation. I’ve changed my understanding of ‘coach’ from a noun to a verb as I am actively working with teachers and administrators in my school. The staff at the Friday Institute have been incredibly helpful, and have shared their knowledge and phenomenal resources with all of us in the NCDLCN. As a mentor this year, I have learned so much from the spectacular group of people I mentor. I am constantly amazed at what they are doing in their own schools and districts, and I am excited to see what they continue to do in the future.