Late in December my school replaced my 10 year old iPad with a new model. I’m kind of spoiled, my school supplies me with a laptop that gets upgraded every four or five years and they have also supplied me with an iPad. The combination of getting this new iPad along with transitioning away from virtual learners allowed me (encouraged me!?!) to do some pretty quick learning. Since August 2020, I have been tethered to my laptop and a graphics tablet. Everything I write in class has been on an online paper source called BitPaper and I left records of all of our class discussions and work there and posted the links to our Google Classroom. The two drawbacks were (1) I could not move and rove around class at all and (2) the BitPaper does not act like Google docs. If I look at it and another person is already there, any change they make such as scrolling through the notes also effects my screen. It kind of made my students crazy. So, during break I ordered an Apple Pencil and, at the urging of some of my students, started learning how to use an app called Good Notes. Late in January I finally felt comfortable enough and I left my MacBook and Wacom graphics tablet and started projecting our class from my iPad using Good Notes. I can convert every class days’ notes into a PDF and upload them to a shared folder so my student own their own copy of the class work every day. I am getting comfortable (or, at least, MORE comfortable) grabbing screenshots and cropping them and pasting them. I can add blank pages between things when class work takes more space than I anticipated, it is more natural to write directly on my iPad than it was to write on a graphics tablet, I can move around the classroom again, and the iPad is just more mobile even around my house. I am more likely to jot down some quick ideas/notes in preparation for a class. Most importantly, my students are watching me learn and grow proficient at a new skill in front of them. Most of my progress is in the form of me asking a question out loud and having some student(s) give me a tip. Visible learning is a good thing to model. Learning from my students is a GREAT thing to model. Seeing a teacher excited about learning something new makes it at least a little more likely that my students might be willing to get excited about learning a new skill. The past couple of weeks have been rejuvenating as I work toward mastering (yet another) new way of having my classroom operate.
I am in my twelfth year at my current school and my family has lived on campus the whole time. We spent our first six years here living in a boys’ dormitory with over 80 teenage boys from all around the world. I enjoyed my time in the dorm but after six years we graduated to a campus home two blocks away from my classroom building. A few weeks ago my son decided, around 11 PM one night, that he wanted his head shaved the next day. He reached out to his friend text group to find out who was free during the last period of the day to help him with something. I, of course, did not find out about this until the next day when he casually mentioned that a friend would use my set of clippers to cut his hair during his free period at the end of the day. That friend happens to be one of my students, so I heard about this form him as well. During the course of the day word spread and a number of students who are free that period planned on coming over to watch and some livestreamed the event on Instagram. My son told me that as he was walking over to our house for this he was talking with some friends on the way. One of them made a remark to the effect of ‘this is why our school is so great.’ Now, of course, I could grumble and say that our school is great because of what goes on in the classroom, the stage, the athletic fields, the dorms, etc. I believe that there are a number of reasons why our school is a special place, but I realize that adventures like this one add a real spice to the day. The kind of communal, shared experiences, especially silly ones like this, help make being in a community more memorable and I have to realize that watching a friend shave another friends hair on a sunny early winter afternoon might be a more memorable experience than learning the Law of Cosines or something along those lines.
When my wife and I made the decision to move to a boarding school community I think that something along these lines was in my mind. The idea that my children get to be immersed in a community, they get to call their campus home as well as it being their school seems to be pretty powerful. I wonder whether they will become as sentimental about it as I am. Time will tell.
PS – It ended up being a pretty good haircut.