Ben's Journey

Ben’s Journey in EduProtocols

When I first walked into my sixth-grade classroom in 2007, it was a mess. The teacher before me had been on maternity leave, and the curriculum was all over the place. The overhead projector, CD player, and VHS machine were the fanciest pieces of technology I had. As a new teacher, (like most or even all new teachers), I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Those first years, I spent hours on the weekends pouring over curriculum and student papers to make sure I was ready for the upcoming week. I was basically working a six-day work week and was a slave to the curriculum which seemed to drive my lessons. As one of the EduProtocols mantra states, I was definitely not “Teaching Better, and Working Less.”

Now fast forward fifteen years later to a kindergarten classroom with the Kinder Rockets. Each student has their own touch screen Chromebook that he or she brings home. The classroom has two mounted TVs and a wireless document camera that gives students great access to learning from any vantage point in the room. Even though I still work on the weekends, the hours are significantly less. Instead of the curriculum driving my teaching, the standards, routines, and protocols drive the learning that keeps my students engaged. In retrospect, the journey from point A to point B wasn’t simple or clear. wasn’t a simple or clear journey from point A to point B.

Looking back at year seven of my teaching career, I had an amazing opportunity to move to a new school in our district that was piloting a 1:1 initiative with iPads. I jumped at the chance to move into a school in which every student would have an iPad. That first year with so much technology in the classroom was amazing, but also tiring. I loved trying new things and experimenting with possibilities, but it was also a lot of trial-and-error teaching with technology. Overall, the joy was seeing the students' growth and excitement in their classroom. Of course, being at a new school, one new opportunity led to another, and after that year, I found myself being encouraged to apply to be the school coach to support teachers with technology. I had never imagined leaving the classroom, but I took a leap and decided to try the coaching position. 

After such a crazy year of growth in my sixth-grade classroom, I couldn’t fathom what the next year would bring me as an instructional coach. In the first few months, I realized that having never taught in other grades besides sixth was a weakness I. Thereafter, I made it my mission to teach in every classroom and grade at the school at least once. Teaching in preschool to sixth grade classrooms, with some R.S.P. and S.D.C. included, was no easy task, but after a few months, I had accomplished my goal. That year, coaching at a school site helped me grow in many different ways as I was able to work with so many teachers and in so many classrooms. This experience gave me a deeper view of how technology could be integrated into different grades, and t also helped prepare me for my next role.

At the time, my district focused on expanding its technology program; after two years of a 1:1 pilot at a school site, it wanted to roll out a 1:1 program district-wide. Of course, they needed someone to support and roll out a 1:1 program district wide, and thus enter Coach Ben. For three years, I worked as a teacher of special assignment (TOSA). During those years, I collaborated with transitional kinder to sixth grade teachers across the district implementing pedagogy and technology. Additionally, during those years, because of my role, I was also engaged in technology conferences, and this is the time I first met Jon Corippo. It was during this time through chatting with Jon that I had some early exposure to EduProtocols.

Although I really enjoyed my time as a technology coach, my heart was really in the classroom. However, I wasn’t interested in going back to the classroom as an upper grade teacher. As a coach/ TOSA, I had heard many complaints, specifically from lower grade teachers that technology was either not appropriate or a “waste of time” for young kids. Because of this, I took it as a personal challenge to show that students could learn to read and write with more than just a pencil and paper. And almost as quickly as my time as a coach had started, I was back in the classroom as a kindergarten teacher.

My first year in kindergarten was challenging. I was not used to managing a class of small children and being a full-time teacher felt foreign. I used that first year to really get into the swing of things, and to experiment with pedagogy and technology. I also had my first opportunity to explore some of the EduProtocols. “Little parts” and the “Fast and the Curious” were some of the first EduProtocols I tried. Lisa Nowakowski’s Math Reps were also in my early repertoire. As I ended that first year, I definitely had a new respect and wonder for the teaching of reading and writing, but also had a thirst to do and try more.

It was during my second year in kindergarten that I felt I really started to hit my stride. This is when I was finally able to focus on blended learning using technology, but also integrating analog materials like manipulatives, paper, and pencil with technology. This was also the time that I really started to use my first three EduProtocols even more (Little Parts, Math Reps, and Fast and Curious). As my confidence grew so did my ability to expand and explore more EduProtocols pushing myself to see how others could be adapted to kinder. Of course, this was also the year we went into shelter-in-place, which was a whole different journey for many of us.

I think many of us learned and grew in ways we never imagined during the pandemic. One of the best things that kept my students engaged during the pandemic was some of the EduProtocols. It was such a challenge to keep students engaged on the other side of the screen, but also an adventure. EduProtocols allowed me to keep the same structure, but simply shift the content. Students loved Emoji writing, self-paced Fast and Curious, and digital and analog Math Reps, Sketch and Tell, and more. 

Now two years after teaching through a pandemic, and in year Five of kinder, I am really seeing the benefits of “Teaching More and Working Less” with EduProtocols. Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of collaborating with Jennifer Dean, and together we have thoughtfully implemented and adapted all the EduProtocols you will read about in the book to work for our youngest learners. We are still learning and growing together, but I hope you can join us on this journey into “teacher better and working less.”