I was driving home from work a year or so ago with my then-four-year-old daughter in the back seat. I have a rather long commute to school but one of the things I like about it is that my children are on the ride with me and so it’s actually a really good time to chat and sing and really ponder how those little brains work. On this particular afternoon my daughter asked me if I liked my job. I was caught off guard by the question and laughed a bit to myself. I was thinking, of course I like my job, but like most other teachers I know there are days when I think it would be really nice to just sit and file some stuff for a while, or spend an entire day without someone asking me if we can do nothing today and my in turn asking them to pull up some item of their clothing. At any rate I decided it would be interesting to ask her what she thought the answer to the question was. So I said, “Well, honey, do you think I like my job?” and her response was, “I used to, but yesterday I heard you talking to Daddy and you were so upset and you said all you wanted was to be out with the cows. Are we going to buy a farm?”
After I stopped laughing I explained to her that the cows I was referring to were the C.O.W.S. at school. These are laptop carts we have in our building and COWS stands for Computers On Wheels. Another teacher and I had a rather spirited conversation about if his need to use them trumped my planning ahead and signing up for them first. In the end what was best for his students and the tight semester deadline was to let him have them. The end result was a “debrief” of my frustrations that night as my husband and I made dinner and my poor daughter thinking a major life change was coming.
I tell this story because I see a huge issue with our future access to such cattle. As we move toward Common Core, a journey I see as completely necessary by the way, I do see some major growing pains on the horizon, one of them being access to technology. The standards, particularly at the high school level call for our students to do a lot of research. It also calls on them to evaluate resources and to make connections between them. These are all very important skills our students will need to be college and career ready, but how to do we do this if we can’t support this effort with the necessary technology. I know that as my staff has been moving valiantly forward we have had many more conversations like the one I had with that teacher that day. We are all trying to do what is best but it is challenging when we feel as though our tasks are not matched up with our resources.
In my building we have labs but they are used 100% as classrooms for particular teachers who without argument need them, such as computer programming, and yearbook. The rest of us have a COW for about every 8 to 10 classrooms. This does not make for very good sharing or the ability to do extended projects using technology or research, exactly what the Common Core will require us to do. I am hoping that at least we can see the need and communicate this need to our communities and districts. This supply and demand issue is bound to cause conflicts like the one I had between teachers, or teachers and administrator when the expectations don’t match the resources. My district has a goal of getting a one to one ratio for student to computer. I think this is necessary for all students in all schools. Otherwise I don’t see how to solve issues with access for all students. Educators are problem solvers by nature. We overcome; we persevere so here is just our next opportunity. Until the levies and the resources catch up to the needs of the Common Core, start some conversations with your colleagues about how we can move this work forward. How can we help make the COWS come home to our classrooms to meet the needs of the Common Core?