Knowing When To Look To The Past

Lehigh Valley Italian American BandThis past weekend I had the good fortune of participating in a long held tradition, the Big Time Festival, in a small, predominantly Italian borough called Roseto located in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania. No one would argue that this borough is a slice of yesteryear with the residents holding onto their strong cultural values many of which come from what is passionately termed the “old country”. In fact, the procession filled with music and staunch Catholics that I participated in was one of those exact examples brought over from Italy. There is no mistaken the origins of this group or the values that they prioritize. It radiates from their every action.

This event also reminds me of my grandfather’s advice. He would say that we are first Americans and second Italians. He would elaborate on that statement indicating that we should respect, honor, treasure, and understand our ancestors’ values, but ultimately recognize that our focus should constantly be on becoming the best Americans possible. In other words, know your roots and core influences while keeping a clear perspective regarding what is best for our society moving forward as Americans.

I know what many reading this are thinking. How does this relate to the integration of technology into the instruction process?…the core subject matter of this blog? I believe it has everything to do with how we should approach the educational process and more importantly how we should move forward with new initiatives including technological integrations. Too often as teachers, administrators, and influential stakeholders, we forget about our core values or responsibilities relying on the newest and most trendy “fix” to inspire productive movement. We become complacent with remembering that being a great educator transcends a tool, new idea, or revolution.

Not that I am that old, but I do remember days in classrooms when the most exciting piece of technology was the film strip projector that advanced automatically (well most of the time at best) after the accompanying soundtrack let out a loud “beeeep”. It was overtly obvious that this tool was not going to spawn some magical education for us as students. Today, it is not that easy to separate all the contributing components of the instructional process or design. The piece that truly brings instructional to a new level of potential. What is most important is to constantly recognize that the nucleus and most differentiating component is the teacher. Great teachers existed before modern technology using the same concepts, methodologies, and techniques that still apply today. The theories and methodologies may carry different names, spins, or perspectives, but semantically, the basic reasons for instructional success are the same. How and what we do each day may look different dressed up with an iPad, Chromebook, or the like, but at the very center of our activity should be that historical respect for the iconic “teacher” and their most effective attributes.

I challenge you to think of three teachers that you found to be inspirational in your educational path. List the characteristics that you found to be the reason for the inspiration. It’s my prediction that you will not only find many commonalities, but also that those teachers were the ones that remained true to the core philosophies of their successful predecessors.

With this perspective in hand,

  • tools remain tools and not substitutes for appropriate instructional practice or design
  • instructional effectiveness remains the ultimate focus and metric of achievement
  • teaching remains an art form that relies on creativity versus a suggested formula for success

…and most importantly, a great modern teacher will most likely share more similarities than differences when compared to a great teacher from the turn of the century. Effective teaching transcends the test of time and then newest trend.

Spend the remaining weeks of summer focused on improving your great teaching and not locating the best promise of instructional bliss. Focus on your core philosophies, methodologies, and techniques and see if every effort you make in your classroom alines. You may be surprised as to the results and how effective you will become at moving students into the success column.

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