A Short Conversation with…Richard Byrne @rmbyrne
I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.
How long have you been teaching?
I got my first full-time teaching position in January 2004 teaching a ninth grade language arts class (a job I felt under qualified to do, but I was willing to try). In January 2005 I took a semester position as a computer lab/ writing lab instructor. In August 2005 I started the social studies teaching position I have now. Prior to working in public schools I worked for FedEx for seven years in various management roles including training coordinator.
Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
When I started teaching I had a very teacher-centric mindset. I was convinced that if I made what I thought were good lesson plans, the students would learn what I was trying to teach them. There was a lot of “sage on the stage” lesson plans when I started. The classroom was very quiet.
Now there are very few times when my lesson plan calls for a “sage on stage.” I now layout for students the essential questions as dictated by district administration and work with students to acquire knowledge they can use to address those questions. In some cases my “lesson plan” for the day might be as simple as discussing with students their research findings or working with them to develop mind maps or webs. If you walk by my classroom today, it’s often full of chatter from student groups working together.
The other thing I’ve learned and that no one told me when I was taking my certification courses is that some of my students come to class hungry, tired, feeling neglected (even if they don’t articulate it that way) or unsure of where they will be sleeping that night. In those cases, if I don’t help them deal with those issues first, I will have a really hard time addressing the curriculum standards with them. In other words, I’ve learned that I teach students first, not social studies first.
If so, what led to this change? Was it a gradual process or a specific event?
The changes outlined above occurred gradually. I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was asked to reflect upon it in the fall of 2007.
Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Yes, Twitter has played a role in my evolution as a teacher. How much? That changes based on how much I’ve been on Twitter at the time I’m asked. Most of the people (for a while I auto-followed everyone that followed me) I follow on Twitter provide me with food for thought. I have some lists of people who are always politely pushing new conversations forward. If you check my Twitter lists you can find the people I interact with the most.