I was 21 and naïve. I had been offered a long-term job as a computer teacher at an urban elementary school outside of Boston, and I jumped at the opportunity—even thought I knew nothing about teaching. I had just graduated from college without taking a single education course.
As a substitute teacher, I wanted to get my feet wet in a school setting, and see if I could make a career out of teaching. The principal assured me that the classroom teachers would join me for the lessons. And I liked this idea of collaborating with other teachers. As an untrained teacher, I could use all the help I could get. But I soon found out that things wouldn’t go as I expected.
My colleagues weren’t used to showing up to computer lessons. Although they were technically required to join the computer teacher for lessons, the previous teacher had given them a free pass. And I could see why most classroom teachers had preferred to skip out, and chisel away at their long to-do lists. If I had been in their shoes, I probably would have done the same. They spent many hours teaching in their classrooms. Their students had to take standardized tests. They were formally evaluated.
Once I had joined the staff, the principal sent out a message to my colleagues, requiring that they accompany me for these bi-weekly 40-minute lessons. A few teachers embraced this new reality, and were eager to work with me to make computer lessons relevant to their students. But most teachers seemed too overwhelmed to do anything but catch their breath during lessons, watching me fumble along. Instead of supporting them, I felt like I was a leech, draining them of their strength as they were now required to join me in the computer lab.