Change is hard. Resistance to change is hard. Staffing changes at schools are hard. Being a new teacher, or a new student at a school is hard. Being a new ITC (Instructional Technology Coordinator in Arlington Public Schools, similar to ITRTs. ) at a new school is equally hard, but recognizing some of the challenges, expectations, and possible limitations that may await you at your new school can help ease your transition.
Every school has its own climate and culture that has been built and modified based on the current administration. It’s always a good rule of thumb to have open communication with your administration, understand the climate, culture, and goals of the school prior to jumping in. This will help you navigate the landscape to figure out if you should you dive head first into the deep end or slowly roll out different processes and procedures. Whenever you take over someone else’s role, or come in behind someone you typically hear, “Well this is how it was done before”, or “This is how so and so did it.” That type of talk is not always helpful. It’s helpful to know what was done in the past but you are now the new person navigating the tech course for your building and you have to remain steady and stand your ground. Recognize this will not always be easy for you or your new co-workers.
Simultaneous to learning about the culture of the school, learning about the people in the school and building relationships is critical. Relationships have the biggest impact on the success of starting over at a new school. Who are the tech leaders? Who is willing to help? Who is good to avoid? Who are the reluctant learners? How best to interact with individuals and the various school groups? What does the Administrative team expect of the ITC? The list is long with items a new ITC needs to figure out and the connections that need to be made. Spending time just walking the halls, stopping in and talking to teachers during Back to School week is important. Being available to answer questions, provide guidance, and support any time is critical. Being open and willing to just listen is essential.
Job purpose misconception ---- Often the misconception is that if tech is in the job title then the person only deals with the cables and cords. The reality is that an ITC is a teacher at heart whose job is to help other teachers learn how to better support instruction and learning with technology. The learning has to come first, not the technology. This mind-set can be a hurdle to quality conversations and support. It’s important that you sell yourself as an educator, and that you are all on the same team.
As a new ITC in an elementary school, here a few tips to help you navigate change:
Observe: Do a lot of observing for the first few months. Sit in on grade level PLC meetings, observe student/teacher interactions. See how the school operates and how the humans in the building function.
Be open minded: Be open minded to change. It may be tempting to jump right in and put into practice the procedures, or PD established at your former school, but every staff and school is unique. Stay open minded to try new things.
Patience is a virtue: You won’t be able to get every single thing on your To-Do list checked off as fast as you always want to. Getting to know the staff and understanding how the school runs takes time.
Get to know everyone: The front office staff and the custodians run the school so get to know them. They will be your biggest allies. Having a candy jar in your office space is a great way to get people to stop by and chat.
Have good sense of humor: Smile, laugh, and have fun with staff and students.
Meredith Allen and Marie Hone are Instructional Technology Coordinators from Arlington County Schools. They are also members of the VSTE Conference Committee.