I find myself with a need to write this morning, though the words are not there. I am going to trust that my fingers will find the appropriate keys if I sit here long enough…
The painstaking process my teaching partner and I experienced from proposal to implementation of the ARCTIC Zone was very time-consuming but well worthwhile. Increased student engagement and motivation, the ability to nurture relationships with students over multiple years, and improved family involvement are only a few benefits we have encountered during our first few years. In securing the initiation of the AZ, learning for our current group of students was made possible, but carrying out the program as outlined in the original proposal has been met with numerous challenges. Understanding that funding is always a limiting factor, we have found even budget-neutral ideas and solutions have been met with greater challenge than what we had originally anticipated.
Nothing has been easy, it seems. Every giant leap forward is met with a step or two in another direction. It is a challenge we accepted, understanding we were embarking on a path no one else in our district had stridden. Upon the conclusion of last school year, our patience and perseverance was tested with yet another series of disappointing decisions made for us on behalf of our program. Among other things, one of our most minor concerns was a lack of one-to-one iPads being provided for our eighth-grade population for this year.
I can hear the response already – iPads? Why is that so important? And in the very grand scheme of what we’re up against, they absolutely are not. However, this group of students has been with a one-to-one iPad for the past four years of school. An enormous portion of the ARCTIC Zone (Technology – Infused) includes providing a variety of ways to demonstrate learning, many of which require the creative options provided by an iPad specifically, given the many applications available. Not to mention, nearly all evidence of student learning in our program is documented, tracked, and communicated electronically.
After taking a much-needed step away from all things “school-related” this summer, my teaching partner and I came together in July and decided to attempt a last-ditch effort to provide our students with devices for their final year within the AZ. It was with skepticism and desperation that I created a request for nearly $8,000 worth of iPads on an educator site called Donorschoose where anyone can donate to any classroom request.
Last night, all $8,000 was fully funded.
When comparing the acquisition of 20 iPads to the struggles we have encountered with getting this program up and running, it seems so trivial. It is not more space. It is not another teacher. It is not more district support. But – it is something. And it is a big something. It is an AZ win that has meaning beyond the addition of technology to our classroom.
To my family, friends, and community –
Your generosity and support have been unfathomable. Not only have we been overwhelmed with donations and positive words of encouragement, but the most glaring observation you have provided me with is that, without even knowing much about my classroom program, without question, without hesitation, your desire to support education and to aid in caring for kids is absolutely undeniable.
To my students’ families –
So many of you reach out on a regular basis to ask how you can provide support or assistance, and I have to admit that I used to shy away from answering honestly because I didn’t know how to ask for help from those whose children I was responsible for supporting. The truth is, we cannot do this without you, and I wouldn’t want to try. Your partnership in providing the best learning experience possible for your children is part of what makes the AZ so profound. The connection to our families and the bond we continue to build as we develop this program together is a huge contributor to the success of our students and the success of the program overall.
To my district –
Despite the barriers you put before us, together with our families and our community, we will continue to show strength. We will continue to grow. We will continue to thrive. Thank you for challenging us to think differently and to look to each other for unity and advocacy.
To my students –
This is all because of YOU. A collection of people came together to show their support for you and our classroom because they care that much about you and your future. In four short months, we raised a total of $8,000 through word-of-mouth and social media sharing. I hope you never find a challenge you believe yourself to be unable to face. I hope you see and feel the enormous potential existing within each of you to change your world for the better. When life tells you no, find another way. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. And to quote one of my favorite television shows, always stretch yourself to take any sour lemons life hands you “and find a way to turn it into something resembling lemonade.”