Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Justin, a longtime classroom literacy warrior, took on a new role this spring as a computer technology teacher. This new position has propelled him through a full gamut of emotions since the very first interview.

First, a sensation of floating through air fueled his steps as he left the assistant superintendent’s office with knowledge that an offer would be coming. Then, pure elation (and almost driving off the road) when the call from the HR Director came less than an hour later.  Followed shortly thereafter by OMG, they are going to find out I am fraud! shortly after accepting the offer and doubting his abilities. (Ok, just a reality check here...who hasn’t felt these feelings as a teacher?...Justin is just brave enough to put them into words and share them...gulp) #braveteacher

Yup, that tug of war is what he has lived with and started to lean into these past two months. He definitely has had more of the “highs” than “lows” because another truth about Justin is that he loves change! Sounds cliche, but in all honesty, he thrives on it! (Susie is just hoping that he isn’t seeking a change in his writing partner!)

SIDE NOTE: Justin’s mother always jokes that the reason she will be cremated when she passes is because if she were to have a headstone she knows he would rearrange it on a weekly basis like he had the living room furniture when he was little.

A closer look at his professional career can probably paint a picture in a less morbid way than his mother’s decision post-death. Let’s look at the stats in chronological order: 

4 yrs. Second grade
2 yrs. Third grade
1 yr. Elementary Technology
3 yrs. Fourth grade
7 yrs. Fifth grade
½ yr. Second grade
½ yr. Third grade (looping with a class he took over mid-year)
And now, upper elementary technology

So, needless to say, he tends to revel in new experiences. Susie would suggest that it isn’t only his desire for change that inspires these new positions, but his deep-seated search for learning. In addition, this multi-grade experience reinforces his work now with students of all ages.

But another truth is Justin is always searching for something to anchor both his learning and teaching.

What would be his anchor now? Technology feels so expansive to him…. So limitless...

A computer technology teacher….

The crux of Justin’s emotional tug of war has been around exactly what being “a technology teacher” means.

We have heard “The students never fail us” many times from Kara Pranikoff author of Teaching Talk. So it should not have come as a surprise to Justin, when just last week the answer to what being a technology teacher means came to light from an innocent and insightful third grader.

Sitting down for a short snack on his prep, reveling in the success of just incorporating a funny story into his mini-lessons on coding (not an easy thing to do), the fire alarm went off.

No big deal, right? Well, when there is a torrential downpour, any educator knows this was no fire drill.

After relocating to the middle school directly next door for a short while, the entire student body of 1,100 students were returning when Justin heard that one of the teachers needed her class covered for a few minutes.  Justin saw this as an opportunity to step up and help out.

Upon entering the third grade class, Justin introduced himself as the fourth and fifth grade technology teacher and invited the students to the carpet for some reading. Why not, right? Justin had been saying to his colleagues over the past few days that he was missing the opportunity to read aloud with the students.

Eagerly pointing to RJ Palacio's Wonder as the book they were reading together as a class, Justin and the students dug into a lively discussion about Auggie and the other characters. One by one, the students and Justin came alive as they all shared the excitement about Wonder, making connections to characters in other books they had read such as Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and themselves. The classroom was definitely buzzing. At the close of the conversation,  a student raised his hand. Thinking that he was going to make another connection, Justin called on the young boy...“Mr. Dolci, did you say you are technology teacher? I think you should be a reading teacher.” 

You should be a reading teacher….

That was it! Technology is just the vehicle.  As Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris emphasize in their book Amplify, “It’s not the tools—it’s what we do with them that counts.” Now as Justin continues to plan for next year, his vision is more clear. Justin’s mind is now grounded in what he knows about teaching from his multitude of experiences with children and his passion for literacy instruction. Being the technology teacher is not just another experience, it is a culminating experience, allowing him to have a multiplier effect; in reality technology is really just a platform for people to communicate, collaborate and create.

Justin, a long-time literacy warrior is now looking forward with excitement to his new role as a computer technology literacy teacher.

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