Lessons from the Field: Interview with Vicki Davis

This post is part of the The Teachers Certification Map’s “lessons from the field”, a series of posts featuring passionate, inspiring educators from across the country discussing some of the lessons that they have learned over the years that would help young teachers as they embark on their careers.

Vicki Davis teaches business and technology courses at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia, which includes eighth grade Keyboarding, ninth grade Computer Fundamentals, tenth grade Introduction to Computer Science and a rotating series of electives including Current Events, Accounting, Digital Graphic Design, and Digital Filmmaking. Vicki is also the IT director for the school.

Vicki has been teaching at Westwood for 7 years. Previously, she taught teachers and businesses how to effectively use technology in their careers and also taught adult technology courses for a local college.

Below is our interview with Vicki:

What inspired you to teach?

My mother founded our technology lab at Westwood in 1991 and is a hero of mine. I have three children at our school and want them to have the best of technology in ways that will help them learn. Two of my three children need technology to learn at their best and so I came here to make it happen!

What classroom methods are most helpful in pushing students towards their goals?

I don’t like the term push because that implies that students don’t have intrinsic motivation of their own. I think that differentiated instruction and its power to reach the different learning styles and tap into the different interests of students is the best because it encompasses so much of good teaching. The best teaching harnesses the power of student learning styles and interests to help students find their passion about the topic you’re teaching (their “angle”) and then in many ways it turns from the teacher pushing it to the teacher facilitating it. And at some point for me, after the year gets going and students become engaged, they are literally flying and I’m just hitching a ride on the wing as they soar into their own personal learning networks and become proficient at technology.

What is the one thing you wish you’d known when you started in the classroom?

I was lucky because my Mom and sister told me what every new teacher needs to know. “Your first year is the worst!” It was so true in a thousand ways, partially from my own inexperience but also because parents (and students) are testing the new teacher on the block. I wish that someone had talked to me about “the look” and the power of it. If you can master “the look” and discipline of proximity (kids close to you rarely act up) then you can fill your classroom with positive words and rarely have to say anything negative. Fred Jones’ Tools for Teaching talks about this technique very well.

What skills could more developed if you were to enroll in a teacher training program?

When I pursue my Masters, I would like to refine my own skills as a researcher. Now, I know that is traditionally part of a PhD, however, I think that surveying my own students is vital to improving my own teaching and I want to understand better how to document and share the amazing things that are happening as part of the Flat Classroom Project (www.flatclassroomproject.org)

Digiteen Project (www.digiteenproject.net) and NetGenEd (http://netgened.wikispaces.com) projects. I also would welcome the feedback of having others critique what I am doing. There are so many things I need to learn, but in many ways, being a part of a program where excellence is the rule and the participants push each others thinking and teaching would be valuable to me. Additionally, I have three children and a classroom to manage and so the program would need to fit in with the crazy schedule I have.

If I ever think I have perfected teaching, it will be time to quit, because all of the best teachers I know are constantly reinventing themselves. I think of our learning lab director, who at 82, still is a prolific reader and adapting and doing new things — if I can capture that true love of teaching and dedication to learning in my life and career, perhaps at the end I can truly say I was good part of the most noble profession on earth next to parenting… teaching.

Do you know someone with great insights to share with young teachers, or do you want to be considered for an interview? If so, please email us at hello@certificationmap.com.

This is a guest post from our journalist Alex J. Mann.  You can subscribe to his blog hereand follow him on Twitter here.

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