Every time I think we can handle a major initiative or a shift in practices–the activation of the BYOD network, or applying to be a Google Apps school–every time I get excited and feel adventurous, I get a tech support request from a teacher who can’t figure out how to change his toner. Or a request from a teacher who is over her e-mail quota and doesn’t know why. Or a notification that someone’s “private” network folder is taking up too much space (always due to a glut of photos of the kids or a gigantic personal iTunes library, never due to excessive instructional materials).

I spent a fair amount of time this summer working on an awesome plan to encourage my teachers to participate in technology staff development by creating lessons that could be completed on their own time, and without guidance from me. The idea is that they would earn badges for different tasks they completed, culminating in a “specialist” badge if they did all the “missions” in a certain category, like using assessment data wisely. Then I heard last week about four teachers who refused to work together on creating a common test, and I put that on ice. What’s the point? The teachers who need it the most are the least likely to participate.

I offered an optional staff development course on an easy topic which was frequently requested. I scheduled drop-in training sessions during each planning period. Attendance ranged from zero in the smallest session to three in the largest. We have something like 75 teachers at my school. Maybe more. I spent hours working on my lesson plan, making sure I had prepared a thorough lesson.

Some of the new teachers are very tech-savvy and need less of my help; some need plenty of help and ask for it; some I worry are struggling but are afraid to say anything. If I’m honest, it’s exactly the same for the veterans.

All this has left me frustrated, and what’s worse is that I’ve never felt more like I understand my job than this year, when my tech partner (who is non-instructional) and I executed our best beginning of the school year yet. I know what I’m doing, at least.

I’ve thought about different ways to break out the teachers who need more advanced training from those who need basic training. I looked at how Microsoft does it: They have a “fast ring” of volunteers who get updates and upgrades first, a “slow ring” who get it next, and finally it’s released to everyone. I like that idea a lot, but fear the pushback and hurt feelings that will inevitably be generated when I tell a teacher they’re in the “slow ring,” even though I’m talking about their training pace and not their intellectual ability.

[Side note: In contemplating the hurt feelings issue, it made me think about how students must feel when we group them by ability, and how embarrassed they might be when they discover that they’re not in a top-tier group–even if we don’t tell them, they always seem to figure it out. Thoughts for a future post…]

So I’m not entirely sure the best way forward, or if I’m going forward at all. I’ve spent a lot of time in deep reflection on this issue and I’m afraid I’m not much closer to a resolution. I spent a couple of hours today working on what I think will be good training ideas, but in the back of my mind, I’m wondering what I’m doing it all for.