Sonya Woloshen: New Attitudes, New Expectations

Sonya Woloshen is a relatively new teacher and she embodies an attitude that I believe is essential for the transformation of teaching and learning. She is fearless, she embraces technology, and she respects her students enough to trust and empower them. Sonya is an advocate for using students’ Personally Owned Devices’ (POD’s) aka cell phones, iTouches, iPods, etc., in her classroom.

David Truss conducted a three-part interview with Sonya and wrote about it eloquently on his Pair a Dimes for your Thoughts blog. The following is from Part Three of the interview.

As you listened to Sonya what was running through your mind? Were you thinking she was naive? or rather, that she was brave? Were you thinking that having an attitude like hers would never work with your kids, in your school? or that it just might be extremely liberating? Were you focusing on the obstacles involved, or the potential benefits?

Whenever someone steps forward to lead it’s interesting to reflect on our own reactions. I’d be interested in reading yours.

For me, Sonya has the ‘can do’ attitude that is so necessary for educational change to take hold. She combines this ‘can do’ attitude with a strong sense of how important it is for students to ‘own’ the learning, ‘own’ the tools, and ‘own’ the rules.

Sonya inspires me and gives me hope that a new wave of educators is coming; educators with new attitudes and new expectations.


13 thoughts on “Sonya Woloshen: New Attitudes, New Expectations

  1. Thanks Pete,

    It really is great to see young teachers like Sonya with no fear and an attitude of always seeing opportunities, not obstacles. She truly is inspiring!

    That said, I know that Sonya has hit some unnecessary road blocks and dealt with some very negative attitudes from other teachers.

    It isn’t enough to pat teachers like Sonya on the back and say ‘Way to go!’, I think we should be actively seeking ways to make things easier for teacher like her in school to gain access to the tools they need to lead the way.

    1. I loved watching this video of Sonya. I wish I were as fearless as she is when it comes to using technology in the classroom. I supposed my biggest fear is knowing enough information about the technology to use it in class.

      I really enjoyed hearing her discuss strategies for involving students in the process of making rules for using technology in the classroom. I think that is a great way to involve students and allow them to be responsible for their own learning. I would have to agree that we don’t really trust our students when it comes to certain things, using technology especially. But I do wonder how she would overcome the obstacle of students in the classroom that don’t have cell phones, iPods, iPhones, etc.?

      1. Amber,
        If you get time, go to David Truss’s site (link above). He has several more videos of Sonya. In one of them she talks about what she does if she has students that don’t have cell phones, iPods, etc.

  2. David,
    I had a suspicion she might hit a rough patch. The status quo is a very powerful force. We lost Martin Luther King to the forces that resist change. Having a ‘can do attitude’ is no shield from the ‘long knives’ of our school culture.

    How can I, how can we, help Sonya and others like her as they do their best to make a foothold in our schools? I’m willing to help anyway I can.


  3. Hello again Pete,

    In a comment I made on my Shifting Education post:
    I said, I… think we are missing the boat in two areas with student teachers:
    1. New teachers coming into the school system without a requisite amount of meaningful tech integration know-how.
    2. Practicums that do not require any use of technology what-so-ever.”
    Despite that, we are getting some new tech-savvy teachers willing to try new and exciting approaches. Once these new teachers come into our schools, they get the dog’s breakfast for both technology & course loads and so in my opinion the cards are already stacked against them.

    We NEED mentors, guides, and people that the Sonya’s of the world can go to for advice and support. We also need administration who pave the way rather than put up road blocks. We also need schools that promote a culture of learning and support rather than wounds from the ‘long knives’ of our school culture that you mention.

    But I think I’m preaching to the converted… and I’m ranting… sorry about that, it’s just that I think we need systemic change to truly help beyond just being personal support and mentors of one teacher at a time.

  4. I think Sonya is doing a great thing! We have so much technology that we can utilize right at our fingertips and yet we discourage kids from doing so by not allowing computer devices in class. What does she do though, if not everyone has an iTouch or PDA? As a college student, I never take my iTouch when I’m in the elementary schools. Not only do I not have a opportunity to use it, but I would be worried about it. There is so much that could happen. Someone could take it or it could accidently get broken. As a teacher, I think I would be concerned about the liability.

  5. Jaclyn,
    I don’t know how Sonya handles students who don’t have an iTouch or PDA to use. She has several video interviews where she talks about this in general terms. My take is that she doesn’t let obstacles like this stop her; but finds ways to move forward anyway.

    As far as your personal concerns about bringing your own iTouch to school…I believe when you have a class of kids you work with every day and deeply care about; you may find ways to use it that you think are worth the risk of bringing it in. Of course, the best of all worlds is having the school and/ or the students supply the technology.


  6. Yes and yes. She is doing what she needs to do as a good teacher AND she (as a symbol of teachers who are doing the same) needs great support from those around her. She may get the opposite from some other teachers and so she needs infinite amounts of it from her administration.

    It is not enough to tell teachers to turn the rules and consequences over to the kids. Managing how that is done is an art. Knowing how, who, and when to ask for help can be tricky and is also an art.

  7. another comment – hard to believe that ‘in this day and age’ (I put quotes, I sound like my dad) there are still school systems who ban personal communication devices like cell phones, ipods, ipads, etc…

    teachers aren’t the only ones who need support, school systems do as well.

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