As part of the TeachThought January Blog Challenge today’s prompt is:
What are the benefits of connecting with other educators? How am I going to make sure I do this on a regular basis?
I have taught in four different districts, three states. I am glad I did that when I was young, because adjusting to all those changes is hard. Not impossible, not invaluable, but hard.
Everytime I changed schools I had to adjust to the local goals and perspectives. I think that was valuable for me early in my career to see that all of these well-intentioned educators had to deal with similar problems and they all chose different paths to do so – some more/less effective than the way I thought they should be dealt with – and what an education those experiences were for me. I saw that the answers had to come from the group and they only way I could have my perspective heard was to become part of the group. That was a good lesson for me – I didn’t instinctively want to be a joiner. However, to impact people you need to be in their tribe.
benefits of connecting
I also have a career which straddles the before/after eras of social media in education. I see that social media is an accelerant for these connections. If there was such a heavy social media footprint in education when I was moving around the country I would have enjoyed a head start in connecting with my tribe everywhere I moved. While we don’t all have the opportunity/burden of moving around the country throughout our careers, we do have the opportunity to make global connections and broaden our circle of influence. Educators typically pick the best ideas when presented with a multitude of choices. Social media can provide that broadness of options we as a professional have never really enjoyed since we are local/state in educational thought only.
I think we have all observed that person who finds him/herself in a comfortable position and attempts to just stay there. It may be that a person in position of power surrounds him/herself with yes-people, it may be a teacher who really liked how school year 2002 went for her and so s/he is teaching from that same planbook each year. If your school, hallway, or (gulp) classroom contains one of those too comfortable people a change or peers/perspective is in order.
If that school or that hallway is your planet then a social media like twitter is the universe. There are good teachers not on social media. However, if you are not working with a great mentor right now, social media contains so many great ones there already you could never interact with them all – so what a place to start!
Even if you are not the person who needs to be unstuck from a rut, or moving around the country, you need to be challenged. Yes, you. Everyone needs to entertain alternative ideas, different perspectives, and interact with people who think differently than you do. It is because you are a teacher. Think of the sample of the broader community which parades through your room. You need to be able to spot differences in those children and pre-incorporate them into the classroom community. The diversity of social medias like Twitter make this easier for us to practice.
a regular basis
I check out #BFC530 as soon as I wake up. If I wake up early I join the chat, but if not I always read through the top tweets of the chat before my shower. I don’t know why I do some of my best thinking there, but usually when I exit the shower I try to make a thoughtful post, to #BFC530 or #EdChat.
I schedule calendar time for #EdChat twice a month, #ETCoaches once a month on my work calendar. Luckily for me these can be a lunch and tweet event for me. Luckily for everyone #EdChat can also be a dinner chat as they host an evening session as well.
If I have extra time I use my Feedly RSS to find fresh blog posts to tweet. This is admittedly infrequent.
I also use a combination WordPress and IFTTT.com to automate some of my social media presence. Every blog post is automatically tweeted and posted to Tumblr for me via IFTTT. WordPress posts every published blog post to Google+ for me.
IFTTT allows me to thank new followers automatically.
I also use IFTTT to save my tweets to Delicious for an easier look up and way to share with anyone ‘that thing I remember tweeting about’.
no one is perfect
But if I do get off schedule for posting or tweeting I don’t let it stop me from getting back in the swing of things. Social media group of educators are first and foremost educators and they know your struggles. They understand the demands of your life because they are the demands of their lives. so the most important thing about being regular in your social media interactions is – sometimes you won’t be, but don’t let that stop you from trying again!