The Value of Being Connected
As I look back over my journey as an educator, I can see how I have evolved. As I ponder my career, I cannot help but think of all the individuals who have helped shape me into the person I am today. I am sure each of us can credit certain tendencies, practices, and behaviors to other educators we have came into contact with. Whether it be a teacher or professor we had in school or a colleague we have collaborated with over time, there are individuals who have shaped us into the professional we are today.
Having taught in over five different buildings with five different school corporations, I can appreciate the diversity in school practices and leadership. I believe it is important for educators to be lifelong learners. It is vital for educators to continue to evolve with the changing times in education and technology. As a curriculum director, I encourage my teachers to “stretch” themselves and step outside their comfort zone to learn or try something new.
Personally, one of the best ways I stretch and evolve as an educator is by talking to other educators. When was the last time you collaborated with another teacher? Some of my best collaboration has happened around a swimming pool hanging out with teacher-friends during our summer vacation. We dubbed our pool time “teacher-roundtable.” We talked about changes we wanted to make in the coming year, issues we faced and brainstormed solutions, and just freely discussed best teaching practices. The beauty of the “teacher-roundtable” was we all taught at different grade levels and in different content areas, yet we still helped each other become better educators. It kind of reminds me of an EdCamp or Unsession. We didn’t have a set agenda. It doesn’t matter who you are working with. We can all learn something from each other.
Another great collaboration for me has been connecting with my professional learning network (PLN), the EdTechHeroes. We are a group of Hoosier educators who were randomly brought together to work on an initiative. This chance happening has been one of the most impactful events of my career. Being around this group has forced me to stretch how I look at technology, its capabilities, and a plethora of ways to integrate it into the classroom. This PLN has encouraged and supported me as I venture out and try new ideas to engage students in the classroom and staff members in professional development.
Twitter has been another great resource for me. The various
educators and individuals I am connect with via Twitter encourage me and energize me. Daily there is a tweet which causes me to stop, pause, and reflect. My philosophies are challenged, and I admit my outlook at times has changed. If you aren’t on Twitter, I strongly encourage you to get an account. One of my favorite stories is from one of my veteran teachers. By veteran, I mean she has been teaching over forty years. This past year she participated in our corporation book study, “What Connected Educators Do Differently.” She stretched herself and got a Twitter account. She discovered YouTube and TED Talks. She easily goes down the “rabbit hole” with all three. Her eyes have been opened to the resources and ideas available to her. She eagerly and gradually integrates what she is learning into her classroom.
Who is the smartest person in the room? The room. The work we do together is amazing, but the key is we do it together. How are you stretching yourself? Who are you talking to to share ideas with? Who makes you a better educator? How are you connecting to new ideas? There is power in collaboration…. Super power!