I've always been a networked teacher is some small ways. In fact, when I applied for Google Teacher Academy, one of the questions was to describe an obstacle in your professional life and how you overcame it. My answer (below) was about the challenge of a being a natural-born collaborator working in a traditionally isolated profession.
I have been teaching for 20 years. My classroom was never what you would call “traditional.” I have always sought to engage students in meaningful, authentic learning experiences. An obstacle for me, early on in my career, was the feeling that I was the only one. I loved teaching, but I often felt isolated. I was lucky to find a few educators with whom I could collaborate and share successes and frustrations. I even changed jobs to be able to work with someone of like-mind. Teaching is different now. Technology has opened up a world of opportunities to connect and share with others. Teachers are no longer limited to working with and learning from the colleagues in their own buildings. I no longer feel isolated or lonely. I thrive on the give and take, the challenge, and the sharing. I was meant to be a connected educator.
In the years since I started blogging and tweeting, I've come to rely on this network of people, this "PLN" for so many things. Sometimes I ask direct questions and receive or don't receive direct answers. Often, though, it's more of an osmosis-like influence that has kept me moving and growing, that bolsters me when I question myself.
More and more I am coming to believe that education, like parenting, has no "right" answers and maybe only a few ways that are truly wrong (as in harmful to the spirit). We educators are finding our way every day. Every class is different, every student presents unique learning needs and challenges. Our collective obsession with figuring out the one-size-fits-all formula for success is the essence of the problem.
As I have switched professional roles this year, I find that I am constantly reflecting on my own experiences through the lens of the generously-shared reflections of others. There is the big group of educators and within that, there are subgroups with various interests- math people, high school teachers, administrators, etc. I used to be (and still am in many ways) a generalist, hence the "edtechworkshop" brand. Now I find myself really honing in on literacy, and the network does not disappoint.
There are so many amazing teachers who believe what I believe and by writing and sharing, are helping me to better understand and articulate my own philosophy. Because teaching is such an art-form, it is necessary to constantly question and grow. Without connection, learning is not possible.
Standing water quickly becomes a stagnant breeding ground for mosquitoes. I don't wish to be stagnant (and I hate mosquitoes). Connected water is the stuff of life.
I hesitate to name specific people who have influenced and continue to influence me because there are so many. It would be like the puddle trying to name each raindrop that helped it grow. But I do want to say THANK YOU.
- Thank you to the people who take the time to write and share your thoughts.
- A very sincere thank you to the people who read MY thoughts. Even more so, thank you to those who actually connect with my writing and comment on or share it with others.
- Thank you to those who are courageously "calling-out" the fear-based practices that have, for way too long, characterized and formed what we call education.
- Thank you to those who kindly take the time to answer a specific question I ask in a tweet.
- Thank you to those ambitious educators who create experiences from which I and my students benefit (such as the Global Read Aloud).