This morning, my Twitter account reached 700 followers. While I don’t get too caught up in the number of followers I have, the milestone does give me pause. I didn’t really use Twitter until December of 2014. Before this, my professional connections consisted of my colleagues at my school and a handful of friends I had met at music conferences over the years.
When I attended my first technology conference just over a year ago, I attended a session about growing your PLN (and really had no idea what that was at the time). I started following a few of the folks that presented that day and little by little, my own list of followers grew. I joined the #mnlead chat on Twitter and my network grew even more. A couple of months ago, I stumbled onto the #TOSAchat group on Twitter, which led me to their group on Voxer and participation in that group is an almost daily ritual for me.
I have always valued connecting with other teachers, but this year it has become particularly important. I’m in a new district in a completely new role and I am the only one of my kind. This type of job could easily get lonely and overwhelming if you tried to do it alone. But with the connections I’ve made this past year, that’s never the case. In the past twelve months, I have participated in Twitter chats, connected with teachers and their classes over Skype, gotten innumerable ideas and suggestions to use in my classroom, and gotten advice and support from trusted friends.
Today, I was thinking about what teaching might have been like 20 years ago. Teachers teaching in their own classrooms with closed doors, perhaps collaborating with a teammate or two, but no Internet, no PLNs, no connections to anyone outside their own building. If this were me, I’m not sure I’d have stayed in teaching as long as I have. Doing all of the work yourself is exhausting, and having many brains to think through solutions and ideas makes light work.
I know the term “connected educator” is getting tossed around quite a bit these days, but I believe having some sort of network to connect with and support you is absolutely vital. The department or grade level team you work with is likely great, but if they are the only ones you get ideas from, you’re likely missing out on a tremendous wealth of resources. Plus, sometimes I just need to talk through a problem or idea with someone with new ears who doesn’t know my situation directly and can give me fresh perspective.
I can’t begin to name each and every one of these people individually, so to the entire group let me say, “thank you!” You have pushed me to learn and helped me to grow as an educator more than I can possibly say. If you don’t feel supported as an educator, I can’t recommend enough to find a group to connect with. It WILL change your teaching life.