There is no doubt that these last three weeks have been difficult on everyone for a million different reasons. One of the reasons I’ve struggled is because I miss all the relationships and positive interactions with staff and students. It brings me joy to high-five students, answer their (sometimes) silly questions, and make positive phone calls home. I’m also missing the ability to walk into classrooms and look, listen, and learn. The opportunity to enter a classroom and watch as students participate in the experience of learning is beyond amazing! Lastly, I’m missing the conversations; conversations in the hallway, in my office, on the playground, or in the classroom. I’m missing the chance to talk with passionate educators, in-person, and discuss the ways that we can make the educational experience better for our students. Quarantine is no place for an extroverted, relationship-focused educator!
Fortunately, over the years, I’ve built up a strong professional learning network (pln) that I’ve been able to rely on over the course of the last three weeks for ideas, conversations, and inspiration. In fact, when I first started teaching, I was thrust into a network of teachers that spanned the country. During the summer before my first year as a teacher, I spent time learning and practicing with hundreds soon-to-be teachers from all over the country at Teach For America’s Summer Institute. I worked closely with corps members who would later teach in Atlanta, Miami, New Mexico, and other regional locations. In addition to those teachers, there were almost 200 new TFA corps members in Houston (where I was working). Throughout the school year we met for monthly, one-day conferences to learn, grow, and share ideas together – it was inspiring and set the tone for how I understood collaboration to look in education.
I’ll spare you the details of how I continued to grow my professional learning network but suffice it to say, TFA set a precedent for me and I valued the experience of collaborating with so many people that I was determined to find a way to re-create this situation while traveling the world. This all comes back to today, three weeks into a “Safer at Home” order, and a time where collaborating in-person is not only difficult, but against the recommendations of our government. I couldn’t be more thankful to have a strong Twitter-based PLN to rely on for inspiration, motivation, and support. Whether directly or indirectly, I’ve been able to turn to my PLN to provide me with what I’ve been missing in terms of connections throughout this quarantine.
I’ve alluded to my affinity for Twitter in the past but today I want to encourage you to take the leap and give Edu-Twitter a try. See, if you’re not familiar with Twitter it can be VERY intimidating. I get it; it’s kind of like going to see the Smithsonian Institute – there’s so much to see that you don’t know where to begin, it gets exhausting, you get tired, and you move on. So think of Edu-Twitter as the education-focused “wing” of Twitter. Sure, there’s a lot of other stuff to see on Twitter (A LOT) but I’m offering to give you a personalized tour of the good stuff! Check out this infographic that shows Seven Degrees of Connectedness and think about where you fall. If you’re not yet at Stage 1 then I’d like to strongly urge you to come and begin the journey of getting connected. If you’re already connected but want to join the conversation you’re absolutely invited as well!
If you’re open to the idea of giving Edu-Twitter a try, let me know. I’d be more than happy to get on Google Meets or Zoom with you and walk you through the process of setting up an account, finding some good people to follow, and show you the basics of how to proceed. (Even better, if there was a group of people interested, we could make it a regular collaborative time!) Imagine all of the wonderful ideas and inspirations you’ve been able to gain just from collaborating with your KTEC colleagues, now multiple that as many times as you’d like (2x, 5x, 10x, 100x…) As I shared last week, we’re in the midst of the largest social-experiment EVER – what will you learn during this time?