Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Go It Alone?

Yesterday, as I was relaxing and catching up on some Tweets, when one entered my stream and really "spoke to me."

Glenn's statement struck me on so many levels. I thought back to my most early days of teaching. I was fresh out of one of the best teaching schools in the southeast, Western Carolina University. I was full of new ideas and techniques that I was ready to try out in my classroom. But I was also primed to learn from those who had been in the profession for much longer than I. I thought to myself, these teachers have so much to offer me and I have so much to offer them. We can work together, all for the kids. The first month of teaching was a wake up call. Many teachers, once the bell rang, closed their doors, never to emerge until the bell rang again to change classes. When I tried to reach out for advice or ideas I was quickly turned away. But for what reason? I was seen as the "rookie." What could I possibly know? I hadn't paid my dues yet.

Teaching is not an "island" profession. All of us; those that have been in 30 years and those that have been in 30 days, all have unique skills to offer each other. Remember, sharing is caring....ok...that was cheesy but you get the point.

Many do not see the value in Social Networking sites like Twitter, Ning, LinkedIn, Facebook, and others. I place most of the blame on popular media. In the US we have a fascination with celebrities. So when one is in competition with another to get to 1 million followers on Twitter, the value of the tool is somehow lost in the message. Most of the stories that show how useful these tools are stay within the education circles and never make it to the mainstream.

I have said before that schools and districts need to embrace the tools that students are going home and using. Yet many districts, again, only see the negatives. So instead of saying, these are the tools students are going to use and educate parents as to their use, we simply block their use, never to see the light of day classrooms across the country.

The ones that can push for use of these tools in the classroom, with the students who need to use them, are the ones on the front line. Teachers. If teachers can embrace these tools and use them, they can understand why our students need to use them to learn.

How do we do this? Simple. A PLN? What is a PLN you ask? A Professional Learning Network. In the days before social networking a PLN may have been built around who you taught with in your school and district. You may have even reached out to those you met at meetings and conferences. With the advent of email we had the listserv (which still survives today) that allow you to connect with others via a daily digest of messages. Now we have the "Real-Time" web where we are instantly connected. Let's, as Educators, use that to our advantage and learn from each other!

If you want to use social networking tools to grow and build your PLN, great! If you don't want to use Twitter, don't. If you don't want to use Facebook, you don't have to. Nings not your thing? Fine. You don't have to use the computer or any technology at all. Building and growing your PLN can be as simple as opening up the door to your classroom and sharing what you do with your kids with your staff. If you are an administrator or school leader, set up a time during your faculty meeting to highlight some amazing teaching you have seen. Encourage teachers to share with each other. Most importantly, give them the time to share. If you have to get subs so all the English teachers or 5th grade or PE teachers have to be out, do it!

Remember, teaching is not about isolation. We leave our homes everyday, and head to school, prepare lessons, do paperwork, serve as teacher, counselor, psychologist, referee, and sometimes waiter/waitress all for what? Test scores? Curriculum? Technology? Glory? If you are teaching for those reasons it might be time to consider another profession.

We do it for the kids. Plain and simple...


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