In 2000, I began my career in education. At that point in time, it was just that, a career. I did the job. I went to school, worked with students, and went home to grade papers and write lesson plans. However, I was always yearning for more, wanting to personally and professional grow so I could have a greater impact on all students. The various experiences I had at a few different schools and in a couple different states led me to educational leadership, where I am today, a lead learner of an elementary school.
Today, this is not just my career, it is my passionate journey, the adventure I lead to become better. And today, through growth and reflection, I know that there is a way to impact my school and students, and it has transformed my life…I am a connected educator.
I have transformed from a principal to a lead learner.
Twitter is my main medium for connectedness, and I have also found Google+ and Voxer to be amazing opportunities to learn and connect as well, building my Professional Learning Network (PLN). It is through these avenues that I have discovered and become friends with fantastic educators around the globe, who have pushed me to grow and become better.
Recently, I have read the book What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jimmy Casas, and Jeffrey Zoul. This book highlights all of the many reasons becoming a connected educator is critical today. While I did not need convincing that being connected is imperative, it has invoked clarity in my mission as a connected educator. While I am always striving to meet other educators through different resources, I have determined that being connected has three key principles in my life.
1. Being a connected educator is growth
Through my PLN, my thinking is pushed daily. My PLN shares their blog posts, their reflections, and many resources. My Twitter feed is a continuous stream of ideas. I read the articles and blog posts, then reflect on those ideas within my own experiences. I have transformed from a principal to a lead learner, because in order for others to jump into this venture, I must model growth and learning first. For our students to be empowered to be the life-long learners our missions statements say they need to be, we must model that we too are life-long learners.
Recently, I held a Lunch n’ Learn with my staff on Twitter and building a PLN. Through our discussion, I shared that Twitter is continuous professional development, set by the educator, customized for your needs. In a short period of time, those staff members discovered the power of this personalized growth medium, and have since started their journey. To grow as a connected educator, we must be seeking new PLN members, new chat groups and communities. Growth is stagnant if you stick with the same people all of the time. We must push to expand our PLN every day, following new people, reading new blog posts, reading new articles. Our professional growth depends on our ability to grow our PLN and seek to learn every day.
2. Being a connected educator is conversation
At first, Twitter, Google+, and Voxer were simply places where I read, listened, reflected, and learned. However, being connected is much more than just consumption. It is about the conversation with other educators that we become better ourselves. Twitter chats are game-changers in connectedness. These are groups of educators from all experience levels, coming together on a topic, discussing and sharing thoughts. These groups of educators are overwhelmingly welcoming, inviting new educators to join in the conversation. We know with more voices, the more we grow together. Within these chats, educators become good colleagues and friends, and we become each other’s support group.
I am fortunate to moderate one strand in the #INeLearn weekly chat, and I am also fortunate to be a regular chatter in many other weekly chats. More than that, I am also in Voxer educational group chats. I connect with educators everywhere, and our voices exemplify the power of spoken word, as we share experiences and insights, growing together. The conversations in chats and on Voxer are imperative components in being connected. I know at any given moment I have educators I can reach out to, ask questions, give advice, share resources, and support. These conversations have led to lasting relationships with passionate educators.
3. Being a connected educator is opportunity
I would not be where I am today without being connected. I have learned more and grown more through my connected adventure than in all my years of formal schooling. It is through my connectedness that I started blogging. It is through my connectedness that I grew professionally. It is through my connectedness that I now share my experiences and ideas with others through conversations and presentations. It is through my connectedness that even this opportunity to write for Fractus Learning has become a reality. And all of these opportunities have led me to become a better educator for my staff, my students, and my school.
The opportunities I am afforded through my connected adventure have brought different resources and ideas to my staff, and have helped me assist my teachers instructionally. I have found wonderful ideas through my connections, and thus have been able to bring this positive approach to my school. I can share great concepts such as Mystery Skype and Maker Spaces, concepts I would have never known existed without being a connected educator. As I have learned, I share, and can then be in the trenches with my teachers, in classrooms helping kids. Without connectedness, I know I could not be the lead learner I am today.
Every educator CAN be connected and should. Being connected transforms growth through conversation and opportunity. And all of this together greatly impacts who we are for our kids. The key to our connectedness is giving as much as we are taking, and being sure we bring our experiences and new knowledge to the classroom for the betterment of our students and schools. Together, we can change the landscape of education for the better. And it all starts with our connections with other passionate educators around the world, growing together, bringing opportunity to our classrooms.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Vjeran Pavic.