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Professional Development: Get Your School Connected

Jordan Catapano

 

Are you a connected educator?  Have you already begun developing your PLN (Professional Learning Network) and experienced the positive impacts of networking with teachers across the nation? If yes, then you might be ready to take the next step: Help your colleagues get connected too.

If you’re like me, then you’ve “drunk the Kool-Aid” of connectedness and seen the results of taking charge of your own professional development. And now it’s time to take action and spread the word, educating and encouraging your colleagues to explore these tools.

Fortunately, teachers everywhere have steadily been developing a pool of professional development ideas and resources to help someone like you. So as you continue down your own path of connectedness, consider some of these actions to bring your peers along with you!

Build a Team

You’re a connected educator – so don’t try to go it alone! Chances are there are a few teachers in your building who are also connected. Talk to them and form a team. No one has to be an expert. You just have to know that getting connected has helped you, and it can help others too. As a team, make plans, build resources, execute action points, and work together.

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Keep it Teacher-Led

We know that the administration has plenty of mandates of its own. The perfect way to spoil any genuine initiative is to make it be top-down. The message of getting connected is really by teachers and for teachers, so take the lead and draw your own map for sharing connectedness with your colleagues.

Work with Administration

You don’t want to leave administration in the dust. Administrators despise hearing about things second-hand and playing catch-up with their staff. From the beginning, tell your administration, “This is what we’d like to do, and we wanted to let you know. If you have questions or problems, please tell us. Otherwise, this is what we’ll be promoting to colleagues.”

Administrators will appreciate your keeping them informed, your leadership, and your allowing them a role in the process. If you need their support for certain aspects of your promotion, definitely tell them!

Spread the Word

Once you have your team, your plan, and your administration on board, it’s time to unroll the message of connectedness to your peers. There are an infinite variety of things you can do to help educate and encourage them:

  • Pass out informative fliers or magnets
  • Create a resource website, like my district did.
  • Post advertising posters in offices
  • Send out helpful, informative emails
  • Host “Twitter tutorials” or other short informative sessions
  • Create a district Twitter chat or hashtag
  • Put reminders or information in the faculty cafeteria
  •  … or just talk to your colleagues whenever you cross paths

Tell Your Story

Nothing is more powerful than your own story. While you’re promoting the benefits of connectedness, tell your colleagues what got you hooked. I tell most people I joined Twitter because I thought I could see how stupid it was and make fun of students for using it … until I realized that thousands of teachers use it to provide thousands of resources, and I was hooked on customizing my professional development. What’s your story?

Make it Easy

There’s too much that’s “new” about teaching these days. So who needs one more thing? Many teachers unfamiliar with navigating digital resources will be turned off to connectedness if it appears too inconvenient, time-consuming, or complicated. So make it easy for them. Display information in clear and simple terms.  Encourage, but don’t overwhelm.

Make it Customizable

I personally prefer to connect with others through Twitter. But Twitter is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fortunately, there are dozens of resources out there. Don’t just tell teachers about the one thing that’s worked for you; focus on helping them find the one thing that’s going to work for them.

Affect the Culture

Getting connected is more than a hobby that devoted teachers do in their free time. It’s more and more becoming a way of life. Let it permeate the culture of your school. Talk openly about digital resources, your PLN, and ways your teachers can share and collaborate with local and national colleagues. Let the terminology and behaviors catch on.

Be Persistent for the Long Haul

You don’t have to convince everyone by tomorrow. Getting your colleagues connected is a slow work-in-progress that will take time, probably years. But stay open and positive with your message, and you’ll see that you’re affecting your colleagues’ mentality regarding the value of connectedness.

Don’t Be Forceful

Finally, remember that getting connected isn’t for everyone. Even if you realize it might have dramatically affected you as a professional, not everyone may be as ready to dive in. That’s OK. If your colleagues buy into it themselves, it’s much more likely to stick. If it’s forced upon then, then they’re likely to reject it the moment the pressure lets up. Be kind and encouraging.

How can you help your colleagues get connected? Tell us what you think of these suggestions, and share your own!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com