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Professional Development: How to Stay Connected

Jordan Catapano


Many educators have recently undertaken the task of helping their colleagues get connected. Getting “connected” means getting plugged into the resources available to expand your network and manage your own professional development. During October, many educators like you have been sharing the blessings of connectedness to their non-connected colleagues. Kudos to you for playing this essential role!

But have you thought whether the sharing will stop after October? Will colleagues who dismissed your recommendations have to wait another year? Will others who started walking their path of connectedness lose momentum?

Connected Educators Month is a great way to shine a spotlight on the perks of connectivity, but it’s difficult to keep that spotlight shining throughout the rest of the year.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to keep the momentum of the month going consistently. Here are some ways teachers around the nation continually promote connectedness to their colleagues.

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Keeping the Newly Connected Engaged Via Professional Development

Tell Your Story. Often there’s nothing more personal or compelling than telling your own story. What did you think before you got connected? What got you hooked? How does being connected continue to impact you?

The validity of your experience will encourage others to seek the same story themselves. For example, I tell others that I joined Twitter because I thought it was stupid and I wanted to see exactly what I could make fun of about it. Then I realized it was awesome.

By sharing my honest experiences, I’ve connected with colleagues who shared the same initial reservations. We’ve been able to have more in-depth chats about my story and as a result, I’ve seen our interactions inspire enough confidence in them to try getting connected in hopes of emulating my successes. What’s your story?

Share Your Successes. It’s undeniably valuable to tell stories about how you got connected in the first place. But equally, it’s important to share how either your newfound Professional Learning Network (PLN) or toolkit chock full of new resources has helped you recently. When I say, “Just last week I needed _____________ and someone in my PLN had the answer,” it provides a very tangible image of how getting connected can help. Consider that these specific testaments—exactly when and how being connected has helped you—will encourage and enable your co-workers to become more successful in their own careers.

Miss Somebody. When people are gone, we miss them. The same is true for the connectedness culture, too. If you’ve noticed that someone has fallen off the connectedness wagon after October, tell him or her earnestly that they’re missed. Their presence on these digital mediums is welcome and their voice is important. Sometimes just knowing that someone wants you there is all it takes to stick with it. Think of Connected Educator’s Month in the same way you think of New Year’s Resolutions—there’s a rapid rate of attrition once January comes to a close. Don’t let your PLN slip!

Live the Culture. The culture of our conversation is shifting, and as a result, our methods of sharing and accessing resources have expanded exponentially. It’s been an intimidating transition for us teachers, but the more that we can openly talk about “tweets,” “blogs,” “podcasts,” “PLN,” and other aspects of connectedness, the more commonplace these resources will become in our everyday language. When others see that being connected is a vital part of their other professional engagements, they’ll be more prone to continue exploring it.

Continue to Educate and Encourage the Unconnected. Just because November 1 rolls around doesn’t mean that you need to stop sharing the good news with others until next year. It’s only going to become more important that your colleagues engage with these prolific resources and networks so keep sending the message!

Of course, there’s a right and wrong way to do so—remember that no one likes it when someone “tells” them what to do or implies they “have” to add one more thing to their list. Don’t be pushy. Instead, consider some polite ways you can gently encourage your colleagues who haven’t taken up the call yet.

  • Hang posters in your office and faculty cafeteria that ask simple questions like, “Are You Connected?” Be sure to leave a way for them to answer or contact you for advice if they’re interested.
  • Send out occasional surveys throughout the year to capture feedback regarding your colleagues’ needs and preferences in regard to getting connected. From here, you can act appropriately based on the data you receive. Just like your regular classroom, be prepared for a wide gamut of answers—you may need to sensitively cater to different PLN tolerance levels.
  • Host friendly, regular tutorial sessions that introduce others to the basics of Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, blogging, or other connectedness tools you like. As motivation, create some fun certificates to hand out to colleagues that exhibit mastery or have encouraged other co-workers to build their own PLN.
  • Along those lines, explore who else may be connected in your building. Work as a team to spread the word and become the “go-to” people.
  • Send staff e-mails, invites, or links to items that may be helpful for your co-workers. Similar to hanging posters, be sure to leave a way for them to contact you for advice if they’re interested or have questions about the resources you’ve provided.
  • Promote an upcoming conference or Edcamp in your area. If you’re able to garner enough interest, you can draft a proposal to your administration in hopes of allowing your PLN to attend.

Most of all, be patient. Just because you go on a diet doesn’t mean everyone else will feel equally excited about doing it with you. The same thought process applies to connectedness—no one will get connected until they’re ready. Just be friendly and available for when that time comes and know that for some, it may be awhile.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all your colleagues will definitely not get connected in one school year. Continue to develop your own connectedness while politely sharing the benefits of it with your colleagues. English/American political activist and philosopher Thomas Paine said, “Time makes more converts than reason,” and as time goes on, your colleagues will steadily see the advantages of building up their own connectedness, thanks to your consistent efforts!

How will you help others get connected throughout the rest of the year? Add a comment with your advice and strategies below!

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

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