By Teachers, For Teachers
October is Connected Educator’s Month – the ideal time to shine a spotlight on the many benefits of getting connected to the people and professional development resources that make you a better teacher.
So, you were able to jump on board with getting connected and have experimented with a few means of building your professional development network. Maybe you’ve recently joined Twitter, dusted off your Facebook account, discovered relevant podcasts, or found some inspiring blogs. Congrats! But what happens after Connected Educator’s Month?
Will the conversations die down? Will the apps downloaded and profiles created gather dust? Will the forged connections go unreinforced? Will you, your colleagues, and your network become “disconnected” the other 11 months of the year?
Getting connected for a teacher can feel like a diet: It’s one of those things we know we “should” do, but it’s so easy to slip back into those old habits. There’s a part of us that know getting connected is important, but another part of us that says we’re too busy, it’s not worth the trouble, or we might make some mistake. Resist the temptation to fall back into your disconnected state! You know there are benefits, and we want to encourage you to keep going with what you started. Here’s what you can do to keep the connections happening.
Reflect on What You’ve Gained. If we’re honest, we’ve probably gotten at least something small out of becoming more connected. Maybe an idea for how to teach better, a broadened perspective on education, a discovery of a resource, or a new friend. Think about at least one positive that you’ve discovered so far, and imagine how many more positives are waiting for you when you continue. As you reflect on whatever it is you’ve gained, stay inspired to keep gaining.
Make it a Habit. There are no rules about when, where, or how to connect. You can do it at a time and in a manner that suits you – just keeping doing it. For some, that means taking a few minutes during their morning coffee, lunch break, or evening wind down. Others might have more opportunities within a day to utilize their connections. Personally, I like to take some time right before school begins and right after it’s over to see what’s happening with my Twitter feed and share out my ideas for the day. But explore what personally suits you. And whatever you choose, stick with it.
Learn and Explore More. You’ve at least learned the basics of connectedness since you’ve gotten started. But there is so much more to learn – so many more ways to leverage the tools you’re becoming acquainted with. Utilize your tools to the extent that you’re comfortable with them, but also see what else your new connections might be able to provide you with as well. The more you learn, the more easily you’ll be able to customize your networking experience and get what you want out of it.
Find the Fit for You. Clothes come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s important to try them on at the store before committing to purchasing them. Connectedness tools work the same way – what fits someone else doesn’t necessarily fit you. There are loads of different tools out there – from Twitter and other social media to blogs, forums, comments sections, apps, podcasts, social bookmarking, and more. You can take all the tips and recommendations from others, but ultimately just do what you feel suits your unique needs and preferences.
Stick with Other Connected Teachers. Connected teachers are passionate about their connectedness. Find other connected folks in your building and in your personal network to be your primary contacts. Talk to them about being connected, ask them questions, and ask for accountability. If you surround yourself with enthusiastic individuals who have experienced the best of being connected, then you’re on the right path toward experiencing the same results.
Rely on Your Network. Some have said that in the future, it’s not so much what you know but what your network knows. Reach out to the new network you’ve been building and rely on them for ideas, advice, and answers to your questions. When we’re in our buildings, we often can just turn our chair around and ask a fellow teacher – but what if you had dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of fellow teachers you can “turn your chair to” and ask? That’s your new network. So start making it your custom to turn toward your network to ask for those items that you want that those who immediately surround you can’t necessarily provide. The results will impress you and definitely encourage you to stay connected!
Taking part in Connected Educator’s Month is all about you getting involved with the connectedness resources out there and expanding your network. But the end of October is only the beginning of your journey into the depth and breadth of your better-connected self. Imagine in what ways your students’ learning will be impacted as you take advantage of the amazing resources available!
How have you gotten connected this month? How do you plan to continue being connected the rest of the year? Tell us your story in the comments 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 ACTWritingTips.com.