This time of year is very challenging as a teacher. The euphoria of vacation has passed, students get anxious about their grades, parents start feeling the need to check in on their kid’s progress, administrators start getting antsy about budget preparations, the calendar reminds you that there’s more ahead than behind, and you start to realize that there’s a lot of curriculum yet to come.
One natural response to all these concerns is to bear down, block out all the noise, close that classroom door, disconnect from your colleagues and community and get down to business in the classroom. I’ve been doing this lately.
At this time of year, it’s easy to begin to feel a little isolated and lonely. I haven’t even felt even a hint of inspiration to post to this blog in about a month! I don’t know if it feels the same way in other professions, but that’s how it can feel to the veteran teacher.
The positive side to the “bearing down” approach is that it lends to the sensation that time passes quickly. We don’t sit around and complain about our lot! No we just get to work.
The negative side of “bearing down” is that we lose out on our last chance of the school year to innovate. Once spring break arrives, schools enter into their landing patterns and teachers and students start stowing all their gear for landing.
So how does one “get back into the groove” while still looking to get new ideas and to tweak new methods that were implemented but not perfected in the fall?
I love the team of educators with which I work at my school, but we’re all battling the same constraints on time and morale right now. I’ve been relying on my colleagues in my PLN on Twitter for inspiration to try something new, support with previously implemented methods, and a collegial exchange of ideas.
I usually begin each day by reading two or three blog posts that come to me via my twitter feed. Looking at the time stamps inspires me when I realize that I am not the only one up and engaging at 5:15 AM!
Maybe it’s just that I follow some of the world’s most indefatigable educators, but I always come away from the activity of tweeting with my PLN refreshed, informed, and ready to collaborate.
Many of my readers, however, do not yet see the purpose of joining a community on Twitter. A friend of mine works in real estate development and tells me that he’s busy enough responding to the never-ending stream of emails and cringes at the notion of having to check Twitter to keep up with more request for his attention. I tell him that it’s a tool and that he doesn’t have to use to connect with clients. He could follow a select group of thought leaders in urban development, finance, retail to try keep aware of cutting edge ideas. He tells me he reads trade publications for that. I tell him that Twitter allows you to make a personal connection with the authors that you just can’t do when reading the print journal. In the end, I agree that no ones more work. Twitter can be overwhelming if you try to keep up with the stream. But it’s a tool that used thoughtfully to execute a needed function. You will never be able to understand how it can help you in your professional life unless you give it a try. You can start by looking through those trade publications for names of the thought-leaders in your field, creating an account on Twitter, doing a search for those names, and hitting the Follow button.
I usually restrict my time on Twitter to before and after school hours. Occasionally, I tweet about school activities during the day because many of our students use Twitter. I use the hash tag #modglobalcom for tweets regarding my sophomore MGC classes. You can type that #modglobalcom into a search and see what we are tweeting about there. This could be a great way for parents to monitor bathe conversations that students and teachers are having. Parents of high school student often report that it is hard to get information about school out of their kids. If students are using Twitter for educational purposes, then parents could engage in those discussions too. The beauty of Twitter is its transparency.
If students, however, are only using Twitter socially, that’s OK too. It is still a transparent community. If students aren’t comfortable knowing that their parents are following them in Twitter, then they really need to keep those messages private. I try to always remind students about privacy issues. Twitter is where students should begin to cultivate their public selves. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be kids. Many of the folks I follow also tweet about their personal lives. I enjoy reading these tweets too because it is important to get know these colleagues as people too!
This brings me to my last suggestion. When you do take the plunge and give Twitter a try, be clear about your interests when you create your Twitter bio. When people see your tweets, they will usually visit your bio page to see if they have anything in common with you. They follow you if they appreciate what you say on Twitter and if they see a common connection.
I used to think Twitter was just for people who wanted an audience. There are still lots of those narcissists out there getting a big head over how many followers they have. To these people followers are not people but numbers.
If you use Twitter to seek out people who enjoy the free exchange of ideas, you will find them!
Here’s a video that will walk you through the basics of setting up a PLN on Twitter: