This week is vacation week here in New England. It is a time to rest, recharge and reconnect with friends and family outside of school. It’s good to get away for a while so you can get a sense of perspective on the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing you in school. As I look forward to the remainder of the school year, I can’t help but feel excited about using social media in the classroom to collaborate outside of regular school hours, connect with other learners outside of the classroom, and showcase our mastery of skills and essential understandings.
In this moment of quiet contemplation during February vacation, I also take stock in the relationships that I am lucky enough to have in my professional life. Relationships are a valuable resource and if we are successful in our efforts to teach the value of collaboration and cooperation, our students will benefit from this resource in two ways. They will move forward with the relationships they have forged in high school serving as a valuable network. In addition, they will benefit from the skills we have helped them develop regarding relationship building and maintenance.
I am thankful that I took the leap last August and made social networking central to my professional toolbox. Social media has helped me feel closer to the parents of my students in a way that I have not experienced in my 16 years in teaching. I may not get feedback from all of the families who read this blog, but at least I am reaching out and keeping them updated on the big picture as I see it. In reaching out frequently to my stakeholders through social media, I have become more approachable in face to face interactions. When parents come in to school for meetings or conferences, it seems to me that they feel more familiar with me. This allows our interaction to be more relaxed and personal. When parents have meetings with teachers and staff about any variety of purposes concerning their children’s education, it is important that parents feel they are being dealt with personally. This can not be overstated.
In my role as teacher, I depend upon the trust and the willingness to participate that I have built with each of my students. Social media is essential in extending my availability to students. In order to keep students engaged, I have to show them that I am there to support them at every step of the way. Thanks to social media like Edmodo and Twitter, I am able to interact with my students on their time. As I conduct part of my professional life on social media–whether it be curating content with my professional learning network on Twitter or replying to student questions about homework–I am also welcoming students into that professional life. As we move forward conducting the official business of teaching and learning during the school day, students also come to know me for the life I lead outside of the classroom.
This past week was a momentous one in my family. We welcomed a new baby boy into our family. As we enjoyed our first few days together, I was warmed by the outpouring of well-wishes from my students and colleagues on social media.
Relationships are precious resources not just in education but in all fields of life. Through social media, we are able to build more personal relationships with our students and colleagues. When we break down walls and let students into our professional and even our personal lives, they see us for who we are and trust develops. When students trust us, they are willing to follow us as we lead them just outside their comfort zone, where the learning takes place.