Chapter 2 of Menoon Rami’s Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re) Invigorate Your Teaching highlights the importance of utilizing professional networks. Building a network of teachers enables us to see our student’s within a second set of eyes, and inspires us to try on new ideas as we practice risk-taking.
I liked how the chapter discussed the goals of teaching, and what we want to see in our students. It is so true; if we are striving to create a system where the role of the teacher is no longer the “lone expert,” but rather the students are collaborators and co-learners, it’s important that we practice this theory in our jobs. Connected, responsive, and welcoming online learning communities empower teachers. The book described the empowerment in ways that access knowledge, create knowledge, and share knowledge. In my own classroom, an example of accessing knowledge is talking with my colleagues about tools and thoughtful pedagogy, so that they can share what works for them and invite me to try it. On my Blog you will see a post about “Plickers,” an online assessment tool, that my Mentor shared with me. Similarly, an example of creating knowledge would be my writing project I did this year. As a grade-level we focused on content development, and the five of us each took a domain (focus, area, content, style, conventions), and developed lessons specifically for that area. Together, we came up with engaging lessons and then rotated all the kids through the five stations. In terms of sharing knowledge, I am constantly networking with other teachers in my building and in the other five elementary schools to share content, ideas, and creations. My STEM cohort this semester was full of sharing knowledge. We each created a “STEM in a box” unit plan and by the time the semester was over, we each had access to the google document with everyone’s lesson plans and materials.
Chapter 2 also highlights ways that we can “get started” in networking. I especially enjoyed reading about the National Writing Project. I have heard of this project before through Kira Baker-Doyle, and know she is involved in the project, but reading chapter 2 inspired me to find out more about it. I especially love how the conferences enable teachers to feel like students; to share their work, to build communities through writing. I am always looking for more student-centered ways to teach writing, and this year I finally found that I found my nitch as a writing teacher. My students showed so much growth, and I know a lot of that is contributed to using my grade-level partners as resources. Working as a team really allowed all of us to be open about our strengths and weaknesses. As a grade level we all saw significant growth from beginning of the year prompts to our end of the year scores, which of course is always the ultimate goal! Before taking grad classes, I can honestly say that I had no desire to use Twitter, or to start a Blog. Reading about web-based networking, I fully agree with the power of communication and networking. I started blogging last semester, and found it to be such a great way to follow educators. We all read one another’s blogs and it was so fascinating how one post led me to another click, and then another click, and so on and so on…
Had I not started off on someone’s blog or Twitter page, I wouldn’t have found my personal areas of interest. When I found great information I would then post it on my own blog, and share what I learned. This idea of connectedness spreads the best ideas of practice.
As this chapter discusses in the end, I was extremely guilty of the “but I’m too busy…” excuse, along with the “but I’m content where I’m at in my teaching,” excuse. Networking doesn’t have to be laborious, in fact, it’s sole purpose is to give you great inspirations so that teaching gets even easier- more playful, and more exciting. When students are engaged, our lives are easier. I realize now that networking is quite enjoyable. When I saw on the syllabus for this course that we were sharing our work on a blog (or other platform of choice), I was so relieved. Constant submissions on blackboard gets so tedious, and I don’t find that it’s the best way to SHARE and get to know one another.
Besides following educators through my Blog, I also follow education communities on Twitter. I don’t personally “tweet,” as I find it to be a bit confusing and restricting (perhaps you’ve noticed I am a bit too wordy to be put on a character count!) but I do follow the following on Twitter:
They are currently offering their favorite summertime reads for professional development
They are sharing 16 resources to help with “coding in the classroom.”
Open Badges (@OpenBadges)
Open Badges is something I learned about in ED677, and a really neat community “game” to encourage connectedness.
Connect Learning (@Connect_Learn)
If you want to use technology as a tool in your classroom, it must be planned well; resources here can help you with that!
In addition to Twitter, I find that Google Communities offers a ton of great groups and information as well. The options of staying connected is truly endless. All it really takes is a teacher who is willing to be open, and willing to accept the endless possibilities of shared knowledge!