Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Becoming Connected

Today, I told my secretary that I feel “PD starved”.  I haven’t been to a conference or workshop in a while.  I have “attended” a few webinars.   But after I said it, I realized this isn’t true.  I have a PLN “feeding” my need to grow professionally every minute of every day.

Growing professionally is critical to every educator.  When I was teaching, I remember how I envisioned growing professionally.  I would find and attend workshops and conferences that interested me if the funding was available.  Most of the workshops or conferences were local simply due to the cost of going.  I would feverishly take notes, bring the handouts back to my classroom, implement the ideas I learned, and I would share some of this information with a few close colleagues.  
Workshop - June 2011
I then moved on to expanding my educational background, working on and earning my master’s degree.  I took classes, read books, and shared philosophies and ideas with other educators attending the same classes.  I enjoyed learning, interacting, and participating in all of the discussions.

Now I move to today.  How do I envision growing professionally, and how can I, as a leader, help others to do the same?  In many ways, the professional growth of the past is still in force.  However, budgets are less and going to these workshops and attending classes just doesn’t happen as often as it should.  I hear from my teachers that they would LOVE to attend workshops and conferences, but also hate being away from their classroom.  

I move to becoming connected.  I have read quite a bit about becoming a connected educator.  It is vital in today’s educational world.  We know more now than ever in how children learn best; we have more resources available to us than there is time to sort through them.  Becoming connected, or developing our PLN (professional learning network), is our way to grow professionally all of the time. We no longer need to work and learn in isolation or geographically confined to an area.  There are brilliant educators, sharing ideas and insights, all around us, connected virtually, desiring the same professional growth we seek to find.   And the beauty - it’s free, it’s driven by me, and it is as much or little as I want when I want it.
As much as I have read about it, talked about it with colleagues, I still find I struggle in becoming a truly connected educator, one who not only learns from others all over the globe, but also contributes to other’s professional growth.  There is truly not enough time in the day, and sometimes my PLN is set aside for a while.  A discipline referral, state testing, a parent meeting, a teacher’s question, catching up on email, and just spending time with my family all seem to bump in front of “feeding” my professional growth.  But, if my professional growth is important to me, I will make time in my day to become connected.

So, I’m still in the beginning stages.  And for those who aren’t sure where to start, this is what I have done.   I have had a Twitter account for a couple years, but this is truly the first year I have become more active.  I wasn’t sure who to follow, and so I started looking at who others follow, gaining ideas from them.  Today, I have expanded who I follow, trying to add a few new educators each week.  Every night, I check my Twitter feed for the day.  I have made it a goal to retweet some of the top articles and ideas I see each night.  I would like to check this more often, but I have realized I just need to start somewhere.  By doing this, I am learning about more connected educators and more about the great ideas out there.  I am “feeding” my growth every night!  Very exciting!  
Figures, Network, Connection
I have joined professional organizations, such as ASCD and NAESP, and I receive email newsletters and articles to give me insight and ideas on a variety of topics.  I attend webinars.  And I have ventured into blogs.  Most people reading this would probably say, “Good golly, Amy!  We’ve been working and sharing on blogs for a while!”  But for me, this is new territory, and I know many educators who are probably in the same boat as me.  However, I have found reading other’s blogs to be incredibly worthwhile, giving me new ideas for my school.

My goal in the next few months is to continue to become more connected to the wonderful, forward-thinking educators all around.  While I will not be attending conferences and workshops all the time, I do know I can continue to grow professionally by building my PLN every day.  My next step is to help my staff grow their own PLN too.  It is an exciting venture, and one that gets me pumped to check my Twitter feed next!