When you are an educator, there are certain inevitabilities that come with the job. Your mama told you there were would be days like this, and if you are like me, when you have “one of those days”, it can be disheartening. For too many of us, they paralyze and defeat us. When I am feeling exhausted and broken, I look to “sharpen the saw” and I seek inspiration. Traditionally, I have gone to my family and closest friends for counsel, advice and motivation. And while they will never be replaced, I have found myself going to my twitter PLN for inspiration more and more these days. On the surface, twitter can seem like a whole lot of noise, a lot of style with no substance, and the vast amount of links and resources shared can be incredibly overwhelming.
My PLN inspires me. It gives me hope. It shows me that the classroom and educational experience I want for all kids is a shared dream and that there are many educators “out there” who work incredibly hard to make that dream a reality for their students. Connected educators (if this term means little to you, read this) are able to tap into the greatest community of knowledge, ideas, experience, and wisdom in educational history. It’s not without it’s negatives, as Karl Fisch recently pointed out.
While my PLN inspires and motivates me, it doesn’t do the work for me. It doesn’t create change in my classroom and it doesn’t change my approaches in coaching and supporting colleagues. It’s not a magic bullet. I still have to do the work. All those amazing ideas out there I want to play with? I still have to learn more about them. I still have to explore how they all fit and work for my students and colleagues. I still have to spend hours understanding and experiencing them. I still have to try them and fail and pick up the pieces and try them and fail some more.
And there is the rub.
But this is also where the learning occurs.
Far too many of us are waiting for a knight in shining armor to come rescue us from unfunded mandates and initiative fatigue. We are waiting for a hero to scoop us up and protect us. We are waiting for professional developers to hand everything to us on a silver platter. We are waiting for things to go back to the way they used to be.
If you find yourself nodding along to any of these sentiments, you will be waiting for a long time.
It also means you might be stuck.
My PLN reminds me that while no knight in shining armor is coming, I must never give up the desire of continuous improvement for myself, for my students and in support of my colleagues. They remind me that I want to be on the road that leads to awesome. (see clip above) They remind me that I need to be the hero of my own story. My PLN reminds me that I am the architect of my own learning journey. Most importantly, they illuminate a future full of possibilities that are far greater than any past we seem to remember.
I have a confession to make. I’ve had an active twitter account for over 4 years now. I have tweeted only 417 times as of this post. I have taken from my PLN far more than I have given. I have hoarded links and insights and silently observed. I have offered very little worth. I could offer a series of excuses here as to why I haven’t shared a whole lot. The truth is, I was scared. I was afraid that I would add nothing of value to the conversation. I was afraid of how others would view and judge me. These are also the reasons why I started countless blog posts only to delete them.
For many in my PLN, hitting tweet or posting reflections publicly comes naturally by now. It just took me longer to get there. (OK, a LOT longer.) So consider this my thank you for your patience. My PLN motivates me to be an empathetic and reflective learner with a passion for knowledge, understanding,and seeking continuous improvement. It inspires me to be a better teacher and colleague. Thank you to you all.