When I received my teaching program last year I found myself in a pickle.
Four of the classes weren't an issue, but the last one on the list was cause for pause.
8th grade health?
Warm discomfort, maybe even panic started to overwhelm me in the seconds that followed.
How could that be possible? I'm a high school English teacher.
Years ago, the panic probably would have lingered longer and the struggle that would have been ensued may have even been paralyzing, not even knowing where to start.
But now, it's different.
As a connected educator, I went straight to Twitter and put out the bat signal. Within minutes, seasoned science teachers and health teachers were sharing ideas with me. They offered their expertise, time and showed a willingness to help me that was both overwhelming and amazing. The gratitude I felt was indescribable.
This is truly the power of connection.
Over the past couple of years, I have grown my presence on Twitter and it has changed the way I teach. Whether participating in chats, reading the blogs that people share or crowdsourcing to gather ideas or resources, I'm always learning.
And the biggest pay off has been the professional relationships I've made that have encouraged me to take risks that have benefited my students in ways I could have never imagined.
But being a connected educator isn't only about Twitter or other social media networks (although that is surely a part of it), it's about putting ourselves out there and making relationships with people and our learning. It's a willingness to try new things and to share what we've tried with others who haven't tried yet.
The support and encouragement are priceless and at the rate, technology is changing, this is a viable way to weed through the limitless sea of information and start smaller until we are comfortable growing the repertoire.
Some folks may say that technology and connectedness aren't important for learning, but I disagree. As we move forward in our chosen profession, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge that the world has changed and is continually changing and therefore if we want to serve our students to the best of our abilities, we must embrace these changes. It's not about us. It's about them.
Let's commit to leaving the phrase, "this is how we've always done it" behind and make a fresh start. This is an opportunity for all of us to be learners with our students, taking risks and developing ourselves as 21st century connected educators. We can model the process for the kids, always showing them that we are in the classroom to make their experiences worthwhile for their futures.
What will you do to get connected? What have you done already? If you haven't taken the plunge, what's holding you back? Please share, we all want to help.