Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A whole lot of edu-awesome

Day 22 of the @TeachThought Reflective Teaching Blog Challenge

"What does your PLN look like , and what does it do for your teaching?"

My #PLN is one of my favorite topics to discuss with just about anybody who will listen.  Having this as a blogging topic?  Are you kidding?!  How long do I get, again?  Oh, right, a paragraph.  OK, just the facts, then.

My PLN is a collection of educators, authors, colleagues, and professionals from other fields.  They are geographically spread out around the world.  Some I follow regularly while others I pop in and out of their stream as the mood strikes.  I follow leaders from many professions as well as peers because I think that it is important to listen to many voices.  Some of my favorite "go-to's" for inspiration include regular writers for Forbes Magazine like @HenryHartDoss and leaders in our armed forces like @JohnEMichael, as well as edu-allstars like @E_Sheninger. However, the majority of my PLN is made up of those that I have gotten to know and collaborate with on a regular basis.  They are a fantastic group of individuals who provide inspiration, who challenge me and stretch my thinking, who offer answers to questions both big and small.  Most importantly, the connections that I have formed through my PLN have helped me to grow as an educator and administrator like no other learning experience has ever done.  A key piece to the learning and growth that has been a direct result of this PLN that I have curated and nurtured over time is that it is constant.  Unlike attending a conference that lasts a few hours or maybe a day or two, this is every day.

Photo: http://goo.gl/6UeqEA
The impetus for my PLN is Twitter and I will defend to the very end the fact that Twitter and my PLN have changed my life.  That might sound dramatic but it is true.  Because of of my PLN I have learned about ideas such as 20Time, the Maker Movement, Project Based Learning and Ed Camps.  I have pushed myself to not only attend conferences on a regular basis but also to submit my name as a presenter.  My life in a silo is over and that is a very good thing.  I look back on my pre-PLN self and feel sorry for myself, and more importantly, for my students.  I wasn't a bad teacher, but I wasn't as good as they deserved.  And of course the irony is that I have discovered this world of edu-awesomeness only now that I am not regularly in the classroom.  So instead of getting to apply my newly-found knowledge to my own classroom, I am sharing it with my entire staff.   The net result is that I can have a broader influence.  It also means that I can absolutely be a life-long learner.  As an educator that is what we want to instill in our students so it is great to be able to provide teachers and students with concrete examples and ideas of how they can do this themselves.

So what does my PLN look like?  It is a broad, knowledgeable, supportive community of colleagues near and far all working towards the same goal as I am: to learn and share as much as possible and cheer on those they meet on the journey.  How have I improved as an educator because of my PLN? I am more confident, more creative, and more willing to try something new.  I am not perfect, I don't know everything, but I know my resources and I'm not afraid to use them!

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