You know how we encourage our students to be life long learners? How we worry about our students experiencing summer slide? This made me start thinking about whether we, the adults in the process, are walking the walk, or just talking the talk. How often do we as educators practice what we preach? Do we "take the summer off" from learning and growing as a professional, or do we seek opportunities to learn, beyond our required hours of staff development?
I would say that if you are a connected educator, active on Twitter and/or Google+, and participate in chats and webinars, then you are certainly modeling what we want for our students. Every single time I log on to Twitter, I learn something or am inspired to try something. Because of this, I share the power of Twitter as often as possible.
This summer I have had the opportunity to share about the impact Twitter can make on someone's professional life on several different occasions. During our district summer professional development, I taught four different sessions. Each time, I would see a few people who really got it! They could see what Twitter had to offer, and then they would begin to get excited about the potential. As I was walking out at the end of one of the sessions, I thought about this part of a song from my childhood...
It really does just take a spark. I've seen it happen just this summer with our school counselor. Lindsay Fuller followed a conference hashtag and saw what you can learn without ever leaving your home. She now has a professional Twitter account, follows hashtags specific to school counselors and is working on her online presence through her blog post at Curtis Counselor. Lindsay had to experience it to "get it" and is now learning each time she gets on Twitter or reads a blog. Being a connected educator = life long learning.
Last week, during one of my sessions, a high school biology teacher started to get it. We got her all signed up and the beginnings of a PLN formed. As we were going through all of this, the wheels started turning, and you could see that spark. During our conversation, she said, "You know, we always end the year with dissecting in biology and the kids love it. Then we send them home for the summer. Why can't I START the year with dissecting and get them all fired up?" I had an extra copy of Dave Burgess's Teach Like a Pirate in my bag, and quickly grabbed it and handed it to her. Being willing to change your thinking = life long learning.
Later that night, I saw this same teacher had posed a question on Twitter and was waiting for someone to offer help. I shared her tweet with people I thought would be able to help her, and boy did they help! Thanks to Charles Cooper and others, she saw the true benefit of Twitter, a support network ready to help out.
During the summer, my assistant principal, Lorie Bratcher talked with me about started a blog. I shared with her two books I had read this summer by Austin Kleon. These books were recommended to me by a teacher-librarian friend, Andy Plemmons. We talked about how a blog can be an ongoing resume, and that we should share our stories with others. Lorie was Teacher of the Year for our campus, district and even our region several years ago... She is passionate about what she does and has a lot that she can share about teaching and continuous improvement. With all that she has to offer, it is still scary to put that first blog post out there for others to read, but she did it! You can read her post here. Being a risk-taker = life long learning.
This week, I also had the opportunity to speak to our district administrators about the power of Twitter and developing a personal learning network (PLN). To say I was nervous would be an understatement. It felt like I was preparing closing arguments for a big trial... that I had one hour to convince them to try Twitter as a way to grow professionally. I have Twitter presentations for teacher-librarians and teachers, but I knew this one would have to be different. Thanks to insight and resources from my own PLN, I created a Smore that I thought would convey all I wanted to share with them.
Before I got there, my principal, Racheal Rife, had everyone create an account so they were ready to go. A hashtag had also been created for this group, which showed them a way to share information with each other. I was able to see tweets being posted before I even started the presentation, so that was exciting. As I looked out at the crowd of administrators, I saw a room full of educators, many with years and years of experience, who were still excited and willing to try a new way to learn and grow. Being willing to try something new = life-long learning.
And one more thought, a little unrelated... connected educators retweet things on Twitter about how being a connected educator makes a huge difference for people professionally. What I realize though is we still need to reach the non-tweeters. Every time we post a tweet or share a blog post on Twitter, we are preaching to the choir, so to speak. The people we want to see those tweets might not have discovered the benefit of Twitter yet, so they never see them. Instead, we should share how developing a PLN on Twitter can make you a better teacher, librarian, counselor, principal or superintendent, and make sure we are reaching out to those people where they are, which often times isn't on Twitter yet. We need to meet them in the library, in the hallways or at a conference. And then make sure that we support them on Twitter, so that they feel its power when they reach out.
These are just some ways we model life long learning for our students. As we begin a new school year of encouraging our students to be life long learners, we must ask ourselves, " Am I walking the walk?" How do you model life long learning?