by Michele Corbat
Today is #FF (Follow Friday) on Twitter. Basically, this is a way to promote an interesting Twitter user and to recommend other Tweeps follow him or her. #FF is one way I build my PLN (Personal Learning Network). It is how I connect with amazing educators all over the world. People who are game changers, driving change in challenging circumstances. People who are creating cultures of learning.
What, exactly, is a PLN?
If you follow Jerry Blumengarten on Twitter, you know that he is the RESOURCE KING (if you are not following him, stop reading this and start now). In fact, he has an entire page on his website dedicated to PLNs. Check it out here. According to Wikipedia, a PLN is:
an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment. In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.
My PLN has changed my life. I have interacted with and derived knowledge from educators who are leading the way in education. These 'edunators' (a term invented by teacher Mark Clements) implement genius hour, 20% time or project based learning. They organize and attend Edcamps, flip their classrooms, moderate educational chats, read books every day and share all of this knowledge with me through their tweets and reflections in their blogs. They have deepened my understanding of standards based grading/learning, visible thinking, and augmented reality. They inspire me to take risks and to set goals that I may not have set before connecting with them. It was through the support of my PLN that I was encouraged to begin blogging and to co-moderate #COLchat.
Educator, author and consultant, Angela Maiers, has said, "The smartest person in the room IS the room." Together we are smarter. She wrote about it here. I wish that I would have joined Twitter years ago to collaborate and build my PLN. I wish that I would have had a PLN when I was still a classroom teacher. I can't imagine how amazing that would be--to be able to attend an Edcamp or read a blog post and then implement what I learn with MY students the next day! The good news is that now I do have a PLN.
My School PLN
I left the classroom eight years ago to accept a new challenge and stretch myself in a leadership role. My district created support positions for teachers called Literacy Coaches. I was one of the first coaches in my school district. In all honesty, there have been many ups and downs with this role and at times it has been very lonely. I am not an administrator. I am not a classroom teacher. Some may feel that I can't possibly understand the stress or struggles a classroom teacher faces today since I am not in their shoes. They are right. I can't know exactly what it feels like. However, the expectations I set for myself are extremely high. If a teacher is struggling with new curriculum or teaching strategies, I will do whatever it takes to support him or her. The staff and students that I get to work with on a day-to-day basis matter and I want them to know that I care. While my responsibilities and title have changed over the years, I am still blessed to be connected with hundreds of educators and students in my school district. These connections have allowed me to establish a school PLN.
Building trusting relationships was and is my number one priority. I wish that I could say that I have trusting relationships with every one of my colleagues, but I don't...YET. The educators who I HAVE connected with are part of my school PLN. Together we set learning goals, create implementation plans to reach the goals, implement these plans (my favorite part of this is when I get to co-teach) and give each other feedback. We share resources, ideas and strategies. We recommend books to each other. We cry together and laugh together.
My goal for the 2013-14 school year is to increase my school PLN because 'the smartest person in the room IS the room'. In order to do that I will continue to work at my number one priority: building relationships. I will listen without judging. I will accept others' points of view even when I don’t accept what the person says. I want the person who is speaking to feel like he or she has been heard. By focusing on the person’s words and determining what the speaker is telling or asking for, then summarizing or asking for clarification, I will become a listener who isn’t judgmental. I will continue to practice the C.A.R.E. strategies I wrote about here. Then the true collaboration can begin and I can't wait. My PLN is going to bring our school district's mission statement to life!
Mission: Swartz Creek Community Schools inspires our learners to embrace challenges, set goals, grow their talents, and realize their dreams for success in a global society.
We are all in this together!