“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton
Although I have been teaching for eleven years, I’ll be honest and admit that this year is the first time I’ve really heard about Connected Educators Month. I suppose I was too busy trying to keep my head above water with everything that goes on in the life of a super busy educator. Now that I’ve heard about it, I find myself questioning my connections. Am I connected to my students? My fellow educators? My family? Myself? All of these entities are important to my success as a teacher, family member, and person.
Perhaps my deeper connections are not what’s meant by the concept of Connected Educators Month, but I am going to dig deeper. I want to know that what I am doing is enough for my students, my colleagues, my family, and of course, myself. In my never ending quest to be a lifelong learner, I have become much more of a Twitter user. As such, I’ve tweeted more in the professional sense than in the personal sense. I have two accounts, and my school one is getting more use than my personal account. I want to reach out to my students, their families, and my fellow educators both in my community and across the globe. I’m not going to be presumptuous enough to say that I am a genius or anything close, but I do feel that I have a lot of knowledge to share. I also believe that I can learn from others, including my students, colleagues, family members, and friends.
My journey to be a connected educator is probably not unlike that of other educators. I want to use the technology resources that are available to me to make learning more relevant to my students. I want my students to be cognizant of colleges, universities, military branches, technical schools, jobs, and apprenticeships. I want my students to know that they will have to make some choices about their lives after graduation. Life is really not at all like the Game of Life I played as a young girl. I did not get to spin a spinner, pick college or career, and go from there. It’s a little more complicated. Life just happens to us, and I want to give my students the tools to be successful. Technology can be one of those tools. Right now, I am using Twitter to connect with my students. I tweet assignments, announcements, motivational quotes, requests for information, college updates, and other school related events. I’ve noticed that I get re-tweeted when I say that I am somewhere, and I see the students. They want to know that I like the Band of Gold. They like knowing that I’ve been to a community parade and snapped photos of the JROTC Drill Team. They really liked it when I said my college band was not nearly as good as our high school band. Not only do they want us connected, they want us involved. Twitter, Remind101, and Facebook allows me to be both connected and involved.
I want a give and take collaborative effort with my colleagues. If I do this alone, I can hardly call myself a connected educator, can I? As with my students, I want to be connected with my colleagues in my building, district, state, nation, and the world. I firmly believe that we can all learn from each other, and I want to use social media to bridge the gap. My new interest has been participating in Twitter chats. I’m new to it, and not very good, but I do like lurking during the conversations. I actually jumped in and tweeted a few times in my last chat. I found that there are people out there who struggle with the same issues I do, and some even asked my advice. I liked being asked questions. I am at a point in my career where I want to know that I am still gaining useful skills that are shareable. The students in my class require some of my knowledge, but I don’t always have a forum to share knowledge with adults outside of my immediate building. Social media is giving me that avenue. I admit. I like it. I like it a lot. I want to be connected with others who are in the same boat I am. We need each other, and events like Connected Educators Month are a stepping stone.
As I’ve pondered my connections with family and friends, I’ve realized that like my students, they need involvement. I use social media to see pictures of my family and to share news, but the important stuff is revealed through face-to-face or phone-to-phone conversations. Social media has its place, and I am old school enough to believe that I cannot be an effective family member of friend if I limit my contact with my people by only using social media, we are all missing out. I cannot connect with my students using Twitter or Remind101 exclusively. I cannot do the same with my family. One of the questions that was asked during my Twitter chat the other night made me recall one of my favorite teachers. I told the chat participants that he was caring, challenging, and determined to not let me quit. Students need teachers like that. They need teachers like that who are connected to them so that they feel connected to the school. This is my opinion, and my opinion only, but I believe some of our students drop out because they are not connected. They are not connected to their classmates, teachers, schools, and sadly, their parents.
I know, this is supposed to be about Connected Educators Month. It is. It’s about an educator who is trying to maintain connections with those she comes in contact with on a somewhat regular basis. Yes, some are about technology, but some are about life. It’s those life connections that keep the students involved and coming back, and those students are why we are there in the first place.
“Most of us end of up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.” Andy Rooney
The answer to the question of who gets me out of bed is easy. God kisses me with the breath of life every morning, and He allows me to do what He called me to do. For those of you who know me, you know that I am not a morning person. I don’t jump out of bed with boundless energy, ready to tackle the day. I lay, and think, and wish, and pray, and wonder will I make the right decisions. I wonder if what I am doing makes a difference to my kids. No, I did not birth any kids of my own; I did not contract with the Georgia Department of Human Resources to adopt a child of my own. My kids are the ones who come to my classroom every day. Some are ready to learn, and many more are not ready for anything. They are just there. No matter the reason they are there, they are mine. My kids are also on the swim team, the student council, the debate team, and the 4-H Club.
What gets me out of bed? My kids get me out of bed. They get me out of bed because they need me. They need me to teach them English. They need me to tell them corny jokes in the afternoon. The morning classes know they don’t get jokes because I am not a morning person. They know, and they understand. They need me to teach them how to be polite to their classmates. They need to know that in Fagin’s world, we don’t say “shut up” to our classmates. They need me to teach them that there is a world outside of Griffin. They need me to teach them that in spite of what some in our community say, good things come out of Griffin High School. I came out of Griffin High School, and I have NEVER for one moment regretted the fact that my high school diploma, the first diploma I ever received, came from Griffin High School. They need to know that the gold gown I wore 26 years ago is hanging in my closet. I have fond memories of wearing that gown and singing the words of the Griffin High School Alma Mater as I stood with my friends and classmates on the very same field they will stand on when they graduate. They need to know that when I was sitting in a ski boat off the coast of the Island of Capri, I proudly sang the Alma Mater as I waited to see the Blue Grotto for the very first time. I get out of bed because my baseball playing kids need to look out of the dugout and see me in the stands while they are at a game. They need to know that although I fuss nonstop in the classroom, I care about the things that they are most passionate about. I’m not fussing at them at the baseball game; I’m cheering them on and encouraging them to do their best. It’s sort of the same thing I’m doing in the classroom, but they don’t realize it.
The memory of my deceased mother gets me out of bed. The memory of going to her kindergarten room every day for nearly a year while I was fresh out of college and unemployed gets me out of bed. I remember making hay stacks, green eggs and turkey ham, French Toast, and silver bells out of egg cartons at Christmas. My memories include my mother because she knew, probably before anyone else, that all I wanted was to be a school teacher. Sadly she passed away before my dream was realized, but I continue to get out of bed each morning because somewhere deep inside of my soul, I believe that my mother is with me in my classroom. She is there as I read with my students. I would like to believe that she is happy that I am not asleep while reading. There were a lot of times that she would fall asleep on the carpet while reading to her students. I don’t do that or at least I hope I don’t. My mother is there as I scold my students for doing inappropriate things. After I scold them, I speak with them about their future. She would have done the same thing. After she passed, many of her former students and their parents came to the funeral home for visitation. They spoke at great lengths about how firm my mother was, yet the students always knew she loved them.
The answer to my initial question is easy and already stated. God gets me out of bed. The answer to the second question is a bit more complex. I don’t get out of bed hoping to be the kind of person my mother was. I get out of bed hoping to be the kind of woman she would be proud to call her daughter and a teacher. I get out of bed hoping that one day my students will be able to say that although I was moody and strict when necessary, they knew I loved them and have absolutely always wanted the best for them. That’s why I get out bed.