“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.