October is Connected Educator Month. I am a huge fan of this idea. The world of education we live in today is full of connections and #CE14 creates a platform for educators of all kinds to grow the personal learning networks, build their knowledge base, and reduce the silo’s in which we live. I have been blessed to build my PLN both back in Indiana and now that I am in California. The many educators I have met digitally since becoming an administrator here in Napa has let me know that NorCal and the Bay Area are a great place to be.
However, as I reflect on what it really means to be a connected educator, I feel like one of the biggest pieces that gets left out is creating stronger connections in your own school and community. I have fully embraced tools like Twitter, Google+, and Voxer to strengthen my practice, but that does not mean all educators closest to me have taken that leap. Here are a few of my thoughts on how to become a stronger connected educator in your own backyard:
1. Start Where Your Staff Is
Every educator has a different comfort level when it comes to being connected to other educators. There are many barriers (family, time, external commitments) that get in the way of educators being open to creating new connections. In my experiences, I have come to find that many teachers just don’t know where to start. Some people can gain access to a new communication tool and they are already 75% in, while others see it as learning a foreign language. In order to connect at a deeper level with your own staff, you can’t assume they will share your comfort. It is important to create incremental opportunities for educators to find the value in various forms of connectivity.
2. Create Pathways of Shared Interest
I had never moved to a new district before. As a new AP, it was important for me to create strong relationships with the other AP’s in the district. No one knows better the challenges each of us face than each other. In working with the other schools, I have began to meet regularly with a couple AP’s to talk about strategies and common problems of practice. As well as this, we have created a GroupMe group to share our thoughts throughout the week and reflect on our common goal of being in classrooms more. This has created a portal of shared interest for all of the high schools in our community. We are all facing different school cultures, but by being connected, can navigate the course together!
3. Develop Capacity in Others
I don’t know how many times I have been at a conference, workshop, or PD where the same small group of educators dominate the conversation. There is nothing wrong with this at all! It just happens that most of the people are already bought in. On Roger’s Innovation Adoption Curve, they are the innovators and early adopters. When connecting with your own school, it is vital to build capacity in others. If the same group of teachers are leading the charge, it is important to create opportunities for those that are on the opposite side of the chasm to lead the charge. This will create a larger sense of connectedness to the culture and all-together mentality you are trying to create.
4. It Doesn’t Have to be a Full Ship
Lastly, it is important to recognize and even be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to jump onto the ship. There will always be educators in every setting that question to validity of being a connected educator and are hesitant to use their time on such practices. That is okay. In starting where your staff is, creating pathways of shared interest, and building capacity, you will identify which educators are comfortable taking a leap of faith and what educators might not be ready. Start without them. Eventually the culture will consume them or cause them to realize the school is moving in a different direction they are.
Regardless, by focusing on being a connected educator in your own school and own community first, it becomes far easier to reach out to that vast world around us.