January 28, 2013

Hold Fast to Your Professional Learning Network

Quite often this year I've found myself feeling a bit like an island marooned out somewhere just beyond the Bermuda Triangle and the Twilight Zone.

I know, I've talked about this before.

I'm so sad, I've said.
All these procedures are so different, I've groaned.
Nobody understands my pain, I've wailed.

And on and on. I know. Change is hard. But change without adequate support is akin to emotional amputation.

So what has made a difference for me in the last six months?

  • A dear friend whose timely phone calls and text messages keep the embers burning. (Thank you, Jenny. I'm positive I wouldn't have made it this far without you.)
  • The professional network of friends I meet with throughout the year as we collaborate and plan together. My friends in my local NWP site, the North Star of Texas Writing Project, inspire me to grow more, know more, and do more all the time.  (Thank you Carol, Joan, Dr. P, Amanda, Audrey, Heather, Janelle, Amy, and all the many other movers and shakers that keep me on my toes!)
  • Twitter. Oh yes, you heard me right -- Twitter is one of the best things that has happened for my professional development. I urge every teacher I know to test it out -- it's not just celebrity brawls and teenage angst, I promise. (I would not be the teacher I am today without the ability to peek into the minds of educators such as @dogtrax, @donalynbooks, @teachingwthsoul, @TechNinjaTodd and @AngelaMaiers, to name a few.
  • Blogs. Delicious, mind-feeding, passion-inspiring blogs. (Kudos must go out to Cynthia Alaniz over at Teaching in Cute Shoes, my pals over at Three Teachers Talk, and Deb Day over at Coffee with Chloe. Your words move me to scribble down my own, on days when writing would otherwise feel like plucking bees from the air.)
There are so many more minds, authors, teachers, speakers, and fellow learners-in-crime that I have not mentioned here. You each deserve a standing ovation that you watch with tear-filled eyes from the stage in Madison Square Garden. If no one else has told you today, I appreciate you. Thank you for helping me to continue growing.

As teachers, I think we often fall into the trap of thinking we can't ask for help. We're professionals, so we must know it all already. Right? For goodness sakes, people have trusted us with children!

Well folks, I don't know it all. I'm trying, really -- I am, silly as it may sound. But until then, I'm thankful to know this much: I need my Professional Learning Network like I need air. Or M&Ms (don't act like those aren't a necessity). And I am indebted to the knowledge they freely share, every day. My students are too, they just don't know it.

Maybe I should change that. Maybe they also need to know the importance of leaning on and learning from one another -- even after they are all growed up. So hold fast to your friends, teachers. Hold fast to your network of educators, professionals, and thinkers -- for if these go, learning is "a barren field, frozen with snow." (And a final thank you, of course, to all the poets of the world, including the lovely Langston Hughes.)