One mistake I made early in my career was having an attitude of isolation. I often focused on my classes and what I needed to accomplish with my students. I did not do a great deal of collaborating on ideas with others. While I did discuss students with other teachers to better understand what they were doing to handle certain behavior issues with a student we shared, I did not talk to others about activities, projects, or teaching approaches.
This left me very frustrated as I spent a great deal of my free time researching tools I could use and different teaching approaches that would make my classes more enjoyable or at least a little different so students would not get board with the same style day in and day out. This frustration led me to become a Technology Coach. I always thought that having someone I could ask for assistance would be amazing and more useful than any other resource a school or district could provide.
Now that I have abandoned the isolationist mindset I have been able to grow as an educator at a much faster pace. In fact, I know there are thousands of things I have learned that I have not acted upon because I just don't have the time to use every great resource I have come across. Now I find my self hungry for more. I want to go to more conferences, participate in more Twitter and Voxer chats, and grow my learning community so it includes educators from around the world.
Recently I have been able to participate in a couple of educator cohorts that have been fantastic. The first is a group specified for digital leadership called the North Carolina Digital Leadership Coaching Network (NCDLCN). This is hosted by the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. The goal is to support Technology Facilitators, Media Specialists, and Teacher Leaders. So far I have spent two productive days with this cohort and I am scheduled to attend more sessions with them throughout the year.
I was also fortunate enough to spend a long three day weekend in another cohort, North Carolina Phi Delta Kappa (NCPDK), for an emerging leaders program. This cohort was made up of administrators, coaches, and teachers who are emerging leaders in education. This group only meets once, but we have been able to create social media groups to help us stay connected.
For both of these experiences, the best part is the connections made with other educators from different districts. I can follow them on Twitter, create Voxer groups, or just email them. The lessons I have learned from the people I am now connected with is astonishing. The one thing I have learned through these experiences would be that the more people you can connect with the more you can grow. I hope I am able to have many more experiences like these.
My husband was online when he saw a news report claiming that the F.B.I. had just released that they found something in the newest batch of emails that they would not be finished investigating. The report stated that it would take a few months to complete the investigation. The reporter made is sound really bad for Hillary and at first I was dumfounded. Then I realized that I did not recognize the news organization, which doesn't mean a lot with the number of outlets that have popped up online. I told my husband that we needed to turn on the local news and see if it was running there so we could compare the stories. Of course, the story running on the local channels was completely different and showed that the F.B.I. had released that there was nothing to find in the new batch of emails.
As I thought about all this, the real importance of teaching students research processes and reliability of sources hit me. I always understood why it was taught, I was an English teacher, but the sheer number of conflicting stories that are out and available is astounding. Students need to be able to sift through so many resources to determine what is true, but is that what they do? Twitter and other social media outlets have become some of the fastest sources for news. When a story is posted, how many people dig around to see if the story posted is reliable?
I think this election is a great way to really get students considering how to determine what is really true and teach them how to find good reliable sources. To do this, the classroom culture has to be one that focuses on the difference between the facts and opinions and students have to be able to have a discussion about these items without reverting to the name calling and mud slinging that is found in the election itself.