"The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives." ~Robert John Meehan
September is just around the corner and with it comes the arrival of my 20th year as a middle school educator. I can still vividly remember the phone call that essentially began my career. This special phone call informed me that I was being recommended for a middle school position in the Robbinsville School District. Finally my dream was about to come true. That first year was full of many challenges and many successful moments. My success that first year was due to strong relationships with many supportive colleagues and a loving wife who provided a nurturing and a guiding influence that enabled me to overcome the toughest of challenges. I couldn't have navigated through the obstacles of that first year without them. When I needed advice, they provided it. When I needed to be set straight, they did the straightening. When I needed an ear, they lent me theirs. When I needed to fly solo, I was given the space to try things on my own. I have many fond memories of my early years and the relationships that were forged with my colleagues and my students. These connections created strong bonds throughout the early years and helped me to build strong relationships. They have indeed made me the confident and successful educator that I have become.
As the years have gone on, whenever I have been given the opportunity to share my passion and vision for education with others, I have never hesitated to do so.Within the past few years my teammate and close personal friend Jane Hutchison and I have made a concerted effort to share our passion and wisdom with pre-service teachers at Rider University. In March of this year we shared with the students of Rider an encore presentation of a workshop that we had created called " The Characteristics of a Highly Effective First Year Teacher." Based on the feedback that we received from their professors and the students, we found the workshop to be beneficial to their development.
After concluding the March presentation my partner and I were approached by a senior at Rider who shared that she was going to a job fair the next day and that she had seven interviews with area school districts scheduled. During our presentation we had shared the value of using "social media" and the benefits of becoming a connected educator. It was obvious from our conversation that she was already a "connected educator" and clearly understood the value of the use of social media.I remember being impressed with the confidence that she possessed when we first met that evening. Evidently I was not the only one impressed by her credentials. Months later my school district would hire her for a third grade position. Throughout the past few months I have been inspired by her tweets and blog postings which have revealed a strong work ethic and a passionate commitment to her craft. She begins her teaching career in 2014 as a confident and inspired "connected educator. As she begins the first year of her career it is clearly obvious that she possesses all of the 21st century tools to thrive as a first year educator. With assistance
provided by her PLN and mentors within our school district , she is sure to soar in her first year as an educator.
While 1995 signaled the beginning of my professional career, 2014 signals the beginning of a new chapter in my professional life. Year twenty marks the start of my career as a new and improved "connected educator." Unquestionably as a result, I am a changed practitioner and in turn this brings new and exciting changes for my students.
As a connected educator, I have access to thousands of people from around the world who care about the success of my students.
As a connected educator, I have access to a global network of inspirational voices who embrace their roles as agents of change for today's youth.
As a a connected educator, I have access to the latest in innovative technology.
As a connected educator, I have the opportunity to discuss educational pedagogy with instructional and administrative leaders throughout the country and around the world.
As a connected educator, I have the ability to make strides and improve my craft in a consistent and immediate manner.
While I look back at the first twenty years of my career, I realize that I have always been a "connected educator" and that the relationships that I have built with children and adults are the cornerstones of my success. However with the help of Twitter, the connections that I can now make and the relationships that I can build as I develop my PLN are more diverse and expansive than ever. With each new connection that I make there is a new opportunity for collaboration and professional growth. The immediacy and the possibilities associated with this new "networking" provide a great deal of excitement for the individual and collective members within our profession. The more conversations that we can have about transforming education the more students around the world will benefit. Whether you are an educator who began your career in the 20th century and continue to evolve in the 21st century, or you are starting your career in the 21st century one thing is clear; using social media to make connections well beyond the classroom walls, is a formula for success for today's educator. The "connected educator" is going to be a force within this profession for years to come because they will possess the tools that they need to take their instructional practices to new heights. When will you begin to write your story?