Many people assume being a connected educator is all about jumping on the computer and staring at a screen for hours on end. Engaging with educators through Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media is one way to connect, but it is not the only way.
Sometimes it helps to use the old-fashioned method of building a professional learning network (PLN) before you start making digital connections. Here are some tips on making analog connections:
1. Look around your building.
Educators often forget they are surrounded by experts every day. It’s easy to assume that there is little to learn from someone who teaches in a different subject area, but the opposite is often true. While subject matter may differ, the methods for reaching students are varied and valuable to all educators.
Start reaching out to other educators in your own building, and talk shop. This can be done at lunch or on a Friday after school over frosty beverages. There are people doing great things all around you, and it is important not to forget about them when looking to become more connected.
2. Attend conferences.
There are many conferences throughout the year that cater to educators. Conferences provide a huge opportunity to connect with like-minded educators and initiate meaningful conversations. This can happen in the hallways between sessions or during the sessions themselves.
Presenting at these conferences is another way to make connections. You may have to push outside your comfort zone, but the value it adds to your PLN is worth it.
3. Visit other districts.
Once you’ve made connections within your district and at conferences, I recommend visiting other districts and taking your PLN to a new level. Seeing firsthand how other teachers engage students — and how other schools are managed — can be a powerful catalyst for change within your own school or classroom.
Building relationships with other schools can also help bring together students from different backgrounds to collaborate on projects and create a larger learning community that benefits students as well as educators.
These three tips can help any educator break out of the classroom comfort zone and change their approach to teaching and leadership. Making connections is important because it allows you to encounter diverse opinions and requires you to reflect on your thoughts and beliefs. These are essential for educators who want to grow and perfect their craft.
Take the time this school year to reach out and connect.