There are Connections Waiting to be made Everywhere!
It takes time and effort to build a professional learning network. Miriam Clifford offers twenty tips for ensuring the process is successful.
Having a professional learning network has been a key component to my success as a first year teacher.I have found that encouragement and comradery play a large part in my professional learning network. Being able to discuss or simply listen about daily successes and struggles with fellow teachers is important. I deeply value the sense of community and knowing that I am never alone in my profession. I believe that perhaps the greatest connections I have made have been with my coworkers. We all come from different backgrounds, yet we share similar goals. We want to continue to improve ourselves in order to make our students succeed. While I am closer to some than others, I still know that I can count on all of my coworkers when push comes to shove. One coworker in particular has been a godsend to me this year. Although I teach business and he teaches science, he takes time to check on me and ensure that I feel confident in my abilities. He has offered assistance numerous times and has shared resources that were helpful to him as a new teacher. I have observed him in class, and have gleaned all kinds of useful information from him. I can confidently say that without my professional learning network in place at school, I would not be nearly as confident in my abilities as I am. I hope to someday pass the kindness and inspiration on to a new teacher.
Technology has allowed me to find encouragement from teachers who I do not personally know. Trevor Muir who runs The Epic Classroom Facebook page and authored a book of the same title is one of my favorites. He offers words of encouragement that ring true for most educators. He is relatable and reminds me that other teachers have the same struggles that I do.
I also enjoy reading “The Great Handshake” Blog. They always seem to know what blog to post and when to post it. I have often found myself nodding in agreement as I read their latest post. They write about current educational topics. Again, I do not personally know the authors, but I feel that we all belong to the teachers network. We all want to do what is best for the students of today, and we all often have similar feelings of failure or success.
I readily admit that teacherspayteachers has been one of my greatest allies this school year. I have purchased and utilized numerous lesson plans and activities from the site. I have also been able to ask further questions of a few of the contributing teachers on the site. There are free and pay to use resources on the site. If I leave feedback on my paid for purchases, I earn credits that I can eventually use to get a discount on a future purchase. Once I have more teaching experience, I plan to share some of my original ideas to the site as well.
Technology is also a huge part of my classroom. My classroom is a computer lab with a total of 25 computers in it. My students use the computers during nearly every class. I utilize Google Classroom, Planbook, and numerous other sites on a regular basis. Google Classroom allows me to set up assignments for my students to complete ahead of time. I can also have them turn their work in electronically which allows me to access and grade their work from anywhere with an internet connection. It also saves paper from being wasted. Planbook is a useful tool that allows me to easily lay out lesson plans for all of my classes. It is user friendly, inexpensive, and extremely helpful.
I have added numerous meaningful network connections by being the adviser of the Future Business Leaders of America club at my school. Future Business Leaders of America is an organization that strives to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs. It has been extremely beneficial to me to have the resources of FBLA easily accessible to me. At conferences I have met business teachers from both local high schools as well as schools across the state. I have asked questions of many of them, and have brainstormed about potential teaching ideas. I foresee that FBLA will continue to be an important part of my professional learning network in the future.
I am a member of the Oregon Education Association. As a member of the teacher’s union, I am offered certain protections and rights in regards to my teaching position. I appreciate that I always have someone I can rely on to support me if I were ever to have an issue come up with my employment. I also appreciate that I can rely on them to help get through some of the red tape in regards to salaries and benefits.
In conclusion, my professional learning network is multifaceted, and constantly evolving. I will continue to look for new connections both in person and online. I continue to be surprised by the ways I make new connections, as well as by the amount of such connections just waiting to be made. I challenge teachers to never stop meeting new people and adding to their professional learning network. Check out some of the organizations I mentioned above. Many of them are on social media and are fun to follow!
I am Stephanie Walter. I am a mother, wife, farmer, and high school business teacher. Feel free to add me to your professional learning network! @SWalter1987