My Little Bubble...

One of the things that surprised me most about teaching was the intense isolation that I felt my first year. If you don't put in the effort to leave your class and go see others, then you could easily go an entire day without talking to another adult. Now on any given day, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. But I found that my first year of teaching, when I was tired and stressed and sick of talking to and listening to students, more human interaction was the LAST thing that I wanted.

I began to retreat into my little bubble on a daily basis.

I would arrive through the side door closest to my room usually before most other teachers arrived. I would get to my room and work alone until kids showed up for the day. I was kind of a scrooge that first year, so none of the kids wanted to actually see me, so my class was empty except when I actually had a class.

I ate lunch alone.

I either worked, decompressed by reading ESPN, or took a cat-nap* during my plan period. The way the hall was configured, I really only interacted with one other teacher during passing periods.

*Yes, I did this. Not often - maybe 5 times during my first year teacher. Don't judge. It may happen again once our baby arrives in about 6 weeks! 

I was alone - emotionally and physically.

Today in my 5th year of teaching, while I value my own quiet time, I am rarely alone throughout the school day. Every day is an opportunity to find the next great idea, and often, that idea comes from someone right down the hallway, like my colleague and good friend, Steve Parker

As a teacher, connections are important. But too often when we in education talk about connections, we are only talking about student connections. The connections that we make with other teachers and administrators are just as important, though! This group, often called a PLN (Personal Learning Network), serves several key purposes for educators:
  • Brainstorm new ideas and projects. You'll learn to bounce your ideas off of others and also get inspiration for new ideas from talking to others and hearing their ideas.
  • Emotional support. Sometimes you are just having a bad day and need to vent for a second. If you have people to vent to, you can get it off of your chest and get back to being a great teacher.
  • Connected learning. How else could you grow as a teacher or administrator? That would be like a professional basketball player never watching game film.
  • TEAM. It's cliche, but Together Everyone Achieves More. It's true. By connecting to others, you'll learn more, you'll collaborate more, you'll become a more exciting teacher. It seems silly, but you'll start to want to come up with new, great ideas so that you can share them with your PLN. 
  • Connected educators share best-practices and learn quickly. Teaching is a trial and error kind of activity. Just like science, the moral trials and errors you have to learn from, the more quickly you'll learn. 
Becoming a connected educator extends into the online sphere. Whether that means that you are going to start writing your own blog to self-reflect or just lurk around Twitter, you now have the ability to connect to educators from around the world. Someone out there is doing something inspiring - you just have to be looking in the right places to find it.

You'll be amazed that before you know it, you'll be the one sharing something inspiring.  Rookie connected educators become veteran connected educators very quickly.

So here's my one suggestion that is easy and free and not Twitter - go visit other classrooms! Find other great teachers who are doing great things and go watch. Don't give warnings that you're coming - that makes it feel like something formal. Just grab your cup of coffee and go poke your head into 5 or 6 classrooms for a few minutes each.

Here's another hint: If the teacher you're visiting wants warning before you show up, then you're probably watching the wrong teacher. Every great teacher I've met is OK with people in their classroom any time of the day. Why is this? Because great teachers rarely waste time, even when they're doing something that to the outside observer seems pointless.

Go watch great teachers and learn from them!

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you'll consider taking a moment to comment below and turn this into a conversation. Whether you are an educator or not, we have all had common experiences with education both good and bad. I want to hear what you think! 

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