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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Edutopia is celebrating Connected Educator Month in October. And when I saw the discussion about what it means to be a connected educator, started by Community Manager Samer Rabadi in the Community Bulletin Board group, I felt inspired to tell my own story.

Coming Out of Hiding

I wasn't always a connected educator -- far from it! In fact, as a classroom teacher, I was used to the closed walls of my classroom. I'll admit that I was even comforted by it. For years, I suffered a bit of social anxiety. Being around crowds of strangers literally gave me hives and made me sick deep within the pit of my stomach. Through Twitter, I was able to have conversations that would have been uncomfortable for me to have face to face. The crazy thing that happened was that the more connected I became, the more I wanted to connect face to face. However, when it came time to attend an event, something almost always held me back.

In the summer of 2012, I attended the SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) Summit in Canada. To put things into perspective, I was this socially anxious person, attending a weeklong event, staying with a total stranger -- and it was in an entirely different country! That week was the single most important week in my connected life.

Not only did I make it through what turned out not to be an ordeal, but it was during that week that I was contacted by a principal in another school district to interview for a leadership role in his school. Surrounded by my new friends and former strangers, I agreed to meet with him, and I felt empowered.

Involvement and Empowerment

This past year, I spent my time making up for all of the events that I had feared before. I attended five Edcamps, a TCEA event, was actually a session presenter at ISTE 2013, and attended other local events as well. I even started blogging!

Even more exciting, this past summer, I spent a week at the DEN Summer Institute with other Discovery Educators. Ironically, while in Vermont, I was interviewed via Skype for my current position as an instructional technology specialist in another brand new school district. My job is literally to connect, share and teach an entire school district of strangers in various new locations. I do this without a bit of anxiety. Being connected is my new normal.

I am proud to say that when I walk into a room, I no longer get sick or feel the need to hide in the back. I look forward to sharing and having conversations. I look forward to the moments that I get to work with other teachers, helping them to grow in their practice.

The absolute best part about my journey into connectedness is that I've been able to empower other teachers to find their own voices and do the same. After all, the cycle of sharing is what being connected is really about.

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