According to the USDE's "Homeroom" blog, "Connected Educator Month focuses on reaching and encouraging educators to try out and explore national and global online learning opportunities." We all know that connecting can be a challenge in a teacher's busy world. How can you make time to connect online when you barely have time to stop by and say hello to the teacher in the classroom next door?
I remember those first years of teaching, and they were not at all what I expected. I struggled with the basics -- getting to know my colleagues, connecting with resources (physical and virtual), preparing for anything out of the ordinary, and staying motivated. I'd guess that my students benefited mostly from my enthusiasm and continued efforts to at least try connecting with them beyond the classroom.
Eventually, I hit a stride in my teaching. By year three, I had a rich curation of resources in my teacher toolbox that included a few tangible and intangible items. Most importantly, I developed a list of reminders (or "Be's" as I call them) that may be worth sharing with new and not-so-new educators. If nothing else, these "Be's" serve as my reminder and motivation to stay connected and curious.
1. Be willing to connect with and learn about your colleagues.
Getting to know our students is essential. However, we often forget about how important it is to at least become familiar with our colleagues. Remember that your students will have some of your colleagues as teachers before and after you. So knowing a little about the teacher next door can go a long way for your students. Your peer educators, office/support staff, and district personnel are simply important people to know. Learning who your colleagues are doesn't mean that you have to become besties, but keen observations about them will help you determine the best strategies for working effectively with them. As you learn about your colleagues, also remember to show appreciation to those who will be there when you reach out to for support.
2. Be a community builder when you connect.
Staying motivated and connected to your purpose requires connecting with like-minded professionals in the field of education. So stay open to going deeper after learning about your colleagues. Keep in mind how easy it is to drift (and stay) on that isolated island that disconnects you from others who can provide the necessary support and encouragement to stay the course. Your own motivation is essential to your ability to become the ultimate motivator of your students. If you're in your early years of teaching, your mentor may have been selected for you, but don't forget that you are the ultimate builder of your community of support. A thoughtfully-constructed community will include your most honest cheerleaders who are willing to sustain the connections that you establish along your teaching journey. Additionally, this community will hold you accountable to your purpose for teaching and hopefully support your personal pursuit of future learning opportunities.
3. Be ready for the unexpected.
I don't know that this is even really possible for me any more, but it feels worthwhile to maintain a mindframe that challenges me to be prepared for thinking on my toes. No one is ever truly prepared for the unexpected, but you can accept that the unexpected will occur. Of course, this means striving to remain flexible. For example, Stacy comes to class late and does not seem to be herself. You're planning to jump right into your station rotations until you notice her demeanor. Take a moment to connect with Stacy -- maybe she missed breakfast or just needs to know that someone cares today. A few minutes of your time with her might make the biggest difference in her day. Remember that thinking on your toes (or withitness) does not just mean that you always make the perfect "in-the-moment" decisions. I spend hours connecting to my content and curating resources to personalize my students' learning of their academic content. What about a curated list of resources that you can refer to when seeking motivation for both you and your students?
4. Be prepared and take a seat at the table.
When the time is right, be prepared to speak up and step up in support of others (pay it forward). All teachers have a voice that should be heard. We all bring a certain set of skills with us into the classroom. Reflect and connect to your inner being -- figure out how your skill set can best be used in a classroom (or schoolwide) setting. When considering taking a seat at the table, remember to go back to number one on this list: learn about your colleagues. What you know about them will help inform how and/or if the time is right to offer support.
5. Be a current and curious educator.
As you connect (physically and virtually) to your content, colleagues, and curated resources, remember to remain curious and keep it current. We have made some powerful shifts in education over the years, and it is frightening to feel lost or left behind. As a child, my curiosity motivated me to move in a positive direction. Reflect on the times that your curiosity and imagination took you on an amazing journey, and allow that same spirit into your classroom -- for you and for your students. When we are curious, we learn and discover new innovations. Allow your curiosity to drive your connections.
Please share your own "Be's" in the comments below.