Thursday, March 20, 2014

Connecting to Learning Communities

Slice of Life Challenge, Day 20

I am the one in the strawberry red vest, near the middle of the top row.  And that is my entire kindergarten class; 16 of us. We were small, but we were mighty. And even though I moved away from our small town when I was 12, we were already thick as thieves, and I stay in touch with some of them to this day. It was in this tightly-knit class that I grew to love school. And it was also here that I learned to take risks.

In a small school, you have opportunities to play many roles.  In fact, you have to.  You don't get cut from the basketball team because they need the players.  And so even as a young student, I had opportunities to sew through 4-H, learn jump shots through basketball camp, etch mirrors in after school art club, I was pulled out of class to participate in a Great Books reading group as well as sing in a special choir. Even at 7, 8, 9 years old, I played many roles within my school community. And so I grew comfortable trying new things, learning new skills.  I came to see school as a comfortable place to take risks.  

I suppose I carry those lessons from elementary school with me to this day.  A number of my family, friends, and colleagues have labeled me a busy-body, and rightly so.  I enjoy learning new things and don't hesitate to take on new and challenging roles.  I am the perpetual volunteer, and I have come to realize that this is in part born from my very early experiences in the classroom. I seek out opportunities to learn new things, to make connections, to build communities. As a young person, I was encouraged to be active, to be involved, and I carry that with me.  I'm a teacher and a grad students, a parent and a wife. I'm on Twitter and I blog. I'm active in a string of organizations like PAWLP, GCT, PAECT, NCTE, PCTELA, and EdCamp Philly. I flip, I 20% time, I UbD, and workshop in my classes. And I invite others to join me on these learning adventures, knowing that along the way I will make some amazing connections.

As I take on new roles, I have connected with educators from a variety of school settings, with all variety of experiences and stories to share.  I have found mentors and collaborators who have bouyed my efforts and gently pointed out my shortfalls. They have pushed me to think more carefully and critically about my assumptions of student learning and the work I do in the classroom.  And this is what makes it all worthwhile.  I am a better teacher and a better student when I emerse myself in learning communities.  Being involved in a number of organizations, presenting at conferences, participating in weekly Twitter chats connects me with these communities. Much like I felt in my small elementary school, I am able to take risks because I am connected with learning communities that will both challenge and support my learning adventures. We all need those connections.

If you follow me on Twitter, you are likely tired of seeing my posts of Meenoo Rami's new book Thrive.  But her work is about just this idea: making meaningful connections to mentor your learning, whether you've just stepped into your first classroom or, like me, have been at it for over a decade. I would encourage you to pick it up, read it with me, and connect!

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