Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday


TBT - My earliest teaching days....
 I made it one day on my own as a blogger, and was reminded by a tweet that the folks at Te@chthought had extended the opportunity for further collaborative reflection.  Thursdays, during the month of October, are reserved for commentary about collaboration.  And while "Thoughtful Thursday"doesn't share the embarrassing photo fun of "Throwback Thursday", I thought I'd give it a shot.
  Te@chthought has declared October "Connected Educator Month."  Maybe participating will force me out of my classroom a bit more this month in search of collaboration models and opportunities with colleagues. 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY @TEACHTHOUGHT

Week 1: What does "connected education" mean to you?

 Yesterday was the monthly "extra hour" faculty meeting at Donegal.  The new assistant superintendent was introduced, and the agenda was a full page, single spaced.  If you've ever taught in a high school, you know that the fall is filled with all sorts of important dates.  Some are socially important -- like Homecoming, Pep Rallies,  and Picture Day, and others are the academic calendar days for things like practice drills, PSAT testing, Keystone Testing, etc.  Kids dismissed at 2:45, and the meeting was to officially start at 3 in the cafeteria.  So when did the principal "call the meeting to order"?  

3:08 pm.

It was not because people were late attending the meeting.  The cafeteria was full, people were at tables, and connecting.  There were few tables that were exclusively departmental in nature -- the teachers took this opportunity to connect with others that we/they rarely see.  Despite the fact that Donegal has less than 1000 students in the building, we can go weeks without seeing people who teach in a different hallway, or on a different floor, if they don't share the same lunch or prep period.  Faculty Meetings usually have this sense of "coming home" to me.  

The cool thing is that John recognizes that, and realizes the value of his teachers connecting with each other.  Yesterday he made note of the fact that he values the collaboration he sees -- even if it is just a few minutes before he starts rolling through the agenda.

While most might dismiss 8 minutes as an insignificant amount of time, it really is a sparkplug for what will become other connection and collaboration opportunities.  The idea of Social Capital has gotten some press recently.  Social Capital is the value of teachers connecting with teachers, in unstructured settings, and valuing each other as people first, ultimately impacting student achievement in a positive way.  The article in the Washington Post  goes on to stress the importance of connected educators, and highlights several studies supporting the value of collaboration between/among teachers.

Several years ago, I became facebook friends with a teacher in my building.  Aside from an occasional wave in the hallway, we didn't intersect very often in real life.  What we discovered on facebook was that we shared similar teaching philosophies, our wicked senses of humor, and a love of The Big Bang Theory.  On facebook, Amanda is probably one of the top five people that I interact with regularly -- I often see things to "share" on her wall that will cause her to laugh, or incorporate into her classroom.  Because of our facebook connection, we inspire each other, share ideas, and seek out common interests.  Yesterday, we explored Schoology together during a portion of that 8 minutes before the faculty meeting.  The funny thing is that without facebook as a place to relax and get to know each other, we'd still just be nodding in the hallway.

I connect on a regular basis with other teacher friends as well.  It's easy to consider your "go to colleagues" as those in your own department or those in a network that share common interests or students.  Now there's concrete research proving the value of expanding your list of friends.

Social Capital.  A valuable commodity for the success of students.  Sometimes it's schoology, sometimes it's cat videos.  

#reflectiveteacher #@te@chthought