Exponential learning

I have been actively developing my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter for about a month now.  In stark contrast, I spent years working to complete my master’s degree.  The point of this comparison is to expose the sheer abundance of learning–the focused, direct, customized and free learning–available through a PLN in opposition to the slow, methodical, sometimes monotonous and overgeneralized learning of a traditional program, not to mention its expense!

My master’s studies were most definitely valuable to my overall understanding of the field of education, and I learned new pedagogy and some new approaches to leadership.  The most valuable part of my university program, though, was getting to know and network with the people in my leadership cohort.  They have been the most vital part of my graduate education, and I know they will remain friends and colleagues for many years to come.

In the past month, however, I have learned how to network with professionals all over the world whose ideas and philosophies are both much like my own and challenge my own.  I have connected through Twitter and through blogs such as George Couros’  “The Principal of Change” and Joe Bower’s “For the Love of Learning” in a way I’d never expected. I attended a free webinar for  Edmodo (I learned that Edmodo and many other free web 2.0 tools exist!), and I have enjoyed conversation on Twitter at #edchat.  I registered for the first annual Reform Symposium (#rscon10), and although I was unfortunately unable to attend live sessions,  I have relished the archived sessions and the free iTunes availability of the podcasts! I learned what a Ning is and how practical and intellectually “nutritional” it is to follow one as good as Jim Burke’s English Companion Ning.

My learning, my understanding of learning, and my vision of learning, have all been absolutely transformed in four weeks’ time.  What started with curiosity about web 2.0 tools has turned into a transformational learning experience for me.  Let me rephrase:  Through my PLN, my vision of learning has ballooned to include the kinds of technology that will bring the digital world not just into my classroom, but directly into the hands of my students.  The foundation of what I believe about good teaching and learning is not only interwoven through but underscored by my discovery!

I am grateful for the rich resources that I’ve found in the educators and leaders in my Twitter PLN.  I am raring to go this year, and I’m more excited than ever!

There was a time when I lamented that professional development as we knew it was ending because of funding woes.  I was right, and thank goodness!  This is a new beginning with new and greater possibilities.  I will close with a favorite quote of mine.  It illustrates what so many of the educators I follow online do every day, and it inspires me to do more:

“Leadership is about taking people to places they’ve never been before…Leadership is courage in action. Courage gives us the energy to move forward…the confidence to believe we can make it…the strength to sustain ourselves in the darkest hours. Courage enables us to leave a legacy that declares, ‘I was here and I made a difference.'”

Kouzes & Posner in A Leader’s Legacy (2006)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Endings and beginnings. . .

I’ve always fancied myself a writer of sorts, though I’ve never published anything you would have read, that is, until now.  I love the art of writing–the careful and deliberate re-creation of experience and feeling so that others may share in it, so that is why I chose to teach English.  (I’ll save my love for literature for another post!) I love all kinds of writing, so I’ve taught creative writing, research, rhetoric, speech, and journalism.  I delight in what makes each of them unique as well as what ties them all together.  Passion.

As much as I love writing, though, in truth, I am a teacher.  I am a teacher in my bones, my heart, my soul and every cell that enables me to be.  I will not apologize for that.  I believe teaching is the noblest of professions.  I walk beside my students and then behind them as they stride into the future.  Often they stumble or stray, but a real teacher knows that unless her students stumble and stray, they won’t learn.

This is the seventeenth summer of my teaching career.  I laugh when people suggest that I actually vacation during the summer months.  I’ve never known a summer when I’ve not spent hours planning, meeting, studying, reading, imagining, hoping, shopping, decorating, and waiting for the next school year.   It seems impossible that I’ve done that seventeen times.  I still feel I have so much to learn about being a great teacher.

One summer I took students on a theater tour of London and the surrounding area.  What a joy!  The things I learned from that trip have been a part of my teaching since we went in June of 2001.  For the past two years I’ve taken 5-day jaunts to Stratford, Ontario, Canada to their wonderful Shakespeare Festival.  I learn things there that I bring back and share with my students, too.  Those are my “vacations.”

This summer I finished my master’s degree in secondary education and educational leadership.  I took the school administrator’s licensing exam and did well, so now all that remains is paper work.  On the cusp of the transition from teacher to administrator, this is a pivotal summer for me for many reasons.  After more than ten years as department chair, I resigned my position and am mentoring a new department leader to take my place.  After more than 8 years as a school improvement leader, I am stepping back to let others take the lead.

It is a difficult transition, but it teaches me a very practical and essential lesson.  A good leader is one who can, like a good teacher, guide others into realizing their leadership potential.  A good leader is one who can recognize and work to develop the talent around her.

I have given up the roles that have prompted my growth as an education leader in anticipation of the next step, but one thing is certain:  my greatest joy will be my only focus this year.  I get to teach my students, and I can’t wait to get started as my seventeenth summer comes to its close.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments