Monday, September 22, 2014

Reflective Teacher Day 22: My PLN.....

     I have many PLNs! I have the one that is scheduled at my school during the last period of the day. This one is new this year as I switched subjects that I teach. More on that in a minute. The second PLN I have is the one I have built over the last year and a half on Twitter. If you are a teacher and reading this, are you on Twitter? If not, why the !O#(#&&@(#$ not? I will explain the awesomeness that is my PLN on Twitter in a minute. Third, I have a PLN that really never meets and walks around randomly in my building. Wait. What? I guess I should start with this last one as it is the most confusing of the 3.
     We began the process of creating collaborative groups based on subject matter taught about 8 years ago in my building. While this has been a valuable tool for improving the instruction in that content area,  it also had another side effect that was unexpected. What happened is teachers who wanted to collaborate out of necessity or just simple curiosity began having conversations in the lunch room, the mail room, in the halls, and just whenever it was possible. That is why this PLN is out roaming the halls. You just never know when it will pop up. However, as fleeting as it may appear, there have been many great ideas born out of this style of collaboration. Follow up conversations or emails have yielded tremendous ideas like the Stamp and Sticker Reward Program, the Student Tracking idea and many others too numerous to mention. This "parking lot" style allows me to flush ideas out and also give other teachers ideas that had not thought of before. Never underestimate the power of simple conversations......
     My second PLN is the formal one set up by the district years ago. I was in the same US History PLN for years until we shifted government to the junior year this year to have our curriculum match the State model since they were going to end of course exams. While this new PLN is not necessary based on a common subject, there are some themes that have been wonderfully helpful. For example, this new PLN is only myself and another teacher. But we both teach AP courses and those subjects have been too hard to try to match together. (A lot of singleton courses) This for me has been a wonderful change as I have always felt alone in my AP class even though some of the other teachers and I have talked in passing. This is a lot more formal. It has given me new hope and inspiration for a class that is more challenging than people think. We both have classes (AP Euro and AP American Government) that have students in it that are taking their first AP course in their high school career. So one thing we came up with is to 2-3 times a week write formative questions on the board that are AP style questions so the first time they see a question like this is not the day of the AP test in May! We can work through their thought process and fix any errors in thinking. We have only met 4 times, so I am excited to see what the rest of the year brings.
     My Twitter PLN: the greatest group of dedicated and inspiring teachers on the planet. Period. They save my sanity and my love for teaching almost on a daily basis. I truly love you guys. All of you! If I have a question or need something, I get an answer almost instantly from not only all over the country, but the world as well. The best thing? I love to share back: the more you do, the more you get back in return. I have been in so many #edchats that the discussions have literally changed what I do and how I approach my teaching. From 20 Time projects to standards based grading and project based learning, I have had more epiphanies in the last 2 years than in the past 19 years of my career. If you are not on Twitter, why aren't you? 140 characters does not take up that much time! It could be in between classes or during lunch. Get involved! Give a shout out to students! Get a following and follow back! Join an #edchat and expand that network of great educators beyond the people in your building. I 100% guarantee you won't regret it. I have not. Not for a single second.

"This is where I will stand
And here is where I will stay until my last breath
Until my dying day"
---Boysetsfire, Never Said

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