Greater Than the Sum of My Posts
“After a semester of teaching, I feel overwhelmed, but not in the horrible sort of way you might imagine. Sure, you’ve been warned: being a new teacher is difficult, you’ll probably be bad at it…the truth is I wouldn’t trade the moments I failed so completely for anything this past semester.”
Tying several weeks of reflection together into a larger picture of my growth and abilities allowed me to build momentum. The persepctive that each following month brought, after my first, was key to taking my next step as a teacher. I know I would’ve forgotten much of what I learned during my first year had I not returned time and again to my previous posts. If I didn’t return often to my past failures and successes in effort and attention, I couldn’t hope to learn anything long-term about my own teaching.
The way that a sailboat navigates across a body of water is something I was called upon to consider. A business writer from Sweden, whom I met on Twitter, had written about the idea of how to deviate effectively. When a sailboat makes its journey, there is a straight line in mind, but that’s not where it goes. Due to the nature of the wind, the boat must draw a staircase-like path from point A to point B.
When you understand that deviation from your plan is not only unavoidable, but necessary to growth and progress, worry and fear subside, decision-making becomes easier, and the learning process becomes clearer.
I began to undertand that my reflective writing was actually adding up to more than the sum of its posts. My tweets were reflecting me for who I was authentically. I was tweeting as a new teacher, not as a “failing teacher asking for help.” I think a lot of new teachers are afraid of using social media because they, or their administration, has a lot of fear about the nature of learning and how that relates to who teachers are: Teachers should come off as unchanging, unchallengable experts, not people who as for help all the time, on Twitter!
Sadly, I know several people who were cut off, really illegally and unethically, from their use of social media as teachers and learners. It’s sad when useful habits are stifled because of willful ignorance. It was while wading through my long-term challenges online that I became comfortable with who I was and was trying to be.
I started to fashion myself as a speaker for the cause of social media in learning–especially for new teachers. I connected with people like Tonya Roscarla of Converge Magazine, who just happened to be writing a piece on the subject, “Why Educators Should Network.”
I made friends with innovative and experienced teachers like Chad Sansing who invited me to present with him at NCTE the next year. Not only was I finding answers through social media, I was finding places to rebroadcast them as a representative of their power.
Spending time to look at the bigger picture is vital to understanding what is happening in your school, your content area at large, and in the larger field of education. So many new teachers learn to just lock themselves in their room to avoid being bothered. They want to insulate themselves from pestering paperwork and pernicious pedagogical practices, but they often end up unhappy. Being disconnected doesn’t help solve problems, it’s only through finding ways to ask the right questions to the right people that we can improve our situations and those of our students.