The 14 Day Work Week?
During my first year of teaching, I didn’t spend five days teaching each week; it felt more like fourteen. I may have only been in the classroom during the hours of 7:00 to 4:00pm, but each hour there seemed to require equal time in preparation. The fear of being overwhelmed during your first year of teaching is constant. The nonchalance of veteran teachers is perceived either as expertise or detatchment. New teachers can’t afford to be detached if they want to stay hired, but efforts to telegraph a sense of professional expertise usually just seem like hollow posturing.
Such situations are what make most new teachers marry themselves to continual worry and fear of failure. The most important thing I learned during my first year was that I could charter my own path, and that I’d be a stronger teacher for doing so. Reflective writing was at the core of my teacher development. It was what made me dedicate myself to weekly blogging. The public forums I volleyed my little vingettes into were what transformed my fear into the confident assertion that I was here to learn too.
The community in my school offered a lot of help, but on a day-to-day basis I couldn’t expect much more than half-smiles and hi’s between copy machines. A new teacher needs a lot of nurturing. Maybe I’m just not tough enough, not John Wayne enough since I’m associated with this entitled generation who grew up online, but I’d hope all teachers–not just the new ones–agree that they should be challenged to learn every day.
Each week of my first year was punctuated by a blog post. That post was buffetted by a series of tweets, those tweets influenced by my class or an article on teaching. The most important thing that this chunking of my school year did was to break up each semester into managable pieces. Just as some football coaches break up the season into quarters to provide focus, blogging each week was a magnifying glass into my practice.
One week, I started to reflect on just how different my digital connections were from those in real life. I felt that “Teaching is all about community” but were those people following me, the ones I followed back, the people leaving comments and reading them, really friends?
“Earlier this morning I read someone’s blog in which they said ‘My friend Paul Bogush…’ It caught me by surprise. I never considered that person my ‘friend.’ But after reflecting I thought to myself that I have talked and shared many things with him, the same things I would have with any other friend. If he was standing next to me and someone walked up to us I would introduce him as ‘my friend.'”
That quote from Paul Bogush helped me to realize further that I could build a strong community of teacher support online. It wasn’t just about a bunch of people sharing links to good articles and talking about what they were reading in class that day. The community of teachers online is robust and responsive. The community in my building was disparate and disconnected at best, even if you count the few close friends I had there. As Hugh MacLeod’s scribbling suggests, the wider ability of a network to provide support is stronger than any single node.