Teaching Opinion

How Do We Get Educators Into the Connected Network?

By Starr Sackstein — October 21, 2018 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

My Twitter profile says that my “born on” date is April of 2009, but that is only part of the story.

Alan November visited my school in April 2009 for the first and essentially showed us why we had to be on Twitter; so I did what any overachiever would do and signed up.

But just signing up isn’t enough and basically, for the next year or so, my account lay relatively dormant waiting for me to take advantage of what it had to offer.

During the time that passed between my initial sign up and when Alan November came to visit my school a second time a few years later, many things happened.

I had grown bored with what I was doing in the classroom. There wasn’t enough actionable feedback for me to keep growing in my situation as it was and I was going through a divorce which freed up a lot of time for me to refocus my energy into my work.

In those couple of years, I had been named a Dow Jones Special Recognition Educator for my work as a journalism teacher and adviser after having attended ASNE’s Journalism Fellowship at Kent State, I earned National Board Certification and I started researching for my first book about the myths of early teaching.

Because of my work with journalism and the changing landscape of media, I started using Twitter more frequently and also started blogging when I realized that what I needed to say in educational Twitter chats and in 140 character tweets didn’t afford me the space to communicate what I wanted to say.

Additionally, since I was researching a book on early career teaching, I was looking to get into spaces where I could learn authentically from folks who were early in their careers as well as pre-service teachers. I needed to understand their “whys” and the challenges they were facing rather than just assume my experience was universal.

These conversations led to more permanent relationships that I developed and more importantly a connected network that started exposing me to learning opportunities that forced me out of my comfort zone and gave me a well-needed boost into getting excited about my career again.

There was a major downside to my upward spiral though, my colleagues at work weren’t on the same path. There was no one to really share in my personal growth and most of the new friends I was making weren’t local. Sure, they were available on Twitter and then later on Facebook or by phone when I needed, but the proximity made it challenging to develop very close relationships that could support me through this transition.

By the time Alan November came back to my school, I was in my intermediate phase of Twitter use. I had been co-moderator on a creativity chat that ran on Sunday mornings called #sunchat and a Journalism teacher in Oklahoma, Lisa Snider, reached out about starting a journalism chat for advisers which turned out to be a great idea.

And since I was blogging regularly at this point, I joined Triberr, a blog aggregator that helped me connect with prominent educational voices, the likes of whom I probably wouldn’t have connected with otherwise. Now, my blog was being shared by trusted names and more people were gaining access to my personal blog. Alan was impressed and invited me to participate in his BLC13 conference. Although I flattered at the time, I didn’t think he would follow up and actually invite me, but he did.

Before BLC, I had been attending mostly journalism conferences with JEA and/or NCTE. I presented at those conferences about the work I was doing with students and as more time went on, the work my students were doing exclusively.

The first book came out and I was asked to moderate #Satchat, a well-participated Saturday morning leadership chat where Peter DeWitt took notice of my topic and ideas. He asked me to write a guest blog post and the rest was history.

Over the next few years, opportunities began coming to me and I tried to pay it forward wherever possible, but still, locally, there was little connection until I started to go the local Edcamps in my neck of the woods. Not many teachers from NYC were attending yet, but I did get to meet some more progressive educators on Long Island and start to develop important friendships that would help me through the next few years.

When you have a growth mindset and you are exposed to awesome ideas and you start trying them... you change. As a person, as an educator as a parent... you get the point, so it sometimes feels challenging to stay where you are if where you are isn’t evolving with you. It was lonely at work except for my few friends who were proud of me for the work I was doing, but still really didn’t get it and weren’t terribly ready to make changes themselves.

Somewhere along the way, I outgrew my position. Having written many books at this point, being a dominant presence on Twitter and getting opportunities to travel to conferences to speak both in workshops and as a keynote speaker. With all of this travel and learning came more exposure to more great ideas as well as support for the ideas of my own that were a part of the mix.

Fast-forward to now, I’m in a new position where I’m learning something every day, but I’m still working with a lot of people who aren’t connected. Many more than before are and that is awesome and they too are seeing the power of that network. Whether it is resource sharing, validation of ideas or sharing of their amazing work, the teachers I am working with as well as the leaders have seen the power and learning to harness it for themselves.

But there are still people who aren’t there.

So my question for all of (because if you’re reading this, you are likely connected as well), how do we get folks who don’t see the value in Twitter and being connected to at least be open to trying?

I was very proud this weekend to be a part of my school community going to an Edcamp together. Some of whom were there for the first time. Watching them see it all for the first time was truly amazing, not to mention the fact that the Long Island EdCamp was so well attended, way more so than the first few I went to myself.

What have you done to get more of your colleagues connected? Please share

Screenshot by author.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.