Sunday, December 2, 2012

Leaving the Island Behind

I am finally sitting down to write my first blog post.  I have to thank the power of my personal learning network for the encouragement to reflect in this manner.  This leads me into the topic of how Twitter and my PLN have powerfully impacted me in a way that convinced me that I could share my thoughts with people while learning from others.  The two have created a passion for intrinsic motivation for me to be a continual learner from educators and leaders all over the world. 

Twitter has reminded me that I am no longer on a deserted island by myself, thinking and hoping that I am doing things right to the best of my knowledge and abilities.  An awesome member of my PLN who I met through Twitter, Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), reminded me when he posted to me, “@Aaron_Becker32 You are not on an island all by yourself anymore partner. Got your back!”  His response was from my post on a chat on Twitter called #satchat.  The question was about things we would have changed when we reflect on our first job as a principal.  I stated, “#satchat A6: Would have changed being connected to more people. Felt like on an island in small district. Twitter opened doors & mind for me.” I think many educators would or could say the same thing before Twitter or other social media that connected them professionally.  When I was in this small rural Iowa school, it was literally surrounded by cornfields and not much else. I wouldn’t change the experiences there for anything other than being more connected to the outside world. I can remember feeling like it was a weakness if I didn’t know something or how to deal with an issue from the principal’s point of view.  I can remember feeling and saying to myself, “who can I talk to or call for help?”  I didn’t have another principal in the district that I could talk to about things.  So, I usually just tried to figure it out myself or call the one or two principals in the surrounding districts that I knew.  It was very limiting, frustrating, and at times very stressful.  Through Twitter, I have realized there were people just like me who were searching for help or their own professional development.  The best part has been that it is available 24/7/365 at my fingertips.  Twitter and my PLN have become some of the best, if not the best professional development I have participated in my educational career. It has made me an education junkie in which many days I can’t wait to read what others are doing in their schools or reading articles about larger educational movements that may impact me, my staff, or students.

However, this feeling about Twitter wasn’t always there for me though.  I was first introduced to Twitter while taking classes with my fellow education buddies, Deron Durflinger (@DeronDurflinger) and Nathan Wear (@Nathan_Wear). They are great follows by the way. They showed me how they used it and I followed a few people but I didn’t really get engaged with it.  I lost interest and thought that it was okay, but it wasn’t something for me.  Months passed in which I didn’t check in on my Twitter account.  During that time, I read the book Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck, which dealt with people having a fixed or a growth mindset.  This book made me reflect deeply about who I was as a person and also professionally.  After reading the book, I wanted to make sure I had a growth mindset in life and specifically in my profession as an instructional leader. This fueled my curiosity and desire to not settle and be satisfied with my current practices.  I decided I had to be intentional in finding ways to spark new ideas and challenge myself intrinsically.  During this time, I kept hearing about educators using Twitter for their PLN.  I wanted to know what this PLN thing was and how could Twitter help me.  Over a period of time, I figured out how to best use it for my benefit. Professionally, I started to see the endless educational and leadership resources out there available for reading, borrowing, and stealing.  I was able to see new points of view on educational topics in which I had been very close-minded.  Through this avenue of communication, I am also able to make personal connections with educators that I may have never known in my lifetime who can provide feedback and challenge my thinking.  This part has been the most rewarding.  Knowing that I have people I can count on 24/7/365 for educational advice, at the tips of my fingers, is an awesome feeling.  This feeling has created a new energy for learning and a desire to be connected to people all over the world.  I now know I will never have to go back to the way it was before; feeling like I had to have all of the answers or feel like I was working on an island.  The only island I want to be on is one where I am relaxing on a vacation.  Hopefully, that island comes sooner than later.  Thanks Twitter and thanks to my PLN.  You have inspired me.  

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