The Educator's PLN

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Classroom by James F Clay
Classroom, a photo by James F Clay on Flickr.

As teachers, sometimes we think of ourselves as only giving the lessons and not receiving them. This year that has changed for me. I love to learn and always have. I have a master’s degree in secondary education, but I haven’t stepped foot in a college classroom in over two years. I have done the same thing most educators do to fulfill my education requirements. I attend the state mandated professional development days, spending most of that time grading papers and listening to the same type of presenters that have little to no clue how to engage students that are in school today. I am not trying to insult administration. There is not enough time in the day to catch most educators up to speed on the new trends in education. Myself is included on that list, and it is why I have started to take matters into my own hands.
This year I started my year the way most teachers do. I had similar lesson plans of previous years and learned to tweak them accordingly to the new class of students I had. I looked around at many of their faces, especially my seventh grade class I had as sixth graders. I noticed I was not engaging them as I had the previous year. This class has a special bond with me. They came into middle school as a dreaded class. I worked extra hours and called many parents, and I finally got them to a place I never dreamed they would be. Now, after our hard work their first year, they sat there looking at me with blank faces. I knew they deserved more.
My administrator is one of a kind. He is a frequent tweeter and has many blogs that are followed by the most prestigious educators. He is always pushing us to do better and expects us to be the best we can be everyday. There is no room for mediocrity. I respect him tremendously so I followed his lead. There may be something to this twitter thing.
I started a little at time and gave up several times. I gave myself excuses like, “its too complicated,” “I don’t have time,” and “students have to learn the way I did. I turned out fine.” Days would pass and then I would try it again. After refusing to give in, I finally got the hang of it. Now, I am a frequent visitor to #edchat and #sschat and have been #ff by several educators I follow that I really admire.
Some of you who are reading this may look at the previous statements as trying to read a foreign language. Those of you who are caught up in the digital world know exactly what I said and related. That is my point. What I just wrote in the previous paragraph is what our students are saying and reading every day. They survive and thrive on social media and methods of technology. Are we providing that in the classroom? Are we engaging them to learn what we are teaching in their language or are we only providing it in ours? As educators, are we so hard headed and refuse to learn the language of our students because it is foreign to us or it is too hard learn? If so, what would be our response to our students if they refused to do our work for the same reason?
This is my first blog and I would like to continue to do more. The ways in which we bridge the gap between teacher and student is a topic in itself. It involves administration and IT support. However, I want those of you who are educators or parents of the students we teach to reflect on the statements and questions I have presented. We live in a time of constant updates and upgrades. Does our education system do the same? Are our teaching methods tailored for the current generation or the last? I believe we have to adapt to the new generation of learners. They have to prepare for a world that is changing at a rate our minds cannot imagine. To educate the students of the twenty-first century, we must accept and learn the tools it has provided. We have to update and upgrade or our students will tune out and power down.

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