Sure, the PLN has provided me with a rich supply of digital resources.
Certainly, the PLN has given me access to so many wonderful teaching ideas.
And absolutely, the PLN has kept me informed about what is going on in education both nationally and globally.
But that is not why the PLN matters to me.
I know that most school environments and staffs support their teachers. I know because most of my 20+ years of teaching has been in these environments.
But some of us work in hostile environments where teachers point fingers at one another, where administrators blame teachers, where parents blame the school, etc. I know this because my school has become this place. It didn't devolve into chaos, it was thrown in because of toxic administrators.
Some people can't face Monday mornings, I can't face Tuesday afternoons. That is when we have staff meetings. It begins with a new laundry list of expectations from the principal. Expectations so sketchily presented that nobody understands what is being asked of us until we are unsuccessful in producing it.
That's followed by "collaboration" which does not mean working together; it means several staff members pointing fingers in the same direction. As I look around the room, I notice that some teachers have been lucky enough to doze off, while most are picking our chins up off the floor.
I teach at a poor urban elementary school, but I love the community where I teach. I love the students I see each day. I stay for them. But it hurts.
After school, I go home and jump onto #edchat while dinner is in the oven. I read about wonderful things happening at other schools. I read blogs from experts who value creativity and passion. I read about teachers who are fighting for their students. I read postings from teachers who are going through what I am going through. And then, I read about the next generation of teachers who bravely face rampant teacher bashing, a national effort at union busting, and threats of ending pension plans, all this without even the slightest expectation of job security.
The PLN matters to me because it gives me that sense of connection that I no longer find within my school. The PLN reminds me that I am not alone and that I am part of something bigger than my principal's ego. The PLN reminds me that my students and I are not test scores.
Thank you PLN!