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The leading questions on the topic were: "What would you do if you had no fear? What would you do/do differently?" As I read through the tweets, I couldn't help but reflect on my own fears as well my personal and professional growth. First and foremost, I have to give Twitter the most credit. My growth since entering Twitter-verse has been exponential. Looking back, I once thought Twitter would be a complete waste of time and was baffled by the fact that some educators considered it professional development. Thankfully, I decided to try it and here I am.
If you are a Twitter veteran and/or have already discovered its purpose and power, this post will only confirm your beliefs. However, if you are new to Twitter or are still on the fence, read on and let me share what it's done for me and the places it has taken me.
- Global Connections
- Before joining Twitter, I was pretty much a lone ranger and my PLN was virtually nonexistent (no pun intended). I have no counterpart in my small district as I am the only Secondary ESL teacher. While I am still currently in the same role and no additional ESL teachers have been hired at the secondary level, I now have joined forces with countless others across the globe and am therefore no longer alone. Moreover, while I first sought to connect with other ESL teachers, my PLN includes educators in a wide variety of roles from superintendents to student teachers.
- Growth Mindset
- My perspective on growth, my own as well as student growth, has made a 180-degree turn. I have learned to embrace failure, flaws, and challenges as part of the growth process enabling me to take risks and explore new horizons. Barriers that I had previously self-imposed have been removed. Best of all, I have passed on this mindset to my students as they tackle the challenges of language acquisition in the teenage years. Therefore, my ESL classes are about much more than language acquisition. They are preparation for life - a life that for ELLs may include overcoming huge obstacles because of their language limitations.
- Before joining Twitter, I didn't remotely think about blogging. Once I got connected and began reading teacher blogs, I felt compelled to keep up with the Joneses and began to consider it. It took months before I mustered the courage but I did and here I am. Check out my very first blog post here.
- I have to say that I'm not terribly afraid to speak in public. However, I didn't exactly look for opportunities to present. When I would receive an email about calls for proposals, I quickly deleted them because like any teacher, I have plenty on my plate and didn't think I had anything significant to contribute. That's now changed. For the last couple of summers, I have presented sessions at my district's Summer Institute. Last week, I submitted two proposal's to NCTIES 2016 Conference and I'm in the process of developing a Student Showcase proposal. If accepted, my high school ELLs will travel to Raleigh, NC to showcase their blogs. I hope all three will be accepted, but at a minimum, I would really like for my students to have the opportunity to show off their work to educators.
- Skype/Google Hangout
- I'm pretty techy, but skyping has never been my thing. That is until now. Video conferencing has not only enabled my students and me to connect with folks in other states and countries but when there is a time conflict, it has allowed me to virtually sit in meetings and join workshops without having to leave my classroom. It has really opened up my world. If you are wondering about which of the tools to use, here's my two cents. They have both worked equally well for me. However, if you have Google Chromebook, you may encounter some issues with Skype. Here's an article that compares the two.
- After hearing all the buzz on Twitter about Voxer, I finally asked about it and was invited to a conversation. Voxer is a walkie-talkie-like app for your mobile device that lets you connect with other educators without having to give out your personal phone number or even location. It enables voice, text, graphics and video. There are lots of education groups having great conversations on it. There are times when you need more than 140 characters or you just need to have a verbal conversation. I especially like the fact that someone can park a question or comment and I can respond at a convenient time. If you would like to check it out, email me or tweet me and I'll get you connected to some great groups.
- Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur) - who I have only met virtually - introduced me to this awesome tool. Periscope is a live video broadcasting tool that allows users to bring the world into their classroom or setting. I must say that it must be used with caution and I personally never show a student's face because one never knows who may be lurking. It would also make an awesome virtual field trip tool although I haven't used it that way. I could write lots about how I use Periscope, but here's a resource that may give you some ideas.
- Last December as I reflected on the 2014 calendar year, I realized that I had been slacking off on reading. Lo and behold soon thereafter I found #read4fun and joined in. Although I don't join the chat regularly, I do chat with the group on Voxer and most importantly, I have immersed myself in reading for pleasure.
- Rik Rowe (@RoweRikW), another virtual friend, started the #goodcallshome movement in the summer of 2014. Incidentally, as I reflected on the 2013-14 school year I realized that I needed to make more proactive calls to my ELLs' parents and so when I saw the new hashtag I jumped at the opportunity for accountability. Consequently in January 2015, the #gchchat was born with Rik and I moderating it the first Monday of every month. We encourage and enlighten educators to make those positive calls and watch the magic unfold as we strengthen relationships with parents and students - not to mention the motivation we experience with all the positivity it generates. Copy the graphic on the right to your desktop and please join us next time.
- Moving Forward
- Last but not least, on the topic of fear, this hunger for growth generated some thinking and reflection in the direction of my career. I LOVE my ELLs and am so blessed and privileged to work with some amazing young people. However, as I collaborate with colleagues and explore all the possibilities that technology affords us, I have been giving some serious thought to moving into an instructional coach role. At this point, I have no serious prospects and no definite plans, but I have turned my radar on and am keeping my options open. Back in 2001, I earned an MA in Instructional Technology and while I have taught several professional development sessions, I have never officially been in that role. Who really knows what the future holds, but I am feeling led to follow that path at some point in the future. Although I feel safe and comfortable in my classroom, I am no longer afraid of pursuing a challenging, ever changing position.
I really could go on and on. While we need to be careful to not immerse ourselves in social media to the extent that it isolates us from our friends and family, Twitter is a resourceful tool that will not only enhance instruction but also enrich our lives. It's all about balance, so fear not, move forward and find those treasures if you haven't already.
If you grew up in the 80s, the title of this post might have gotten Janet Jackson's song playing in your head. In case you are too young to have heard the song, don't remember it or just want to hear it again, click here to check out the video.
So what has Twitter done for you lately?