Like so many other educators, work is much more than an eight-hour shift for me. A natural planner, I delight in the satisfaction of a well-crafted lesson, unit, or pd, defining details with the precision of a skilled travel agent. This careful consideration is a must for me, for after all, my clients aren’t just preparing for a four-night stay at Disney World, my clients are preparing their students for the Real World!
Having determined my career path at the age of six, I graduated from a renowned education program in upstate New York, and was launched into life after college with little hope for a job. Facing years as a sub, I changed my life’s path when a friend called and asked me to interview for a teaching position in North Carolina. Thinking that I would “gift” the South with a year of my presence while I gained the necessary experience to score a New York interview, I drove down and walked into a better opportunity than I ever could have imagined.
The principal who hired me had recently been challenged by a visionary superintendent to open a public school, fill the classrooms with the best teachers from the district, and do things differently to meet the needs of students. As a beginning teacher, I was mentored by greats like @LauraCandler, and I was given opportunities to assist with professional development by my second year in the field. Our school became a National Blue Ribbon School and we were awarded The North Carolina Governor’s Entrepreneurial School Award. What this meant is that I learned my craft in an environment that had @gcouros’ “Innovator’s Mindset” long before its time!
A lot of years and a lot of amazing opportunities later, I find myself in a position of teacher leadership as a District Instructional Coach (in the same North Carolina District, by the way). While I consider myself to be a life-long learner, and while I have always surrounded myself with educators of similar drive, some remarkable things have happened in my career this past year, and I feel “called” to try to articulate what has occurred.
Approximately two years ago, our district realized that we were (and more importantly our students were) being left behind in the Digital Age, so I was charged with preparing our instructional coaches to help their teachers transform their classrooms into “student-centered environments in the Digital Age”. We were essentially going to take strong reading teacher-leaders and rename them as building tech facilitators. Oh, and…ummm…I had no skills or useful knowledge in this area. In fact, when an expert was brought in to help district administrators learn about digital tools, I ended the session in tears (true confession @lisahervey). Oh, boy!
Luckily, help was not too far away! Our district’s new Director of Professional Development sent me a link to an application for the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network. Knowing how desperate I was feeling, I spent an inordinate amount of time completing the form. Along the way, I might have been heard muttering things like, “What is my handle? CAN ANYONE HERE TELL ME WHAT MY HANDLE IS?!?!?”
As you have probably guessed, this story does have a happy ending, and I was accepted into the second cohort of The Friday Institute’s NCDLCN. I went into this experience both determined and terrified. I left elated, confident, knowledgeable, and most importantly, CONNECTED.
A Newly Connected Educator
I had heard the term “Connected Educator”, but I had no understanding prior to the NCDLCN of how important it is to have a professional learning network (PLN). Yes, I grew more familiar with digital tools and with the language associated with digital integration efforts, but it was the networking aspect of the cohort that transformed me as an educator. I got to hear what teachers, coaches, and media specialists were doing around the state and around the nation. I got to hear what “speed bumps” they had experienced, and how they were working around them. I got to hear what books, articles, and blogs they were reading and why. Best of all, I learned not only my own “handle”, but the handles and hashtags and chats that would keep me connected to the people, the conversations, and the learning that I couldn’t get enough of (shameless promotion for #ncdlcn inserted here).
Excitement for an Exploding Educator
In the words of @RLGMike, I had experienced an educational epiphany, and I have literally felt like I am exploding with the excitement of my learning! I can’t wait to meet with coaches and teachers, and when I do, I no longer feel a responsibility to have all of the answers or to be the “expert”. There is a whole world out there that we can learn from and with, and my mission is to help the people that I encounter professionally connect to a network that can inform, inspire, and ignite their love for teaching.
I am now a proud member (and mentor) for the NCDLCN’s Cohort 3. I have a local PLN comprised of my Director of Professional Development and the five coaches from my district that have joined the NCDLCN movement this year. I have a handle and I know how to use it. Our coaching program has a hashtag (#icccs) and it is used daily by a growing number of instructional coaches. I am a connected educator and I love every minute of it!