I’m a social media convert… mostly. I haven’t given over to facebook (and by epic tweet standards perhaps I shouldn’t), but nonetheless I whole-heartedly have fallen for the power of connecting with other educators.
I’ve loved it so much that every chance I’ve gotten over the last several months I’ve professed the power of twitter far and wide: “It’s the best PD ever!” I shout to the roof tops. I am excited when I see twitter-newbies sign-up or when twitter… er… old-bies log back into accounts that have gone dormant.
But after the high-fives I wonder, is “connecting” enough?
Connect-ing is not Connect-ed
It’s simple to connect someone to Twitter, for example. Just show them how to log-in, enter their account info, choose a handle, and boom. You’re in. You might even show them how to follow you. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will share any sort of connection past that point.
I can subscribe to a blog, but aside from skimming the recent posts, am I really connected or simply connecting?
As I reflect on being an educator, and now soon a parent of a public school student (kindergarten starts THIS WEEK, PEOPLE!!), I think of all of my own parent-teacher letters and back-to-school-night conversations and how, again, just connecting doesn’t mean that the parents I have talked with are now connected to me, and me to them.
I even think about students. How I care for all, but am so connected to some and wish I were more connected to others.
Which leads me to this: Connecting is one step. But re-connecting is probably even more essential.
It first requires awareness. Try this:
- List in your mind or on paper a few areas of your life (work, kid’s school, social media, neighborhood, home, etc.)
- Under each, list or just mentally picture the top 3-4 people you are truly connected to.
- Now, list the 3-4 you were once connected to, but somehow now aren’t.
I just had a long mental “oooh” as I saw the faces of that second set of people. Not just because I feel like I have a missed opportunity, but because I realize the ability to re-connect is totally in my hands. It is probably the most essential step to being connected within this field.
As I mull over this, I’m thinking of some ways to re-connect, and I would love to hear more from you – please add to the comments and I’ll try to grab some and toss them up in this list. Here is the start of my thinking through a year of connecting and re-connecting:
- With student-teacher and student-student relationships
- The get-to-know-you ice breakers should not just be for day one and two of school. As our students grow and evolve across the year, they quite literally become new people that need new introductions to you and each other.
- Opportunities for students to write from experience, as probably anyone reading this knows, reveal more about students than being bound to only writing from sources. While both are important skill sets, a continual re-connecting classroom needs time for each player (us included) to reveal themselves.
- Conversations about the power within experiences and ideas should be just as prevalent as conversations about grammar rules and structural revisions. It’s putting aside the “here’s something I can teach you” for even just a second to instead say, “here’s something you have really got me thinking a lot about…” or “This idea you are writing about feels so devastating. How are you feeling today about it?”
- With parent-teacher and teacher-to-teacher relationships
- Just asking “how can I help?” can go light years.
- Or I love to ask “what’s something most people don’t know about you?”. Talking person-to-person, putting roles aside for a moment, always makes me feel more connected.
- Not only doing this at back-to-school night.
- In social media:
- Not just reading tweets and posts, but replying and commenting (and commenting on comments).
- Finding a way to reach-out to the sea of “followers” and “followings” that you don’t feel close to. A “what have you been up to?” tweet (which I haven’t tried yet) or a nosing your way into a conversation you see going on (which I do all the time) can help you see new sides of people, find new conversations.
- In, well, everywhere:
- Being gracious and thankful out loud. My friend and tweep @MaggieBRoberts is masterful at this. I have seen her strike up warm conversations everywhere, online and off, and I notice often it leads off with her being truly thankful for something someone has done to make her day a little brighter.
- When the year gets crazy-nuts, stopping to think again: Who do I need to re-connect with?
- Some books on the power of language with one another (I’d love more suggestions for this list):
August was #ConnectedEducator month. I now think September through next August should be #ReConnecting year.
I’d love to re-connect with you — please add some comments and reflections of other ways you are, or can imagine being, re-connected with your connections both online and off. Or tweet me on twitter. Or ask “what’s new with you?” on the street. And repeat often with others.