Saturday, January 31, 2015

Are You Relevant and Connected?

A recent blog post I read ("What Does a Relevant and Connected Educator Look Like, Part I) on the blog"Blogging About the Web 2.0 Connected Classroom" examined characteristics of a relevant, connected educator. Interest piqued, I surveyed the list and found myself agreeing with what I read. The first characteristic is that the educator practices lifelong learning. I thought of that in relation to my colleagues and could separate those who do thirst for new information and take classes or attend seminars whether they “need” the credits for license renewal or not from those who participate in workshops only to gain needed credits.  Taking in opportunities for learning is great, but how do we as teachers “model” that to students? Do we talk to our students and let them know about all the seminars, workshops, or classes we’ve attended recently? It's something to consider and try to deliberately talk about to our students--our own quest for learning.
I do believe in lifelong learning. How can I as a teacher stay up on the latest educational tool or teaching method if I’m not willing to invest time in the learning process? Without engaging in outside learning of some kind, even reading books on teaching, I believe my methods will grow stale and lead to a lack of student engagement.
The next characteristic was a belief in sharing and collaboration. I see the benefit of this in my own life. I learn and produce stronger, more creative ideas when working in a group than I do solo. I’ve seen this happen in my class as well. Usually it involves a crescendo of excitement in students as they begin to discuss the issue or lesson and grow more animated and passionate about their ideas or position.
Photo courtesy of my niece Maryn Feyereisen
Another characteristic put forth by these bloggers is that educators who are relevant and connected are connected with other educators and explore, question, elaborate and advance ideas with them. In other words, they meet with colleagues and bounce ideas back and forth, discussing what works and doesn’t work and coming up with new ideas of what to try in the classroom. Honestly, these are some of my favorite times as a teacher. There are a select number of teachers I regularly turn to for ideas or as sounding boards. These are colleagues whose opinion I trust and whom I know will be honest with me. I encourage you to find coworkers who will do the same for you. They are invaluable.
The last characteristic listed is that engaged teachers view failure  as part of the learning process. If that’s the case, I really am an engaged learner! Seriously, I never want to get to the point where I do things just because I’ve always done things. I don’t want to become the neighbor in Frost’s “Mending Wall” who repeats his father’s mantra “Good fences make good neighbors.”
In other words, I don’t want to be married to tradition and do something just because that’s the way I’ve always done it. How would I like a classroom to look, feel, and be if I were the student? I ask myself that a lot.
There’s a lot to think about in terms of being a relevant and connected educator. I know I have miles to go before I sleep. How ‘bout you? Are you as connected and relevant as you want to be? Think about the ideas given and see how you can work at becoming connected to learning in your own life. I try and it has made all the difference.

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